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To provide Cal Poly students, faculty, staff and the public with a unique interdisciplinary environment in which to foster the Learn by Doing philosophy by providing educational experiences on a working ranch, supporting diversified agriculture and forest resources while maintaining the integrity of ranch operations.

  —Our Mission

Livestock

Ranch Operations - Livestock

Project Goal: To improve the grassland and orchard, resulting in regenerative productions systems that support biodiversity, maintain water quality, and create soil systems that build towards their natural state over time.

The rangelands of Swanton Pacific Ranch support two successful cattle operations: the SPR Grass-fed Natural Beef Program and a seasonal Stocker Enterprise. The rangelands include coastal prairie, grasslands, and coastal chaparral habitat, which accounts for roughly 1,600 acres, located primarily on the western side of the Scotts Creek watershed.

The ranch uses a holistic management approach in their livestock operations. This includes "Planned Grazing" practices which monitor environmental conditions, (water, soil, and biodiversity) and time cattle movement to minimize impacts, promote native perennial grass diversity, and ensure pasture recovery

The Natural Grass-fed Beef program accounts for 75-125 head on the ranch year round; this includes the cow-calf herd. The Stocker Enterprise brings an additional 250-450 head to the ranch from February through June. Stocker cattle provide a small supplemental income to the ranch along with valuable student experience.

Our Freedom Ranger chickens are raised between the rows of our organic apple orchard using specially designed chicken tractors. Each morning our birds are moved to fresh pasture to ensure the health of our soils and to provide our birds with clean pasture to forageBy integrating livestock into the orchard, we can provide valuable soil nutrients, control weeds, and reduce insect pest populations. The chickens do this work for us all while producing delicious meat. 

Each quarter Cal Poly students are actively involved in the livestock operations. The Stocker Enterprise is a six month commitment giving students valuable experience in the stocker cattle industry. The 2021 Stocker Enterprise has been cancelled due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, for a preview of the application click hereInternship positions and short courses that focus on sustainable rangeland and livestock management are also normally offered throughout the year, but are postponed due to the wildfire and Covid-19.

All livestock educational opportunities are designed to provide hands-on experience in: low stress livestock handling, basic livestock production, problem solving, and sustainable/adaptive land management techniques. The consideration of water, soil quality and livestock condition while supporting rangeland ecosystem processes and wildlife biodiversity is the foundation of holistic land management practices.

Related Content

Learning

INTERNSHIPS
Gain Hands-on skills


FIELD TRIPS
A living laboratory


WORKSHOPS & TRAINING
Open to the public


PROJECTS & RESEARCH
Applied learning

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Support SPR

Al Smith mission support the ranch

How You Can Help

Operations

  • forestry

    FORESTRY

    Advanced timber management skills.

  • livestock

    LIVESTOCK

    Learn range and livestock management.

  • crops

    CROPS

    Gain experience in organic crop production

Learn More

SPR Products

Grass-fed Beef

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News & Events

Post Fire Updates
Blog posts with news about Ranch recovery


Organic U-Pick Apple Orchard...
CLOSED due to CZU Lightning Complex Fire devastation.
Posted September 4, 2020


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