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Friday, June 14, 2013

The "Great Northwest" Livestock Tour

by WLJ

The 2013 Western Livestock Journal Tour was an exciting and adventurous trip that was sure to leave individuals with their own memories and experiences. The northern Idaho and eastern Washington country is vast in its topography and provided many different scenes, challenges, and interpretations at each stop.

The tour began in Spokane, WA, as the tour participants met at the historic Davenport Hotel. In the heart of downtown, this hotel is more than a place to stay; it provided an atmosphere of historical perspective with claims to be one of the world’s grand hotels and a great place to start and finish the 2013 WLJ Tour.

The daily stops began at a large commercial operation owned and operated by the McIrvin family. Running nearly 4,000 Herefordbased commercial cows, this operation was set among subirrigated pastures and provided the setting for amazing views along the Columbia River Basin.

From the McIrvin Ranches, the tour went to Bull Hill Resort for lunch and the final tour stop of day one. At Bull Hill Resort, those on the tour will remember the excitement it took to arrive safely and on time. The drive to the resort will surely be remembered for years.

Once at the resort, the views were breathtaking. Set on the mountainside that overlooked the Columbia River, Bull Hill provided an incomparable glance at the landscape that impacts so many Americans and this tour provided that perspective.

Day two offered entertainment that many were not expecting. The first stop began at the Parnell Clydesdale Horse Farm. This was a unique stop for tour participants as they learned what life is like for a functioning Clydesdale breeding facility. With clients like Budweiser, the Parnell family has built a successful program that left our tour participants enthralled about Clydesdales. We then went to Rocking R Angus Ranch and toured their striking facilities. Here we had the opportunity to interact with their cattle and get a hands-on approach to their cowherd and breeding program.

The following day, we learned what the definition of a functional commercial program is. The Harder

family has built a family ranch that should stand the test of time. Their facilities left our tour participants in awe as many pulled out a pen and pad and began drawing the ranch designs. The barn and working facilities were very impressive and many tour participants will, I’m sure, implement some of these ideas into their own programs.

From Harders we went to a unique stop at Whitby Hay Press and learned about the hay markets on an international level. The most unique point of this stop was the opportunity to see their machinery compress 1,800-pound hay bales into small cubes ready for export!

Day four began with a very fun stop at C&C Farms in Ephrata, WA, meeting the Cobb f amily and seeing what it means to be a family operation— these guys are scientists, not farmers. They have integrated their operation to tailor to each family member’s strengths with all of them playing a major role in the success of the operation. Here we were able to be in the fields and watch as they ran their farming equipment with the newest technology available to farmers.

From there we drove along Soap Lake, WA, and stopped for a moment at Dry Falls, which was at one time 10 times larger than Niagara Falls. We then proceeded to our next stop at the monumental Grand Coulee Dam. We toured the visitors’ center and spent time taking pictures and learning of the process it took to build the dam and the function it plays in the Northwest’s farming operations.

We then loaded the buses and headed to Sunny Okanogan Angus Ranch in Omak, WA. We toured the headquarters and met the entire Verjaska family, who also hosted our dinner that evening and provided some excellent entertainment in the roasting of tour host Jerry York.

Day five began with a tour of Double R Ranch in Loomis, WA. Along the Canadian border, this ranch is the setting for vast and beautiful landscape. We learned about crossbreeding with Wagyu bulls and the function this ranch has in the AgriBeef Company. We had an excellent question and answer period during this stop and topics included everything from genetics to wolves.

From here we went to probably the most unique stop of the entire tour. Never before had the Gebbers family allowed so many people to tour their operation until the WLJ Tour came to town. They opened their doors and showed us the entire operation. Gebbers Farms is a large grower of apples and cherries and supplies a large volume to Walmart stores around the country. We learned and witnessed how the fruit are grown, graded, and shipped to the consumer. This stop will have participants talking about apples and cherries for years!!

The final day of the tour held two stops that were very interesting in their own rights. Our first stop was at Miller Ranches where we learned about pasture rotation and management in sustainable agriculture. We were witness to a working family operation and the tour had many questions about dealing with regulations and how the family has been able to maintain for generations.

The final stop of the tour was one the many participants were not expecting.

We stopped at Spokane Hutterite Brethern Colony. This stop opened the doors to participants to see and learn what the colony is based around and how they live and maintain their livelihood in today’s society. We toured their pristine farming operation and learned about seed potatoes and how they use this product in crop rotation and financial stability.

This tour was very unique and entertaining. As we arrived back in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel, many participants remarked on how enjoyable this tour was and the excitement this tour provided. There were so many different aspects to this tour that a general recap does not provide justice.

The most important part of the annual tour is not just the distinctive stops, it is the friendships and networking that take place.

Many times, this tour is the only time people see these friends they’ve made from across the country, and spending a full week touring a different area of the country together provides a bond that many feel is what makes the WLJ Tours so unique and worthwhile. — Logan Ipsen, WLJ Field Representative



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