Relaxing in the shade. Image © 2009–2016 Studio Nuñez

Jim says it pretty well: "Cows are essentially recycled grass." And so it follows that everything we do for the health of our cows begins and ends with the health of the land they're raised on. To sustain the most nutritious forage for our herd, each of the more than 30 parcels in our program calls for a unique management strategy, taking into account topography, soil, and brush load. After decades of observing the land, Jim Gates carries between his ears the nearly encyclopedic knowledge it takes to maintain the delicate synergy between herbivory and horticulture. Because of their relatively small size and easy dispositions, we raise mostly Shorthorn and Red Angus cattle, although we are trying some White Parks from Britain. All the cows in our program live their entire lives here on acreage in or around Nevada County. No cow is ever confined, except for fencing at the perimeter of ranchland, since the California Highway Patrol takes a dim view of cows on a county road. Each cow ranges across a minimum of ten acres of pasture; this ensures enough resources for the cow to grow to its full potential, without stress or competition for food.

Bottom line: our cows are treated the best they can be. As Jim moves them from one pasture to another, his only tool is a bright yellow pole to block off space, plus his encouraging voice. The cows rush to Jim when he calls, since his presence always means fresh pasture or a flake of hay. When it comes time to harvest our cows, transportation is kept to a strict minimum to reduce their stress. After a short trip to Reno, Nevada, they step off the truck and are quickly and humanely harvested.