Tag Archives: ranching.

Guest Post Meet Your Beef: California Drought on a Central Valley Ranch

I met my friend Brooke on social media. We are both multi-generational cattle ranchers, who are very passionate about our way of life. Brooke has a wonderful blog where she details her life. Because of the hurtful and ignorant comment made by my local environmental group (which I am now a member of), I decided to attempt to humanize this drought, so they could see the farmers and ranchers and families behind it. Brooke was kind enough to let me re-blog her original post (please see here).



My friend and fellow blogger, Megan Brown, over at The Beef Jar recently uncovered some rather hurtful words that her local Butte Environmental Council shared on their Facebook page. After I saw what’s pictured below, I decided that maybe I should continue to share how real the drought in the Central Valley is and how it has hurt my family’s business as well as multiple farmers and ranchers in the area. Just to be clear: my intent in writing these posts is to share our business, foster agricultural education, and develop conversation pieces that may lead to a better understanding for the greater good. I hope it comes off that way.

Here is what Butte Environmental Council put on their Facebook page that inspired this post:

Cry me a River??

Cry me a River??

My mom is the 3rd generation cattle rancher and she runs the ranch my grandparent’s fought hard to preserve all their life. As most everyone knows by now, over the last 4-5 years we have had a heck of a time with the drought. 2014 has been the worst. The ranch we raise our beef on solely relies on annual rainfall to grow the native grass to feed our cattle. There is no irrigation on this land. Average annual rainfall for us is somewhere around 12-13″ a year. This year, there was no rain in December and most of January (typically wet months for us). Our grand total was a whopping 4.89″ of rainfall. That was also accompanied by record high temperatures.

We take pride in how well we manage our ranch land but regardless of what we did this year, there was no saving it from devastation. Between the months of January and April we had to cull 20% of our herd as well as spread our cattle out amongst another field just to sustain them and the land. 20% of any business is no small amount… especially when these animals are your livelihood. My mom has worked her whole life to build these genetics, making the decision to sell those cows not just a business decision, but an emotional one as well. To make matters even worse we also had to buy and feed 3 times the amount of hay this year (it’s outrageously priced right now because demand is so high).

Relying on Mother Nature is a gambling business. We know that. I can remember growing up when ever we would sit down to a large meal in celebration of someone’s birthday, we would say a prayer before eating. My grandfather would always chime in at the end of that prayer with “and PLEASE don’t forget the rain!” It became a bit of a joke then because he’d say it regardless of the season (we have a lot of June birthday’s in our family and it tends to be in the 100’s then). But this is no joke. This drought is real and it is hitting the bottom line for every farmer and rancher in the state of CA and beyond.

Some close family friends of ours, the Estills, who are also a multi-generational cattle ranching family in both CA and NV have sold a staggering 60% of their herd this year due to drought. 60%!!

A family whom leases part of our ranch also grows oranges in the surrounding area. On my way to the ranch I pass their orchard. They put up this sign that reads “No water. No trees. No work. No food.” And behind that sign is acres upon acres of DIRT.

No Water Sign No Water, No Trees, No Jobs, No Food

No Water Sign
No Water, No Trees, No Jobs, No Food


Orange Trees that have been ripped out

Orange Trees that have been ripped out


There used to be a beautiful grove of orange trees but they were forced to rip them out due to the water crisis. I can’t imagine what kind of financial impact that will have on their business. For the people of the same mindset as Butte Environmental Council, this isn’t just a bunch of propaganda. It’s real life and it’s devastating. We aren’t a bunch of “giant agribusinesses”. We are close knit families trying to carry on traditions and a passion for this industry that our mothers, fathers, great grandmothers/grandfathers and so on worked tirelessly to build.

A recent drought impact study published by UC Davis (read more here) states that the total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion! Amongst other things, there was a loss of 17,000 seasonal and part-time jobs related to Ag which represents 3.8% of farm unemployment. Regardless of whether someone is directly connected to Agriculture in this state or not, those numbers tell a brutal story.

I will leave you all with a video that my mom and I were asked to be a part of for a news station from France that was covering the drought here in CA. This video was done in March when the grass was still green. It is now very brown, very sparse, and very brittle.

Having trouble viewing the video above? Click below to see it on YouTube!

California Drought on a Central Valley Cattle Ranch


Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, Field Trip, food, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life, Rants, Uncategorized, Video

Cardinal Rules

Growing up on a ranch there are cardinal rules you learn never to break. I think most ranch kids learn these rules through osmosis in the womb, they are that important. On our Ranch the big three are:

1) Always close the gate behind you.
2) Never leave string or wire where the animals can get into it.
3) Don’t wear your cowpoo covered work boots into Mom’s house (EVAR).

