Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Capital Press Wed, 18 Apr 2018 12:03:00 -0400 en Capital Press | Livestock and Horses Maternal Plus helps improve ranch’s herd Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:54:43 -0400 CRAIG REED ROSEBURG, Ore. — Birth weights, weaning weights and heights, calving ease, disposition — Kathy Love records, studies and analyzes all of these numbers and information for her registered Angus herd.

Love has been submitting information on her 40 mother cows and their calves to the American Angus Association’s Maternal Plus program since it was established three years ago. Love and her husband, Paul Heberling, have been members of the association since 2005.

“Maternal Plus helps in my goals to produce the best maternal herd I can,” said Love. “Because I concentrate on functional traits in the cow, this program helps me by saving and analyzing the data I have collected. I have been using the program since it was introduced and I have been very pleased with the additional information on my whole herd and on individual cows and bulls.

“I get that information sooner and there are a number of interesting charts and graphs that show me where my herd is going,” she explained. “I report data on the entire herd, not just those I decide to register. I get a more accurate picture of the changes in my whole herd over time and that helps me plan for the future.”

The Love-Heberling Angus herd is one of only three in Oregon that participate in Maternal Plus. The other participants are Daniel Heath of La Grande, Ore., and the Foss Angus Ranch of Terrebonne, Ore. Across the U.S., about 160 producers submit information to Maternal Plus.

“The hope is that if everybody participates, we can see how our numbers compare to the national herds and trends, how my calves compare to the national herd,” said Love.

Earlier in her life, Love, 64, was a certified public accountant who enjoyed studying data. Now she concentrates on the data she compiles on four-legged animals.

“My herd is now almost entirely registered Angus cattle, but I still consider myself primarily a commercial producer,” Love said. “It took me over 20 years, but I am mostly pleased with where my cows are today.”

Love and Heberling are both from dairy and beef backgrounds in Minnesota. They moved to Oregon in 1992 to escape the severe winters of their home state.

Love was a U.S. Postal Service employee, and Heberling had a career with the state Department of Environmental Quality. Love retired in 2005 to become a full-time rancher, and Heberling retired in 2011.

The couple purchased a few cows after their move west. They bought “whatever cow was cheap, preferably with a heifer calf on her.” Their intention was to build up to a herd of 20.

In 2002, they were offered three registered Angus heifers and they made the purchase from rancher George Sandberg of Roseburg.

“A year later, those three registered cows did so much better with their calves than my commercial cows,” Love said. “After two years, it was easy to see the registered Angus were so superior to the rest of the cows.”

Love began keeping more detailed data on her herd, she registered her young animals and she kept her registered heifers. The herd grew to 40 mother cows.

Love and Heberling concluded 40 cows and their calves would better utilize and maximize their property. They created 10 pastures and a rotational grazing schedule for the animals. Sixteen water tanks were set up. Two springs and a well keep them filled.

“The pastures and tanks are evenly distributed throughout the ranch so we’re using all the land and are able to have more cows,” Heberling said. “The animals don’t have to go more than a quarter mile to get water.”

Considering an average of five heifers a year being kept back as replacement cows, the couple discovered providing a load of 35 uniform calves earned better money.

Most of the Love-Heberling calves are born in March. They are weaned in early September and are sold a month later, weighing 550 to 650 pounds. Some of the heifers are sold to an Oroville, Calif., cattle operation, where they become replacement cows. The rest of the heifers and steers are sold as stocker calves for the beef market.

Cattle producers can go online to to learn more about the Maternal Plus program.

Fall calving works best for Bar 6 Charolais Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:47:05 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Most purebred breeders keep their cattle close to home for breeding and calving.

A few, however, run their registered cattle in bigger pastures and rougher conditions, similar to their customers’ ranch environments.

Jim Anspach has been raising registered Charolais since 1989. His 350 cows run on 100,000 deeded acres in Eastern Oregon. He only uses half the ranch each year, and allocates about 250 acres per cow for 10 months of grazing.

Bar 6 Charolais ranch headquarters near Mitchell, Ore., on the John Day River is at 1,300 feet of elevation, with 350 acres of irrigated ground for haying. When the cattle go to grass they may go up to 6,000 feet in timbered country. Grass in the high country stays green into July whereas lower regions dry out quicker.

“We fall calve, which works best for us,” Anspach said. “We spring calved when we moved here, but with green feed for only 60 to 90 days, it didn’t work as well. This grass starts growing in late February.”

The cows were calving during green-up and with all that good feed they produced too much milk for young calves to handle. Baby calves don’t eat much grass yet, so this wasn’t an efficient use of grass. By the time those calves got big enough to eat grass, it was dried up.

Switching to fall calving also worked better for breed-up. Even though the cows only use half the ranch each year, it’s still a large area with cows scattered over 70 square miles. This made it challenging to get them all bred.

