Colvin Ranch Day

Cattle Tales

May 16 was our second annual “Colvin Ranch Day”, and it was great! The weather was perfect, the wild flowers were in full bloom and there was a big turnout. If you were able to join us, thank you, and I hope you had a good time.

Some folks have asked why we are doing this. About a year and half ago, the Port of Tacoma identified our ranch as a possible site for a truck/rail trans shipment site. I was very upset, and felt threatened that a large entity could take the land that has been in our family for 150 years. We wrote letters to our neighbors, to local decision makers and others that we had not sold out, nor were we for sale. A public hearing was held on the proposal, and many folks from the local community testified in opposition to the Port of Tacoma’s proposal. I was extremely grateful for their support, and I realized that our ranch is important to them. Our Colvin Ranch Day was a way of saying “thank you” and to let them see why our ranch is so important to us and to the community. The idea evolved from there, including inviting agencies with an interest in protecting working lands, inviting our beef customers and inviting local officials. The Port of Tacoma eventually abandoned their plans, but it is still important that the community feels a connection with us.

We are taking orders for our grass fed, grass finished beef. It is available by the half or quarter (half of a half). The freezer space for a quarter beef is about 4-5 cu. Ft. Many of the large upright freezers are about 18-20 cu. Ft. in size. Buying direct from the producer is a good way to support the local agricultural community, as well as have an economical supply of beef for your family. It is easy to order from us by sending me an email that you are interested, I will then send you our order form. The beef will be ready in about 3-4 weeks after you have placed an order. Please feel free to call with any questions to my cell, 360-239-8862 or our house number 360-264-2890.

June 15, 2009


Today I slowed down enough to smell the (camas) flowers…they are finally starting to bloom. The camas is a native plant that grows on our south Puget Sound prairies. There are several varieties of camas- there is regular kind, the giant camas, which grows by the oak grove, and the rare white camas. I can’t differentiate the giant camas from the regular camas, but it is easy to differentiate the white camas from the more common blue camas. While the white camas is considered very rare, I seem to see it frequently.

These flowers have played a vital role in the life of the Native Americans who lived in these areas. The camas has a small bulb that is underground, somewhat like a tulip bulb, although much smaller. This bulb was dug up by the Indians who depended on it as a food source to help sustain them through the winter. The camas is now used by biologists as an indicator species-it is an indicator of the native plants present on the prairies and the health of the native plant ecosystem.

The areas with blooming camas now are the south facing hill sides or slopes. These receive more sunlight and warmth, and these flowers are ahead of the other camas. Depending on how warm it is will affect how fast the camas develops and makes flowers. At times it can be spectacular to see a large area of blue flowers. It is like a rolling sea of blue. I am hoping that in about 3-4 weeks the camas will be at its peak. And not surprising, that is why we have scheduled our “Colvin Ranch Day” for May 16. If everything works as planned, the weather cooperates, and the camas is in bloom, you will see a truly beautiful sight. Nature can work wonders.
I sent each of you with the last Cattle Tales an invitation to our Colvin Ranch Day. If you did not receive it, or have deleted it, I would be happy to send another one, just drop me an email.
The other significant news is that we are starting this week to schedule our harvest of grass fed (and finished) beef. This is a culmination of two years of work, feeding, and caring for our animals, and I think they look great. It is a gratifying sense of accomplishment to have them develop like they have, and it is even more satisfying for our customers to enjoy this beef.
If you have any interest in our beef for your freezer it is best to get your order in now before we are sold out. I can email you an order form, just let me know.
April 22, 2009

So who are those guys…? Apr 7, 2009


Washington’s best-kept secret for natural resource conservation and enhancement are the local Conservation Districts (CDs) working in your community. Established in the 1930’s and 1940’s, CDs cover virtually every acre of private lands in Washington. The need for conservation districts was born during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowel, when the federal government envisioned a model of local folks directing the work of USDA conservation agencies. Washington’s enabling legislation was adpted in the 1930’s, and we now have 47 CD’s in Washington. CD’s are a special purpose subdivision of state government however each district is independent.

