The Cattle Co-Op

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The Hollister Ranch Cooperative:  A 250 Year Old Tradition

Hollister Ranch has a rich history of cattle ranching dating back to the mid-1700s. The goal has always been to maintain a thriving cattle operation. The ranch was ahead of its time, combining housing with sustainable agriculture. At Hollister, cattle ranching is implemented in a way that works with the land, promoting conservation and sustainability.

With its unique geographical situation and ample grasslands, it is no surprise that the ranch has always been well suited for cattle ranching.

In 1973, the 14,500 acre ranch was granted agricultural preserve status under the Williamson Act, ensuring that it would continue to be a working cattle ranch for generations to come. The Hollister Ranch Cooperative (the Co-op) was established in 1977 to manage the ranch and ensure its success.

The Co-op's main focus is the "cooperative product," which is none other than the lush grass that covers the ranch's rolling hills. The Co-op manages one of the four largest cattle operations on the central coast of California, shipping an average of 500,000+ pounds of beef annually.

Hollister Ranch is composed of 136 individual parcels, but it is run as a single, cohesive cattle ranch thanks to the parcel grazing leases held by the Co-op, a marketing agreement, and Co-op by-laws that govern the organization. This structure ensures that the ranch runs smoothly and that all members are on the same page.

Visit Hollister Ranch and experience the beauty and bounty of a working cattle ranch that has been a part of California's history for over two centuries.

How the Hollister Ranch Cooperative works

Hollister Ranch is home to over 2,000 head of cattle on average each year. The Hollister Ranch Cooperative (Co-op) conducts two traditional types of operations, cow/calf and stocker.

The cow/calf operation consists of approximately 400 resident mama cows that produce calves annually. Every spring, the herds are rounded up and the calves are given their annual vaccinations, marked, and turned out until weaning time. After weaning, the calves are sold and shipped to other ranches. The spring roundup is a traditional community effort, when neighboring ranches gather to help one another, keeping costs down and relationships in good favor.

The stocker operation is more straightforward, an average of 1,200-1,500 young cattle (6-12 months old) are brought on the Ranch in the fall or early winter and shipped at the end of the grass season, typically around the first of June. During a good season, the stockers will gain 200 to 300 pounds from the rich coastal grasses, the Co-op is paid for the weight gained from the time they come to the time they leave the ranch.

Experience the traditional and authentic cowboy lifestyle, while enjoying the beauty of the Hollister Ranch, and witness the hard work of the community, where the cooperation is the key to success.

Benefits of the Hollister Ranch Cooperative

At Hollister Ranch, we are proud to have been granted agricultural preserve status, which not only provides a tax incentive for owners to run cattle on their property, but also encourages them to make significant efforts to accommodate, promote, and protect the cattle operation.

The Ranch environment produces annual and perennial grasses which mature at various times of the year, therefore, the rotation of significant numbers of cattle from pasture to pasture produces the best results. This high density/short duration grazing provides adequate time for grass recovery.

The Hollister Ranch Cooperative (Co-op) Board of Directors has made rangeland preservation a top priority and to achieve this goal the Co-op utilizes innovative grazing techniques to manage the grasses, using historic pastures, topography and strategic water sources. Water development is also critical to the Co-op’s goal of rangeland preservation. In 2003 the Ranch owners adopted a Watershed and Rangeland Enhancement Program. The funding provided through this program development of over 50 new water troughs (in addition to the 35 existing) strategically placed for cattle to graze where water is not normally available, such as high on the hills. This allows the pastures to be grazed more evenly year round.

The Co-op’s program of managing grasses also provides another benefit by reducing the amount of dry matter which can become fuel for wild-land fires. Other rangeland preservation projects undertaken by the Co-op include native grass re-vegetation of previously cultivated fields and removal of noxious weeds.

The Co-op provides strong, creative, and informed management of the cattle operation which is critical to the future of Hollister Ranch. Private property rights, agricultural status, wildfire safety, and the unique and beautiful environment we all enjoy hinge on a sound, ecological, and viable cattle operation. With your support, the Co-op will continue to protect and preserve rangeland agriculture and the Ranch’s western heritage, because cowboys on horses and good cattle dogs are still the best means of moving cattle on Hollister Ranch.

Hanging loose in the Drakes bull pasture.