California Beef Cattle Improvement Association (CBCIA) Tour 2013 – by Jean Barton

The California Beef Cattle Improvement Association (CBCIA) tour visited the Central Coast of California this year, as we combined ranching with history. It was a smaller group than usual, because many ranchers are gathering, shipping or haying. We had expected it to be green and many cattle grazing on the rolling hills in early May. Instead they are experiencing a drought, with rainfall less than a fourth of normal, and the cattle were shipped in March.  Still, it was a great tour with ranching friends.
This was my first tour where Tony, the bus driver for Via Bus Lines, Madera gave us a safety demonstration before starting out.  We learned which windows will pop open, how to work the roof hatches, and where the fire extinguishers are kept.  Also which lever opens the door.
Our tour guides were Mike and Wendy Hall.  Mike recently retired after 34 years as beef instructor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and he knew who owned the different ranches we drove past and we learned so much.  I knew Wendy as a livestock photographer, but what a hostess!!!  She arranged the meals, and they were great; plus all the little details of a tour. Before each stop, there was a thank you card passed around and all of us signed the card.  A thank you gift with the card was presented to each host. When we started our tour we had a brand quiz, to identify all the brands found in the information in our tour bag.   The first person to get them right won a wonderful book.   People with smart phones looked up the CA Brand book, without studying.
We visited the following:  Greg & Alan Renz at AGCO Hay Co; Frank “Lud” McCrary at Big Creek Lumber Co; Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch,  Cal Poly,  Teixeira Cattle Co; Flag is Up Farms, Santa Ynez Historical Society,   Peach Tree Ranch, and Mission San Juan Bautista with the different brands to identify. We saw the Big Creek Lumber Company at Davenport, north of Santa Cruz. There are 5 retail stores in CA. They cut 2nd growth coastal redwoods, and there are 12 grades of redwood.   Currently not milling the Douglas fir since building has slowed.
There was heavy logging in the Santa Cruz Mts. from 1875 to 1925. All the Douglas fir and redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains were cut when San Francisco rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. Ellen Rinde said the family came in 1860, and they have 75 mother cows , while 6,000 to 7,000 acres is in timber.
Cal Poly has a 3,280 acre ranch known as Swanton Pacific Ranch at Red House, Davenport, where they have 25 students in the stocker operation from January to June.  There are 27 pastures of perennial grasses, and the brush takes over if is not grazed. When Linda and I visited Hawaii last year, we met Dr. Tim Richards of the Kahua Ranch.   Kahua Ranch sends 530 stocker calves to Swanton Pacific to graze from first of February until first or middle of June.
Gordon Claussen is livestock manager at SP.  He was at Cottonwood Creek Ranch, when Bill was TCCA president and our field day was held at the ranch.  Small world. There are 60 – 70 cows that are spring calving cows for the natural beef, grass fed program. SP is half range land and half timber, plus 65 acres is leased for organic farming of herbs.  They cut 100 semi- trucks of selectively harvested 2nd growth redwood a year.  Cal Poly has a forestry unit and there are 500 students a year in that program.
We enjoyed lunch on the grounds near the Swanton Pacific Railroad Society miniature railroad depot.   It was used in the 1915 Fair in San Francisco celebrating completion of the Panama Canal. A hot pulled pork sandwich, with watermelon and grapes, chips, toss green salad, cookies, bottled water, soda pop and coffee.  Colorful and delicious.
Then we enjoyed a ride on the train to view the  timber and the remains of a flood in 2008, when they got 6 inches of rain in 24 hours.   The forestry students have learned how to repair stream banks and manage the timber. There was a massive forest fire on the ranch and they are also learning how to harvest that.  Forgot to write down the date of that fire, but it was recent.
We drove the historic El Camino Real to San Luis Obispo, and our visit to Cal Poly, with the Feed Mill first.    It was built in Minnesota, in six modules and assembled in two days.   It is very new, and gives the students an opportunity to work in a modern mill. Their focus is lots of small research diets, but they also mill for the beef, dairy, poultry, swine and sheep units.  Ledwell & Son  of Texarka, TX had given them a Stinger Truck.   Then a cattlewoman on the tour said “we just call it a feed wagon”.
The new meat lab was my favorite.  Dr Bob Delmore and Mathew Livingston, meat processing mgr. were our guides.  The holding pen was a Temple Grandin design with solid panels, diamond design on concrete floor with round crowding pen.  A hallway with large glass windows so you can view the  kill floor, the cutting rooms, the equipment was all stainless steel for ease of cleanup.  They also have a small retail meat market. Aaron Lazanoff, beef operations mgr. told us that 170-200 bulls were arriving for their bull test and sale next fall.  Usually the students manage about 200 mother cows, but have cut back to 160 because the springs have dried up, and the feed is short.
The San Luis Obispo Cattlemen with the Young Cattlemen served a delicious dinner at the beef unit, with garlic bread and sausages for appetizers with the Central Coast wines.   Tri tip, baked potato, green salad, chocolate cake and ice cream.
