A Look at Some of the Biggest Ranches in Colorado

Colorado is known for big things — big mountains, big rivers and big parks in particular. As the United State’s tenth-largest cattle producing state, it’s no surprise Colorado is home to big ranches, too.

Industry Snapshot

To understand the importance of beef cattle ranching in Colorado, it’s essential to know few facts about the state:

  • Beef cattle is Colorado’s number one agricultural commodity, with more than 15,000 active producers in the state.
  • At any given time, more than three million head of cattle call Colorado home.
  • Nearly one third of Colorado counties are considered economically dependent on the cattle industry.
  • Every January, Colorado hosts the world famous National Western Stock Show. The state is also home to the headquarters of the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and United States Meat Export Federation — important nonprofits promoting the industry at home and abroad.

Colorado’s Big Ranches

With large spreads and celebrity owners, it’s clear that Colorado is ranch country. Here’s a bit of background on some of the most notable:

  • Trinchera Ranch — At 180,000 acres, Trinchera Ranch in Costilla County was, at one time, the largest privately held ranch in the state. Purchased in 1968 by Malcolm Forbes, the spread was sold in 2007 to hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon. In 2012, Bacon donated more than half of the property to the proposed Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area. This donation was described as the “single largest conservation easement” in U.S. Fish and Wildlife History. In its prime, Trinchera — which encompasses alpine forests, grasslands and high peaks — saw extensive use for hunting, logging and, of course, beef cattle ranching.
  • Silver Spur Ranches — Owned by John Malone, who recently surpassed Ted Turner as the largest private landowner in America, Silver Spur Ranches’ Colorado beef cattle ranches encompass two main spreads with a combined area of more than 150,000 acres. Five high-altitude holdings in Waldon, CO are used to breed hearty replacement heifers that can survive the extreme weather of the region. A second division, in Kiowa Creek, is a seedstock provider for Angus, Red Angus and Charolais cattle, and home to the ranch’s show cattle.
  • Chico Basin Ranch — There’s nothing small about this spread on the little basin in El Paso County. At 87,000 acres, it’s one of the largest beef cattle ranches in Colorado and a popular tourist destination. Owned by the Colorado State Land Board, Chico Basin is home to a seedstock of Beefmaster cattle and also raises commercial mother cows and yearlings. Chico Basin is known for its embrace and advocacy of sustainable land management practices. Each year, it welcomes more than 3,000 visitors, who come to learn about everything from range monitoring to photography — all while getting a taste of what life is like on an authentic working ranch.
  • SLW Ranch — As one of the oldest family-run ranches in the country, SLW Ranch in Greely has been managed by the Studebaker, Lamb and Witwer families since the late 1800s. At its historical peak, the ranch was one of the largest in the country, at over 22,000 acres. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and named a Centennial Ranch by the Colorado Historical Society, SLW Ranch has been raising cattle exclusively since 1913. Amazingly, the ranch is still in operation today. It’s said to be home to the oldest registered Hereford herd in the country.

Each of these ranches has its own unique history and focus. Like any other agricultural operation, the best cattle ranches in Colorado rely on sophisticated equipment to keep stocks healthy and safe. To learn about the various ways Arrowquip products are helping Colorado farmers and ranchers, take a look at our product lines or contact one of our experts today.

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