What do you do?
Everything. We have a ranch that’s right up against North Powder, and we have 1,400 acres in two separate places. At Miles Ranch we run a little over 200 cows, a cow/calf operation. We also grow corn silage and premium alfalfa hay. On the side my son and I have an artificial insemination business, and we breed 3,000 cows a year for other people. We conduct 8,000-12,000 pregnancy examinations in the fall, because you can’t keep an un-pregnant cow through the winter.
How did Miles Ranch get started?
My dad and his family moved here in 1928 to the home ranch near Baker City. My grandpa was a miner at heart and dabbled in logging. Until he stepped up, my dad and his siblings ran the ranch. I went to Oregon State University, worked at the county extension for one year, worked at a feed lot and milked cows for a year before taking over Miles Ranch. After I took over, we leased a ranch and started it from there, we bought some of the cows but some we already owned. It took 50 years to get to this point. Today, my son Gregg works with my wife and I on the ranch.
What is unique about Miles Ranch compared to other ranches?
We raise red cross-breed cattle, they’re a mixture of Red Angus, Herford, Dolle, Simental and Gelbvieh. They perform better and have a better disposition. Disposition is half genetics and half taught, but we pride ourselves on quality and disposition. Ours have 34 years of artificial insemination behind them, and we’re a little bit smug about how they behave.
What products are produced from yours?
The majority of our calves go to the feedlot. We wean in September and background them, meaning we grow them, but not on full ration. The calves put on two pounds a day until January, and then we either send them to a custom feed lot and retain ownership, or sell them out after. They are marketed as cattle at 18 months of age and become part of the meat supply.
Do you name your beef cattle?
Anytime a cow gets a name she’s a problem. The surest way to cause problems is to give one a name. With ours, everyone is identified when they go into the herd. They get a number, the first two digits are the year they were born and the next two are herd number, assigned in order born. It’s the same as a name. Another reason we have the cattle we do are that black cattle look more alike and red cattle are more distinctive. Herefords have white in their face, but each one is different enough seen from 100 yards away that you know who you’re looking at.
What is your biggest challenge from year to year?
We have many challenges, hourly and daily. Mostly it’s the things that are imposed on us by people who don’t understand what we are doing. We work with organizations to get our message out to people who are making rules, writing and passing laws, that what we do is important and people need us. We are providing food and fiber for consumers.
What inspires you to keep doing what you do?
Being privileged to be a part of nature’s cycle, the challenge it presents every day. Every day is different, no two days are the same on the ranch.
What do you wish people understood better about what you do?
To someone from the city, it’s just a cow, to us it’s a personal friend. We do run cows as a business, but it isn’t just a business. We do it because we like them.
What are some interesting facts about you?
We are stewards of the land, we own it, but we realize we are here for a finite time. We take the productivity from the soil and use it to feed the cattle and produce high-quality protein, grass-based. Also, we try not to do any more tillage than we have to, we do grow some annual crops but only to keep the soil in good condition. In that way we minimize erosion, maximize water quality and minimize runoff. We’re conservation-minded.
Is there anything else people should know about Miles Ranch?
We do like what we do, we like to watch the cycle of new life, working with nature and marveling at the miracle every time one’s born and gets up and goes to mom for food all on their own. We’re privileged to experience that, we do what we like and we make a living doing that here.