CDs are usually organized around county boundaries, however we do have several counties with more than one CD. The decision making body for districts are the Board of Supervisors. There are 5 supervisors; 3 elected, and 2 appointed by the Washington State Conservation Commission. The Commission is a small state agency that provides funding and guidance for districts. Supervisors are not paid; they serve on a voluntary basis.

Conservation Districts are funded through a variety of grants from agencies such as the Conservation Commission, Dept. of Ecology, and Dept. Fish and Wildlife. Also, some districts have a special assessment to assist with funding of their activities. There are 13 CDs with special assessment, and they can use these funds to address the local issues and priorities in their community.

CDs do not have regulatory authority. They can not impose fines or enforce laws or regulations. Consequently, CDs have a special relationship with landowners. This relationship, of providing voluntary and incentive based programs, creates a level of trust between landowners and the district. Landowners are willing to discuss their natural resource concerns with a district without the fear of being regulated. While districts may assist landowners with compliance of various rules, it is not the district that does the enforcement.

Districts specialize in “putting conservation on the ground”. While many districts are involved in watershed scale planning, our primary activity is helping landowners restore or enhance the resources on their property. Districts provide technical assistance through development of a site specific conservation plan tailored to meet the needs of the individual landowner. The conservation plan will inventory the resources, describe the resource concerns, and suggest Best Management Practices (BMP) to restore or enhance those resources. The district can also help find funding if that is needed to install the BMPs.

Districts in Washington are involved in many different natural resource issues. Some districts have forestry programs, while other districts are working on shellfish concerns. Soil erosion is a concern in some areas, while water quality and quantity are priorities in other areas. Many districts have programs to help with wildlife and fish habitat, and other districts are helping communities with low impact development. Whatever the issue, the district’s programs are a reflection of the local community, the local resources and the priorities established by the Board. If you want to learn more about districts, or how to contact the conservation district where you live, please visit the Conservation Commission’s website at

Volunteer work

Cattle Tales

Save the date- Saturday, May 16, 2009 is our “Colvin Ranch Day”. We will have some fun activities, information and displays, and our grass fed beef barbeque hamburgers. Invitations will be going out to all that are on the Cattle Tales email list, as well as some other friends and neighbors. So, if you can, please hold that date open.

Volunteer activities: I am involved as a volunteer on several boards that work with natural resources, farmers, and ranchers. About 12 years ago, I was chosen to be on the Board of Supervisors of the Thurston Conservation District. I have thoroughly enjoyed this work as it is a way of making a difference in protecting and enhancing the stewardship of our natural resources in the county. The attachment to this email (SO, WHO ARE THOSE GUYS…?) is an article that I wrote about conservation districts in Washington State.

Beef Orders: We are getting in orders for our grass fed beef. We will start about the first of May and have beef available through June. To place an order, just email me and I will send out our order form. It is best to get on the list early, as we sold out last year.
April 7, 2009

Baby calves

Cattle Tales

March 15 is usually the date I plan on stop feeding hay, but this year it has come and gone and the feeding chores continue. The weather this year seems to be colder than usual and the grass growth is slow. Is it really spring? We moved the cows to a new field about a week ago, and they are able to get some grazing, but we have continued to feed, although it is about half as much hay as before. I know that with a few warmer days, such as 55 during the day, the grass will just take off.

I do feel sorry for the little calves. Being born on a cold day, with the wind and rain is bad enough on me, to say nothing what it is like for them. But they seem to be doing just fine, the cows are doing a good job of mothering, and all is well. We have about half of the cows that have calved, with no problems with calving difficulty. I try to select our breeding bulls that will produce lighter calves. This reduces the chances that the cows will have trouble calving. But nothing in nature is guaranteed, we just have to watch the cows, and try to spot any potential problems early, and if necessary to give assistance.