Now most of the calves are born in October. The cattle are on hay meadows during winter and by the time they are turned out on range the cows are all bred, and have a 250-300-pound calf at side that can utilize the green grass. Calves are weaned in late July-early August and some of the bull calves coming off that dry country are close to 800 pounds. This makes the most efficient use of the range.

“We’ve had very few calving problems,” Anspach said. “The best thing we ever did was let them start calving out where they couldn’t be watched or helped. This sorts out most problems and in the long run saves a lot of money, time and labor. Some outfits have all their cows and heifers under their bedroom window and are helping them calve. That’s not the way to raise problem-free cattle.”

On this ranch, it’s survival of the fittest.

“This sorts out the genetics that can do it. Rather than picking a replacement heifer that ate at a creep feeder and grew up big and beautiful, we select the ones that did best in our environment. Most of the cattle we have today have been selected from this environment and are well adapted. We try to pick cattle that exhibit the most forage-based traits in this dry environment,” he said.

These are also the most efficient cattle to feed in a feedlot.

Most of his bull customers are big ranches that run cattle in large range pastures on the deserts or mountains; they know these cattle will work in their conditions.

“We’ve sold 250 bulls to True Ranches in eastern Wyoming. Roaring Springs Ranch runs 7,000 cows, and has bought about 300 bulls. I’ve also sold a lot of bulls to the ZX Ranch in Paisley, Ore. (possibly the largest cow-calf operation in the U.S.) and the Wine Cup in Nevada.”

One thing he likes about Charolais in this hot, dry country is that they are a lot more heat-tolerant than black cattle. At one time he had 300 registered Angus.

“They were good in rough country, but when it got hot they couldn’t handle it as well,” Anspach said.

“The Charolais would be out grazing 45 minutes longer in the morning. The black ones would go to shade, and stay in the shade longer. We got about 1½ hours more grazing per animal unit per day with Charolais than we did with the Angus,” he says.

California ranching family living history Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:50:47 -0400 JULIA HOLLISTER Tom Orvis and his family’s story goes back five generations.

“The Snow Ranch was formed in 1873, after William Snow completed approximately 15 years of putting the properties together,” Orvis said.

The land is a 5,000-acre block in both Stanislaus and Calaveras counties. Snow’s daughter, Mary Ada, met C.B. Orvis, a veterinarian from Wisconsin, in the 1890s when he came from Stockton in a surrey to doctor a horse, he said. “They married soon after.”

Their son, William Snow Orvis, was born in 1896. At that time, they raised sheep and cattle. The registered Hereford herd was established in 1918.

Today the Snow Ranch is headquartered near Farmington, Calif.

The ranch raises registered Horned and Polled Herefords and commercial Black Baldie crossbreds. The herd includes 200 mother cows and 140 replacement heifers, he said.

The operation calves in fall and spring and takes cattle to Bloods Meadow in Bear Valley in the summer.

They also operate Orvis Ranch Beef — a grass-fed beef purveyor.

They use herd bulls and artificial insemination to manage their genetic base. They also lease part of the ranch to Diestel Turkey Ranch for turkey production.

The operation sells weanling bulls to customers for breeding and maintains the registered herd through the female line and home-grown herd bulls. They also sell turkey manure to growers.

The days are long, Tom Orvis said. The work — repairing fences, working cattle, calving — starts at daylight and often goes into dark.

In spite of the hours, he would encourage anyone to go into ranching with one warning: “If you don’t love it, don’t do it.”

“The constant threat of drought tops the list of challenges that face California livestock industry,” he said. “Rules and regulations complete the list. They seem useless and time-consuming and have fees attached that never, in my opinion, seem to accomplish anything.”

Orvis sees those regulations every day. He is also governmental affairs director at the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau in Modesto.

“The road to today has been long,” Orvis said. It stretches all the way back to 1873.

OSU student club raises donated steers Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:49:15 -0400 Gail Oberst CORVALLIS, Ore. — At the beginning of the school year, Matthew Kennedy and Bailey Wearin contacted ranchers willing to donate steers and heifers for Oregon State University’s Steer-A-Year Club.

Students who join the club will raise from 25 to 30 donated cattle during the year, gaining experience that covers all aspects of beef management, from feeding and health to harvesting, processing and marketing the meat.

“It’s a totally student-run project,” said Kennedy, an instructor in the university’s Animal and Rangeland Science Department. Wearin, a senior majoring in agricultural business management, is project manager of the club this year.

More than 50 students attended one of the weekly meetings featuring a guest speaker from Agri Beef Co., based in Idaho.

Students can get credit for their work raising cattle for the club, but others simply volunteer, taking shifts in the barn or attending meetings to hear the speakers and recruiters.

Featured speaker recently was Agri Beef’s El Oro Yard feed manager, an OSU alum and former Steer-A-Year manager, Aly Pemberton.

“It’s a great program. I love it. It got me to where I am today,” Pemberton told the Steer-A-Year students at the club gathering.

