Grazing cattle while serving youth

The Washington Family Ranch located near Antelope, Oregon, is the home of a Young Life camp that provides youth a wonderful camping experience in a Christian atmosphere. The camp facilities take up about 1,100 acres and the rest of the ranch, over 60,000 acres, is coming back into production for grazing cattle.

After several years focusing on getting the camping facilities completed and the camping program running, Peter Grubb and Andrew Hartenstein were given the responsibility to put the ranch back into a cattle production mode. They have been working at that zealously. Additional fencing is being added and a grazing plan developed to achieve proper utilization of the ranch’s forage base. Grubb, ranch manager, has established several monitoring transects on the property and more are anticipated in the future. Both Grubb and Hartenstein come from livestock backgrounds and have advanced degrees in animal science.

The ranch has been known for a number of years as the Big Muddy Ranch, but it received national attention when it became the site of a commune for Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in 1981. Bhagwan with the 3,000 members of his cult took over the town of Antelope, causing much concern on the part of local residents. Four years later Bhagwan was gone and the ranch was for sale.

The ranch was purchased by the Dennis Washington family of Montana, who gifted it to the Young Life organization in 1997. A subsequent monetary gift from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation provided for the development of the camping facilities.

Each year, about 8,000 middle and high school students attend the weeklong camps at the ranch during the summer months.

Grubb and Hartenstein work closely with Shawn Jones and Jason Davies of the Antone Ranch near Mitchell, Oregon, which provides most of the cattle that graze on the Washington Family Ranch. The WFR managers are implementing Holistic Planned Grazing, which is designed to get the cattle to the right place at the right time for the right reasons. Getting good distribution of the grazing animals depends on having adequate watering sources across the expanse of rangeland and the WFR managers have been working to develop additional water sources.

One of the challenges they face is planning the grazing moves so that cattle are in an accessible location when it’s time to brand and vaccinate calves, sort cows for breeding or load and haul cattle back to the home ranch.

While the cattle operation is not the only use of the ranch property, it is still a very important one and Grubb and Hartenstein are committed to making the ranch pay its way and provide financial support for the camp. They hope to make the ranch a place where cattle producers will come for educational programs, field days and informative tours.

Doug Warnock, retired from Washington State University Extension, lives on a ranch in the Touchet River Valley where he writes about and teaches grazing management. He can be contacted at dwarnockgreenerpastures@gmail.com.

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