Gryphon Ranch, a 469-acre cattle ranch in the Pinal mountains of Globe, Arizona, operated by Jim and Carol Ptak, is now part of Humane Farm Animal Care’s Certified Humane program.
The couple got their start in cattle farming in 2011 when their 101-acre hay farm in Washington state had leftover hay from the previous season. “At that point, you only have two choices,” says Carol, “You take it out to the barn and burn it or buy something that eats it. We purchased our first two Scottish Highland steers that year.”
Scottish Highland cattle, a hardy breed of cattle developed in Scotland to thrive in rocky terrains, look like yaks, but graze like goats. The couple only intended to buy just two steers, but a neighbor who raised Scottish Highland cattle failed to secure sufficient feed for his fold one winter. They ended up boarding his cattle for six months. In exchange for the help, the couple received two cow/calf pairs, both cows turned out to be pregnant. The Ptaks went from two to 10 cattle pretty quickly.
As their cattle farm grew, they made a trip to Arizona and realized the milder and less humid climate might be a better fit for their family. They bought a ranch in Globe, Arizona, brought the Gryphon Ranch name and their 19 Scottish Highland Cattle in May 2014. The animals made the trip easily and adapted quickly to their new surroundings.
But the Ptak’s had their own adapting to do. The couple had lived in rural areas before, but never this remote. Their Arizona ranch was two miles off the main road at the end of rocky canyon where nobody passes through. They had to learn to live off the grid. They had solar power, but the existing system had a catastrophic failure shortly after moving in. They had a water heater fail and water lines rupture. Half their home heating system went down in the first month of the first winter and the other half failed before the end of that first winter. They also learned to not leave any open doors during the summer into the house because local animals liked to come in and visit, from tarantulas to rattlesnakes.
“Our first year was a big education for us,” says Carol. “The animals adapted just fine though. They love the hilly terrain.”
Animal welfare is a key component of Gryphon Ranch’s operations. The couple interacts with the cattle twice a day to ensure everyone in the herd is healthy and happy. They even groom and brush the cattle’s long coats.
So when the Ptak’s learned about the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® program, they liked the superior animal welfare standards and felt it would be a good fit for their approach to animal care.
“We’re all about the sustainability and humane treatment of animals,” says Carol. “With all the animal rights groups trying to get rid of farm animals, we believe that one can still eat meat and be humane. We wanted to join the program as a way to distinguish ourselves in the marketplace and show our customers that beef can be raised in a humane manner. Certified Humane is a way of bringing these standards to the industry.”
The Ptak’s allow their cattle to naturally forage, breed and interact over the nearly 1,200 grazing acres. Because of the remote location of the ranch, they have a “closed herd” – animals that never do or will come into contact with other cattle – so they don’t have to vaccinate them. They are raised without antibiotics, corn, and no GMOs.
Because the cattle graze like goats, there is significantly less impact on the ecology around them too. The cattle’s grazing habits remove the flammable underbrush and open up areas for additional grass to grow, which in turn is better for the cattle as well as the local wildlife like deer, javelin and rabbit.
The Ptaks work the ranch on their own, so can maintain a close eye on the animals. “Our home is centrally located on the property so we can hear what’s going on all the time,” says Carol.
Like many Certified Humane farms, Gryphon Ranch encourages customers to visit the ranch and see how their cattle is raised. “We spoil them,” says Carol. “Having good animal welfare means not only happy animals, but also the best product for our customers.”
Their breeding stock is all registered with the American Highland Cattle Association. Because Gryphon Ranch does not send their cattle to a slaughterhouse (instead hiring someone to come to the property to handle this), federal law only allows them to sell direct to the consumer.
Check out the Certified Humane “Where to Buy” page at http://certifiedhumane.org/take-action-for-farm-animals/shop/#/map or download the free Certified Humane App, by going to the App store for IPhone or Google Play for androids.