Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Capital Press Tue, 6 Oct 2015 02:47:46 -0400 en Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Branding days busy — and important — for ranches Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:57:01 -0400 Lynda Layne Roaring Springs Ranch manager Stacy Davies says that unbranded calves are very tempting targets for cattle rustlers in the vast open spaces of southeast Oregon and northern Nevada.

These outfits often graze their cattle on more than 1 million acres of Bureau of Land Management land under a grazing permit, along with their private land holdings. Roaring Springs Ranch occupies 425,000 acres in the high desert.

“Cattle theft is very common still today,” Davies says, adding that branding is the best deterrent to theft.

That makes branding months “a very important time of year for ranches,” he says. He takes great care in organizing the ranch’s branding time to efficiently handle about 6,000 calves. Starting in mid-March, a crew of six full-time buckaroos and volunteers and kids brand about 300 calves per day, though the number sometimes reaches more than 500.

By May, the ranch crew is joined by high school and college students who help. Davies says that by then, “The calves are getting bigger, so we are glad to see the young and energetic kids.”

More than branding takes place.

“We get to touch each calf individually,” Davies says, adding that they can be doctored if necessary. It’s also a time to remove horns, treat parasites, castrate and vaccinate for sudden death diseases, pneumonia and other respiratory and digestive ailments. In addition, electronic identification tags — called EIDs — are put in place.

Each ranch uses a slightly different technique to accomplish all the chores, he says.

“We have ropers on horseback that heel the calves and pull them to the fire. One person (on the ground) will grab the calf and hold its head, while the roper keeps the heels tight with his horse. One person carries the syringes with vaccine and gives the shots. Another person carries the branding iron and a third person will bring the EID and also castrate.”

It’s a slick method that allows a six-man crew to brand 60 calves per hour.

Roping the calves is key. Davies says that if the ropers and their horses are under control, the day goes by without incident. Basically, ropers control the safety of the whole operation.

Branding days require hard work, but it can also be fun.

“Some of the most enjoyable days are when he can get a whole family and a few community members to join in for a day of branding calves,” Davies says. “A few times a year, we make it a social event and include families and neighbors.”

That philosophy is echoed by 79-year-old buckaroo Ron Shelley, who works for Rattlesnake Creek Ranch, an outfit that has about 1,200 cows.

“We don’t actually hire help for this. We just trade brandings with neighbors,” Shelley says. “They help us and we help them.”

Most area residents, he says, have been ranching since they were kids and grew up helping other ranch folks.

“It’s just a family tradition,” he says.

Rattlesnake Creek Ranch’s first branding of the year is usually for 350 calves. The sprawling spread is owned by Andy Root. Ron Shelley’s son, Glen, has managed the place for over 25 years. Ron came there more than 10 years ago with the idea of retiring, but says, “I haven’t slowed down a lot.”

Santa Clara rancher turns back the clock Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:57:13 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER MORGAN HILL, Calif. — Fourth generation rancher Janet Burback compares ranching today to a century ago when family and neighbors pitched in to help one another.

“I guess it is a throwback to the first settlers in our country helping at branding and other times,” she said.

Her roots run deep. In 1917, her great grandparents ran cattle on land in nearby Gilroy, but sold the property because of drought conditions and returned to ranching later. It has been in the family since then.

Burback took over running the Tilton Ranch in 2006 after her father passed away. It’s a commercial cow-calf operation.

“I do the cattle and my husband, Greg, runs the hay operation,” she said. “We have 2,900 acres in here in Coyote Valley and produce enough hay for our cattle so we are not dependent on anyone else. We are sustainable, stewards of the land and can support ourselves.”

There are a couple of mountain lions that share the space, but they are not a problem if there is enough deer to keep them fed.

The Burbacks’ two children are in college. Their son is in South Dakota studying agricultural mechanics, and the daughter is studying community health in Montana.

“I’ve always told them to go college and work for someone else before coming back to the ranch,” she said. “When they return home now their approach is more open. When I left home to work on a cattle ranch in Canada my dad gave me some advice, ‘Keep your mouth shut and listen to everything they say.’”

