Baker County Hereford Tour Draws Cattlemen and Women from Oregon, Washington, and Idaho – as Far Away as Texas and Australia
A two day Registered Hereford and Commercial cattle tour represented ranches in Richland, Halfway, North Powder and Baker City, along with an eventful jet boat excursion through Hells Canyon.
Baker City, Ore., August 18, 2011 – Hereford cattle producers and industry supporters joined together for the Baker County Hereford Tour August 13th-14th, by tour bus on day one and vehicle convoy on day two. Attendees toured five commercial operations and four registered operations as well as experiencing the Wild Sheep Jet Boat Tour through Hells Canyon. The event was sponsored by OWNI (Oregon Washington Northern Idaho Hereford Association), OHA (Oregon Hereford Association), Bird Herefords and Harrell Hereford Ranch.
Early Saturday morning, the tour bus left Sunridge Inn in Baker City and made its way through winding roads to Richland, OR, where Forsea & Sons fourth generation commercial herd operates. Walt Forsea and son, Dan, began using Hereford bulls in the 90s. Several changes have been made on the operation, beginning in 1985 including fencing, putting in springs and some draws. Dan mentioned that they can’t even find arrowheads anymore because there is so much grass. With some rugged terrain, much of the work is done by horseback and little by ATVs.
The next stop was just north to Halfway at Hutton Herefords fourth generation commercial operation. Mike Hutton and his wife, Terri also have a stock trailer and horse trailer business in Baker City. They use a Black Angus bull on first time heifers for better calving ease. The cows and heifers are out with the bulls for 42 to 44 days and they calve in the spring. Halfway gets a lot of deep snow, but Mike pointed out that the grass sure grows when the snow leaves, which makes for less feed costs.
Just down the road, Dave and Lynda Bird run a fourth generation registered purebred operation. Calving for Bird Herefords begins mid-December. Proper facilities for calving are a must as the area can receive up to four feet of snow and temperatures pushing negative 40 degrees. Disposition in the herd is their number one priority. Two clean-up bulls are used with most of the herd bred by artificial insemination. Everyone spread out to take a look at the cows with bull calves and cows with heifer calves, which were separated, before enjoying an excellent sack lunch provided by the Birds.
A quick stop was made at Willmarth Herefords prior to the jet boat tour. Cliff and Ester started out in the Willamette Valley selling grass-fed locker meat directly to the public. When they made their way to Halfway, they began taking their calves to auction. Black Angus bulls are used for sold calves and they switch to a Hereford bull to keep back replacement heifers. The Willmarth’s shared, “When we started raising Herefords, our son was one-year old. We had two cows, one rope, a bucket and a fly swatter. Now, that son is 49, we have two squeeze chutes, fly spray and 15 cows, but we still use the same bucket!”
The majority of the tour attendees joined in on the jet boat tour through Hells Canyon. The wildlife didn’t disappoint as two black bears and a bald eagle were spotted. Being a Hereford tour, the guide invited everyone to take a short hike up to an old homestead were cattle were raised along the canyon. To end the trip, the guides made sure to cool their guests off with a refreshing spray, some getting quite a soak.
Dinner and live music ended the evening at the Richland City Park with Eagle Valley Grange providing the meal.
Another early morning start led the long caravan of pick-ups and other vehicles to Chandler Herefords in Baker City. Duane Chandler, son of George Chandler is the sixth generation of the operation. Five year old, Morgan (daughter of Duane), notably welcomed everyone to the Chandler Herefords passing out business cards and information packets. They run their cattle on 2500 deeded acres and put up 1000 acres of grass hay. George stated, “The valley has never failed us,” in which they have had good years and bad years, but never failed. Chandler Herefords strongly believe in family sharing when it comes to decision-making and they tend to have the same “eye” for cattle, proving true in their genetic line.
Just outside of North Powder, George and Cheryl Colwell run cattle on their summer ranch around the beginning of June through December first. During the winter months, the cattle are kept in Idaho where they have deeded irrigated ground. They feed very little hay due to the warmer river bottoms in Idaho. A 90 day breeding season allows for 45 days in Idaho and 45 days in Oregon to get bred, with weaning being done around the first of September. Just across the freeway, Colwell’s have 110 bulls grazing off a pasture allotment.
Heading back towards Baker City, Marci Maxwell runs her family’s Hereford cattle operation while her brother farms the crop acreage. She introduced Black Angus into the Hereford genetics with hesitation from her father, but with strong belief in the genetic capabilities. Being so close to the mountains, they calve around March 15th and keep 25 to 35 replacements each year. Rotational grazing is a big part of the Maxwell operation. As with the Birds, disposition is key in the herd as she, and her family, cannot afford any injuries.
Tom Hill, DVM, at Baker Veterinary Hospital, runs a 225 head commercial operation in Haines where the main ranch is located. He usually keeps around 65 head of first and second time calvers, which are black and black brockles, on lease pasture. Hereford bulls are used on the young cows and Black Angus bulls are used on the older cows.
The tour wrapped up in the late afternoon at Harrell Hereford Ranch. Just at the base of the mountains, Bob Harrell pastures his Hereford bulls. This third generation ranch of about 700 head of Registered Hereford and Commercial cattle is managed by Bob and his mother Edna continues to help oversee the ranch operations. Harrell’s graciously hosted a barbeque for the tour participants. Curt Martin, OCA President-Elect, was pleased with the tour, sharing, “The tour was really organized and a nice mix of commercial and registered operations. It was like we were with family, even though we are from different parts of the country. We took no time in getting to know each other.”