This month, we are happy to introduce you to RYAN BROS. CATTLE of Colton, Washington.  RYAN BROS CATTLE include Bill, Gary and Les Ryan, and their brother-in-law, Chet Pearce.  These guys are the real deal – they are ranchers and cowboys from the inside out, true-blue, hardworking and kind and respectful to people they meet; their whole lives are the land and the animals.

That's Chet on the left.  Then Les, Greg (Gary's son) and Gary.  Missing this day, was Bill.

That’s Chet on the left. Then Les, Greg (Gary’s son) and Gary. Missing this day, was Bill.

Of course these men all have families… Chet is married to Jacki Ryan, and they have two kids; Hailey and Corey. Jacki works for a veterinary medicine development company in Moscow.  Les is married to Laurie, who runs the books for hers and Les’ farming operation, and helps out on the farm.  Gary is married to Sharon, who works in Hospice care. They have three kids – a son, Doug and a daughter, Carla.  Son Greg works with his dad and uncles in the farming and ranching operation.  Bill is married to Ruth, who works at Washington State University.  They have two daughters, Sarah and Laura, and a son named Mark.

The Ryan brothers’ mother, Marlene, helps out with moving equipment from farm to farm.  She also cooks lunch for the crew during brandings, or if they’re working near the house.  Mostly, though, she is finally enjoying retirement, and enjoys gardening in her yard.  Marlene also writes and recites cowboy poetry.

The road up the draw.

The track up the draw.

You may remember that we profiled Les Ryan’s farming operation in November, 2013*.  There, we explained the Ryan family’s long history in the Palouse region.  Their great-grandfather settled his farm near the Snake River near Colton in 1880 and the Ryans have been living on and working that land since that time.


The ranch entrance.

The ranch headquarters is along the Snake River, a beautiful place, tucked up in a draw.  The hills are steep and protected.  The ranch  includes big pastures and corrals, a couple of good working areas, a nice big barn and holding pens for the cattle.  They also keep a number of beautiful quarter horses for working and moving stock and checking fences, as well as five magnificent Percheron and Belgain draft horses for pulling their big hay wagons for winter feeding.


Two of Ryan Bros draft horses, hanging out by the bunkhouse at Bald Butte Ranch.

The brothers were raised on their family’s farm and ranching operation.  Their dad, Jack Ryan, was a horse and cattleman.  All the Ryan kids were in 4-H and FFA, so they were working livestock at a young age.  As teens and young men, the three brothers worked for their dad.  Then, when he retired in about 1995, they were able to buy out a neighbor’s cattle herd, and that’s when they formed RYAN BROS CATTLE.


Gary and Chet on lunchbreak. You’ll notice that all their working areas are under cover – for both the rain and the heat!

In 1990, Chet married their sister, Jacki.  He had worked in the cattle business, his parents kept cattle.  Chet began working for Jack after his marriage to Jacki, and then he joined up with these guys.  Says Chet, “They couldn’t fire me, so we just kept a-goin’.”


Ryan Bros beautiful heifers.

The cattle operation is just part of the Ryan family’s overall work, they’re farmers, too.  So, they’re busy during the farm season, working their fields, growing their crops, caring for their cattle.  Chet mostly does cow work.  He’s a cow man.  In the spring, summer and fall, the family has cattle on several different locations (including our own Bald Butte Ranch), and Chet goes to each to check their water and salt licks, and to make sure the fences are secure and all the animals are uninjured and well.  He also drives truck during harvest for the farming side of the operation.

Bill, Gary, Les and Greg farm fulltime, and assist with the cows when they’re moving cattle from pasture to pasture or ranch to ranch.  Also, they all work together whenever they’re working the cattle – calving, vaccinating, branding and the like.


Hay for winter feeding, stacked to the eaves!

They grow about 25% of their hay, and buy the rest. They like a 50% alfalfa 50% grass blend.

On the day that I visited them, I lucked out, because they were vaccinating and worming their mother cows, and eartagging and branding the calves.  They let me hang out while they worked, which was really great of them.


Hired man, Paul Mathis, vaccinating a mother cow in the squeeze chute.

While sometimes they brand the old fashioned way, using horses to rope and hold the calves, and heating the branding irons in an open fire, on this day they took advantage of the modern method of corrals, pens and the squeeze chutes.  When there are so many things to do to each animal, it is much more efficient, and safer for both stock and men.


Their work station – not fancy but has everything they need within handy reach.

Just vaccinated mother cows, hanging out, waiting for their calves to be returned to them.

Just vaccinated mother cows, hanging out, waiting, waiting for their calves.