Burback believes California has its own way of doing things that are different from the Midwest and other areas of the nation.

“The whole West Coast is different,” she said. “We run cattle on large areas and don’t see them every day, whereas other areas have their herds close by. Also, there are more women in ranching.”

“Janet has been a member of the Farm Bureau for about six years and a member of the Santa Clara County Cattlemen’s Association, Santa Clara County Cattlewomen’s Association for about 10 years,” Liz Gabrio, Santa Clara Farm Bureau executive director, said. “She became a member on the South Santa Clara County Fire District in 2005 and three generations of her family have been a part of the local fire district since its beginning. She has been a 4-H volunteer leader for the past 15 years and continues to be an FFA supporter.”

Regulations, especially water districts, are the biggest challenge to California ranchers, Burback said.

“They put restrictions on our own property where we run cattle and maintain the springs, not wells,” Burback said. “The biggest concern I have is the State Water Board and its interpretation of the law.

“At times it’s not a fun state to live in,” she said. “But you can’t beat the weather.”

Fourth-generation ranch raises seed stock Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:56:21 -0400 CRAIG REED DAYS CREEK, Ore. — Diane Swingley was raised on her family’s ranch near this Southern Oregon community, but when she returned to it in 1980 after being gone for 15 years, she admitted she had a lot to learn about the cattle industry.

She and her husband, Stan Huebner, joined the Umpqua Valley Forage Study Group and learned about pasture management and forages. The group was mentored by Woody Lane of Roseburg, Ore., a livestock and forage specialist.

Huebner also faced a steep learning curve since his previous career had been in the telephone and electronics industry in Southern California.

The couple ran a 30-cow registered Black Angus operation for many years on their 96-acre ranch that is split by Days Creek, but recently downsized to 20 cows. Their animals are privately marketed as seed stock to other Angus producers. The few bulls that don’t grade out as quality are sold as market steers and beef to local customers.

“I love the science of the Angus association, the business of lineage and genetics to produce the best quality animal,” said the 66-year-old Swingley. She represents the ranch’s fourth generation of owners.

While Swingley likes to study the Angus bloodlines and making breeding decisions, Huebner, 69, enjoys the construction projects that come with ranching.

With the small herd, the animals are easily rotated on and off green pasture during the summer. Water from nearby Days Creek and the South Umpqua River is used to irrigate the pasture.

The acreage also produces about 2,700 two-tie bales that are used to feed the animals.

“They have a very well-managed, well-thought-out operation,” Lane said. “They raise their animals according to very solid principles.

“When they started in the business, they were very enthusiastic about learning the business,” he added.

While the ranch has transitioned to the more specialized Angus operation over the years, its original purpose was to sustain the family of Ephraim and Caroline Raymond, who purchased the property in 1883. The ranch was later passed on to the Raymonds’ sons, Morris and Wallace. In 1952, Wallace’s daughter Evelyn and her husband, Durnin Swingley, moved to the ranch with their two young daughters, one of them being the 5-year-old Diane, and eventually purchased it.

Durnin Swingley milked 16 dairy cows a day and sold the cream. He also built up a flock of about 100 sheep. With more livestock to feed, the prune orchard was removed and replaced by a field of subterranean clover and domestic grasses.

In 1966, Durnin and Evelyn Swingley got out of the sheep business and purchased a herd of registered Black Angus cattle.

“Dad was convinced Angus were the best for mothering and marbling (of the meat),” Diane Swingley said. “We have high-quality animals.”

Swingley graduated from Days Creek High School in 1965 and then from Oregon State University in 1970. She worked for 10 years as an executive and buyer for department stores Emporium-Capwell in San Francisco and Meier & Frank in Portland before returning home to the ranch to help her parents.

“I was a working partner making payments on the ranch,” she said.

Durnin Swingley died in 1992 and his wife Evelyn died in 2001, leaving the ranch to Diane. Huebner, who had been an employee of the ranch for a few years after moving north from California, married Diane Swingley in 2001 and became a partner in the operation.

Ranching is “a wonderful lifestyle,” Swingley said. “I had to leave to really appreciate what my parents had here.”

