Fritz Weinhard brought the first Hereford cows to his family’s ranch in Wallowa in 1935. To this day, the mother cows on Carman Ranch are direct descendants of those early animals, grazed on large parcels of rolling prairie, timbered rangeland and irrigated valley ground under the watchful eye of Fritz’s great granddaughter, Cory Carman.
After graduating from Stanford University with an environmental policy degree, and working in public policy in Washington DC, Cory came home to the pristine pastures of Wallowa County in 2003. Galvanized by her belief in the ecological and health benefits of grassfed beef, Cory set her sights on transitioning the ranch where her family has lived and raised cattle for more than 100 years to 100 percent grassfed beef. A decade later, Carman Ranch has become a vibrant example of holistic ranching and land regeneration, offering 100% grassfed, grass-finished beef and pastured pork to an audience that includes health care providers, fine dining establishments and retail consumers.
The Ellensburg, WA-based Mays family has been in the cattle business for more than 40 years. Flying M Livestock, their multi-faceted, family owned operation, includes a grass-fed cattle herd; yearlings and designated areas for grazing them; and the ability to act as a receiving station for cattle from Hawaii. Since 2000, however, their focus has been on herd genetics and raising Black Angus cattle of the highest quality for the grassfed beef market.
Flying M cattle are born and raised in the Kittitas Valley, which is known for its superior grass and hay productivity. In the spring, several months after they are born, new calves are tagged and turned out in the rangeland foothills with their mothers. When they return in the fall, they’re weaned on green grass.
Holistic resource management is the foundation of the Flying M grassfed program, which relies on low-stress cattle handling techniques and on-going efforts by the team to improve and excel as outstanding stewards of the land and their animals. The ranch has a herd of quarter horses, and complete as much of the work of raising their cattle from the saddle as possible.
Fourth generation Wyoming rancher Dan Flitner and his wife Mary, a DVM, have worked their 500-acre parcel in the southeastern town of Terrebone, Oregon, for four years. But they’ve been in the business of raising cattle much longer.
Their herd includes 200 Angus and Red Angus mother cows, which are breeds well adapted to the desert environment. The cows have been genetically selected for their smaller, more moderate frame size, too, making them a good fit for the grass-fed program Four Lazy F Ranch has operated since 2006.
The Lazy F herd grazes 500 acres—400 of which are irrigated—using management intensive rotational grazing systems. For seven months out of each year, the cows are turned out onto this pasture; summer in a desert region can present unique challenges.
The hay that supplements the cows’ diet is grown on the ranch, as are legumes and perennial crops like fescue, crested wheatgrass, and Sandberg bluegrass. Also thriving are vast expanses of the invasive weed Medusahead. With eradicating—or at least controlling—the weed as his goal, Dan has taken on a 10-acre plot where the Medusahead is thick. He grazes it with 200 animals over 5 days.
Mark Butterfield’s father, Tom, bought the 150 acres of Wallowa Valley irrigated pasture that their grassfed cattle graze the year Mark was born. The Rocky Hill Cattle herd, which includes about 150 mother cows, also has the run of approximately 1800 acres of the Zumwalt Prairie, a small sliver of the vast grassland area and private nature sanctuary located in Wallowa County, OR. Managed by the Nature Conservancy, an agency that works across the Zumwalt landscape with ranchers like Butterfield to maintain the prairie’s ecological health, the prairie land is grazed sustainably by the livestock responsible for its economic viability.
Second generation rancher Mark describes himself as a hay exporter who got into the cattle business when he was trying to improve crop rotation. He and his dad planted a no-till crop and saw the results immediately: ample, lush feed for the cattle, a bump in production for the wheat crop and bonus alfalfa. They’ve kept cattle ever since.
Mark and his dad were partners until 2014, when his dad retired and Mark’s son Jaymes purchased his grandfather’s half of the herd.
The Winecup Gamble Ranch has been operating in the northeast corner of Nevada since 1868. At 952,000 acres, the sheer magnitude of the ranch is most easily measured—and imagined—in miles: it is roughly 58 miles from east to west, and 32 miles from north to south. The elevation of the varied terrain ranges from 4700 feet at the valley floor up to 8400 feet, to meet the surrounding mountaintops.
Responsible stewardship of the land is a primary goal at Winecup Gamble. By employing holistic, regenerative land management philosophies, and conscientiously managing their natural resources, the ranch is able to produce high quality cattle sustainably while tending to a resilient and biologically diverse landscape.
Under the care of a diversified and collaborative management team, the ranch has enjoyed a renaissance and return to its place as one of the last great ranches of the American West with highly respected cattle operations, vast natural resources, big game hunting opportunities, and efforts in habitat conservation.
Dan Probert's family moved to Wallowa County in 1967. Dan was running his Malheur County ranch when friends encouraged him to look into buying ranch land in the Zumwalt Prairie. That's when they began talking to the Nature Conservancy about entering into a conservation easement that would benefit everyone with a vested interest in preserving the multi-use land leased for cattle-grazing, hunting and hiking, as well as research. When the 38,000 acre Buckhorn Ranch came up for sale, Dan made the arrangements to buy one-third of it.
Now, Dan and Suzy Probert's ranch sits on the Zumwalt Prairie Reserve, which is the largest remaining intact bunchgrass prairie in North America. The Zumwalt Prairie has the largest concentration of raptors in North America and is home to Red Tail Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Golden Eagles, and Bald Eagles. The ranch works with the Nature Conservancy and other like-minded organizations to preserve working ranches on the prairie through collaboration and the implementation of holistic management practices.