On to the questions and answers (answered by all of the men):

What type of cattle operation do you run?
We have a commercial herd; the animals we raise are sold for beef for the final consumer.  Our mother cows are crossbred between Angus, Charolais and Red Angus.  We buy good purebred Angus and Charolais bulls and keep them each for five to eight years.  We have about 20 bulls.  We raise up the babies and they’re weaned at about 700 pounds.   In the fall, when they’re about 800 pounds, we sell them at the Lewiston (Idaho) Livestock Auction, where finishing operations buy them and finish them for market (they are fed a high concentrate of corn-alfalfa until they reach the market weight of 1,200-1,300 pounds).


Calves, lined up in small corrals, waiting for their turn in the  squeeze squeeze.


Les and Greg, waiting to run more calves through the chutes.

Each year, we pick out about 75 of our really good heifers to keep as replacements for our older cows.  We treat and feed them differently from the one which will go to the saleyard.

We also sell about five animals each year to 4-H and FFA kids, who take them to the county fair.  (author’s note – Ryan Bros. show steers consistently place very high in youth livestock shows in the region).

How do you decide which bulls to breed to which cows?
Well, the bulls can’t breed their daughters.  It would be nice if you could always put a black (Angus) bull in with the white (Charolais) cows, but it doesn’t always work that way.  We try to divide it evenly.


Opening up the head-hold of the squeeze chute.


When the calf runs into it, he quickly closes the head hold to catch the calf, immobilizing it.

Do you use any sustainable practices?
We manage our (pasture) grass by grazing the right number of acres per cow so that we don’t over-graze our land and the grass stays healthy and nutritious.  On the Wawawai Ranch, that’s 10 acres per cow.  We are also careful with developing our springs.  This protects the watershed and carefully utilizes any available water for watering the cattle.


Chet attaches a fly-tag to a calf’s ear. This keeps the flies off its face, and really helps the animal out in the summertime.

Something interesting, cutting edge, fascinating, you would like our readers to know?
In the winter, we use our draft horses to haul the feed wagons on the ranch roads.  This is much less damaging to the environment, our roads and pastures than a tractor or truck would be.  (Author’s note:  everything these guys do is sustainable!  They are extremely careful of their land and environment).

What are ranching’s biggest rewards for you?
Depends on the year!  (Chet)
Seeing the cattle finally sell!  (Les)
Watching them being born and then weaned  (Chet)
I like the cowboy life  (Gary)


Horses, cattle, and the handsome barn at Wawawai Ranch.

Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations?
We belong to the Whitman County Cattlemens’ Association.  Also, Gary is on the Salmon Recovery Board, and Chet is on the Lewiston Roundup Rodeo Board.  Chet and Jacki are past 4-H Leaders.

Are there any stories about your business or your life that you’d like to share?
Well, there are too many to count.  Once, we lost a bull in the creek at Bald Butte Ranch.  The creek is above ground, and then it goes underground.  He (the bull) must have crossed over top of the underground creek, and his weight (2,000 +/- lbs) must have caused it to collapse, and he fell in.  We searched and searched for him.  A neighbor found his remains down in there months later.  (Author’s note:  We have named that creek Bull Creek, so that everyone remembers what happened there).

Also, we trained all of our horses ourselves.  We also keep 5 or 6 cow dogs to help us out.  Or, more-like, to chase the cows off over the ridge and away from where we want them!  They’re Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, good dogs, all.


Three of the stock horses, bellied up to the watering trough, waiting to go to work.

Oh, and one time, we had to haul our dad out of here on the tailgate of a pickup after a wreck with the horses and wagon.


Les shows the reverse image of their electric branding iron.

Yeah, and Gary likes the goat up at Bald Butte Ranch.  He was eating his lunch on the picnic table at the bunkhouse, and the goat was eating with him.


A freshly branded calf.  Ryan Bros cattle are branded on their right side

Do you have anything you would like to add that’s not addressed here?
We don’t want folks to think that cattle are a bad thing.  They’re good for the environment.  They graze the ground, keeping the bad weeds down and the grass healthy.  We’re good stewards of our land, and we protect our livestock and land.

Most of the mis-information that people hear comes from politicians and the media, which doesn’t help at all.  We don’t in any way, ever hurt or abuse our animals.   We take good care of them.  If anything ever went wrong with them, well, we’d be in trouble.


It's not hard to admire the rumps of the beautiful stock horses.

It’s not hard to admire the rumps of the beautiful stock horses.

Future plans?
We’re just going to keep on as we are, take good care of our land and livestock, and manage all the opportunities that are here for us.



That’s Les’ good saddle – you can tell because he has his initials embossed onto the cantle, an old fashioned way to mark a person’s saddle.


We are proud of RYAN BROS. CATTLE, one of America’s ranching families, who care for our country’s grazing land, and raise excellent, healthy BEEF for us all to enjoy.

The next time you eat a delicious steak or a juicy hamburger, think of Chet, Bill, Gary and Les who worked hard to raise it for you.


*Go to “Meet the Farmers & Ranchers” page, scroll down to “Palouse Farms” to find Les’ profile.