The burden that Swingley and Huebner face with the ranch now is its future. They have no children, and no extended family members appear interested in carrying on the Raymond/Swingley ranch tradition.

“There’s sadness when I think about it,” Swingley said. “The American family farm tradition is very important. I don’t know how we’re going to keep it going.”

Swingley Ranch

Operation: 20-cow black Angus breeding business.

Owners: Diane Swingley, the fourth generation to live and work the ranch, and Stan Huebner.

Location: Days Creek, Ore.

Acreage: 96.

Business: Privately marketing heifers and bulls as seed stock to other Angus producers.

Brothers run successful cattle, sheep ranch Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:37 -0400 CRAIG REED GLIDE, Ore. — Brothers Paul and Don Santos have lived and worked their lifetimes in the ranching business.

Paul, 69, and Don, 67, are partners in the Santos Ranch that is bordered by the North Umpqua River near this small eastern Douglas County community.

Paul Santos has worked on the ranch since his early 20s when his parents, Gilbert and Mary, moved from a Hollister, Calif., ranch in 1968 and partnered with Ray and Ethel Rose in purchasing 3,500 acres. Gilbert and Ethel were brother and sister.

Don Santos came to the ranch on a full-time basis after earning an agricultural business degree from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo and spending two years in the U.S. Army.

As young kids and teenagers, the brothers had helped and worked on the Hollister ranch so they were exposed to the ranching lifestyle.

During the 1970s, the river ranch peaked in its livestock production with 500 mother cows and 3,000 ewes.

In 1980, however, the two families mutually agreed to split the ranch. The Santoses took sole ownership of 2,200 acres upriver and the Roses 1,600 acres downriver.

Sons Paul and Don continued to work alongside their father and were partners with him in the cattle, sheep and hay business. Gilbert Santos was active in the ranch work until his early 80s. He remained a partner in the ranch for another dozen years until his death Oct. 14. His sons inherited his share of the business.

“It worked,” Don Santos said of the father-and-sons partnership. “We each had responsibilities and it went from there. We worked well together. Dad was always easy to work with.”

Today the operation isn’t quite as large as it had been and the brothers run the ranch business pretty much by themselves with some help from five border collie dogs and neighbors when needed. On several hundred acres of bottom land and hillside oak savannah, the brothers run 100 mother cows and 400 ewes. The ranch’s hay fields produce 70 to 100 tons of grass hay each summer to help feed the livestock during the dry summer months and the cold winter months.

“The prices are good right now, the best they’ve been,” Paul Santos said of the beef and lamb prices. “They’ve never been this good. I don’t know if the consumers will pay the price in the market.

“They should always want to buy it,” he added of red meat. “They’re used to eating it. Hopefully they’ll continue to eat it and hopefully the prices stay good for a while. Expenses for the rancher are going up so it usually all balances out.”

The Santoses sell their lambs at 100 to 110 pounds either direct to the Dixon, Calif., packing house or to buyer Eldon Townsend of Coburg. The brothers sell their calves at 700 pounds on the average at the Lebanon, Ore., Auction or direct to feedlots.

In addition to their home livestock and hay operation, the brothers also buy hay from the Willamette Valley, the Klamath Basin, Christmas Valley and the Silver Lake areas, haul it back home with their semi-trucks and trailers and sell it to livestock owners in Douglas County. Most of what they broker is alfalfa, selling it to ranchers with pregnant and nursing livestock.

“I’ve always liked ranching,” Paul Santos said. “It must be in my blood. I’ve always enjoyed being outside, working outside rather than being locked up in an office.

“I don’t necessarily like all the rain,” he added with a laugh, “but you’ve got to have the rain to grow the grass for the animals.”

Both brothers said despite the hard work, they plan to continue being active ranchers.

Santos Ranch

Location: Glide, Ore.

Owners: Brothers Paul and Don Santos.

Acreage: 700 and some leased land.

Livestock: 100 mother cows and 500 ewes.

