Natural Beef Program


Natural_BeefSanta Margarita Ranch is one of the oldest continuously operated cattle ranches in the state of California, dating back to the 18th century Mission era when beef cattle were introduced to the area by Franciscan missionaries.

Today, Santa Margarita Ranch continues this tradition with its commercial cow calf operation, natural beef program and sustainable ranching practices.

Two of Santa Margarita Ranch’s three owners, Doug Filipponi and Karl Wittstrom (pictured here with Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins), are longtime local ranchers who oversee the ranch’s cattle operations. The young steers raised at Santa Margarita Ranch are sold to the renowned Harris Ranch. Santa Margarita Ranch belongs to Harris Ranch’s Natural Beef Program and Partnership for Quality.

Jeff McKee, who manages the daily ranching duties at Santa Margarita Ranch, practices low-stress, natural handling without usage of antibiotics or growth hormones. McKee also employs rotational “pulse” grazing with an emphasis on conservation and progressive rangeland management. The cattle act as a resource for nurturing the natural habitat, keeping noxious invasive weeds out of riparian areas and fostering a more native environment and wildlife corridor.

Creeping Wild Rye, Slender Wheatgrass, Purple Needlegrass and Danthonia Oatgrass are some of the native grasses that are re-establishing themselves as a result of the progressive rangeland management practices employed by the ranch throughout the last decade.

These same practices have resulted in a proliferation of young native oak trees. Santa Margarita Ranch’s conservation practices have also been used to demonstrate the effectiveness of good rangeland management practices in numerous USDA seminars.