Brothers run successful cattle, sheep ranch

CRAIG REED/For the Capital Press Don Santos loads a couple of 1,200 pound bales for a customer at the Santos Ranch Oct. 19. In addition to having their own ranch livestock, Santos and his brother Paul Santos also buy hay from central and southern Oregon, haul it to their Glide, Oregon, area ranch and sell it to livestock owners in Douglas County.

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.

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