In Short

Baker City feedlot hopes to expand operation to 15,000 cows

By: - November 17, 2021 12:01 pm
Oregon cattle grazing

A grant to Sustainable Northwest will fund the first regenerative ranching program in the West. (David Zaitz/Special to Oregon Capital Chronicle)

A Baker City feedlot that currently manages fewer than 3,000 head of cattle is seeking permission from the state to expand to 15,000.

The expansion would require approval of a new Confined Animal Feeding Operation permit through the Oregon Department of Agriculture. CAFO permits specify the number of animals a company can have in one location and requires a plan for managing manure. 

Baker City Cattle Feeders currently operates under a CAFO permit that allows up to 3,499 cattle. The next step is a Large Tier II permit, allowing 3,500 cows and more.

The Agriculture Department notified the public earlier this year about the proposed change. A spokesperson said the department has no position on the request. The public can comment on the request by emailing [email protected], calling 503-986-4792 or faxing 503-986-4730.

Such permits can be controversial, especially if neighbors are worried about manure running into waterways. A plan for a large chicken operation for 3.5 million animals a year to be sold to Foster Farms has sparked criticism, with dozens of people commenting on the proposal. It would be located near the Santiam River near Scio.

The Baker City proposal has yet to draw much attention from advocates for small farms. 

John Hepton, who operates the feedlot, told the Capital Chronicle in an email that all of the manure from the cattle will be sold to local farmers.

“We have more demand for the organic nutrients in our manure than we could ever produce with the expansion,” Hepton wrote.

He said the feedlot receives recently weaned calves and feeds them through the fall, winter and into the spring to “develop replacement heifers for local farmers and ranchers.”

There are currently 70 ranches, dairy farms, feedlots and other operations in Oregon with CAFO Tier I permits. They allow up to nearly 125,000 chickens, nearly 40,000 sheep and up to about 30,000 pigs depending on the weight. Another 35 companies have Tier II permits.


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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry, who has more than 30 years of journalism experience, is Oregon Capital Chronicle's editor-in-chief. She previously was editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site; reported on health in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio.