Chico Basin Ranch

To view entries by location, click on a ranch name: Zapata Ranch // Chico Basin Ranch


The Chico is an 87,000 acre cattle ranch on the eastern plains of Colorado. Its sprawling ranges of short grass and sandsage prairie, spring-fed lakes, and creeks are home to diverse populations of birds, pronghorn, deer, fish, prairie dogs, coyote, badgers, and much more. Owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed by Ranchlands, the Chico also offers education, farming, recreation, sporting, arts, and hospitality programs.

May 3, 2014

Like Family

To look at these three amigos you would think that they were siblings of some kind.  Truth is they are not.  One of them isn’t even a Quarter Horse (she’s a Foxtrotter).    Never the less they have found each other, and as often as not can be found hanging out together.  It is pretty common, paints with paints, roans with roans, sorrels with sorrels, not so different than a lot of people you may have known, pretty surface level stuff.

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May 2, 2014

Heifer Checks

During calving season part of our daily routine is riding through the first calf heifers. These cattle are two year old females having their first calf, which means that they are very inexperienced and might not be completely ready to give birth. To counter this we put them in the pastures with the best feed and keep tabs on their progress. Twice a day someone rides among them looking for any animals that might be having a difficult delivery. I

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April 30, 2014

Glossy vs. White-faced Ibis

Ibis must be ancient flying dinosaurs.  They look out of place wherever I see them.  Two look alike species often occur together in migration and they hybridize with increasing frequency.  To separate the eastern Glossy Ibis from the western species, White-faced Ibis, first look at the feathering around the eyes.  If you see narrow bluish or blue-white narrow feathers around the eye but not encircling it, you spotted the rare Glossy Ibis.  Check the eyes, they should be brown, not red,

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April 29, 2014

White-eyed Vireo – a rarity

My nemisis Chico bird, White-eyed Vireo, is an aptly named eastern species that prefers dense woodland scrub. Finally, I caught up to the one found this morning at the headquarters willows below the small pond where lots of visiting birders were able to see it actively foraging. Although this bird was not singing, their song is very distinctive. In the U.S. there are 15 vireo species all in the same genus, Vireo, so the common name and the genus name is the

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April 28, 2014

Tools of the Trade

Every profession has tools to do the job correctly. Some kits are more elaborate and some more simple. However, ranchers seem to have tools for everything and the kit is always changing. The machine pictured rolls old barbed wire into perfect spools that are easily managed and disposed. It’s a fairly simple machine that is driven by hydraulics from the tractor and what can go wrong, will go wrong. We spent a few hours repairing the line and adjusting the

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April 25, 2014

Branding and Goodbyes

We had our first branding of the season last week. It was great getting everyone together again for the annual work. Here, Stuart is preparing the coals of the leftover branding fire in order to heat up the beans and tortillas for lunch. It was also Stuart’s last branding at the Chico before he moves up to Montana. We sure will miss him- always great to be around in work and play.

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April 24, 2014

Big Foot

We run our horses barefoot here on the Chico.  We have almost no rock and a horse’s foot is actually a lot healthier without a piece of iron interfering with flexion and its natural wear and movement.  Wild horses can get by with no hoof care at all of course, but domesticated horses generally need to be trimmed periodically to stay healthy.  It is a job I actually enjoy (beats shoeing), but it is hard work. I trimmed several hoses

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April 23, 2014


My dad and I were in New York last weekend to see the premier of Duke and the Buffalo at the Tribeca Film Festival. It’s a film that we produced with a good friend about our annual bison gather and how bison play into the running of our operation. It was really cool to see it on the big screen, and be able to chat with a few people afterwards about it.

We also got to wander around the city and

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April 19, 2014

First Tag of the Year

I spent a little time this week getting caught up on tagging the calves of our Beefmaster heifers.  We do not tag our commercial calves, but with our seedstock herd we need to be able to keep track of individual animals in regards to parentage and general performance criteria.  Most of the Beefmaster calves will be tagged at branding, but with those belonging to the first calf heifers it is easy to get it done as they are born, since

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April 17, 2014


We’ve been on the hunt for a tannery for the Mercantile leather goods and had a chance last week to visit Horween.

Horween has been around since 1905 and is a family-run business, and still is to this day. They’ve survived all kinds of ups and downs and remain the only tannery in Chicago, that used to be booming with as many as 40 tanneries at one point.

Horween has a cool history and timeline on their website with one of

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