[Submitted by Shari Morrison. Shari and her husband Paul are the owners/operators of Real Ranch LLC, a certified grassfed beef producer located in Roff, OK.]
When Paul and I originally began raising cattle, we were a commercial cattle operation. This meant that we had cows that produced calves every year which were then sold to cattle buyers that would come to the ranch and purchased cattle by the semi load. The buyers of our calves would then finish them at feed lots on grain. Since that time, we have entirely changed our business and farming practices. Now, instead of selling to feedlots, we focus on selling our products directly to consumers through various retail markets.
We had always butchered a beef for our family every year and never fed grain to it; so basically we have been eating grass-fed beef all of our lives. It wasn’t until we moved to Oklahoma in 2004 that we really thought about becoming a 100% grass-fed, NO GRAIN EVER producer. The first years were difficult because it takes approximately two years to achieve the marbling and finishing you need for a quality grass-fed product. So for those first years you have very little income coming in.
Paul is a fourth generation full time cattle rancher. That means that we rely on the income from ranching 100%. Paul knew from a very young age that he wanted to ranch and enjoyed spending time with his grandfather and father working on the family ranch in California. We have raised cattle ourselves from before we were married, over 30+ years. The family still has ranches in California, but we chose to move to OK in 2004 and have never regretted it. We are Oklahomans!
Day to day, there are always things to be fixed, improved on or built. Every year we put in a few more water troughs for fresh water instead of pond water that gets rank. Paul is always adding more fences for the rotational grazing. We see our animals quite often because we are constantly moving them to different areas of our ranch to graze. When you manage the animals as much as we do, it is easy to verify that they are kept happy and healthy.
We are always learning new methods of doing things, back in the mid 1980’s we went to a Holistic Management class that Allen Savory was teaching in Northern California. Paul came back to the ranch eager to try what he had learned from the course. It has been a long process, but today we continually move animals in an attempt to mimic what nature would have done long ago. Our cattle are kept in larger groups and moved frequently, depending on the season — and how fast the grass is growing — sometimes 4-5 times per day. We have over 30 permanent paddocks/pastures but we break it down to well over 100 during the main growing seasons.
We are always striving to grow the highest quality product that we can. This is our 2nd year using no-till planting finishing feed. We plant a mixture of eight different species of legumes-(clover and vetch) and grasses. Our goal is to improve microbes and soil life, on the ground that had been farmed to excess before we owned it. We always strive to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us.
Because we are certified in both American Grassfed Association and Global Animal Partnership, we need to keep records of all of the animals born on the ranch. So part of my job is to tag the new lambs when they are born. I also keep the records, take inventory of the meat every month, list it on the various websites, wash eggs, market what we have and help out with whatever else needs to be done. Every day we encounter different jobs but it keeps life interesting. We raised three girls on the ranch and enjoyed homeschooling them and working cattle with them. Strong work ethics are something that is learned from an early age when you live on a ranch, and are a life skill that is very valuable – especially these days.
You can get a more “up close and personal” view of our ranch in this YouTube video, with Paul as your guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=907PX5PVXAU