Anytime you see Bowerman Ranch co-owner Wendy McCullough, you can bet that goats aren’t far from her thoughts.
In the shadow of Mt. Joseph, at the end of road named for her family, the third generation to live on the ranch quietly goes about her business of raising goats.
For the most part, these are not milk goats. These goats are for the dinner table.
McCullough, a Wallowa County native, has raised goats on the several-hundred acre ranch since 2006.
It has been a circuitous route back to the ranch McCullough was raised on. After graduation from Joseph High School, McCullough left the area in 1969 to attend Oregon State University. She married and moved to Baker City, where she lived for the next 13 years before departing for the warmer climes of Arizona where she stayed six years, before making a move to Virginia for another 13 years. Still, Wallowa County was never far from her mind. McCullough’s mother, who lived on the ranch, passed away in 2004 and McCullough saw the possibility to return and keep the family business running.
“I’d wanted to come back for years,” she said. “The kids were grown up and I took the chance.”
McCullough quit her job in Virginia and returned to Bowerman Ranch in 2006. That’s when the work started.
The ranch had fallen into disuse and the grass was eye-high. She had heard that goats were good at clearing land. A love affair started when she rented goats to eat down the grass.
“They did a marvelous job, and I rented them for two more months,” she said. “I was in love with the goats, and I thought, ‘This is my calling.’”
The goats stayed for the winter, and McCullough bought six of the them and the seller threw in an seventh for free. She was in.
McCullough started raising goats for meat, laughing that she’s too lazy for milking. The goats are mainly Boers and Boers crossed with Texmasters, which are 85 percent Myotonic, or fainting goats. The fainting helps build muscle, which translates into meat, which is USDA inspected and gaining a regional following through both retail stores and Saturday market sales. McCullough’s partner in the venture is fellow goat raiser Nancy Noble.
“It’s grass fed, low fat, high protein and low cholesterol,” she said. “It’s yummy!”
She also raises some Boer/La Mancha goats to provide milk for her other venture, Sally B. Farms, which features handmade goat milk soap. That entity is McCullough’s own venture. The ranch still belongs to the Bowerman Family Trust.
At the moment, McCullough has 25 adult goats, along with some young kids.
“Once in awhile, if one of the market goats has an unusual personality, I’ll hang a name on it while it’s here,” she said.
McCullough is currently in the midst of kidding season, which has its difficulties.
“Kidding is fun, but there’s a lot of stress involved between cold weather and water freezing,” she said. McCullough also said that she wouldn’t have made it though the first season if not for her friend Debbie Gilbert, who showed her the ropes.
“It didn’t matter when I called her. If I had a question or needed help at the barn she was always there for me,” McCullough said.
The most challenging part, though, is the amount of time involved in their care.
“You have to feed them twice a day, trim feet, give shots, stuff like that. It’s time consuming.”
At the same time, McCullough also finds her chosen profession rewarding.
“I just love these goats. I’m putting out a good product.”
McCullough said she isn’t sure what the future holds for her ranching business.
“I’ll do it as long as I feel up to it. I deal with nice people, and I love the life. It’s rewarding,” she said.