Our second day on the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association (CBCIA) tour found us boarding the bus at the Pismo Beach LightHouses Suites.   Wonderful beds, and I could open the sliding door on our balcony to hear, see and smell the ocean 90 feet below us.  We had enough beds in our suite for six of us, instead of Jacqueline and me.
Teixeira Cattle Co.,  at Thousand Hills Ranch, Pismo Beach was our first stop and we learned they have an Angus sale in August, called Sale by the Sea. They will sell club calves, heifers and bulls. They also have a ranch in Oregon, when they purchased the Holiday Ranch.   In Oregon they calve about 150 cows in the spring and sell the 18 month old bulls in California.   They calve 250 to 300 head in the fall in CA, and sell the bulls in Oregon. Originally they were growing vegetables on 7,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley for 45 years, before buying an undeveloped ranch, with no roads, water wells or electricity in 1999. Allen Teixeria is the 5th generation in the area, since his ancestor bought 200 acres for four gold coins in 1870.  Their son John liked cattle, and he told the story of going to Oklahoma to buy two steers, and came home with five  heifers as well.
John and Heather started producing club calves (for 4-H and FFA) for ten years, and five years ago they developed a full time registered Angus herd. John and Heather learned to do artificial insemination, and since embryo transfer is costly, both learned to do that.  Heather does the embryo work since her hands are smaller.  We were told there were 180 recips (recipients) in the herd of 250 cows this year.    She also does the registration and paper work, and their three boys range in age from 4 to 11 years.
Allen’s wife Cecilia and friends had made delicious breakfast burritos, with fresh strawberries, blackberries and blue berries, and served pastries from Birkholms Bakery in Solvang.  The coffee cakes, muffins and cinnamon rolls melted in your mouth.   Coffee and orange juice too.
We ate in the barn where many weddings are held, as well as the annual sale.  It was open to the east, and we could see cows with bull calves on permanent pasture on the hill nearby.
There were four yearling bulls in pens for us to view, up close.  As we drove out, we noticed a bull was “baby sitting” the weaned bull or steer calves in another pasture. Drove past a nursery for avocados, and lots of old fashioned smudge pots near Nipomo.   Grapes are taking over the hills and flat land south of King City/Salinas on Hwy. 101, where cattle used to graze, or it was dryland farming.
On the 3rd day, we drove for miles past a vineyard with no break or fence in the field.  It was huge, but I don’t know where we were.  In  Buellton, we visited Platinum Performance (PP),  with Mark Herthel, co-founder and president.  His father  “Dr. Doug Herthel, DVM, developed PP Equine  in 1996 to improve the health, performance and healing in his equine patients at the Alamo Pintado Equine Medica Center.  Dr. Herthel helped to pioneer the role of nutrition in veterinary medicine.” They use quality ingredients for horse, dog, humans, made in their plant in Buellton, and the supplements are shipped fresh every day.  They conduct hundreds of quality based tests to guarantee potency and purity.  They test ingredients and product for nearly 200 banned substances, so the supplements are safe for use during competiton. Clients include Olympic equine gold medalists, NCHA Futurity  and Open World Champions, barrel racer Mary Walker, tie down roper Tuf Cooper, barrel racer Brittany Pozzi, and PRCA world champion Trevor Brazile to name a few.  Mark and many of the PP employees are Cal Poly graduates. Another Cal Poly grad was Monty Roberts at our next stop in Solvang.
The lane into Flag is Up Farms had red roses and trees lining the driveway.  As we stepped off the bus, Monty Roberts shook each person’s hand and welcomed us by name.
We saw a demonstration of training a young horse in the round pen with students from Australia, France, Germany, Canada and the U.S.A watching Monty work his magic.  “Training the horse through trust-based communication” is their motto.  Then other trainers gave demonstrations with a large plastic and ropes on other horses.
A special treat was to have lunch at their home on top of a hill overlooking the farm below.   The home was beautiful, and we enjoyed viewing the many paintings, and photos on the walls in the different rooms. I was fascinated viewing the many photos of Monty and Queen Elizabeth over the years.  The brochure mentioned “over 40 years.” The collection of bridles, and Pat Roberts’ limited edition bronze sculptures that were throughout the house was another treat. “Horses and sculpture are all about movement.  As an artist, I strive to capture a moment in time  — even if the sculpture depicts a horse or animal standing still, it must move in the eye of the beholder to be believable.  That has been my goal –turning bronze into a living and moving object.” – Pat Roberts. She told us she used the kitchen table as her studio when sculpting.
We enjoyed a choice of sandwiches with different meats and breads, several varieties of dressing on toss green salads, strawberries and cookies from Birkholms Bakery.  Delicious as well as colorful!!!!  A delightful visit with a legend at Flag is Up Farms.
Tony, our bus driver won applause for his ability to maneuver  the bus through the narrow brick entrance to the grounds of the home, coming at the end of a sharp left turn.