Hay: 70 to 100 tons of grass hay a year, depending on conditions. They also buy and haul alfalfa and grain hay from Central Oregon and sell to livestock owners in Douglas County.

Ranchers go against the grain Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:31 -0400 Debby Schoeningh BAKER CITY, Ore. — In an industry where the latest trend has been to breed larger framed cattle to increase the carcass size of offspring for dinner plate-sized ribeyes, Scott and Rebecca Jager are going against the grain.

The Jagers own and operate a grass-fed/grass-finished cattle ranch near Baker City, Ore.

Rather than follow the standards established in the mainstream grain-fed beef industry, their breeding program at Four Pines Ranch focuses on traits that produce animals easily adaptable to their environment while remaining competitive in the beef industry in terms of taste and tenderness.

They are raising smaller framed cows and calves — Red and Black Angus — that thrive without chemicals, antibiotics and growth hormones, taking the animals from birth to slaughter, completely on grass.

“For production reasons, we select for smaller-sized cattle, which means we can run more animals per acre,” Scott said. “This changes our focus from production per cow to profit per acre.”

It takes longer to finish cattle on grass — about 18-24 months compared to 12-13 months for grain-fattened animals — but the Jagers say the added time and expense is worth the investment considering their finished product is “healthy for consumers, our resources are sustainable, and the cattle are allowed to grow and mature on a native diet without undue stress.”

They choose sires that are rated high for calving ease, a rating usually considered for heifer breeding, but the Jagers use these bulls on their mature cows as well, which Scott said, “makes our breeding season nearly effortless.”

Calving takes place in May.

“This is a natural time for ungulates to calve because the weather is warmer and the grass is growing, giving the cows the best nutritional support for milk production,” Rebecca said.

Some of the hay they raise is sold and the rest is used as winter feed for their cattle. Cattle are fed on the hay pastures, covering the fields with manure as a natural fertilizer.

Since there is no money going out for grain, hormones, worm and lice preventive treatments or fertilizer, with the smaller bodied grass-fed genetics, they can raise more cows and realize a greater profit overall.

Although they do harvest beef in June and November, the Jagers said, the best time for finishing and harvesting is in the spring because the grass is new and growing, which leads to the best flavor, quality and tenderness.

“Heifers are ready to finish when they weigh 10 percent less than moms, and steers 10 percent more,” Rebecca said. “For us that is roughly 1,200 pounds.”

Following a dry-aging process at a USDA-inspected facility to increase the meat’s tenderness, they sell their beef by the cut because, Rebecca said, it relates more to the general purchasers who usually aren’t familiar with hanging weights and what that translates to in yield.

“We bypass the randomness of individual yield by describing a whole beef as 400 pounds, half 200, quarter 100 and so on. This is a typical yield for 1,200-pound live weight,” she said.

The retail price of their grass-fed beef, Rebecca said, is in line with the national average for all choice beef. “When people choose our beef it is more a matter of knowing where and how it is raised.”


Diversified farm can’t meet high beef demand Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:26 -0400 Erick Peterson Business is good — almost too good — for Baron Farms, which Ron Baron owns with his wife, Natalie.

They raise cattle, pigs and eggs on their farm in Wapato, Wash., along with raspberries, strawberries and blackberries. They also have a retail store, called the Local Yokel, in nearby Yakima.

Baron said that he is sometimes his biggest enemy. They raise so many types of crops that it creates a lot of stress.

“In some ways, all of what we have going is sometimes challenging, but it is also rewarding,” he said.

Though he is challenged by the need to keep up with the many parts of the business, he benefits by avoiding the highs and lows that come with a lot of other farming operations. Diversification keeps him from being as harmed as his neighbors might be in a downturn in a specific industry segment. His eggs might compensate for a bad beef market, or vice versa.

In addition, diversification and direct sales create a steady cash flow throughout the year. He relies on regular customers at his store rather than waiting on a big check for an entire harvest.

“If you only get a paycheck a year because you deal in only one crop, that could be challenging,” he said. “We’re able to spread that out because we have more income streams.”

Right now, his egg business is really hot, and he can market more than he can produce, but demand for his beef is also strong, he said.

