SILVERTHORNE, Colo. — The hands and managers at Maryland Creek Ranch are watching their expecting mothers around the clock, as the historic cattle ranch in northern Silverthorne can’t afford to lose a single head.
Resting on roughly 1,200 acres along Highway 9 and Maryland Creek, the working ranch has buildings dating back to the 1800s on the property.
The ranch is just now coming out of the spring calving season, when the herd re-ups on its numbers by delivering anywhere from one to two dozen newborns, each representing an investment worth a few thousand dollars.
Naturally, the calves are somewhat clumsy and unable to fend for themselves at such an early stage in life. They would make for a tasty, easy meal for predators such as coyotes and mountain lions.
“You see that AR-15 right there?” asked Leo Causland, who owns High Country Highlands at Maryland Creek Ranch and has a fold of uncommon cattle on the ranch. “That’s what that’s for. We’ve had issues with mountain lions, but we’ve never had to kill one.”
The ranch resides on land owned by Tom Everest and the Everest family while the business aspects are managed by Causland and his partners — Mike Bohrer, Beau Nulik and Renei Bohrer — all of whom are longtime residents of Summit County.
Maryland Creek Ranch stands as one of only a few working ranches that is still breeding, raising and selling cattle as beef in the Blue River Valley. As a point of interest, Causland said the ranch actually has some of the longest-standing water rights in the state.
But it’s far more likely that the cows that grow up on the ranch sandwiched between a plush, residential neighborhood and a mining operation are going to draw the most attention.
That’s because one of the breeds the ranch specializes in — Scottish Highland cattle — is known for having wooly coats and exceptionally long horns. Because the cows’ hides make them look “fuzzy,” some might even think they’re cute, but the breed is rather unique among commercial outfits.
“The knock on the Highlands is that it takes them a little bit longer to mature and get them to market, so our market is completely different than the Angus market,” Causland said.
But the Scottish Highlands also produce better beef products, he said, as he likened the breed of cattle to deer or elk, which rely on heavy fur coats — not fat — to stay warm throughout the winter in colder settings.
“They’re perfectly suited for this environment and that makes them really lean,” Causland said. “We come in 92% lean naturally, so we’re low in fat, low in cholesterol and high in all the good omegas because they’re grass-fed here on the ranch.”
No doubt, the ranch is targeting a niche market with its premium beef. It doesn’t sell for $5 a pound at local grocery stores, but is closer to $8.50 per pound and available at specific locations.
But “the beef is so much better than what you get at the store,” Causland said, adding that it’s produced without any growth hormones or animal byproducts and remains an all-natural product meant for consumers who care about the food they eat.
They have two herds at Maryland Creek Ranch, a fold of Scottish Highland cattle and another herd of a Simmental Angus cross.
The Scottish Highlands tend to be a little smaller than other breeds of cow and will weigh about 1,100-1,200 pounds once fully grown. They come in a variety of colors, and one of this spring’s newborns at the ranch is silver, something that Causland hasn’t seen in about a decade.
Causland’s cows have been displayed at the National Western Stock Show, and they all “have a really good life” at the ranch, he said while he handfed one of the heifers and combed her with a brush.
Reflecting on the business, Causland believes ranching remains an important piece of American history — “part of Americana” — but it’s one that’s slowly fading away with the tide pulling younger generations in different directions.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the business and all the hard work required that has left fewer people wanting to get into it, Causland guessed. Regardless, he said he hopes to keep raising the unique, fuzzy breed of Scottish Highlands at Maryland Creek Ranch for as long as he can.