Posted in Ag Production, Beef, Education, Farm Families, Farmers, Feeding the World, For Kids, Livestock Production, Ranchers, Work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cowboy Logic Video

Here’s a nice video for your Friday, by the North Dakota rancher and columnist, Ryan Taylor, Cowboy Logic.  Enjoy.




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Thought of the Week


In 2010, $115 billion worth of American ag. products were exported around the world.

One in three U.S. farm acres is planted for export.

Nearly 31% of U.S. gross farm income comes from exports.

About 23% of raw U.S. farm products are exported each year.


-Wheat Life magazine, July, 2015

Posted in Ag exports, Ag Production, Education, Feeding the World, Global Marketing, Thought of the Week | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Thought of the Week

Photo source

Photo source

“It’s not easy to get into farming.
Agriculture is capital-intensive and risky, with a year’s yields dependent on the will of Mother Nature.”

-Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn)

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Scenes of Sweet Hills Farm

Here it is, the middle of summer, and I’m just posting springtime snaps of our New Farm.  You will remember that we just bought this farm last fall.  It had been neglected, hadn’t had a good crop planted on it in over 20 years.  This spring, we planted our first crop on it – field corn and wheat.  While they are basic crops, they are more forgiving for us as we become familiar with this new land.


Wheat, this photo taken in June. The heads are just beginning to fill out.  Can you imagine this place with 44 houses on it?



That’s the young field corn on the left, and wheat on the right.


Field corn, about half grown.


Wheat, beginning to turn, getting ready for harvest, with the corn crop in the distance.


Field corn on our homeplace. That’s about 10 feet high.


The pasture and barn, with the corn crop in the back-left. We are really pleased with the grass quality this year – abundant pasture for the stock.

Posted in Ag Production, Farmland Preservation, Wheat | 1 Comment

Thought of the Week


Test Weight
Winter Hardiness
Yellow Stripe Resistant
Leaf Rust Resistant
Tan Spot Resistant
Wheat Stem Sawfly Resistant
Fusarium Head Blight Resistant
Cephlasporium Stripe Resistant



Posted in Ag Production, Agvocacy and Social Media, Education, Farm Families, For Kids, Technology, Thought of the Week, Women in Agriculture | Leave a comment

Chobani Selected as Provider for School Lunches

We have huge news for Idaho agriculture!  

Public schools across America will soon offer Greek yogurt as a meat substitute in school lunches beginning this fall.

Chobani, a manufacturer of Greek yogurt, officials announced on June 30th it had been selected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to supply yogurt as part of the federal school lunch program.

The USDA decided in April to include Greek yogurt as a permanent option in its school lunch program after classifying it as an approved meat substitute in 2013.  Chobani was selected as the exclusive provider after it successfully led a Greek yogurt pilot program over the past year, expanding the program from four to twelve states.

During the first three months of the pilot program, schools in Idaho, New York, Arizona and Tennessee consumed 200,000 pounds of Chobani Greek yogurt.  By the time the program was expanded, schools were ordering 700,000 pounds of yogurt.

Company officials did not disclose the value of its USDA contract.  Chobani, which is based in New York and opened one of the biggest yogurt processing plants in the world in Idaho nearly three years ago, leads the U.S. in Greek yogurt production.

At the Twin Falls Chobani plant. Photo source

At the Twin Falls Chobani plant. Photo source

Greek yogurt is a thicker style yogurt that has twice the protein of traditional yogurt, and uses hormone-free milk.

“Chobani is a nutrient-intense food, and giving children the best nutrition early in life is very important to us,” said Robert Post, senior director of Chobani’s nutrition and regulatory affairs, in a prepared statement.  “Since the very beginning, Chobani has sourced milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones.”

This is great news – for the children all across our country – and for Idaho’s dairymen!


-Idaho Press Tribune, Tuesday, June 30, 2015

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Thought of the Week

Relax and life will turn out how life will turn out.
Have faith in your crop and in Mother Nature,
and do the best you can.

-Nicole Berg, President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers

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Thought of the Week

Consumers are more and more interested in the story of their food.  This is good news for farmers and ranchers.  We’re proud of the work we do and are eager to share how food gets from the farm to the table.

-Bob Stallman, President, National Farm Bureau

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Sweet Hills Farm – Spring Production Report


2015 Spring Production Report

Special Announcement


                                     Farm Population Increased By:     1

                                     Type:    Baby Boy!!!

                                     Name:     LittleLaddie

                                     Weighing in at:    7 lb. 7 oz.

                                     Length:    21″

                                     Born on:    June 8th, 2015

                                     Sire, Dam:   by CitySlicker out of FarmGirl


LittleLaddie – 5 days


LittleLaddie – 7 days


FarmGirl, big brother, WeeLaddie (4 years) and LittleLaddie (2-1/2 weeks)

Posted in Ag Production, Agvocacy and Social Media, Education, Farm Families, Farmers, For Kids, Just for Fun, Livestock Production, Women in Agriculture | Tagged , | Leave a comment