Orvis Cattle Co. - History
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada the Snow Ranch sits along State Highway 4 about 11 miles east of Farmington.
You'll know you have reached the Ranch and Orvis Cattle Company when you pass through the old stone gateposts that mark the entrance. This gate is designated an historic monument.
The ranch has been the scene of expert cattle breeding starting first with the Snows and later with the Orvis' when Charles Bruce Orvis married Mary Ada Snow. Hereford breeding has been ongoing since 1918.
In addition to Hereford breeding, the Snow Ranch has been the scene of many other interesting and historic events. Early in the last century native americans camped here every spring on their way to the mountains. Great Grandfather made them welcome and let them use their traditional camping ground whenever they needed it.
The University of the Pacific performed several archeological investigations of the area and found what, at the time, were the earliest human remains known in North America. They have since been eclipsed by finds elsewhere in the U.S. Evidence of Native American habitation of the area is most apparent by the acorn grinding holes found in just about every flat rock in the area.
You can also find indian carvings in a cave (actually more of an indentation) at the back of a bluff. We don't know what the carvings mean. They look sort of like mountains but could be anything.
The Snow Ranch Spaceport
Yep, that's right - Spaceport - . Well, maybe not space, yet. The Snow Ranch hosts the LUNAR model rocketry club in the winter months when there is no fire danger. The club, which is the largest NAR (National Association of Rocketry) club in the United States flies model and mid-power rockets in the Bay Area and up to Level III High Power rockets at Snow Ranch. The young bulls do not seem to be bothered at all by the rockets. In fact, they often hang out on the hillside overlooking the launch to watch the action.
The Snows and Orvis'
In 1873, William Snow established the Snow Ranch.
In 1886 a young veterinarian named Charles Bruce Orvis moved to California from Chicago to make his mark. Settling first in the Los Angeles area he eventually moved to Stockton and set up shop at 336 East La Fayette St. He was the first graduate veterinarian to live and work in Stockton. A description of his practice is Chronicled in "A Narrative of the Veterinary Profession in California", J. M. Arburua, D.V.M., Arburua, 1966, pp. 291-293.
In 1888 he was one of a small group of veterinarians that formed the California Veterinary Medical Association and was elected to the association's examining board.
In 1891 he married Mary Ada Snow.
In 1893 he was in the first group of 10 veterinarians licensed in California by the newly formed State Board of Veterinary Examiners.
In 1896 he ended active practice in Stockton and moved to the Snow Ranch to breed Herefords. He was one of the first in the state to breed purebred Hereford cattle.
In 1917 his son, William Snow Orvis, married Grace Harriet Harper of Murphys, California, linking the Orvis and Harper families (see Don Harper below).
William Snow Orvis, and his sons C. Bruce and James L. Orvis carry on his breeding program with Orvis Cattle Company run by Bruce and J. L. Orvis and Sons run by Jim.
Orvis Cattle Company OC
Orvis Cattle Company OC was formed in 1980 when Jim and Bruce Orvis decided to split their operations so they could both pursue their own ideas on herd management and breeding. Bruce Orvis formed the Orvis Cattle Co. and took the old Orvis and Clinger OC brand for his own.
Bruce Orvis is a lifelong Hereford breeder. After graduating from high school, Orvis enlisted in the Naval Combat Air Crew Program, and served until 1946. Following service, he attended College of the Pacific and graduated with a bachelor's in business economics in 1950. Orvis has served as an integral part of the beef industry. In college, Orvis joined the family herd, established in 1918 by his father and grandfather (C.B Orvis & Son.) and later W.S. Orvis & Sons.
Orvis family hereford breeding continue to avoid the fads in the purebred business and stay loyal to big, middle of the road cattle.
From 1959-1985, Orvis served on the founding committee of the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association. In 1966, he accepted a position on the California Beef Council Board of Directors. In 1993 and 2000 he was named the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association Seedstock Producer of the Year. Orvis is an avid supporter of the Western Nugget Hereford Sale, since its beginning in 1970. In 1995, he was appointed to the Western States Hereford Committee, which oversees the show and sale. Orvis runs 240 registered cows and 45-registered coming 2-year-old bred heifers. They sell 80-100 bulls a year for use throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Mexico and also run 300-500 feeders on grass yearly. Orvis and his wife, Roma, are avid supporters of the Hereford youth programs and have four children as well as twelve grandchildren. In 2001 Orvis was elected to the board of directors of the American Hereford Association. Bruce Orvis passed away in November of 2010.
Orvis Cattle Company is currently being operated by Roma Orvis and Don Harper. Don Harper, an Orvis cousin, is the General Manager of the Orvis Cattle Company. Don first started working for his Aunt Roma and Uncle Bruce in 1976 at the age of 13. After finishing college at UCD and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Don worked in the cattle feeding industry in both California and Nevada for 20 years. He then worked for the Foreign Agricultural Service of the USDA. Don and his wife Susan have been married for 26 years and have three daughters: Erin, Nora, and Maxine. Currently their daughter Nora Grace is working at the ranch full time. Their daughter Maxine would work there full time as well if her schoolwork didn't get in the way.
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