Once the calves are born, I give them an ear tag with their mother’s number in the ear. This way I can monitor which cows are producing the best calves, and then make decisions about which cows we keep, and which cows need to be sold. We also castrate the bull calves by banding. This is the most humane, and I feel the best way to take care of this. Also, with early castration, these calves will not get such a large frame, and will actually work better for our grass fed program. And it is much easier to handle a 70 pound little calf, than a 300 pound 4 month old bundle of energy. So believe it or not, this works out best for the people and the calves.

All the other cattle are doing great. We weighed the cattle that will be butchered this spring, and I am very happy with their weight, just where I want it to be. With some good pastures this spring, we will have some nicely finished cattle. Let me know if you are interested in ordering some beef and I can get an order form to you.
March 24, 2009

Mother up

Cattle Tales
At the Colvin Ranch, we have what is called a cow/calf operation. This type of ranching is very traditional and is one of the most widely type of agriculture operation in the United States. There are cow/calf operations in every state of the US, as well in every county in Washington. There are few other agricultural operations that are so widely dispersed throughout the country. Cow/calf operations can be from the very small (1 or 2 cows) to the very large (20,000 cows), but the basics are the same.
The cow’s job is to have a calf every year, to nurse and raise the calf, and to teach it what to eat, where the water is located and how to move from one pasture to another.
The most important moment in time for the long term health of the calf is right after it is born. The cow’s first milk, (colostrum) is very rich nutritionally and high in antibodies. These antibodies are important for the calf to help protect it from all the bacteria, and diseases that are naturally occurring in the environment. It is important that the calf gets this milk as soon as possible after birth. I see it every year, but it is still amazing, to see a calf up on its feet and nursing mom within 30 minutes of being born.
Cows are generally very protective of their calves. It is that mothering instinct that protects the calf from predators and other dangers. Some cows can be so protective that I need to keep a close eye out for them. After the calf is about a month old, these cows will calm down because they know their calves are able to run away from danger. It is impossible to catch a month old calf, unless you are good with a rope, and if you do catch one, you will have a handful. Boy can they kick and struggle to get free.
Most ranchers have their calving season in the spring, but there are some who will have a fall calving herd. It all depends on personal preferences, what the resources (pasture/grass) are, and what other demands there may be on the rancher’s time. We calve in spring, usually starting about mid March. By this time, the weather is warming up, there is more sunshine, and the calves will get a good start in life. While I enjoy all the seasons, this is my favorite time of year.
Beef Orders: We are now taking orders, if you would like an order form just send us an email.
Feb. 27, 2009

Livestock Lingo

This was going to be about our cattle operation, what, how and why we do what we do.  However, it occurred to me that I would be using terms that may not be familiar to everyone. To ensure that we are all on the same page (metaphorically speaking), I offer the following Livestock Lingo:

Cow:  A female that has had at least one calf.

Bull:  (1) A male or (2) a story or statement that is filled with misstatements, falsehoods or exaggeration.  Commonly used in responding to political statements (“He is full of bull…”) Note: there will be no bull in the Cattle Tales.

Calf:  The young or offspring of a cow. (pl. calves)

Heifer:  A female, before she has had her first calf.

Steer:  A castrated bull

Yearling:  A calf that is about a year old.  A short yearling is little less than a year old; a long yearling is little over a year.

Stocker:  A calf after it was been weaned; also called a weaned calf.

Run: This term is used in the context of raising, managing or owning cattle such as “Fred is running cows in Thurston County”  This does not mean that I chase  the cows around  the fields to make them run.  Where this term comes from I have no idea, but it is very commonly used.

Calving Season:  Most ranchers have a predetermined time that they want their calves to be born, such as “middle of March through the end of April”; this is called the calving season.