Obviously we have these rules for a reason. If you leave a gate open you run the risk of letting cattle out, or getting them mixed up, or if a storm or gust of wind comes up, your gate can be blown right off its hinges. Better to close the gate than create a lot of extra work for yourself.

String and wire is a broad category – basically this means clean up after yourself, no duh, right? Well you would be surprised-

This past fall we had a several intense winter storms hit us rather dramatically. Ranches flooded, cattlepeople were scrambling to move to the valley away from the snow in the mountains. A desperate fellow Butte County Cattlemen, moved some of his cattle into one of our “holding pastures”. This pasture is small, with no solid source of water so it’s a holding pen, for when we ship out, or get ready to “work” the cattle. It’s not meant to winter cattle, or even have cattle in it for more than a few days. But desperate times.

This cattlemen (out of respect of my industry, I won’t name names, unless this happens again) figured out there was not enough food for his cattle in our holding pen. You see, his cattle kept breaking out of the pen, looking for an extra mouthful of grass. Every evening when I would get home from work his cattle were out in our driveway (Disclaimer: I was less than pleased seeing this everyday, it sucked! But I digress…)

This is what string buried in moldy, wet, leftover corn  bales look like.

This is what string buried in moldy, wet, leftover corn bales look like.

Anyway he finally started bringing supplemental feed, big round bales of cut corn stalks. His cattle were a lot happier, but he broke the cardinal rule – pick up your strings. I spent two of my precious days off picking up strings and I am not happy about it. However I am getting a blog about out of it, so there is the silver lining.

Mahina brought friends out to see the pigs. We ended up putting them to work pulling strings. They were awesome help!!!

Mahina brought friends out to see the pigs. We ended up putting these city kids to work pulling strings. They were awesome help!!! Thanks for saving our cattle’s lives! Please come back!

Why is it bad to leave strings and wire where your cattle or animals can eat it, you ask? Great question! Let’s say you have a happy little cow eating grass this spring, she doesn’t realize she ate some of that string, pretty soon, she starts looking bad, losing weight, then she DIES! Cows can’t digest plastic or metal. At least with metal pieces you can put a magnet down the cow’s throat and sometimes save them (I’ll blog about that if we ever have to do it again).

Sam was very fashionable , look at those shoes and socks! I was impressed.

Sam was very fashionable , look at those shoes and socks! I was impressed.

It was a huge disappointment picking up string. The cattlemen who had their cattle here should know better and leaving trash on someone elses ranch is incredibly bad form, especially when they are doing you a major favor.

Day one of string pulling.....

Day one of string pulling. I was tempted to save it and wrap it around their truck next time I see them. But I didn’t. …..

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Wordless Wednesday: Table Mountain




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Guest Post: What Breed of Horse Are You?

Most people think you simply cannot run a cattle ranch without horses, it just isn’t done! When I explain to people that our Ranch has pretty much stopped using horses, they are shocked! For us, it’s become easier and more economical to use ATV’s to work and gather our cattle. Our Ranches are, for the most part, rangeland that is easy to drive ATV’s on, so horses tend to be more work than they are worth.

People not familiar with horses tend to think you can just get on a horse and go. They don’t think about the vaccinations, farrier, the training,  the tack, the feed, the time, the supplements that you must provide to your horse to keep him healthy and happy. In stark contrast an ATV needs gas and an occasional oil change to keep it running. It is never cranky or hard to catch in the morning and they rarely buck you off.

When I was a child our Ranch had a huge herd of horses. We bred and raised our own, so in addition to the forty head or so of saddle horses, we also had a bunch of breeding mares. I have memories from when I was very little of horses everywhere on the Ranch, it was amazing! Now we are down to two retired geldings, whose main job is to be a pasture decoration. Of course if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that my horse crazy is back, and I would give my left arm to be back in the saddle on a daily basis (for the record, I never ever, ever thought there would be a time when I worked in an office, fulltime, off the Ranch, away from my horses and cattle. Funny thing about life, I guess).

My dream in life is to own an Akhal-Teke horse, for three reasons. The first being this horse literally has a metallic coat, and for a girl obsessed with palominos, it’s like the zen of horse owning. The second is I would like to ride endurance (I already have the saddle). The third reason is my whole life I’ve been told that I am only to own gelded quarter horses. That is like the equivalent of telling me I can only wear cowboy boots for the rest of my life, not practical or realistic, and it’s just not going to happen. Plus when someone tells me that I can’t do something, I hear “Megan, you simply must do it! You must! You must! You must! Do it! DO it! DO IT!” That mentality has ended a lot of relationships for me, lol.

However, the problem with being the kid and not the parent (ahem, boss more specifically, Dad) on a ranch is you don’t get to make that decision for yourself. So until the time when I get to make decisions for myself, retire from my office job, and can have horses again, I won’t be writing too much about horses. I asked a friend of mine, who is currently in the horse world, to write a guest post for The Beef Jar.

