Highview Ranch was established in the fall of 1960 by Dave & Shirley Parker along with Shirley’s parents Pete & Ingrid Peters. Under the Wallowa Mountains, and on the edge of Hells Canyon bordering Idaho, the Wallowa Valley is much more similar to Northern Idaho and South Central Montana than the rest of Oregon. Well known for being “Cattle Country” the area was settled by cattlemen venturing off the Oregon Trail in search of better summer grazing grounds. With a substantial portion of the annual precipitation occurring during the long days of the early growing season, the grass here can grow incredibly fast.
After an exhaustive search in the Wallowa Valley for a cattle ranch, Ingrid actually put the squash on one attempt to buy one in a more remote area, recalling her often difficult trek across a muddy Russia. She felt the young Parker children could not be stranded for weeks at a time on the often impassable, snow drifted, and muddy roads leading to this particular ranch. So closer to town they settled on Alder Slope, just three miles west of Enterprise. Ingrid insisted that the ranch have a name and because of the incredible view “Highview Ranch” was born.
There was no electricity, no phone line, and no livable house. The old house, now in a swamp created since irrigation had started and the homesteader cabin nearby were soon torn down to build corrals. The large work horse barn was repairable and soon sported a new coat of paint. After a winter spent renting in town and a spring/summer living in a shed, the young Parker family, already with two little girls, finally moved into a new small house on the ranch. A son followed in 1962.
In the early 1960’s it was time to add more cows. Since the Wallowa Valley was known for having the highest concentration of Hereford Breeders in the U.S., the family purchased them from some of the most well known breeders in the area. Despite warnings from some of the Hereford Breeder’s about crossbreeding, some cows and the heifers were soon bred to Angus. Highview Ranch was already performance testing and could see the advantages on the scale. The ranch was all flood irrigated and soon a big effort was launched to update some of the ditches. Dave became an expert at laying down the correct line on contour ditches even in the steep fields by using a level board to guide him. Hay was put up with a sickle bar mower, a small baler, and a sled to pick up and haul the bales to the barn where it was unloaded and stacked by hand. Knowing there had to be a more efficient way that was soon replaced with a buck rake to make piles of hay and a frame Farmhand loader to stack the hay “loose” in the middle of the field. No beaver slides were used so it was an art to pack the big stacks so they would survive the winters.
1967 was a historic year at Highview Ranch. Dave went to A.I. school and soon bred a lot of cows, not only for him but for other ranches in the area during the Continental breed import craze about to begin. At that time cross breeding with Angus and Charolais was almost unheard of. But, just a few years after starting the ranch and despite those early warnings about the practice, Highview Ranch received the top price paid per head for yearlings at the annual and once famous Labor Day Sale. Also in 1967 the neighboring “Bookout” place was purchased from the Fletcher family. A new working facility was built that included a round pen leading to a curved alley and all on concrete. Quite impressive in those early days. More cross fences were added to better utilize rotational grazing and a pen of cattle were retained thru a feedlot to find out just how well they would perform.
Highview Ranch became a Progeny Test and a Special Mating herd for ABS in the early 1970’s being paid to provide data while Dave bred lots of cows for other ranchers experimenting with the flood of new breeds entering the U.S. We began breeding Limousin in 1971. We also tested many other breeds including, Charolais, Angus, Hereford, Tarentaise, Romagnola, Marchigiana, Norwegian Red, and Beef Swiss (now known as Braunvieh). Dave also bred lots of Simmental, Gelbveih, and Maines for other area breeders. The kids were now old enough to work a lot more so additional land was added by purchasing neighboring ground from the Rowe family. It has one of the oldest gravity flow sprinkler irrigation systems in Wallowa County. Another 200 acres with hand sprinkler lines was leased to put up more hay along with cooperating with a neighboring Simmental ranch to help with their cattle. A pull swather with a roller conditioner and a Hesston Stak Hand (Bread Loaf Type) were also purchased to help with haying for the growing herd. EPD’s were introduced and cattle breeding became much more data driven which became a passion for Shirley.
By the late 1970’s the Registered Limousin herd had now expanded to around 250 cows. Highview Ranch very successfully showed cattle throughout the Northwest and even at the Cow Palace in San Fransisco, CA. Carol and Doreen both left for College at WSU but occasionally returned home to work in the summer. Despite the warnings from old timers about electric fence, Hi Tensile New Zealand style fence was built as some of, if not the first, in this area. This further expanded the rotational grazing aspect of the ranch. An electronic scale under the chute replaced the secondary chute with a single balance beam that had been in use for many years.
In the early 1980’s Jeff left for College but returned home often to work. Highview Ranch was then known as one of the largest and most respected Limousin breeders in the West with 250 registered cows and selling 50-60 bulls annually. However, times were tough with interest rates approaching 20% and beef demand falling, many customers exited the business. Tough times lead to even more innovation and with the use of electric portable poly wire fence, Dave embraced MIG (management intensive grazing) Despite having rotationally grazed prior to this, he was amazed at the results. Now running more cattle on less ground and putting up even more hay they survived. At first, the poly wire reels added a great deal of work and management because it was simply a lot of trial and error. But the results were without a doubt one of the key factors in making it thru those tough times.
By the early 1990’s hundreds of Highview cattle were being finished for a branded beef program. While successful and profitable for several years, it abruptly stopped. New corporate executives at the partner grocery firm suddenly changed and the new direction effectively abandoned the producers. With the old haying equipment finally worn out a new system was needed. A Round Baler with mesh wrap changed the storage and feeding of hay. A new mover/handler for feeding to cows and round bale feeders for calves soon replaced the tractor’s grapple fork and hand pitchforks used since the days when loose hay had replaced the small bales. Since most of our winter precipitation comes in the form of snow, the mesh wrap worked quite well and because we don’t haul hay (except across the ranch) this continues to be much less expensive than the large square bale systems.
Jeff returned to the ranch with his already developing herd of Angus in 1997. A state of art cattle handling facility was built complete with a “Silencer” hydraulic chute, a System 2000 double tub & alley system, and sort pens on top of geo fabric to keep the mud to a minimum. This allowed Jeff to handle cattle more effectively and the more efficient utilization of value added technologies such as synchronized A.I. breeding and embryo transplant.
By the early 2000’s Jeff had leased the land base, operational aspects, and all the commercial cows from his family further expanding his Registered Angus cow herd. He continued the lessons learned thru the previous 40+ years. Embracing MIG and even expanding it by haying more ground. In 2009 a major new sprinkler irrigation system was implemented on one part of the ranch. With 50 years of history behind us we have learned many valuable lessons.
With the full conversion to Angus now complete, Jeff now sells many Registered Angus Bulls and recently began offering Select Registered Angus Females. But through it all, the one thing that has remained the same is our relentless pursuit to breed cattle that will not only work for us but will provide genetic solutions to our customers needs.