Joe Fereira

Alameda County, Calif., rancher Joe Fereira says grazing land in the area is being gobbled up by developers.

Joe Fereira grew up ranching in the open grasslands of California’s Alameda County but today he is alarmed by encroaching urban development.

“Yes, I am concerned,” he said. “The property to the west of us was recently built on. This took away some grazing acreage from our operation."

Previously, he added, a large development was built at the base of the property, which changed the ranch's easement and greatly decreased the open land in the area.

"The property that we graze is bordered by urban development," he said. "This has created issues in the past with people from different backgrounds that do not understand aspects of ranching and running cattle.”

His operation includes family members in all aspects of the ranch. All of his sons were raised with the ranch and cattle as large part of their life. Fereira said he believes that raising them in this environment has taught strong work ethics and responsibility.

In spite of the day-to-day glitches of running Angus/Hereford cross cattle, he said there is room for more cattle ranchers.

“In short, yes, I would encourage anyone that has the opportunity and ambition to begin a career in cattle,” he said, although the location is important.

“In the Bay Area, a career in cattle can be very difficult," he said. "Although we have some of the best grazing land in the state, there is a lot of development, which makes the land very expensive. I own and operate a produce processing business that has supported my family for the last 40 years. I run cattle because I thoroughly enjoy it and has been a part of my family for now five generations. As a landowner I also have an obligation to maintain that land and that is where the cattle come into play.”

Fereira said the cattle industry has changed over the last five years.

“The public perception of the livestock industry can really affect the industry as a whole, which can be argued either way whether it is better or worse than five years ago,” he said. “In recent years I have witnessed first hand the older generation of ranchers and farmers starting to phase out. This is where we as an industry need to educate and push the younger generation to carry on ranching to maintain the industry."

With the median age of farmers and ranchers around 58 years old, the oncoming years are going to be a transitional stage where the younger generation will play a big part in the health of the livestock industry, he said.

Urban encroachment is foremost on his list of challenges facing California’s cattle industry.

“Throughout my lifetime I have watched as Niles and the surrounding area turned from mostly farmland and open space to a large city of well over 200,000 people,” Fereira said. “With more demand for development, the land prices increase, making it difficult for ranchers to maintain leases and the land as open space. The higher prices also encourage the younger generations and even the older generations to sell out to these developers. This and the ever increasing laws and restrictions on Californians has and will further hinder the California cattle industry.”

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