Editor’s Note: The following is the 14th in a monthly series — Homegrown in Douglas County — that appears on The News-Review Business page. Companies with roots deep in Douglas County are profiled. To suggest a company, email business reporter Craig Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COMPANY: Hatfield Ranch
LOCATION: South Deer Creek Road, Dixonville area
MISSION STATEMENT: The Hatfield Ranch is dedicated to raising top quality market beef in a way that is sensitive and respectful to the animals and land, while encouraging integrity and productivity in future generations.
HISTORY: The Hatfield family has been making a living since the 1850s on the ranch split by South Deer Creek in the foothills on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Dan and Barbara Hatfield and their grown children, Clint and Kelsie, are partners in the 2,800-acre ranch that is home to 450 mother cows. The ranch has valley-floor pasture and hay fields, hillside pastures and Douglas fir timber.
Dan Hatfield’s great-great-grandparents, John and Martha Pearce, settled on the ranch sometime between 1855 and 1860. Rachel Pearce, Dan’s great-grandmother was born on the ranch in 1860. She married Thomas Hatfield in 1879. Their son, Roy Hatfield, was raised on the ranch and then he and his wife, Ruth, worked it and bought other nearby small homesteads during a depression in the early 1900s, increasing the ranch’s acreage to 2,500. Two of their sons, Walden and Howard, worked the ranch with their father for many years. The ranch was home to pigs, Angora goats (raised for their hair), cattle, sheep and horses.
Dan, the son of Walden and Vera, was born in 1950 in an old logger’s cabin that had been moved onto the ranch and then added on to. Seven years later, the family moved to a new home built nearby. Dan began working on the ranch as soon as he was old enough. He purchased an adjoining 200 acres in 1972. Walden and Howard retired in the mid-70s. Dan and his brother David bought stock in equipment and partnered until 1979. David continues to ranch on other Hatfield property two miles down the creek.
Dan Hatfield and his wife, Barbara, increased the ranch’s livestock numbers to 1,850 ewes, 250 Angora goats and 100 cows in the early 1980s. Barbara Taylor, who was raised on a ranch in southeastern Oregon, had married Dan in 1978. In the early 1990s, livestock predators and the regulations that protected them, forced the Hatfields to give up sheep operation and focus on cattle. The larger animal is better able to fend off and escape predators such as coyotes, cougars and bears. The ranch had hound dogs that were used to hunt predators for a couple generations when sheep and goats were being raised, but then regulations stopped their use in the mid-1990s.
The Hatfields’ two children, Clint and Kelsie, have worked and played on the ranch all their lives. Clint owns Clint Hatfield Trucking of Dixonville, but he and his wife, Larena, live on the ranch and help when they can while raising their two young sons. Kelsie, after earning a degree in agriculture at Oregon State University, returned to the ranch to make it her life’s work. She and her husband, Jeremy, and their 9-month-old twins, live in the house on the ranch that her great-grandparents built in 1920.
Dan and Barbara live in a house built in 1987, about 100 yards from where Dan was born in the logger’s cabin.
PRODUCTS AND SERVICES OFFERED: The ranch produces and raises Angus-cross calves. The calves are born in September, October and November, grow alongside their mothers until mid- to late June when the grass begins to dry up and then sold at 700 to 750 pounds. All the mother cows were born and raised on the ranch. As heifers they were not sold, but instead replenish the herd as older cows age beyond their productive years. Dan Hatfield said having the ranch produce its own mother cows results in calves of more uniform color, weight and quality.
MARKETPLACE: Buyers of the ranch’s calves have varied over the years. In the last 10 years, the Hatfield calves have often been sold through the Western Video Market. Sales also have been made privately and to regional cattle buyers. Hatfield calves have ended up anywhere from Garden Valley to South Dakota. Depending on the buyer, the calves continue on pasture or go straight to a feedlot. In either case, the intention is for the calves to put on another 600 pounds before they go to slaughter.
MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS: The ranch has partnered with agencies such as the Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District, Partnership for the Umpqua Rivers and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Two miles of fences were built along South Deer Creek since 2007 and more than 1,000 trees and shrubs planted to protect and enhance the riparian area.
The Hatfields have been careful not to overstock, giving the ground the chance to grow the grass that produces beef for market. Barbara Hatfield said it makes sense environmentally and economically to be sensitive to the needs of the earth.
CHALLENGES AND CHANGES: Volatile beef markets, Mother Nature, predators, increasing production costs and human health. Mother Nature is a challenge because it doesn’t always provide enough rain to grow the hillside grass and valley pasture. Predators such as coyotes, cougars and bears prey on the livestock. During one two-night period, the ranch lost 19 lambs to coyotes. During one fall season, coyotes and cougars killed more than 100 yearling sheep. To deal with increasing productions costs, utility vehicles have replaced horses, which optimizes daily monitoring and movement of the livestock, ensuring the best health for the herd.
In recent years, human health has been both a challenge and change. Dan has had hip and knee replacement surgeries in the last three years. Kelsie had twins in the last year, and Clint has young children and owns a business off the ranch. The family and their spouses have to adjust their schedules, be flexible and cover for each other to deal with their personal lives and ranch life.
GOALS: To continue to market top-quality beef, being ever vigilant to the needs of the ranch’s livestock and land. To encourage love of and respect for this way of life in future generations of the Hatfield family.
Information compiled by Dan and Barbara Hatfield and Kelsie Barron