the region's largest unit of open grassland
Douglas Lake Ranch’s ability to sustain such an impressive herd of cattle is derived from the careful management of the natural grasses including the indigenous Bluebunch Wheatgrass. Native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, these hardy grasses are found in abundance on the Douglas Lake Ranch and is thought to possibly be one of the single largest remaining habitats for these plants. This indigenous grass is extremely resilient to the cold winters and dry summers, however it can be susceptible to damage by overgrazing and contact, particularly that of man. Consistent overgrazing destroys the plant, leaving the area prone to infestation of other less desirable species of flora. Sound grazing programs can actually enhance and refine range conditions. Bluebunch Wheatgrass is a valuable commodity in the context of the Ranch operations. It is one of the primary features of the Douglas Lake Ranch and contributes greatly towards the ability of the Ranch to sustain its superior cattle heard. Douglas lake Ranch produces enough forage crops to maintain its entire cattle herd and purchases only supplements and grain for fattening cattle. In general, the 5,700 acres of crop land produce as much as 6,000 tons of baled hay and 21,000 tons of silage. The farm components of the Ranch consists of about 1,750 acres of mechanically irrigated land, 3,000 acres of flood irrigated land, and 950 acres of dry farming land, Depending on the locations and elevation of the farm land and the specifics of the crop itself, one to two crops are harvested in a single growing season.
CATTLE ON THE RANCH
Although the size and quality of Douglas Lake Ranch has enabled it to diversify into other operations over the past several years, the cattle operation remains the Ranch’s primary business. With a current cattle herd of approximately 20,000, Douglas Lake Ranch is the largest privately held cattle ranch in Canada. The combination of it’s size, superior grasslands, extensive infrastructure, and sound management principles, have earned Douglas Lake Ranch the reputations of producing cattle of exceptional quality and uniformity, in addition to being one of the lowest cost cattle producers in the country. In general, Douglas Lake Ranch is capable of support in the range of 10,000 animal units. In addition, Douglas Lake Ranch is in the unique position of being able to buy and sell cattle as a commodity given it’s size, equipment, inventory and staff. The feedlots at English Bridge and the Island are utilized to take advantage of market conditions and the superior reputation enjoyed by Douglas Lake Ranch.
At present the cattle herd is approximately 20,000 head. On average the base herd will consist of approximately 4,500 Hereford cows and 2,500 Black Baldie cows and 450 bulls, producing in the range of about 6,600 calves per annum. The operation is predominantly a yearling operation although some 2,000 calves are generally sold on an annual basis. Calves are weaned in November, with about 4,500 yearlings put on grass the following spring to be sold as long yearlings in the fall. Each year about 1,500 yearling heifers are retained as replacements for the cow herd. In addition, market cattle are regularly bought and sold by the Ranch.
During the period from May to the middle of October, Douglas Lake Ranch cattle are grazed on over 350,000 acres of Crown grazing land. From autumn until early spring, the cattle are brought down and grazed on Ranch owned grassland. This is where Douglas Lake Ranch has a significant advantage over other cattle and ranch operations in that unlike most other ranches, Douglas lake Ranch owns extensive grazing lands. This enables the Ranch to commence grazing earlier each spring and end later each autumn, leaving the herd to be winter fed for a shorter period of time, resulting in significant cost savings, Additionally, ownership over the grassland gives management complete control over this highly valuable asset.
horses ON THE RANCH
An equally important component of Douglas Lake Ranch is the Quarter Horse operation. The Ranch Remuda originated and was maintained by horses raised at the Ranch until the early 1960’s when the Ranch and Mr. CN Woodward became interested in the American Quarter Horse. After the purchase of Stardust Desire #0083564 and Peppy San # 0114978, which both went on the become NCHA World Champions, the Ranch started a whole Quarter Horse Division consisting of breeding, raising and training of the Quarter Horses with the focus being on cutting. With the death of CN Woodward in 1990, the cutting horse division of the Ranch was wound down. Now the Ranch raises horses exclusively for it’s own Remuda, but is maintaining the bloodlines that the Ranch worked so hard to build in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In November of 2004, Douglas Lake Ranch was honored by the American Quarter Horse Association with the “Best Remuda” Award. Douglas Lake Ranch has a staff of 16-18 cowboys that are responsible for the movement and well being of up to 20,000 head of cattle. All work is done with horses. Each cowboy has a string of around 10 head of horses that they will rotate throughout the year. During December—February two horses per cowboy are kept sharp shod because of the ice and frozen ground. As calving starts most of the cowboys will have 3-4 horses shod as the miles in a day start to build. This type of rotation means that no horse has to go to work 2 days in a row. During the busiest time and the longest miles, most horses only work 1 day per week. The cowboys save their favorite horses for fall works when most of the sorting, weaning and shipping takes place. This is a time when the American Quarter Horse’s cow sense really shines. Being able to sit in a gate or in the sorting pen on a horse that likes it’s job as much, if not more, than the cowboy is a real treat. The Ranch mares are worked as well as the geldings. After proving they can do the work, some make it to the broodmare band. The Ranch stallions are also used for fall work. With each cowboy typically requiring up to 10 horses in their own string, a horse breeding operation is an integral part of the Ranch operation. Presently the Ranch maintains approximately 300 horses, which includes 3 stallions and 30 broodmares. The broodmares are pasture bred. The stallions are turned out in May and brought back in by the middle of July. The mares foal from April to June. The foals get halter broke between 8-9 months, started at 2 years, lightly worked at 3 & 4 years and are working full time by the age of 5. Our goal of course is to improve our remuda with horses that carry that special cow sense quality.