He sells about 60 to 70 head of cattle a year and is encouraged to expand. As things stand, customers are on a waiting list for his beef. However, he said he “can only go so fast.” If he added many more cattle, he could not attend to them the way he currently does.

Marty Davis, also of Baron Farms, said the farm does not use antibiotics or hormones, and all animals are allowed to roam on about 20 acres of pasture at a time. Cows are kept on one paddock and then moved to another after three or four days. They may be kept on a single field for up to a week, if grass remains tall enough.

He claims that having an abundance of space, rotated often, leads to healthier animals.

People frequently visit the farm, and see the cattle, he said. More and more frequently, people are showing interest in the origins of their food, and they ask to see Baron Farms.

“People can come anytime they want,” he said. They can call the farm, and he’ll give them a tour.

“Transparency is the best selling tool,” he said. If we have anything to hide, that means we’re doing something wrong. We want people to come out here.”

Baron Farms

Owners: Ron and Natalie Baron

Started: 2005

Location: Wapato, Wash.

Number of cattle: 25 to 50

Number of acres: 90

Erick Peterson/For the Capital Press

Ron Baron, Baron Farms owner, stands at his Yakima, Wash., store, Local Yokel. He has a farm in nearby Wapato where he raises cattle, chickens and berries, among other crops.

Morgan horses prove good all-around animals Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:20 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Wendy Hanger and her daughter Jessica Harvey have been raising Morgan horses for 30 years on their 70-acre farm near Preston, Idaho.

“When I discovered Morgans, I thought they were just as pretty as Arabs and more versatile,” Wendy says.

“I could show the Morgans in English, Western and jumping, and pack a deer on them. I have never found another breed quite as versatile. We give lessons at the farm, and do a lot with kids and youth camps with our Morgans.”

She and Jessica have 10 mares and 3 stallions, raising and training foals and breeding outside mares.

“We had seven foals of our own this year. They were spoken for and sold before they were weaned,” Wendy says.

Jessica shows some of the horses, mainly at the Idaho State Fair at Blackfoot in Morgan classes and open classes — hunt seat and jumping. They also put on two or three of their own shows at the farm each year for local horsemen and kids. Jessica gives riding lessons to people of all ages.

“Kids can spend all day here riding, cleaning tack and learning about raising and taking care of horses,” Wendy says.

The Morgan cross is popular. Some people breed their Arabians or Quarter Horse mares to the Morgan stallions.

“There are a lot of Morabs (Morgan-Arabs) in our area. Some people also love the draft-Morgan cross. The Friesian-Morgan cross is also very popular right now,” she says.

Most Morgans are chestnut or bay, without much white.

“The breed association didn’t want blue eyes and a lot of white, but in 1996 lifted the color restrictions. Morgans can now have white markings higher on their legs. There are actually some pintos and palominos, and buckskin Morgans are very popular now,” Wendy says. She has a perlino stallion that sires buckskin foals.

Jessica has been training Morgans for 20 years, since she was 15 years old.

“We do a lot of ground work with ours when they are young,” Jessica says. “We’ve had a lot of comments from the vets when we take our mares and babies in to breed the mares, regarding how calm the foals are, and easy to handle.”

Jessica enjoys working with children and teaching them about horses.

“We’ve had scout groups come to the farm and the kids brush the horses. We give lessons for kids who come once or twice a week for riding,” she says.

The mares often do triple duty; pregnant mares give lessons, go to shows, foal a baby in the spring, and then the baby goes to shows. In the fall after foals are weaned, the mares do lots of trail riding, so they are busy and versatile.

Wendy and Jessica put on a kids’ show at the ranch Sept. 27. “The lesson kids get together to show their horses and we also invite people from the local Morgan club. In this area there’s not much English riding, so kids that want to learn to ride English can do it here,” Jessica explains.

Ranch family supports predator control Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:05 -0400 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — Both Dan Dawson and Breanne Santos grew up on Douglas County livestock ranches and then moved away to attend college.

They earned their degrees at Oregon State University, Dawson in agricultural business in 2000 and Santos in education in 2002. Dawson had an internship with Jeld-Wen and then had three full-time job offers.

