PNW-SRM Information

Doug Warnock: A look at regenerative ranch management

Golden West Cattle LLC with Hercules Farms Inc. was one of the six locations visited at the recent meeting and tour of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Society for Range Management. This ranch, owned and managed by the Rex Harder family, is located near Sprague Lake in Lincoln County, southwest of Spokane, Wash.

The family runs mother cows plus yearlings on land that is part of the Channeled Scablands. The Channeled Scablands are large swaths of the landscape where all you see is barren bedrock and strange rocky land formations. They extend from around Spokane west to the Columbia River near Vantage and southwest to the Snake River near Pasco. They are called “Channeled Scablands” because they are crisscrossed by long channels cut into the bedrock, called coulees.

Most of these scablands are not suited for raising crops and are better suited for grazing. The family originally settled in the Kahlotus area about 1881. They purchased the ranch near Sprague in 1936.

The family owned the property surrounding Sprague Lake. They worked with USDA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for more public access, which allowed recreationists and sportsmen to enjoy the lake.

The family believes that the regenerative approach to ranch management is important for survival. This means trying to work with nature and natural processes as much as possible.

They raise hay on the ranch and generally produce most of the hay needed to winter their cattle. They feed the hay out on the range, not in a concentrated area.

Calving is done March through June so that cows can be out on pasture during their heavy lactation period. The family retains their calves and grows them out. Most of their cattle are marketed at about two years of age.

Golden West is very positive about the marketing cooperatives they utilize, Country Natural Beef and Painted Hills. Country Natural Beef (CNB) meets all the requirements for Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 4 Certification. This means that the Members of CNB produce their beef without the use of antibiotics and hormones and are 100% vegetarian fed.

In addition, high animal welfare standards are maintained. All animals are handled with low stress techniques. The members of CNB are periodically monitored by an outside party that certifies the ranchers are meeting the standards.

CNB has grown from the original 12 ranch families that started the co-op in 1986, named Oregon Country Beef, to the 100 or more family ranches from several western states that are currently involved in CNB.

The Harders are representative of the many family ranchers who diligently strive to enhance soil health and maintain diverse plant communities that provide nutritious forage for both domestic animals and wildlife. They are interested in consumers’ needs and want to provide as healthy and nutritious a product as possible.