OSU’s program was established in 1993 to provide more real-life education for students interested in working with cattle. The club is open to all students — they don’t have to be animal science majors.

“Hands-on experience is a big thing in our department,” said Kennedy, who has led the program for nine years.

Oregon State’s is not the only collegiate Steer-A-Year program. It has various renditions in other Western states, including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Canada.

But each club is unique. Oregon’s offers a full range of activities, from ranch to table. Most of the program’s participants are women — 80 percent, estimated Kennedy — who were raised on ranches and farms, such as Wearin, who is from Joseph, and her fellow officer, Jolie Dickerson, who grew up raising horses and cattle in Pendleton.

“I’m a ranch kid,” shrugs Dickerson. She’s a sophomore who is exploring veterinary or dairy work.

Dirty hands, muddy feet, hard work, dedication and passion are all part of the job, said Wearin.

The students set up feeding, vaccination, judging and processing schedules, which they review each Tuesday in club meetings. Feeding is twice a day, at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Also, students and staff walk through the barns for a daily health check.

Students track management techniques, monthly weight and final carcass data, then they share that information with the animal’s donor after the animal is sold and harvested in the spring. The cattle are raised to 1,200 to 1,400 pounds and are fed a grain-based diet to produce choice quality beef.

“A lot of donors like to see how the animal is finishing out,” Kennedy said.

Students work in the OSU Clark Meat Center, learning to grade, cut and package beef. Then they meet with customers to sell the products, Kennedy said. The center is a USDA-inspected slaughter and processing facility. The meat center’s retail store is open to the public each Friday.

In addition to hands-on work with animals and meetings with visiting professionals, club members also take industry tours and attend conferences.

To donate or get more information about the program, contact Kennedy at

California rancher’s travel plans pay off Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:45:48 -0400 Julia Hollister Rancher Hugo Klopper realized at an early age that Northern California was a much better place for a future than his home in Zimbabwe.

“I was born and raised in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and came from a farming background in Africa,” he said. “My mom married Bill McBride, a third-generation rancher, in 1983. They met in Africa on a blind date set up by mutual friends.

Klopper was still in high school at the time, and because of the politics in Zimbabwe he decided to make his future in California.

“I have been managing our Bonanza and Seattle ranches (Bear River Valley Beef in Humboldt County) for over 25 years, which belong to my stepfather,” Klopper said.

Klopper and his family — his wife, Elizabeth, and three sons — raise mainly Red Devons, a British breed from Devonshire. The calves are raised alongside their mothers until about 9 months old, when they are then weaned and moved to new pastures to continue growing.

The growth stage from weaned calf to finished grass-fed cattle is about 12-16 months. He said eating only grass is a time-consuming method to finish cattle, but healthy for the cattle and the land.

Elizabeth Klopper has a Cooper Institute certificate in nutrition and kinesiology and runs the farm office, taking care of online clients, shipping orders, and marketing as well as helping with various projects on the ranch.

“After running a traditional cow/calf operation for many years and establishing a superior cow herd whose calves were sold into the commodity market, I realized that I could provide a much better product and service by retaining ownership of the cattle and provide a 100 percent grass fed product with a focus on consistent quality,” Klopper said. “Raising animals on pasture with ‘all grass, all the time’ will always be the gold standard.”

He says there is no average day. Every day is different, depending on ranch projects that need completing. Klopper is currently installing more water storage and fencing to better manage feed production, which are limiting factors on increasing production.

“I would advise anyone to get into ranching in spite of the hurdles,” he said. “Sure, it is tough to get into because there is such a high cost on infrastructure, land, cattle for what you get on the return. Regulations are a challenge, too. It has been estimated that in California regulation costs to the industry run 25 percent higher than businesses in neighboring states.”

In addition to running the ranches, he has been a board member for the local Humboldt and Del Norte County Cattlemen’s Association for 10 years, president of the association for 2 years, state representative for the county for 4 years and one of nine zone directors in the state for 4 years. He currently is on the executive committee of the state association and is a board member on the local resources conservation district board.

When asked if he ever wanted to have another career, he replied, “Yes, to be fishing!”

Ranch owners start from scratch Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:44:23 -0400 Gail Oberst AIRLIE, Ore. — Karin Stutzman, in her second year as a cattle ranch owner with her husband, Terry, considers herself lucky.

If the Stutzmans hadn’t heard about the land the first day it was listed, Karin said, they might still be looking.

“It was prime property,” she said, looking down the Luckiamute River valley from her hillside perch on the Western Skies Cattle Ranch.

But, prime for what?

When they began looking for land, the Stutzmans simply wanted ground to farm. Both are in their 40s with agricultural connections: Karin is the manager of the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District; Terry is farm manager for the McKee River Ranch, a grass seed and hay operation with acreage in Polk and Yamhill counties. They were anxious to own a farm or ranch.

