High Tide Ranch is home to Larry and Mary Kay Monger who have lived on this property for over 25 years. It sits underneath Elk Mountain, also known as Sleeping Giant, in the lower Elk River Valley about 10 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs. The ranch is a working cattle ranch and has been for over 100 years. Larry’s family homesteaded at the base of Elk Mountain in the early 1900’s. It began as a small sheep ranch and evolved into a cattle ranch when Larry’s dad took it over. Larry and Mary Kay started into the cattle business by managing an Uncle’s cattle ranch, and upon Larry’s dad’s retirement, they bought his cattle and began the High Tide Ranch using the family’s property.
The ranch is a cow/calf operation that keeps the couple busy all year long. The cattle are split in 2 groups with one group at the Carpenter Ranch in Hayden owned by the Nature Conservancy. They are overseen by the ranch manager there. The other half are kept down on the hay meadows during the winter so that they can be fed hay daily. Larry uses his four-wheel drive John Deere tractor and a hay grinder to feed 150 head of cattle approximately 4 tons of hay daily. When March rolls around it is calving season, and Larry and Mary Kay take turns checking the cows on the four-wheeler to see if any are in need of help. Most cows are able to calve on their own and do not require any assistance, but some younger cows will need to be brought into the barn and helped along. When calving is done, branding day gives each calf an “H-connected-T” brand (required by state law) and a dose of immunizations.
When all the snow is gone from the upper hills, the cows are rounded up and herded to those pastures where they will remain until late fall. During this time, the bulls are turned out with them. They are only left in for a couple months to ensure that all calves are born within the same time period. The cattle are no longer the main concern in the summer; it’s hay season.
Hay season starts as soon as the cows get off the hay meadows. The cows are great fertilizers, and the natural fertilizer is spread around with a harrow. The hay meadows are irrigated with water diverted from the Elk River, and in mid July Larry tunes up all the hay equipment, and Mary Kay starts cutting the hay on her swather. The couple put up about 800 ton of hay each summer.
Fall brings the selling of the calves. Nearly 550 pounds, they are weaned off the mother cows and sold. The bulls are taken to a separate pasture of their own, and the pregnant cows are put back onto the hay meadows for winter. And the cycle starts again.