A Cattle Rancher Bent on a Free Market

Native Oregonian Larry Collver, 60, has been a cattle rancher for 22 years and a homebuilder for most of his life.

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Between his 5-acre ranch in Sheridan, Oregon, a 35-acre ranch in Yamhill, and a 150-acre ranch in Tygh Valley (south of the Dalles), he typically has 100 cows each year who give birth to 20-30 heifers, which he then sells as breeding stock.

He also partners with a feedlot in Incheon, South Korea, and exports horses and horse-related agricultural products to South Korea, which has a thriving horse racing circuit.

Collver rises at dawn to feed the cattle, rides a Harley, raises money for the Children’s Cancer Association, and can hit a horse’s jugular (with an IV sedative) with his eyes closed.

Trump’s business background and his promise to relax regulations for businesses were major selling points for Collver.

“He’s run his own business. Anybody who has done that — whether it’s a lemonade stand on the corner or some 150-employee company — understands how to run the government,” he said.

Collver’s opinions about the role government should play were cementedby a frustrating 2003 run-in with government regulations as he tried to ship 800-some cattle from Oregon to Incheon, by way of Idaho. Though this was 14 years ago, it has shaped Collver’s perspective of government overreach ever since. 

“I almost lost 1.5 million dollars because of all the bureaucracy,” he said.

He had quarantined the cattle for the required 120 days in Idaho, where they were raised, and put them on sealed trucks headed for the Port of The Dalles. But the USDA inspector at the Port at the time insisted that all 851 cattle be re-quarantined because they were crossing a state border.

He forced Collver to off-load the cattle and hold them in tents for a day. During this time, eight cattle contracted “bluetongue,” an insect-borne viral disease, and had to be euthanized. In the end, the episode cost Collver over $100,000.

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Jana Webb and her husband Rocky ran the auction yard in The Dalles where the cattle were quarantined back in 2003 and she remembers the incident vividly.

“It was ridiculous to have to unload them and put them out in the heat,” she says. “It was very stressful for them to go through with this. They had to be on concrete! We had to put tents up, and it was hotter than heck!”

The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service inspector at the time, Dr. David P. Silberman, has long since retired.

But according to Pam Manns, spokesperson for APHIS in Washington, D.C., current regulations only require that cattle headed for Korea be isolated for 30 days. She guessed that in 2003 there may have been interstate quarantine rules that Silberman had to follow.

Collver’s cattle made it to South Korea, but just barely. Soon thereafter, a Washington state Holstein tested positive for mad cow disease, and South Korea banned all U.S. beef imports. But even after South Korea allowed U.S. beef imports again in 2008, Collver had soured on shipping cattle from Oregon to South Korea.

“I can’t guarantee that we won’t have a foul-up in shipment because of some bureaucratic knucklehead,” he said.

“What I’m doing now — and it’s an absolute shame — is I’m buying all my cattle from Australia.” Collver now buys steer calves in Australia and then ships them to South Korea, where they are fed out until they’re ready to process for the South Korea market.

According to Julie Hoffman at the Oregon Beef Council, it’s fairly unusual to export live animals this way. Most Oregon ranchers sell their cattle to a processor in the U.S. that processes the beef and then exports it.

This article is one in a series of profiles about Oregon ranchers and the Trump Administration.