Once they had the land in hand, Karin said she began researching the best farming use of this dry and hilly, oak-covered property. With SWCD resources available to anyone, she discovered the soil types, slopes, rainfall and history of her property. The hills were too steep for cropping. The soils, Jory and Bellpine in places, had them considering wine grapes.

But most of the soil was Dayton and Suver types, poorly drained loam-silt soils common to the valley hillsides.

Here, oak trees, with fir, poison oak, blackberries and hawthorn, mocked cultivation. The couple reviewed the land’s history — it had been a hillside dairy farm in the 1940s, with crops grown on the bottom acreage.

But about 20 years ago, the farm began to fall into ruin. By 2015, When the Stutzmans bought the land, its fences, barn, and culverts needed serious repairs.

Even so, the upland could handle a small herd of beef cattle, the Stutzmans decided, naming their ranch Western Skies, for the panoramic view. They fenced off 73 acres of range, and rented out the lower 40 acres to an annual crop farmer.

Today 19 cattle range in a portion of the 113 acres of oak- and fir-covered hillside above the Luckiamute River in Polk County, Ore. They rotate the Hereford and Angus cross cattle through four sections of the range, moving them to a new section every six weeks, April through November.

The cattle’s rangeland diet does more than produce high-quality beef. The browsing also helps reproduce the native oak savannah, which was for thousands of years burned by Native Americans who used fire as a tool for hunting, plant cultivation and gathering.

The couple is hoping to restore some aspects of a savannah, with help from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners Program and other conservation partnerships. They worked out a plan for spraying, clearing, planting, maintaining and grazing that was beneficial to cattle as well as to Oregon’s native white oak and the wildlife that thrive in it.

“We thought the only way to clean up the place is with help, like these programs offer,” Karin said. Some of the help comes from her four-legged foragers. “The cows are good grazers. They keep down the fuels, the grasses, mainly.”

With little cattle experience, Karin said they’ve learned a lot in the past two years. Some things, the hard way.

“Shots within three days of birth, or you’re in a heap of trouble,” she said, recalling the bruises from kicks delivered by older and healthy calves. “Get them while they’re still wobbly and weak!”

Are there other crops in the future? Maybe, Karin said. But for now, they will continue building their herd to sell five or six cows direct to consumers while protecting the land.

Owyhee Cattlemen’s president embraces change Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:41:46 -0400 Brad Carlson Cows flash seemingly trusting looks toward rancher Lynn Bachman as they move from one Bruneau River Valley pasture to another, as if to acknowledge that he knows as much about the land as they do.

Bachman stays active in the community as he manages Bachman Land & Livestock, his family’s patchwork of owned and leased ground featuring modernized irrigation, a niche herd for a new, high-profile client, and some orchard grass hay for the pet market.

He broadens his perspective and sense of place in part by monitoring an irrigation district’s infrastructure, serving with a volunteer fire department and gathering information about an early-stage, multi-stakeholder proposal to restore stream banks.

“Most ranchers want to preserve it for the next generation,” he said, referring to the land. “If you are not sustainable, there is no way to do that.”

Bachman, at 35 one of the youngest presidents of the Owyhee Cattlemen’s Association board in recent memory, exemplifies a generation of environmentally conscious, data-driven ranchers aiming to position a historically commoditized business for sustainable, value-added success. He’s the third consecutive Owyhee Cattlemen’s president who is younger than 40 and willing to embrace change.

“Lynn embodies the younger person who takes a modern approach, and tries to incorporate and take advantage of newer programs and ways to market cattle,” said Murphy-area rancher Chad Nettleton, who preceded Bachman as Owyhee Cattlemen’s president. “He’s more cutting-edge than maybe older ranchers would be. He’s pretty well-read, spots trends in the industry, and stays up on the latest ways to add value to cattle.”

Ranchers historically used the best data available to manage herds, property, and government grazing allotments, but today’s information is more accessible and powerful, said Idaho Cattle Association Executive Vice President Cameron Mulrony. Data analysis helps in assessing grazing needs and forage carrying capacity by “animal unit month,” for example, he said.

Analyzing genetic data helps ranchers identify the best bulls and produce calves with the best chance to gain weight efficiently while producing quality beef cuts, said Mick Boone, who has a registered seed-stock Angus herd in south Nampa. Back in a business he left decades ago amid harsh market conditions, he blends new and traditional approaches.

“You physically have to be involved with your cattle. You can spot things the computer can never spot,” like an illness or why a cow did not calf, Boone said.

Bachman Land & Livestock, recently aiming to improve genetics in its Black Angus herd through artificial insemination, in 2016 contracted to supply grass-finished cattle to meal-kit provider Blue Apron Inc. Bachman said the venture, initially expected to account for less than 20 percent of revenue, aims to generate a premium price and valuable information.

Ideally, “we can capture more value from those genetics we’ve been improving over the years,” he said. “We’ve always used financial data, but this will be some of the first carcass data we will get — to see how cattle are actually doing end-product-wise.”