 – Megan


I am a Halflinger. Blonde, buxom, and not afraid of a day’s work, but I’d rather stuff my face with grain and take a nap in the sun.  To describe me in human terms, I’m a Type B personality.

As certain personality and physical traits are passed through families and nationality they are also present in horse breeds. Italians are short, boisterous, loud, loving while Germans are built large in stature with harsh personalities (I realize these are based generalizations).Thoroughbreds are fleet footed, sleek Type A personality types while a Quarter Horse is the dude kickin’ it on the beach smokin’ a doobie. Breed personality generalizations are a great place to start when looking for a horse. It will tell you if you will get along with a certain breed as a whole.

Endurance riding.

If you are a Type A personality that is easily flustered, a Thoroughbred or Arabian is probably not a wise choice. Horses like these are known as “hot bloods.” They are very sensitive and pick up on a rider’s nervous or frustrated energy right away. If you’re learning to ride or taking lessons and are scared, nervous, or frustrated, these horses will generally pick up on your feelings and what started out as a simple half-pass exercise will end up and epic battle ending with horse and rider drenched in sweat and shaking. You’ll want a horse that is naturally calm and level headed such as any breed of Stock Horse (Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints, Criollos, Australian Stock Horses etc). If you’re a Type A person that is a go-getter, never gets nervous and is self confident a Thoroughbred or Arabian is a good personality match.


A Type B personality might suit a hot-blooded horse well, because horses will feed off of the rider’s personality. This gives a hot-blooded horse a calm and relaxed leader to follow. A Type B person also may lack motivation which is not a good thing paired with a horse that is naturally lazy. They will feed off each other and nothing will get done, what started off as a simple half-pass exercise will end with the rider napping and the horse grazing (guilty). However, if all you’re doing is moseying down a trail, this is the perfect match.

I tend to love my Stock Horses, as a Type B I’m easily frustrated with “feather brains” and over-reactions. I love the calm easy-going personality of a Quarter Horse, Paint or cross. My horse CC is actually Paint/Thoroughbred. He has enough athleticism to do what I need and at the same time, I can ride him bareback in a halter down the road.

Another thing to consider is what is going to be your horse’s “job?” All horses need a job, whether it’s 100-mile endurance rides or looking pretty in your yard. Hot-Blooded horses obviously have a lot of energy and are great for someone who rides 5 days a week and is training hard. Quarter Horses or other similar Type B personality horses are great for the weekend rider. However, if you’re schooling 3’ fences a 14.2 hand Quarter Horse might not suit your needs on the other hand you may be a competitive Reiner riding 5days a week and showing every weekend at which point a Stock Horse would be perfect.

Based on your personality type and physical stature, what breed of horse are you?

Natalie Stoppani has a BS in ag communications from Chico State. She is currently looking for a job in the industry, so if you know of anything please let her know at swissgirldrivesatruck@gmail.com.  Please check out her blog and her ask her how you can help Gibbs, a horse she saved from a very sad life. 


Filed under Ag, Guest Post, Humor, Rants, Uncategorized

Old News

This is my Dad! One of my earliest memories of my Dad is of him doing this exact same thing, but on a different Ranch. This is from the Oroville Mercury-Register, Thursday, May 7, 1987.

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Filed under Ag, agriculture, animals, Beef, family, History, Know a California Farmer, Media, photos, Ranch life

Wordless Wednesday: History

Unfortunately I don’t know anything about these photos. I know they are very, very old and they are of my family. Let this be a lesson, write on your photos!!!
I think these illustrate how very different our lives are now. Wow.










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My “Factory Farm”


Our summer ranch. The oats I planted and farmed with no sprays, and a damn good dog.

The view of the summer ranch from the house.

Deer that live on the summer ranch.

My Dad making meadow hay with the same tractor as his Dad, on the summer ranch.

Winter ranch.

Wild turkeys on the winter ranch.

View of the winter ranch from above the tracks.

The cattle truck we use to move the cattle in between the two ranches. The cattle spend the summer in the mountains and the winter in the valley. That way they get two springs, avoid the valley summer heat and the mountain winter snow. And our ground gets break from the cattle – it’s empty 6 months out of the year.

Hoot dog moving the cows on the winter range.

The Sutter Buttes from the winter ranch.

Fire bellied newt on the winter ranch.

Poppies! Winter ranch.

Winter ranch.

View from my front door.

Factory farmed  babies on the winter ranch.

The boys.


The view from most of my childhood.

Bottle calf meeting the horses.

Behind the winter ranch. The view from the waterfall.

The summer ranch.

The winter ranch.

The snake that lives in my yard.

The winter ranch, see the bald eagle in the tree?

Winter ranch.

Winter Ranch, spring time. The field that was an airport during WWII.


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