But the couple, who married in 2002, decided to return home to become ranchers. Breanne also got a second grade teaching position at Glide, Oregon, Elementary School.

“I got offered jobs, but I came home,” said Dawson who is now 36. “I like seeing the animals born, I like seeing what you can do with the land to make money with it.”

“I like the outdoors, getting to be around the animals,” said Breanne Dawson, 35.

“Dan decided he wanted to pursue ranching,” she added. “We decided to take that path, to see where it would take us, to give it a try. It has worked out.”

Over the past 12 years, the couple has grown their livestock numbers to 1,500 ewes and 110 mother cows. They own almost 1,000 acres and lease 2,500 acres, including the Dawson Ranch that Dan grew up on.

Dan Dawson sheared sheep through his college years to help pay his educational expenses and continued to shear to help purchase more breeding stock.

The Dawsons have also increased their own family with twin sons Drew and Carter and daughter Reagan.

Since Dan Dawson was a young boy, he helped his father, Junior Dawson, with the sheep, cows and goats on the family ranch. As a teenager he learned to worm and vaccinate the livestock, to irrigate and fertilize pastures for grazing and hay production, to shear sheep, to build fence and to deal with wildlife that preys on the livestock.

“He taught us how to work,” Dawson said of his father. “There was no slouch time.”

Over on the Santos family ranch near Glide, Oregon, Breanne helped her father, Paul Santos, in doing similar types of livestock work. She said she enjoys the rewards of both ranching and teaching.

“One of my passions is being outdoors, being with the animals,” she explained. “Another passion is working with kids. I have the best of two worlds.”

Once the Dawsons got their ranching operation established, Dan Dawson became an advocate, fundraiser and spokesperson for wildlife control. His mother’s father was a government trapper and the young Dawson also learned about hunting and trapping from his father. He saw up close what coyotes and cougars can do to ewes, lambs and calves, and how those losses impact a rancher’s bottom line when there are fewer animals to send to market.

Dan Dawson practiced what he advocated by putting labor and money into his own property to better ward off predators, and in some cases domestic dogs. Over the years he has built miles of fence, using 6-inch woven wire with a string of barb wire at the bottom, one in the middle and two at the top. He also added an outrigger hot wire on the outside of the fence and 6 inches off the ground so any critter thinking about digging under the fence gets zapped.

In addition, he put guard dogs in with his livestock.

His efforts decreased his losses from 70 to 80 sheep a year down to about 30 in recent years.

“To stay in business, you have to be passionate about controlling predators,” Dawson said. “It’s taken me thousands of dollars to get to that point … it’s been a lot of work and money. It’s how I came into a leadership role regarding wildlife control. Somebody needed to and it ended up being me.”

This past summer, Dawson and Ron Hjort of Oakland, Oregon, wrote a bill to set up a predator control district for Douglas and Coos counties. Dawson said the bill would establish a pilot program that would charge a fee per acre for those livestock owners wanting predator control.

“We’re trying to enhance the program we already have,” Dawson said. “People using the program would pay for it.

“So far everyone we’ve talked to about it likes the concept,” he added.

The bill still has to be introduced to the Oregon legislature. If approved, Dawson said the program could be implemented in 2016.

“He’s very passionate about wildlife control and he puts his all into it,” Breanne Dawson said of her husband. “Once something disappears, it is hard to bring it back. Trappers help everybody with livestock and they’re needed.”

The Dawsons are carrying on their families’ ranching traditions, working the land and raising livestock for the lamb and beef markets. And they’re including their own three children in the activities just as they were when they were younger.

Once rescued, horses help others Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:55:00 -0400 TERRELL WILLIAMS At her Across the River Horse Ranch below Bliss, Idaho, Amita Smith offers a safe haven for unwanted horses.

“If you give kindness, you get kindness back,” she said, explaining her ability to gentle mustangs and win over a few confirmed outlaws.

“It takes time. I give them food and water and let them get curious. ... I bribe my horses in the beginning. Once they like grain, it’s very easy. They follow me anywhere as long as I’m holding a grain bucket.”