Bachman transitioned into managing his family’s Bruneau-area operation after a five-year stint in the construction industry, where “I learned a lot of different ways of doing things, for sure,” he said.

“I’m always trying to think of something new,” Bachman said.

Colvin Ranch in its fifth generation Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:39:45 -0400 Sheryl Harris Now in its fifth generation, Colvin Ranch continues to produce all-natural grass-fed beef and pastured pork.

Ignatius Colvin arrived on the Oregon Trail in 1851. The 550-acre ranch he established is near Tenino, Wash. Once it was a stagecoach stop; today, Fred and Katherine Colvin manage the ranch “with a part-time employee and the dog and a cat,” adds Colvin with a chuckle.

As with many ranching and farming families, their kids have moved away and will not be carrying on the tradition.

“We’ve put things in motion to keep it going — keep it from being subdivided,” Colvin explains.

One of those things is the conservation easement the Colvins put on the ranch about 10 years ago. It restricts use of the land for wildlife and as grasslands for the ranch.

“We have about 150 native prairie plants,” Katherine says. “Camus, balsam root, golden paintbrush, but no thistle or scotch broom.”

Colvins get around any critical habitat designation for the native plants because they already do more than is required.

“We developed a grazing system dividing the land into about 30 paddocks so nothing is overgrazed. We don’t want to weaken the grasses, especially in spring,” Colvin says.

What’s good for the land is good for their operation, he says.

Humane livestock handling considers what the animals do naturally and uses that knowledge to get them to do what you want. The Colvins say it’s easier than forcing animals to your will, and less stressful on the animals.

No antibiotics are used on their animals.

“We vaccinate,” Colvin says, “but that is to prevent infection. Antibiotics are used to cure infection. Our goal is to raise healthy animals; then they don’t need antibiotics because they don’t get infections.”

The ranch’s pastured pigs are purchased as weaner pigs and are provided with outside areas on dirt or pasture with shade, cover from the cold, and a wallow to control their temperature.

This summer was drier than most.

“It dries up every summer,” Colvin says. “We don’t irrigate, so we depend on rainfall. What grows March through June lasts through summer, then we get some fall growth. We feed alfalfa and blue grass hay because they have more protein and help digest the lower-quality dormant grasses.”

“We have a lot of good things here,” Colvin says. “We have good grass for the cattle and no hard winters. And we have a good population base to market to.”

Still, he admits there are challenges to those who would be ranchers today.

In Western Washington especially, land is scarce, what there is may not be good cattle land, and the cost of the land is high.

More good reasons to properly maintain his ranchland.

Vet raises sheep in Eastern Washington Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:35:06 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Homesteaded in the 1800s by the Feustel family, this farm near Lamont, Wash., is now owned by Art and Jill Swannack.

Jill is a veterinarian — she graduated from vet school at Washington State University — and raised sheep growing up in western Washington. She married Art in 1987 and brought her sheep to Feustel Farms.

“Those original six sheep were North Country Cheviots, a very hardy breed, but portable electric fences weren’t great at holding them in,” she said.

They looked at other breeds and chose Polypays, which are prolific, easy to handle and their udders hold up over the average lifespan of eight lambing seasons.

“And they stay inside the fences,” Jill said.

She and Art have three children. Carmen is 21 and at WSU majoring in ag biotechnology. Leah is 19, attending Montana State University at Bozeman, and planning to go to vet school at WSU. Son Owen is 16, and his interest is raising pigs and playing basketball.

Currently the Swannacks have 700 ewes, a few goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, horses and alpacas — a little bit of everything. The kids are in 4-H and FFA and have been showing sheep since they were young. Sheep are great because they are small enough for kids to handle, she said.

The sheep graze crop residue and wheat stubble part of the year but some of their pasture is rough country.

Predators, including wolves, are always a problem. They’ve had some wolf kills in their flock. Coyotes are the other big challenge.

“We use electric fencing to keep coyotes out of the sheep, and we hunt coyotes. We also use guard dogs. We have some Anatolian dogs and our pup is a Maremma,” Jill said. “We worked with USDA on bringing some newer breeds to this country, including Karakachan — the Bulgarian Shepherd.”

It was interesting to see various dogs, but Swannacks have been happiest with Anatolians and mixes.

“Their short hair coat means less maintenance (brushing/clipping) and they can travel. We graze on the edge of Palouse farmland in rocky areas where it’s hard to see all the sheep. You need a dog that is willing to travel, keeping track of them,” Jill said.

Sheep work well on the rough pastures, and are a good tool for weed and brush control. They eat many things cattle don’t eat; you can run a sheep with every cow and this increases stocking rate on the same number of acres.

“I grew up on a diversified farm, so I know these species work well together. We don’t have cattle, but we have horses, and we rotate the horses and sheep,” she said. This also reduces parasite contamination because internal parasites won’t survive in the wrong host.

