Michaels family continues ranching tradition

Craig Reed/For the Capital Press Troy Michaels, the fourth generation to own and operate his family's ranch near Days Creek, Ore., runs 200 mother cows and 300 ewes. He's been working on the ranch since helping his grandfather Lawrence Michaels in the 1990s.

DAYS CREEK, Ore. — Lawrence Michaels would be proud of his grandson Troy Michaels.

The grandson is carrying on his grandfather’s wish that the Michaels Ranch remain in the family and operational. Under Troy Michaels’ management, the ranch today is home to 200 mother cows and 300 ewes, and has earned Century Ranch status.

As a high school and college student, Troy Michaels worked on the ranch and learned from his grandfather. After earning an agri-business degree from Oregon State University, the young man returned to the ranch in 1990 and worked full-time with Lawrence Michaels until the grandfather died in 1999. The ranch was left to Troy, the family’s fourth generation to live on and work the ranch.

The ranch had been established in 1898 by Troy Michaels’ great grandfather.

“The long-term goal is to keep the operation going in the family, to follow through on my grandfather’s wishes,” said Troy Michaels, now 47. “He wanted the ranch to stay in agriculture as long as possible, and that’s my goal, too.

“There’s a sense of pride in that ... that my family has been here on this land for that long,” Michaels said. “We not only want to survive. We want to thrive along the way.”

Today, Troy Michaels and his wife, Holly, own 1,250 acres at their home ranch along the South Umpqua River near Days Creek in southern Douglas County. The couple also lease 1,000 acres a few miles away.

Holly Michaels is a teacher in the Days Creek School District, but does the bookwork for the ranch and helps with work when needed and when available.

The Michaelses raise their calves and lambs from birth to a finished weight and follow the beef and lamb all the way to the consumer.

“We market grass-fed beef and lamb,” Troy Michaels said, adding that about 160 cattle and 325 lambs are sold annually. “Our animals that are sold into the food supply have had no antibiotics, no growth hormones and are pasture-raised.”

The ranch’s beef is sold to the Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Oregon, and beef and lamb are sold to New Seasons Market, which has a dozen stores in the Portland area. Several smaller retail outlets in Douglas County also buy beef and lamb from the Michaelses.

“I really enjoy where Troy has taken the business, how the lambs and beef are raised to provide a more nutritious food base,” Holly Michaels said. “I appreciate the time and knowledge Troy has put into it, and the direct-marketing approach he has established.”

“I enjoy working outdoors,” Troy Michaels said of ranching. “With this job you have a sense of accomplishment for the most part. I’m trying to constantly improve the land and the livestock in order to leave the land better than when we took it over. That’s a challenge I enjoy.”

The Michaelses have three daughters, Katie, Sarah and Moriah, who help on the ranch and are involved in livestock projects through 4-H and FFA.

“There’s always new experiences ... a cow jumping the fence and getting out, things like that,” said Katie, who is now a college sophomore. “It’s something new every day and that makes it interesting.”

As a high school senior, with her parents gone, Katie pulled her first lamb, having learned the procedure by watching her father previously. The ewe, the lamb and Katie were fine after the experience.

Each girl has her own small flock of sheep. Katie and Sarah also have pigs and Moriah has goats.

Katie and Moriah said they have an interest in being the fifth generation to run the ranch at some point in the future. Sarah said she would do the bookwork.

Their great-grandfather, Lawrence Michaels, would be proud and pleased to see another generation show interest in continuing the family’s ranching tradition.

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