With this background, the following hypothetical paragraph should be understandable:

“During calving season, he runs his cows in the south pasture.  Today he had three calves- one bull and two heifers.  He is hoping for a good price in the fall on the stockers, but if not, he will keep the steers to sell as yearlings.”

When’s the beef?- this spring!

We are now taking orders for our grass fed beef, which will be ready in April or May, depending on grass growth, weather, and all those other variables.  If you are interested, it would be good to get an order in now to reserve your beef.  I can email you our order form so if you are interested, just replay to this email.

Feb 2, 2008


Thank you for your concern about the recent severe weather, especially the flooding of last week. We experienced flooding along the small creek that runs through the ranch (Scatter Creek), but this flooding only affected the meadow lands along the creek. In the winter time we do not graze these meadows, the cattle are all out on the prairie ground. However, it was the highest flood water I have ever seen on Scatter Creek. Our only concern is the possible damage to the grasses in the meadows. These native grasses can take wet feet, but prolonged flooding could kill some of this grass. We will have to wait until spring to see what extent of damage we may have.

Scatter Creek normally floods each year, sometimes several times during the winter. This is not a major issue, we just manage around these flood events-we get out of the way.
It has been very mild this week, I can almost feel spring coming on. If this continues the grasses will wake up and start growing. I shouldn’t get too optimistic as I am sure we will have some more winter weather, but the cattle sure enjoy the mild and dry conditions.

Beef Orders
We are now taking orders for our grass fed beef. These will be ready beginning in May, but it is best to get your order in now. We sell by the whole, half or quarter. If you would like to place an order, please let me know and I will email you our order form that you can print out and return with your deposit.

Pricing: We will stay with our price of $2.90/lb, which includes butchering, but does not include cutting and wrapping.

Fred Colvin
Jan. 14, 2009

This is the beginning…

Greetings from all of us at the Colvin Ranch. Many of you have expressed an interest in what we do here at the Colvin Ranch, which has led us to write our first email newsletter, Cattle Tales. I thought this may be a good way to answer questions you may have, talk about issues that affect us and livestock farming, and hopefully have a little fun along the way.

 A couple ground rules: If at any time you do not wish to receive this email, that’s fine – just send me an email requesting that you be removed from the newsletter. Don’t worry, I won’t be offended. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about our ranch operations, how our cattle are raised or handled, or about issues affecting farming and ranching. We’d also like to hear suggestions on how we can better serve you – all comments are appreciated. I do not plan on doing this on a set schedule, so I can respond to ideas or questions as they come up. 

 To get started…We are a family owned and operated cattle ranch located in south Thurston County, Washington, near the small town of Tenino (pronounced “T-9-O” or “Ten-I-No”). I believe we are the oldest operation in the county still owned by the original family. My great-great grandfather came here in 1851 from Boone County, Missouri and homesteaded on the land. We are still here, still raising cattle, but the way things are done has changed tremendously over the last 150 years, which we’ll talk about in future Cattle Tales.

 Thank you for reading, and if you have questions or comments, just respond to this email. We wish you and your families much joy and happiness in the New Year!

 Fred Colvin

Jan. 5, 2009

Welcome to the Colvin Ranch

The Colvin Ranch provides customers with locally raised, high-quality, grass-fed beef. Our cattle are born and raised on the Colvin Ranch on an all natural diet, with no antibiotics, hormones or additives. Our grass-fed beef is healthy, with higher levels of vitamin E, C and beta-carotene, and the “good fats” known as Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

The Colvin Ranch is a family owned and operated cattle ranch located in south Thurston County, Washington, near the small town of Tenino. The ranch was homesteaded by Ignatius Colvin, who came to Washington on the Oregon Trail in 1851 from Boone County, Missouri and is one of the oldest ranches in the county still owned by the original family. Five generations later, the Colvin Ranch family heritage continues through our humane livestock handling, stewardship of the land and sustainable grazing practices that allow native and endangered plants to flourish along side our high-quality, all natural cattle.