Nine Mile Ranch: Making a difference

Published on Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:13am

Nine Mile Ranch: Making a difference

By Maura Keller

When it comes to operating Nine Mile Ranch, Josh Dykes understands the importance of managing cattle in a practical manner so  they will thrive in the environments that his commercial customers’ cattle do..
Recently Josh and his wife, Kristin, purchased the Nine Mile Ranch, located near Touchet, Washington with the goal of raising cattle on native, dry land grass with very low inputs. Steeped in tradition and historical significance,  NineMile Ranch is a 15,000+ acre native grass ranch that has been in existence since the early 1900s. Today, the ranch is a family business dedicated to taking natural resources, mainly grass and water, and turning these resources into outstanding naturally raised beef. The mainly dry land, grass ranch has had relatively few owners over the years, which has resulted in pristine acreage, ideal for raising exceptional cattle.
“We are second generation cattlemen with the third generation learning an active role,” says Josh Dykes.  “We raise Red Angus and Red Angus x Simmental hybrid cattle for our customers. We also run a commercial herd and feed out our own all natural steers and heifers.”

With a foundation herd of approximately 800 head, Nine Mile Ranch is one of the largest ranches in Southeast Washington. What makes Nine Mile Ranch truly unique is its ability to run large contemporary groups of cattle efficiently, allowing the cattle to express their true genetic potential.  This coincides with the Nine Mile Ranch’s commitment to produce the best Red Angus bulls in the West.
So how do they accomplish this? Quite simply, they let nature take its course by supplying the native grass, water and nutrients their herd needs, and let the superior genetics rise to the top. Unlike many herds, 9 Mile is fortunate enough to run their cowherd on grass 365 days a year, which allows Dykes and his team to truly measure the most efficient cows within the program and make better culling decisions as there is no bunk advantage for heavy eaters.
In addition to extensive grazing management, 9 Mile Ranch has an extensive A.I. and embryo transplant program with some of the Red Angus and Simmental breeds’ premier sires and elite donor cows at their disposal.
“I began driving past this ranch when I was about 17 years old,” Dykes says. “I was working at a ranch just west of here and always thought it would be fantastic to have a ranch like that.” When the ranch became available a year ago, the Dykes family made a move to acquire it. The rest, as they say, is history.
As basically a winter and spring ranch, the sprawling acreage of 9 Mile Ranch allows Dykes and his team to run large numbers of cattle out on grass from October until June 1. At that time, the cows and calves are loaded up and sent to a 38,000 acre summer range along the Middle Fork of the John Day River in Oregon, where elevations range from 3,500 to 7,000 feet.  In October, the cows  return to 9 Mile Ranch and the cycle begins again.  Dykes feels this developmental process is a difference maker that seperates 9 Mile Ranch from many other seedstock producers in the country.
“Our cattle are all grass fed 365 days a year,” Dykes says. “We typically don’t feed our cows with the exception of this year due to the weather we’ve had. We feel like this program—that allows our animals to develop, grow and maintain on native grass—has the ability to show the genetic difference in our cattle.”

Boasting primarily Red Angus and Red Angus x Simmental hybrid bulls, 9 Mile Ranch  has developed a program of buying back their customers’ calves, giving the ranch very meaningful data on their genetics, and a competitive edge in the market.
When it comes to their breeding program, 9 Mile Ranch uses all tools available to identify superior genetics, including individual performance data, cow production records, EPDs and multiple trait indexes… and they look at the cattle too!
“We are focused on the quality of each cow,” Dykes says. In an industry where the best sires are available to everyone through AI, 9 Mile Ranch believes that the cow makes the difference, so they have acquired and are extensively flushing a very elite set of Red Angus and Simmental donor cows.
“We run our cows in a manner that gives them a very little window to have problems,” says Seth Leachman, partner and general manager of 9 Mile Ranch. “If there is a problem of any sort, they don’t stick around long on this ranch.” In addition to helping Dykes oversee the operations, Leachman has developed a strong marketing program for 9 Mile Ranch.
“We have gone out and selected some of the top cattle in the country, in terms of genetics,” Leachman says. “As a result we are building an amazing program at the ranch. We are really excited with what we are seeing in the bulls we have to offer for sale this spring and the calves that are hitting the ground now. The program is really working.”
Dykes’ vision is to be the largest provider of Red Angus and composite genetics in the west, and to provide a marketing avenue for their customers’ calves.
“Our focus is to get up every day and strive to make sure that those cattle are going to work for commercial cowboys,” Dykes says. “We want to own those calves when they come to market. And if we can’t own them, because there are just too many available, we want to market those cattle for our customers.”
Dykes is starting by putting his money where his mouth is—buying over 1,000 head of steers this fall and placing them in Kansas, Colorado, and Washington.—all from customers or potential customers of bulls.
One of the things that makes 9 Mile tick is the impressive team of people Dykes has put together.  Brad and Karen Gleason, were the former operators of 9 Mile Ranch and joined the team when Dykes acquired the ranch.  Their extensive knowledge of the country and commitment to raising great cattle and horses is second to none.  Also joining the team is Seth Leachman’s son, James Leachman, and our local cowboy, Enrique Vasques… these two guys put in many hours keeping 9 Mile looking good. “My experience in the business world has taught me that it takes a combination of great people, great livestock and great land to make 9 Mile Ranch successful.”

In addition, 9 Mile Ranch is embracing the industry’s most advanced tools needed to better identify the cattle. “With the $Profit program developed by Seth’s brother, Lee Leachman, we are identifying more profitable animals given a certain set of criteria. The  result is a more moderate, efficient cow, that weans a heavy calf. We’re cautious with the term ‘moderate’ because some people equate it to lower performing cattle. We are identifying faster growing cattle that mature earlier and with less inputs and lower mature cow size. We have a passion for this business, we love Red Angus cattle, and we are eager to develop our high-impact purebred operation running the cows just like the commercial guys.
Having an extensive mineral program, plus water and grass allows the 9 Mile Ranch team to turn that into high-quality beef. “We understand our Western heritage and still do everything on horseback at 9 Mile Ranch,” Dykes says. “We are dedicated to providing value for our customers and working with them to produce more net profit in their own programs.”

On March 18, 2017, Nine Mile Ranch is having its Annual Bull Sale, offering 100 quality Red Angus bulls and a handful of elite Red Angus females. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/9mileranch.