Smith, 45, grew up in the island nation of Sri Lanka off the southern coast of India. When she was seven years old, she was given a red American Indian doll with feathers and a drum.

“That’s where my curiosity started,” she said. “They looked like us, but different. I started learning about the Rocky Mountains. I was fascinated by horses and cowboys and Indians. I felt a powerful draw.”

Armed with a dream and determination to make a life for herself, Smith worked to become a professional model. She then went on to establish clothing shops in France, Greece and the French Caribbean. Retiring at age 30, she made her way to Sun Valley, Idaho. But it never felt like home.

Then she met artist Joe Leonard, whose rustic property along the Snake River was for sale.

“I came here and I just fell in love with the place,” said Smith, who bought it in 2004.

The next step was to buy a pair of boots and find a horse.

She got one horse. Then two more. She read books by trainers Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. She sought advice from local horse trainers. She took equine classes at the College of Southern Idaho. And, doing what she says is essential, Smith began riding her horses daily.

Along the way, she started rescuing. A small paint mare was rejected at an auction sale for being too mean. Smith bought her by the pound.

“She’s become the most famous kid horse on the ranch,” Smith said. “She was pretty bad in the beginning. It took me a little time, but she completely turned around.”

Another rescue was a buckskin mare severely injured in a chariot racing wreck that killed her teammate. “Tack” needed extensive care, but now is sound and gentle to ride.

A 17-hand mustang, unsold at a Bureau of Land Management auction, was adopted by Smith for $25. After gaining his trust and then training him, Smith rode the powerful gelding this year over a 9,000-foot mountain pass. Other animals — some starved, some abandoned — have found a happy home at Across the River.

There are now 21 horses and two mules at Smith’s ranch. Other rescues include two goats and eight dogs. On a typical day, children are riding draft horses, the pony and several still-healthy retired horses around the arena. Smith takes her kids on rides up the nearby trail to high desert lands, and on four-hour wagon rides to the town of Hagerman for ice cream.

Smith says horses have been therapeutic for everyone at her ranch, including herself.

“I came here, but I was lost in life,” she said, strolling through a corral with a dozen mismatched horses tagging along. “In the beginning, I rescued them. But I am the one who really was getting rescued.”

Contact information

Amita Smith

Across the River Horse Ranch

P.O. Box 84, Bliss, Idaho 83314

Phone: (208) 961-1911


Hay trucker nears 1 million miles Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:54:45 -0400 CRAIG REED LANGLOIS, Ore. — Rhett Kreutzer and his blue hay truck are on the verge of clocking a million miles.

Kreutzer purchased the International in 1997. It had 4.8 miles on the odometer. The two have rolled over many miles since, hauling hay from such areas as the Willamette Valley, the Klamath Basin, Lakeview, Silver Lake, Christmas Valley and Culver to western Oregon customers in Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

They have delivered grass, orchard grass, grassy alfalfa and alfalfa to three feed stores and about 15 different livestock businesses, ranging from a couple animals to operations of 200 to 300 beef cattle or sheep.

In mid-November, Kreutzer and his truck passed 980,000 miles. He estimated that over the past half dozen years, he has bought, hauled and sold in the range of 500 to 800 tons of hay a year.

These numbers are not surprising for the 52-year-old Langlois native and resident because the hay hauling business seems to run in the family. Kreutzer’s father, Lowell, now 87, also topped a million miles during a 22-year hay career and his uncle, Lloyd Kreutzer, drove truck for 3 million miles, hauling hay and numerous other products during a long driving career.

“I don’t hold a bucket to what dad and Lloyd used to haul,” Rhett Kreutzer said. “They would drive over east, hand load, tarp up, whatever it took. I had two really good teachers.

“To this day, I respect them both,” he added of the twin brothers.

Rhett Kreutzer was about 8 when he started making road trips for hay with his father. At 15, the son began to help load and unload the truck and trailer. He admits the bales were under 100 pounds back then while today they are well over that weight.