Jill is president of the Washington State Sheep Producers, and her focus is producer education.

“I do a lambing school, and a skill school where we teach producers how to draw blood, deal with sick sheep, et cetera.”

“We recently purchased and installed the Te Pari HD-3 sheep handler and auto-drafter and a Shearwell Stock Recorder electronic records system to reduce labor — following the New Zealand/Australia pattern,” she said.

The Te Pari sheep system can auto-catch, auto-weigh and auto-sort sheep. The operator just has learn the system and one person can work more sheep.

She also raises and trains Tennessee Walking Horses for trail and ranch work and has 20 horses.

Horse supplements a family business Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:31:56 -0400 Aliya Hall REDMOND, Ore. — Growing up, Del Johnson thought he would make his living as a rodeo cowboy. When he realized that profession was “too skinny” financially, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in animal nutrition instead.

At the time, Oregon State University was researching selenium deficiency in cattle — giving Johnson an idea for a business venture.

“I saw an opportunity to make a product for horses that had selenium in it. I made that and with zero business knowledge, I packaged and labeled gallon jugs of liquid supplement,” Johnson said.

Selenium is a nutrient that is incorporated in making proteins called antioxidant enzymes, which help prevent cellular damage in animals. Although essential to good health, it is required only in small amounts.

While plant foods are the major source of selenium, the level is determined by the geography of the soil, and many regions in the world are selenium deficient, including much of Oregon and California.

“These places are farmed for years and important nutrients aren’t being brought back into the soil,” Johnson said. “All the trace minerals are taken out of the soil and the selenium is depleted more and more.”

In 1978 Johnson licensed Horse Guard, and began to date Lori, who is now his wife. Her father was Johnson’s first customer. The two married in 1984, and Lori Johnson became the chief financial officer.

Having worked for Purina in the past, she already had a background in business. At that point they were selling enough for them to support themselves.

“Back when the company started, research indicated a selenium deficiency in the Northwest,” Lori Johnson said. “Del said, ‘Why isn’t there a feed supplement that you don’t have to buy through a vet with a prescription?’”

One of the challenges the business had to overcome was misconceptions about selenium.

Then studies revealed the nutrient’s importance to health.

“Selenium was known to be toxic before it was known to be essential,” said Kelsey Nonella, who has a Ph.D. in equine nutrition and is Del and Lori’s daughter.

Nonella and her sister, Ty Johnson, grew up with the business and returned to it after college. Ty Johnson now works in sales and marketing, while Nonella works as a nutritionist and educational blogger. The sisters also host educational seminars around the country.

“I always knew I’d come back to Horse Guard,” Nonella said. “I shared that passion, that’s what I went to school for. I always loved Central Oregon, and I saw the joys and opportunities that Horse Guard allowed us as a family growing up. I wanted to have that for my family.”

Lori Johnson said they were thrilled their daughters came back to work with them, and explained that the business works because everyone “wears a different hat.”

“To have our girls come to work with us, we get to see them grow every day,” she said. “To watch your kids and work with your husband in the same harness working towards a common goal” is the most rewarding aspect.

Horse Guard has enjoyed its share of firsts in the animal supplement industry.

In 1978 the company was the first to provide selenium in a supplement, in 1984 it was the first to develop a weight gain product, in 1991 it was the first do add biotin — also known as vitamin H, in 2003 it was the first to include 100 percent organic selenium, and in 2005 it was the first to combine hoof health, joint health and probiotics in one product.

“It’s exciting for us,” Del Johnson said. “For us, that was a big deal to include selenium. You can’t buy a supplement now without it. We did it first because of legitimate nutritional needs. It’s just so important to horse health.”

Horse Guard’s latest product is an organic flax seed treatment called Flix, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

“We’re not only horse owners, we’re competitors,” Nonella said. “We don’t just do it because they’re our companions and we love them, but they need to perform at the highest level possible. We have confidence that’s the product we have.”

Workshops promote horse power Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:30:38 -0400 Aliya Hall DORENA, Ore. — While most farmers rely on tractors for help in the field, Walt Bernard of Ruby and Amber’s Farm trains draft horses to work for him.

The certified organic and biodynamic farm is named after Bernard’s first crew of workhorses, and he said that using workhorses on the farm is a further example of sustainable practices.

“We farm with them because they’re low-petroleum impact on the soil,” Bernard said. “Horses are a live power source, and you apply that the same way you’d apply a tractor to a business model, and you make that work within your system.”

Now, he has eight draft horses working his land.

Bernard and his wife, Kris, established the farm in 1999, and in 2001, after receiving multiple requests, Bernard began teaching workshops on training horses and the people who want to drive them.

Bernard considers four variables when training:

• Do the teamsters have the skill set for what they want to do?

• Do the horses have the ability to do what the teamster wants them to do?

• Does the teamster have the right equipment?

