Joe Villagrana is currently serving his second term as OCA’s District Five Vice President, encompassing southern Oregon counties of Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake. Joe’s leadership role began as the Lake County Stockgrowers’ President over seven years ago and from there, he continued his work into leadership with OCA to help bridge the gap of communication between his local cattlemen and the state affiliation.
“When I started as Lake County President, we had a lot of work to do – the group was broke,” said Joe, “We started holding auctions, held community events, supported the kids with scholarships and sure enough, membership grew, and the group is thriving.” Today, Joe reports that ranchers of Lake county continue to grow and become more involved in the Stockgrowers’ group, which has built a community of its own over the years as a place of support and volunteerism.
Joe Villagrana was not born into the ranching lifestyle, instead, he has worked over the past twenty years managing ranches and developing his skills as a cattleman, ranch hand and business manager. I asked Joe what his advice would be for young people trying to develop a career as a rancher, he replied, “get an education.”
“The practical experience will come on its own, but the education of accounting, marketing, business management or financing in this industry is extremely valuable,” said Joe, “if you do not understand the numbers then the rest won’t make sense.” Joe was born to an immigrant family and he decided at a young age he would be involved in ranch management. In his early 20’s he started working with a man who bought ranches, Joe would manage them for a while, build them up and then the ranches would be sold. Joe continued to bigger and bigger ranches until he landed at J-Spear Ranch in Paisley, a 25,000-acre ranch, where he has been managing for the past 15 years.
Like many across the state, Joe and other ranchers on Oregon’s southern border have concerns regarding the increased regulations hitting them as property owners and as grazing permit holders. Particularly in Lake county, Joe has heard many concerns about a large chunk of desert land which may be redesignated as “wilderness” and if it is, then it will cause increased regulations for the ranchers who graze and manage permits on the land. Wildlife also poses quite a few concerns for ranchers in District Five. Elk damage is prominent as well as wolf depredation. Jackson and Klamath counties are home to the Rogue Pack, a large and prominent wolf pack known for depredations of livestock.
“As a whole, what is really hurting us the most are the wild horses,” said Joe, “the horses are vastly overpopulated in this area, which hurts us a lot with the droughts also occurring.” In October of 2020, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Lakeview District, and Lakeview Field Office acted on an emergency wild horse gather. The action was needed due to the lack of water and the declining health associated with the herd’s overpopulation. According to the BLM website, the appropriate management level for the Paisley Desert HMA is 60 to 150 horses. Based on a June 2019 survey flight, the current estimate is that there may be as many as 1,050 horses (including foals) within the area. Joe continues to monitor the local action on wild hoses closely and reports on the issue to OCA.
To get involved in your local group or to become involved in OCA’s committees, Joe says all you need to do is pick up the phone.
“If someone needs advice or if they have concerns about something going on in their area, just pick up the phone and give me a call and I can help,” said Joe, “there’s always a lot coming down the pipeline and I would be more than happy to share that information.”
~ Lifestyle Coverage by Robyn H. Smith, OCA Communications Director & Oregon Cattleman Magazine Publisher