He first drove his dad’s empty hay truck at age 16 on Interstate 5 coming down from Sexton Pass just north of Grants Pass, Oregon, and not long after that he first drove a loaded truck on Highway 97 going north from Klamath Falls, Oregon.

“I was pretty confident in myself, but I was nervous of course,” Rhett Kreutzer recalled.

“He just kind of grew up with it,” Lowell Kreutzer said of his son. “He’s seen me work all my life, and he’s trying to do the same damn thing.”

While Rhett Kreutzer has access to squeeze machines to load and unload today, what makes him unique in this age of mechanical equipment is that just like his father and uncle, he’s not scared to pick up hay hooks and unload his truck and trailer or to load a customer’s pickup, truck or trailer. He specializes in hauling two- and three-tie bales that weigh 100 to 140 pounds each, but can still be handled by hand for customers who only want to purchase several bales or a couple tons at a time.

“It’s something my dad and uncle did. It’s hard work, but rewarding,” the Kreutzer said. “Not many guys want to hand load pickups and trailers and horse trailers for people. That’s the challenge of it, but it just feels good to help people in that way.”

Kreutzer said that on his way home to Langlois with a hay load, it’s not unusual for him to pull the truck over to a wide spot in the road or into a barnyard and unload hay for a customer.

“If it’s convenient, why not stop rather than have them come to my place to get the hay?” Kreutzer said.

The hay that he does take home, he unloads with a squeeze and stacks in his 40-foot by 80-foot insulated shop that has room for 200 tons. He explained the insulated building is a necessity because on the coast with all the moisture in the air, it doesn’t take long for mold to grow in the hay if the temperature isn’t regulated.

Orders are then delivered to customers or they come to get hay with their own rigs.

Kreutzer said it is harder to find two- and three-tie bales because more growers are going to the larger 1,200-pound bales, but he has a few growers who continue to make the smaller bales for him.

“My customers don’t have a use for those big bales, they’re not set up to handle them,” he said.

As he and his blue International approach 1 million miles, Kreutzer is happy to say his driving record is near perfect. He’s had no accidents and only knows of losing one bale off a load.

“That truck is in perfect shape for having a million miles on it,” Lowell Kreutzer said.

Flashover Farm has its roots in Alaska Fri, 5 Dec 2014 09:54:31 -0400 Erick Peterson GRANDVIEW, Wash. — Sean and Marie Glasser admit that their experience with animals was limited when they started farming pigs and cattle just over a decade ago. Once they started, however, they found that they liked it and quickly decided to devote their lives to “natural production” farming.

Sean said that he started raising animals in 1991 when he was living in Fairbanks, Alaska. His school had a pig farm, and it offered him the runts, which he gratefully accepted. He did not have any experience raising animals, but it was simple enough, he said, and he liked the meat.

Driven by his taste for meat from the animals he was raising himself, he bought more.

“It just grew from there,” he said. By 1995, his hobby turned into a fledgling farm, and Flashover Farm was born in Rainier, Wash.

His wife, Marie, joined him in his efforts, though she admits that he does almost all of the work. Her experience, like his, was limited at the start, though she grew up on a farm and recalls bottle-feeding calves from nearby dairies and helping raise chickens, she did not possess the expertise to be of much help to him.

“This is so much more than anything I ever did,” she said of Flashover Farm and her own experience. “I try to help where I can, but this farm is all my husband, and he’s doing a good job here.”

They relocated from Rainier to Grandview, as Sean took a job as a firefighter in nearby Sunnyside and they raise Scottish Highland and Irish Dexter cattle. They also raise Berkshire, Chester and Duroc pigs, and Holland White Turkeys.

“We’re working toward being a sustainable farm,” he said. He produces hay and mixes his feed, raising pigs on barley and pea-based diet.

He boasts of his methods for raising animals, his cattle in particular, taking pride in “minimal intervention.” Cows are given wide space on the 20-acre farm.

The result, he said, is superior beef.

Flashover Farm

Year started: 1995 (in Rainier, Wash.), 2008 (in Grandview, Wash.)

Owners: Sean and Marie Glasser

Location: Grandview, Wash.

Acres: 20

Number of cattle: 20