• How will the horse and teamster handle the uncontrollable things such as crowds, lightning strikes and hailstorms?

“The process is basically student-directed and student-driven,” Bernard said. “I start with the basics. I don’t make any assumptions. A lot of people come here with some horse experience and I treat them like they have none. We train with two goals in mind: keeping (teamsters) safe and teaching failsafe, secure things that are systems they can operate in and be successful.”

The workshops are $350 a person, with a six-person limit. Bernard said that he’s seeing more interest this year than last. He attributes that to the sustainability culture and high fuel prices.

Bernard starts students with well-broke horses, and he teaches them how to handle a horse safely, as well as recognizing the behavior and mental state of the animal. These skills will help the students connect with the horse and communicate with them by understanding what the equines are saying.

The horse’s training is similar to the driver’s in regards to basic consistency. After being trained with cues, harness and reins, the trainee horses will work with the well-broke horses. Over time, the trainee horses will be worked together.

“Each new task you have to take it easy at the start,” Bernard said. “If (the horses are) fearful, you have to go back and break it down more.”

He describes the workshop as working on a bell curve, building up the level of stress before easing back. He said it’s important to build success.

“I have a 90 percent rule,” Bernard said. “Unless I’m 90 percent sure they can do it, then I won’t let them try it. It keeps everyone feeling successful. You don’t want a loss of confidence for the humans and the horses. Horses are really sensitive to that. If you give them something too hard, they lose confidence. You have to break it down to more steps.”

Bernard said he loves to train both horses and people.

“There was very little mentorship when I started and very little training opportunities,” he said. “Mentorship is the number one thing people can do to be successful.”

His philosophy varies from older teamsters’. He said there wasn’t as big a focus on safety considerations in the past, and in this society teachers can’t afford to risk that.

“They used to say the primary thing is the horse. I look at it differently,” Bernard said. “The priority is human life and human safety, then the horse; it’s very close, but it’s second.”

The core values of his philosophy include: patience, honesty, clear communication, present moment interaction, cooperation, graduated success takes priority over goals or time, safety, positive reward-based training, progressive desensitization and principles of advance and retreat.

“Complex problems can be reduced to simple steps for a positive solution” and “the horses’ perspective should be your perspective” are both mottos he includes on his website.

Bernard said his philosophy comes from feedback, mentors and updating harsh old-school philosophies to make them humane.

“There’s nothing wrong with discipline, but it has to be something the horse understands,” he said. “It all comes ultimately from what the horse needs.”

The most rewarding aspect for Bernard is having everyone feel confident.

“For the horse, it’s doing the task. For the people we train, it’s seeing them going out and doing that, feeling successful,” he said. “It’s probably what makes me feel best. I think about it a lot, how can I make this person feel good and keep wanting to do it.”

For the love of Clydesdales Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:28:55 -0400 Hear Smith Thomas Jack and Michelle Parnell raise beautiful Clydesdales near Sandpoint, Idaho.

Jack grew up in California, where his family farmed with horses. He started raking hay with horses when he was hardly big enough to reach the pedal on the dump rake.

Later he had his own ranch and raised registered Angus.

“When my sons Randy and Lon were old enough to learn how ranching used to be done, we bought our first team of horses — in the 1970s,” said Parnell.

For many years Parnell Ranch contracted with fairs in California to do demonstrations with their hitches. They also had an annual pumpkin harvest at the ranch and invited 5,000 kids from local schools.

“We’d hitch teams to big hay wagons, and give the kids rides through the ranch and let them pick their own pumpkins,” Parnell said. “After we moved to Idaho we did hundreds of sleigh rides. We had a big campfire, told stories about the horses, let people talk to the horses and feed them carrots.”

The Parnells now raise Clydesdales for customers nationwide. Budweiser uses two Parnell stallions in their breeding program in Missouri.

He and Michelle have also shown horses for many years. At every opportunity Parnell tries to promote draft horses and educate more people about them. These horses are used for many things, and you don’t need an 8-up hitch or a 6-up or buy expensive harnesses.

“These horses are wonderful just to have in the pasture to look at. They are wonderful to ride, or drive as a single horse,” he said.

“We try to breed excellent horses that can show or do anything,” he said. “The ideal horse could go into a big hitch, pull a plow or harrow, or do whatever the owner wants it to do.”

Breeding excellent horses is a passion. Jack and Michelle often take a consignment of horses to the National Clydesdale Sale in St. Louis, Mo. They also have private treaty sales at the ranch.

Today Jack, age 82, and Michelle manage the ranch with the help of Ben Shupe, who moved to Idaho from Pennsylvania a few years ago to work for them.

“He handles every horse on the ranch. Every horse we own is broke to drive,” Parnell said.

“We keep two stallions. We bought our older stallion in 2000. We went to Scotland and bought him, and had him flown over here. We call him Ramsey and he’s been outstanding. He’s in a pasture right outside my office window, where he looks in at me,” he said. “We throw him an apple or two every day and he’s very spoiled!”

