Cold Creek Ranch is a 12,000-acre operation split between the western side of the Lower San Pedro River Valley and the Mogollon Rim along the New Mexico border. As an AWA source farm for beef cattle, Cold Creek Ranch is approved to raise and sell cattle to other AWA-certified farms.
Paul and Sarah Schwennesen returned to Arizona to work on the family’s cattle ranch in 2006 after 10 years in the U.S. Air Force. Paul had grown up on a cattle ranch, whereas Sarah was raised in the suburbs, but when they decided to return to the ranch they both felt it was important to raise their animals according to the highest welfare standards. Paul’s parents, Eric and Jean, had been running a grassfed operation since 1996 and it was Sarah who encouraged them to seek AWA certification for the feeder cattle that they raised on rangeland. Sarah says, “Paul’s parents didn’t need to change a thing, but it’s useful to have an independent third-party tell us that we’re doing the right thing.”
Since Sarah, Paul, and their three children, Katherine, Timothy and Anne, returned to the ranch, Eric and Jean have turned their focus to managing the land and their Brangus cattle herd, while Sarah and Paul’s attention is on the business’s viability and marketing. In addition to their emphasis on high welfare methods for managing their cattle, the family also believes that managing the ranch’s environment appropriately can restore biodiversity and repair degraded land. “We have a biological plan to manage our land holistically,” Sarah explains. “All our decisions are goal driven to ensure that they are socially, economically and environmentally sound. We are dedicated to improving our watersheds, our animals’ lives, and the connection between urban consumers and rural producers.” The health of the ranch’s ecosystem is evident in the presence of mule deer, javelina, quail, rabbits and rattlesnakes, as well as coyotes, bobcats, and the occasional mountain lion.
In addition to the feeder cattle that Eric and Jean raise, Paul and Sarah operate an AWA-reviewed, state-inspected slaughter plant on the ranch. They look forward to the day when all the cattle finished and processed on the ranch come from AWA farms and will carry the AWA label.