2015 In Review & 2016 Plans!
With the 2015 cattle and guest season behind us, we now pause and look back to see where we have been as well as look ahead to see where we are going. Here are some thoughts about 2015 and projections for 2016.
Water: We started 2015 with a snow pack below average, which resulted in a shortened period of runoff to fill the ranch reservoir and all the stock ponds. We did have a wet spring, which helped with grass production but did not add appreciably to the runoff. This resulted in pasture rotation adjustments to insure cattle had adequate drinking water throughout the season. The reservoir only filled to 50% of capacity.
Cattle Recap 2015: Due to the drought in California, the yearling cattle wintered in a Nebraska feedlot. It was our first time doing this but we had little choice since the drought made conditions in California unsuitable for approximately 1200 head of yearling cattle. They arrived in May and were happy to leave Nebraska where it had rained 6 inches the day before they shipped to us. It was a year marked by crazy weather – drought in the west, excessive snow in the east, abundance of rain in the south and I don’t remember about the mid-west!
In summary, the cattle weights were okay at shipping time. Our death loss was minimal and all the cattle were accounted for…no small task considering the opportunities they had to wander! Many of our guests will recall riding for days looking for the few strays. In the end, the remaining 2 head were found with a neighbor’s cows that he gathered late off the forest.
We shipped at 5 different times: 2 days in late August, 2 days mid- September and on October 28th. The cattle were sold while prices were decent and then they plummeted. Compared to the market in 2014, it was the difference between night and day and not in a good sense.
Our 50 cows delivered a healthy calf crop in 2015. The steer calves are sold but we have kept all of the calves here this winter and are feeding them hay. In the spring, we will deliver the steers calves to a ranch in Steamboat Springs. The heifers will remain
here. We had a disastrous experience with 4 Angus bulls we leased to breed our cows. They were non-performers resulting in many open cows this past fall. We shipped all but 14 and will now begin rebuilding the herd with our heifer calves.
Guest Season 2015: The highlights of a guest business can be summarized as re-connecting with familiar friends and making new. In 2015, we not only welcomed back many of our regulars but also had our fifth photography workshop with Karen Schulman. This occurred mid-June and was again, amazing. It was a busy week as the participants were quite inspired and creative. At the end of the workshop there was a group presentation of their favorite photos. This was very impressive! In fact, this workshop was so successful that we are offering it again in 2016, June 12th -18th. Check the website for details!
Fly fishing was very good both early and late in the season. The runoff started to subside earlier in June and while the river was still flowing swiftly, it did allow Cliff Watts to teach fly fishing daily. In late August and September the rains came and increased the flow. Fishing was great, with our last group departing in early October. Before they left, plans were already being discussed for their 2016 rendezvous…. another way of saying they were not disappointed!
Cliff Watts will be offering his fly fishing clinic again the week of July 10th to the 17th, 2016.
Projects Completed in 2015: We all can identify with “to do lists” and the satisfaction that comes with a completed job. This past year we undertook several projects that ranged from top priority to routine maintenance. A few examples:
- Applied stain to the barn;
- Applied stain to the Ranch House;
- Painted the horse trailer;
- Continued landscaping the vacant site of the 2 Story Cabin;
- Replaced hydraulic chute in main corrals with new Silencer Chute;
- Replaced manual chute on mesa corrals with above hydraulic chute;
- Renovated the interior of the Mesa Cabin including new roof, floor, bathrooms, vaulted ceilings and loft.
2016: California is experiencing a wet winter and the improved conditions have once again allowed us to lease pasture there. We have 1300 head of calves bought and anticipate they will be trucked here from mid to late May.
On The Horizon….2016:
- January-purchased a backhoe, feeding 50 calves, 3 old horses and 2 milk cows daily
- February- hiring seasonal employees;
- March- continuing with the daily chores and guest/cattle season planning; “March Madness”
- April: trail cows home from their winter pasture and begin calving; trail horses home
- May: Employees arrive; receive & work the cattle; begin the guest season; trail yearling cattle to forest pasture;
- June- calving; weekly roundups and pasture rotation of cattle; Photography and Ranch Workshop with Karen Schulman;
- July- anticipate roundup, sorting of cattle; haying; moving cows/calves to summer pasture
- August-roundup and shipping of cattle; guests enjoying the early signs of fall while fishing, hiking, horseback riding;
- September/October-Pregnancy testing the cows, selling/shipping the calves; finishing projects before the first snow; begin the third phase of the river restoration project;
- November/ December- trail cattle and horses to their winter pasture; Thanksgiving then Christmas!
Our guests are the driving force behind the plans we make and the pleasures to be experienced throughout the year. We continue to value our membership in The Dude Ranch Association and feel their endorsement is also meaningful to our guests. We have also appreciated the reviews of our guests on Trip Adviser, a relatively new site to us but one that is viewed by some of our guests. Please take the time to review us if you haven’t already done so…we need 50 reviews to merit a badge!
There are many variables to consider when making projections for the 2016 guest and cattle season but we are more optimistic this year than last. With gas prices at a low, many are considering a ranch visit as part of road trip through the scenic west.
We send all of you our best wishes for a joyful, peaceful and healthy 2016. As always, we enjoy hearing from you and would enjoy even more, seeing you when the snow melts and the ground opens up.