Most of the mares on the ranch today are Ramsey daughters.

“We bought a young stallion, from Ontario, Canada, to breed those mares. Breeding horses is a genetic art. It takes a bit of artistry to put the genetic material together to create the horse you want,” he said, adding that it’s part science and partly art and intuition.

“My wife, Michelle, does all the breeding. We do our own ultrasound work in getting the mares bred, and she’s the expert in that field,” Parnell said.

Michelle handles the mares, gets them ready to breed, does the ultrasound and gets them bred. She also does most of the veterinary work on the ranch. The Parnells also sell cooled semen from their stallions. Michelle recently learned how to freeze semen so now they are also freezing semen from their stallions. They are expecting 23 foals from their own mares in 2018.

Test your Equine IQ Thu, 30 Nov 2017 11:20:16 -0400 TERRELL WILLIAMS 1. What legendary horse made national headlines in 1973?

2. What is the highest point of a horse’s back?

3. In the sport of fox hunting, what is a dog fox?

4. In horse racing, what are silks?

5. What measurement is commonly used to determine horse height?

6. In driving, what is a travois?

7. When hauling horses interstate, what two forms of paperwork may be required?

8. What were the two major occupations of Dick Francis?

9. What horse is named “Always Dreaming”?

10. What classic novel did Anna Sewell publish in 1877?

11. In breeding, what is the purpose of an embryo transfer?

12. In professional rodeo, what is the most noticeable difference between a bronc rider’s saddle and a common Western saddle?

13. What is a simple test to determine if a horse is dehydrated? (Bonus question: At least how many gallons of water should a healthy horse drink per day?)

14. What color is a Friesian horse? (Bonus question: Where is it from?)

15. What famous television horse was sold at auction in 2010 to RFD-TV for $266,000?

16. What is the collective term for the offspring of a stallion?

17. Within an inch or two, what is the world record for the highest horse and rider jump?

18. What is the origin of the American Mustang?

19. What is the greatest danger of a puncture wound?

20. Who built the Trojan Horse?

BONUS QUESTION: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?


1. The Trojan Horse. (Just kidding. You’re right, it was Secretariat.)

2. The withers is the highest part of a horse’s back, located at the base of the neck between the shoulder blades.

3. A dog fox is a male fox.

4. Silks are the colored clothes worn by jockeys.

5. A hand (four inches) measures horse height from the withers to the ground.

6. A travois, used by American Indians, is two poles dragging on the ground with a platform for carrying a load.

7. Horses traveling interstate state (and occasionally across county lines) should travel with a current EIA (coggins test) form showing a negative blood result. Brand inspections also are required by most states to verify ownership. A third requirement in some states is documentation of vaccinations.

8. Dick Francis (1920-2010) was a professional jockey in England who, after retirement, wrote and co-wrote more than 100 mystery novels set in and about the horse racing industry.

9. Always Dreaming is the horse that won the 2017 Kentucky Derby.

10. “Black Beauty” was Sewell’s one and only novel.

11. An embryo transfer, whereby a 6- to 8-day-old embryo is transferred to a recipient mare, allows, for example, a competition mare to continue competing.

12. The rodeo saddle has no saddle horn.

13. A healthy horse should drink at least five gallons of water a day. If not, dehydration can occur. To test for dehydration, pinch a small amount of skin on the neck between your thumb and forefinger then let go. The skin should immediately flatten back into place. But if the horse is dehydrated, the skin will slowly recoil and appear wrinkled.

14. The Friesian is a breed of solid black horses originating in the Netherlands.

15. Rural cable network RFD-TV bought Trigger from the Roy Rogers museum, where the Palomino stallion had been stuffed and displayed for more than 40 years. (Roy’s dog Bullet, also stuffed, went to the same buyer for $35,000.)

16. A stud’s offspring is his “get.”

17. Guinness World Records lists the highest jump ever as 8-feet-1-inch, cleared by a Thoroughbred stallion with a Chilean rider in 1949.

18. The Mustang originated, starting in 1493, from the progeny of horses brought to the new world by Spanish conquistadors.

19. Tetanus infections can develop from punctures by nails, splinters, bullet wounds and “quicking” during horseshoeing. The tetanus germ cannot grow in the presence of air, so any wound deep enough to exclude air is a potential site for a tetanus infection. The best prevention for this possibly fatal condition is vaccination and annual boosters.

20. The Trojan Horse (as told about in Homer’s “Iliad” in Greek literature) was built and used by the Greeks.

Bonus answer: A mechanic.

(Sources include “The Horse Lover’s Bible,” “The Everything Horse Book,” “Encyclopedia of the Horse” and the internet.)


16 to 20: Top Hand

11 to 15: Seasoned Buckaroo

6 to 10: Weekend Wrangler

5 or less: Tenderfoot (or maybe a Rhinestone Cowboy)