When we think of ranchers, we think of the cattlemen out on the range, raising the beef we eat. But have you ever thought of who it is that breeds and raises the cows and bulls in order to produce that fine beef?
This month we are happy to introduce you to our friends, Bill and Beverly White and their family. They run a fine purebred, registered Angus cattle operation on their ranch in the eastern foothills of the Owyhee Mountains of Southwest Idaho. Bill and Beverly’s ranch is unique in that, while many farms and ranches have been operated by 3 and 4 generations of the same family, they bought this ranch themselves, and are their family’s first generation to own it. The name of their place is Hyde Ranch Angus; it is an old and historic ranch in our region. Let us tell you about it.
Hyde Ranch was established in the 1860’s by Michael Hyde and his family. The area had been homesteaded by several smaller farmers, who then each sold their land to the Hyde family. A dugout cellar from the original Hyde homesite is still standing on the property, and it is actually in pretty good shape.
Adjacent to the ranch, and on the main road into town, Michael Hyde also had a trading post that was built in the mid 1860’s. His brother had a saloon across the street. The saloon had a trap door in the floor, and the jail was below. Pretty handy when things got rowdy! The trading post was turned into a Catholic church in 1957, and it still serves its community today.
The Whites bought the ranch in 1986, and named it “Hyde Ranch Angus” as homage to its long history and good reputation, and to the family who brought the first longhorn cattle to the area from Texas, with another cattleman, Con Shea.
Bill’s grandfather ( his mother’s father) came to the United States on a boat in 1910 from the Basque country of Spain. He worked as a cook on the boat to pay his way. He came to Boise to work on the Arrowrock Dam, and broke his leg on the job. Shortly after recovering from his broken leg, his bride arrived from Spain, and they were married in Boise. The couple traveled to Jordan Valley, Oregon, and established the Madariaga Inn there, which is now known as the Basque Inn.
Bill’s father’s family were wheat farmers in Nebraska. In 1936, during the Great Depression, they moved out of Nebraska and ended up in Parma, Idaho. It was like heaven compared to the Dust Bowl of Nebraska – there were fruit trees here! The seven White brothers moved around the area, and Bill’s dad ended up in Jordan Valley, which is where Bill was born and raised.
Beverly’s great grandfather (her dad’s grandfather), Adolf Lahtinen, came from Finland. He left Finland one month before her grandfather Lauri Lahtinen was born. Adolf was in the U.S. for nine years before he sent for his family to come to the U.S. They eventually homesteaded a ranch in Little Valley, in the Bruneau, Idaho area. Her father bought it from her grandpa in the mid-1950s, and has been operating it ever since. Beverly’s family’s ranch has the distinction of being one of the Centennial Ranches* recognized during Idaho’s bi-centennial in 1990.
Beverly’s mother was raised on Sheep Creek in Owyhee County. Then, when Beverly’s grandfather worked on building the Anderson Ranch Dam, the family moved upriver, north of Boise. Later he ran sheep with the Bruneau Sheep Company, which became the Simplot Company.
As you can see, both Bill and Beverly have life-long ties with the land and with cattle.
Now onto the Interview with Bill and Beverly:
Tell us about your family:
We first met at an Owyhee Cattleman’s dance in Silver City. And now, here we are, we just celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary last month! We have 4 kids – 2 daughters, Dana (Kevin) Donahue, and Stacy (Jesse) Anthes; and we have 2 sons, Lance and Joe. Between the kids, we have 6 granddaughters, ranging in ages from 1 to 12 years. They nearly all like to ride horses, and three of our kids have their own cattle on the ranch. While they don’t live too terribly far away, they are in different businesses: Dana works in her husband’s steel erection business, Lance has his own welding and excavation business, Joe is a diesel mechanic for Mountain View Equipment, and Stacy recently took a break from her supervisor position at Simplot to enjoy raising her two daughters at home. They come out to the ranch to help at different times of the year, like branding, weaning, sorting, welding or mechanics. And, of course, for family gatherings.
How did you get into ranching?
Beverly: Bill started managing Nahas Ranches when he was 17 years old. After two years he took over the management of the main Sinker Creek Ranch. He continued to manage the ranch and cattle operation for the next 17 years, which was an operation of 1,200 head of mother cows and 2,500 in the feedlot! During the early years, we moved from cow-camp to cow-camp as part of Bill’s job for Nahas Ranches. Our oldest kids didn’t always have indoor plumbing until they were several years old! While continuing to manage the cattle end of the operation, Bill and I bought Hyde Ranch Angus.
Tell us about your operation:
Bill: The cattle we raise are all purebred, registered Angus. Our main product is high quality bulls. We sell registered bulls, mostly to other cattlemen in our region. Our bulls and our cattle produce high quality at a reasonable price. Our’s is a one man operation – we do everything ourselves. This means we have found ways to become more efficient, although those methods might not be the norm nowadays. For example, we have found that by purchasing top-quality bulls, our operation has become more labor and cost-effective than by using artificial insemination. We run an all-natural breeding program, which means we breed our cattle the old fashioned way – by turning the bulls out in the pasture with the cows.
We keep a number of herd sires and rotate them through two sets of cows. One is a set of fall-calving cows and the other is a set of spring-calving cows. We use the bulls for about three years before rotating them out of our herd by selling them. We do this in order to keep the genetics of our herd fresh. Our animals are big and hearty, and are bred for life on the range. A big percentage of the animals we sell go to ranchers right here in Owyhee County because they’re suited to this area.
