Rancho Mission Viejo is a working cattle ranch where sustainable ranching practices are based on the practical blending of modern science and historic land use management.
During different times of the year, hundreds of cattle can be roaming the hillsides and valleys of Rancho Mission Viejo. Under a rotational grazing practice, the herd is moved frequently, through smaller controlled areas. This effort helps prevent over-grazing and promotes a natural grassland regeneration process which also prevents erosion. More specifically, by concentrating a larger herd in a smaller area, cattle hooves help to break both the soil and dead plants. What occurs is a more natural form of composting. As the seasonal rains occur and natural moisture is collected in the grazed areas, seeds are germinated, new plants grow and the native grasses are restored.
As a result of these and other sustainable ranching practices, the Rancho Mission Viejo ranchlands have increased in biomass and diversity available for other species. Today, teams of scientists often gather on the ranchlands within The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo to study The Ranch family’s model of responsible ranching and common-sense conservation.
While the land is the soul of the O’Neill/Avery/Moiso family, Cow Camp is the family’s ranching heart. All ranching operations are coordinated at Cow Camp, home to vaqueros and their families and a protected place of horse pastures, row crops, the tack room, and large corrals. Although not open to the general public, Cow Camp is the place for ranch hands to gather at dawn for the day’s assignments and then return at dusk to review the day’s events. It also is the place where, each spring, as it has happened for more than 130 years, cowboys help the family gather and brand the annual calf crop with the “Rafter M” brand. Cow Camp is a site of great heritage and a special place to be forever preserved.