Windswept Ranch owners say they care about the tenderness and flavor of their beef
WALNUT GROVE, MO. – The beautiful Windswept Ranch is owned and operated by Vern Pugh and Dale Baltrus. Located in rural Walnut Grove, Mo., the picturesque 61-acre property is the culmination the couple’s dreams, months of planning and hard work.
Retired therapist Vern and his wife Dale, a retired pharmacy manager, dedicated their careers to helping people in the community. Today, they raise the finest registered Irish Dexter cattle; a taste that will “knock your socks off.”
Originally a hobby for the couple it, quickly became their passion. They took possession of the ranch in October 2020. It was a family farm that had fallen into disrepair after the original owners passed away and no family members were interested in farming. Their new ranch home is currently under construction.
“I love the life,” Dale said.
Windswept Ranch’s growth resulted in the move to Walnut Grove. They filled their original 15-acre property with cattle in Willard, Mo. They then purchased another 10-acres and filled that as well. They bought an additional 20-acres in Halltown, Mo., which gave them sufficient acreage, but the logistics became a nightmare.
“We had a talk and started looking for property. We looked for three or four months when we found this place. It was in the Sellers family for years when grandma and grandpa died. It had fallen into a whole lot of disrepair. The old barn and house was a mess. The first thing we did was put up a new barn. That took about four days for the Amish crew,” Vern explained.
The old perimeter fencing wouldn’t hold cattle so it was taken down. They had a crew working with a bulldozer and a track loader part time, for five months. They took out islands of trees and pushed back the woods. They eventually put in 12,000 feet of fencing, working pens, a main corral and four movable corrals.
The inception of Windswept Ranch began in 2015 when the couple purchased three Dexters from Vern’s uncle Kelvin Camerer. Neither Vern nor Dale grew up on a farm however, Vern spent time on his uncle’s ranch in New Mexico working Chianina cattle and feeder calves. They chose Irish Dexters because of their docility and quality beef.
“We care about how your beef tastes, how tender and how flavorful it is. We insist on good beef for our table. That’s why we raise and sell Irish Dexters. When I tasted Dexter for the first time, it literally blew my socks off,” Vern said.
They utilize summer and winter pastures for rotational grazing. Their breeding program is natural coverage. Spring calving is their goal. Their bull, Romeo, purchased at 8 months old, came from Wyoming, and has given them many heifers. He is now 5 1/2 years old and has been breeding since he was 14-months. Romeo was recently sold and his half-brother Ringo will now take over as the herd sire. They use no steroids or antibiotics in finishing their cattle for beef.
“The use of antibiotics doesn’t happen very often, unless one is sick but that is very rare. Simply pasture raised and grain finished,” Dale noted.
Windswept Ranch, is home of Irish Dexter Gourmet Beef. Because of the quality, it’s gourmet. It doesn’t have to be USDA Prime to be gourmet. The three T’s of taste competition, taste, tenderness and texture make it gourmet. Irish Dexter won the American Royal grass-fed steak competition in 2020. It’s not the same as the large muscled commercial beef that comes from a feedlot and is given an implant for unnatural growth. It is pasture raised and the only thing added is grain, grass and water. They use all custom processing at Small Town Boucherie near Fair Grove, Mo.
“Our customers always say the meat is red and there isn’t all the water and fat in the pan,” Dale added.
Vern is not a proponent of commercial cattle or feedlots however, he agrees that someone has to feed America, so there it is. It takes two full years to raise one of his 800-pound steers, verses the 16 to 18 months for 1,200- to 1,400-pound commercial steer from a feedlot. The big steer is a big muscled, average tasting animal.
Windswept Ranch beef is high in Omega-3 fat, much like salmon. The smaller size of Irish Dexters mean the meat is naturally tender due to small muscle mass and meat fiber.
“When Dexter is finished properly, it grades USDA Choice. It’s not the fat that makes it tender, it’s the smaller muscle fiber. The meat has a very fine texture because of the smaller meat fibers. It’s taste is described as big, beefy and lingers on your tongue taste that doesn’t go away when you swallow. It’s just phenomenal beef,” Vern stated.
They sell about 30 steer per year, primarily through social media.
Vern and Dale’s bucket list for the future includes re-starting farm-to-table dinners on the large decks of their home. They held two previous dinners that went very well. They have wait staff and a private chef Aaron Brooks, who comes out to the ranch two days prior to the dinner to prepare all the food. There have been no dinners since COVID. Hopefully, soon they can start again.
Sometime later this year, Vern and Dale are planning a Windswept Ranch open house jamboree to celebrate this new phase of their lives. Complete with ranch tours, Dexter burgers and Dexter brats. They will be giving a quarter beef to a quest.