Some of our heifers (young females) and steers (castrated males) are sold to 4-H and FFA kids. We really like to help out the kids by continuing our relationship with them after they’ve bought their animal. We’ll give them advice and even help them with training their animal, clipping and breeding their heifers.
We keep some of our heifers as replacements for older cows. The rest are sold through the sale yard, or to other individuals for replacement heifers or for beef.
We also farm about 350 acres; 100 acres is in pasture, the rest in alfalfa hay. We raise all of our own hay which feeds all of our cattle, and we always have enough hay to sell. Just hay and pasture is all we have. We normally feed close to 400 tons of hay ourselves. The proceeds from the sale of the alfalfa hay provide us with the funds to take care of the rest of our operation. Our ranch is completely sustainable; we grow all of our own feed, and don’t have to buy any. It’s good to be self-sustainable in that way.
The cattle are fed alfalfa starting around Christmas and on through mid-April, when they go out to pasture again. We go through about 2 tons of hay a day when we’re feeding the cows. Once the calves are weaned, they are fed chopped hay after they’re weaned, almost 2 tons a day, October through April.
We believe in providing high quality meat everyone can afford. This is a way of life for us. It’s not a way to get rich, and that’s not what we’re here for. We taught our kids the value of hard work and honest values, and now our grandchildren love to come out and be on the ranch.
We were taught to raise a good product, do a good job, to charge a fair price, and most importantly, to leave the ground better than it was. We take care of our land to make sure it stays good for a long time. You have to learn to take care of what you have, and to build up the land and your stock.
Do you use any sustainable practices?
The land is of the highest importance, and we work hard to take care of our environment. We have Bald Eagles and Red Tailed Hawks nesting in the trees. This spring we built some nesting platforms for them to build their nests on. They’re good for helping to take care of our problem gophers!
We’ve also been putting in pivots (center pivot irrigation systems) to irrigate the alfalfa fields and pastures. We now have four pivots, and our goal is to have a total of six. Pivots place the water carefully onto the fields, and helps us get the maximum efficiency from what little water we have out here.
We run our cows on a rotation through the different pastures. They’re moved once a week to a new pasture to keep the grass healthy. Cows are fed only alfalfa hay in the winter months or are grazed on pasture through the summer months, and are on a mineral supplement. They don’t get any corn or silage. We try to run a really efficient operation, and give them just what they need. Our animals are bred for maximum gain on just natural feed. We also do a lot of our work on horseback – branding, working and moving cattle. (Horses minimize the footprint or damage to the land).
Something interesting, cutting-edge – that you would like our readers to know?
Our operation is as natural as possible. No growth hormones, no grain, nothing but grass or alfalfa hay. We have to take care of our animals. People often don’t understand that we’re in this for a lifetime. You can’t just jump in and out of raising cattle. The way we take care of things now is going to decide our future, because there’s no such thing as retirement in ranching. What you put into it is what you get out of it!
What are the biggest challenges you face as a rancher?
Ranching is not without is challenges. We face water shortages to our alfalfa and pasture fields. That’s why we installed the pivots. Our energy costs to run the pivots are going up as well. Right now, beef prices are up, so the increases in costs are manageable. But when beef prices go down, it can put us ranchers in a precarious situation. That’s the cost of doing business in a risky area, I guess!
What are ranching’s biggest rewards for you?
The wonderful benefits of ranching along Idaho’s Owyhee mountain range outweigh the challenges. Raising our family here, so that our kids and now our grandkids have been able to experience the things that they did growing has been wonderful. We also love the opportunities we’ve had to meet so many different people from all over. When we do get to travel, we like to see what people are doing in other places, and get new ideas to bring back to try on our place.
Do you participate in any civic or industry organizations?
We’re active in the Owyhee Cattleman’s Association (recent past president). In the past, we’ve been involved in the Owyhee County Fair, as Beef Superintendents, and with many other organizations including the Snake River Stampede Calf Scramble and Boise Valley Angus.
Are there any stories you’d like to share?
Hearing our 3 year old grand daughter beg to ride Annie the Show Cow again! Teaching our kids how to ride and work cows with us. 4th of July, sitting around the campfire with our winter coats on. Eating homemade ice cream under the Juniper trees. Watching our grown children tease each other on every get-together. Our families, children and grand children have provided us with a lifetime of love, memories and laughter to carry on through the next generations.
We admire the White’s attention to the detail and care of their cattle and the efficiency of their operation. We appreciate the way in which they care for their land, so that it will remain healthy and productive for the generations to come. They are model stewards of the land! In time, perhaps the White’s operation, Hyde Ranch Angus, will have the opportunity to become a 2nd generation ranch, and then a 3rd!
The next time you are enjoying a delicious steak or a nice, lean hamburger, think of Bill and Beverly and their family, who raised the breeding animals for you. This hardworking family takes great pride and care in breeding excellent cattle, so that you and I can enjoy abundant, high quality beef.
Thank you Bill and Beverly White, for growing high quality, nutritious, safe food for us to enjoy!
*In order to be a Centennial Ranch or Farm, the land or a portion of the land must have been operated by the members of the same family for 100 years.