Deep Creek Ranch in Volusia County, Florida raises grass-fed Certified Humane® cattle and sheep on pasture. David Strawn, owner of Deep Creek Ranch, has a profound connection to the land he works and a great appreciation for the animals he raises. The Strawn family has been in agriculture since 1886 and can trace their roots on the Deep Creek Ranch back to 1725. David grew up on the ranch, and he and his family are continuing the legacy his father left him: raising beef cattle and sheep with the highest standards of care.
The Deep Creek Ranch has a herd of 200-250 steers made up of both Black Angus and South Poll cattle, and a large flock of sheep made up of Florida-native sheep and St. Croix sheep. Each animal on the farm has its own distinction – the Black Angus cattle are larger than the South Poll cattle due their greater muscle structure; the Poll cattle are more lean. Florida-native lambs are hearty due to their endemic adaptation to the climate and environment; St.Croix lamb do well in the Florida climate, with their smooth glossy coats in summer, and thicker mixed hair and downy undercoats in cooler months.
The Deep Creek Ranch cattle and sheep have constant access to pasture, never being confined to a restricted space. The Strawn family handles the cattle extensively to ensure that they are comfortable with human contact. “The cattle even come in from pasture when they are called. You will never find an electric prod or anything like that on our farm,” Trish Strawn, David’s daughter, explains.
Trish describes how cattle and sheep are moved using a specialized chute system, designed by Dr. Temple Grandin as the most humane method of moving the cattle because they never see the outside or corners of the pen, and therefore aren’t startled by handlers or other external factors.
The sheep at Deep Creek Ranch also receive the best of care and handling. Each animal is inspected daily by an animal caretaker, and are constantly being monitored and assessed to keep them healthy. Once a month, the sheep go through the chute system for a procedure called the Famacha test, which is an indicator of internal parasites. This painless test requires a caretaker to check the color of the sheep’s lower eyelid, which is an indicator of anemia caused by certain parasites. Famacha allows farmers to treat individual animals rather than medicating the entire flock, which keeps the sheep healthy and prevents parasites from becoming resistant to medication.
Furthermore, Trish explains that going through the chute regularly is beneficial for the sheep because it “helps them be calm when it’s time to load them. It is not scary or stressful for them. The reason we put them through the chute is because they have to go that way when it’s time to load them for transport to slaughter, so if they are comfortable and it’s routine for them, it does not panic them or stress them out because they’re used to it.”
Trish explains that animal welfare is a critical factor in their way of ranching. She says that treating animals humanely is important because “if you treat animals kindly, it makes your whole world better. It’s good for your soul!”
In addition to providing the animals they raise with a comfortable, humane life, the Strawn family has a deep commitment to an ethic of stewardship for the land they own and the wildlife that uses it. They use responsible farming methods to preserve the land as much as possible. No pesticides or harmful fertilizers are used on the property and no hormones are used on the cattle.
They have worked hard to provide areas of wildlife habitat on their ranch for the species native to the area. The family has nesting boxes around the property for animals like the wood duck, the American Kestrel, and bats, which have beco
me an integral part of their pest management program on the ranch. On cool mornings just after dawn, David sometimes finds a group of wild Osceola turkeys in the pasture, a breed found only in Florida,
roaming around as a new day on the ranch is beginning. “They are the most brilliantly colored of all of the American wild turkeys so when the sun hits them right, their feathers refract light into copper, bronze, magenta, deep blue purple. I watch them a while before I go to work,” David recalls.
Volusia County has been experiencing severe droughts, challenging the Strawn family to innovate new ways to cope with the long dry periods. Luckily, with Strawn’s robust breeds and expertise in ranching, he and his family have managed to overcome obstacles and keep the ranch in top shape.
Deep Creek Ranch beef is sold exclusively in Florida, reinforcing the farm’s belief of keeping their products local and sustainable. “We prefer to have a direct and personal relationship with the people that consume the food from the ranch, and that means we are going to sell locally,” David explains.
To learn more, visit their facebook page at: Deep Creek Ranch
For information on where to find other Certified Humane® products in your area, visit the “Shop” page of HFAC’s website.