Escuela and Walters Ranches are located approximately 8 miles North
of the Cal Poly campus on the East side of Highway 1. The ranches
consist of 2,562 acres of native rangeland. Escuela and Walters
Ranches were acquired by Cal Poly in different land parcels.
Ranch (Spanish for "school") was the first parcel of land
obtained by Cal Poly. It is approximately 1,819 acres. When it was
first acquired by Cal Poly in 1968, Escuela Ranch was essentially
open rangeland. It was quickly improved by the Cal Poly Foundation
with the addition of ranch facilities that were installed between
1969 and 1978. These facilities included a cattle working corral
complex, a livestock scale, a classroom, equipment and feed storage
sheds. Escuela Ranch is still used every year for a Commercial Cow/Calf
Student Enterprise Project. It provides vital land for students
to experience hands-on learning.
student enterprise cattle roundup at Escuela Ranch in 1962.
Poly acquired the second and final parcel of land in January 1982,
with the addition of 743 acres. This land was named "Walters
Ranch" after a prominent County family of Charles Walter. So
far, the sole use of this land has been for cattle grazing. The
ranch is used for forage for the Escuela Cow/Calf Enterprise project,
as well as for other Foundation beef cattle.
the past ten years, the Walters Ranch has been a control site for
the Paired Watershed Study to research the effects of different
grazing management techniques on the Morro Bay Estuary. Now that
the study is concluded, Cal Poly has been awarded two grants to
enhance water quality and environmental sustainability on Cal Poly
land. One of the grants comes from the California Fish and Game
department and the other is from the Morro
Bay National Estuary Program. This grant was provided so that
Cal Poly could make corrections and assure that the water flowing
off of the ranches into Morro Bay is clean and not contaminated.
In addition to water quality advancements, the Agriculture Departments
main goal with the use of these grants is to develop an intensive
grazing operation. This is a management operation in which the cattle
are exposed to small area pastures for a short period of time. Intensive
grazing is meant to prevent overgrazing on land while still allowing
the animal full benefit from the feed. This management style is
thought to be the most environmental way to graze animals, in that
it can benefit the land when used correctly, and also allow the
producer to profit off of the animals. Intensive grazing is meant
to provide healthier soil which in turn will prevent water runoff
to Morro Bay as well as create cleaner water.
enterprise project occurs year-round on the Escuela and Walters
Ranches. This project is entirely run by students with a faculty
advisor overseeing the operation. The Escuela Enterprise allows
students the opportunity to gain experience managing a commercial
cattle operation for an entire production cycle. Students begin
by developing a budget and then must make management decisions in
relation to feeding, breeding, marketing, and range management in
accordance with the budget. During the extent of this project, the
cows and heifers are bred by artificial insemination. The females
then go through gestation and calve approximately nine months later.
The calves and their mothers are free grazed on pasture. The students
on this project are in charge of making sure there are no calving
difficulties among the animals and that the calves remain healthy.
Once the calves reach an adequate weight, they are weaned from their
mothers. The calves are then kept or sold to another rancher who
will feed the calves while they grow further. The Escuela Enterprise
is the culminating enterprise of a student's participation in the
Beef Program and is reserved for juniors and seniors. For more information
on this project, please visit the Cal Poly Animal Science web site:
Escuela Ranch is also home to the Pennington Creek 200 acre Biological
Preserve. This is a preserve utilized by the Biological Sciences
Department. It provides students with the opportunity near campus
to study plants, insects, wildlife and soil without the disruption
of cattle and other intense animals. This site has also been the
source of many senior projects by biology students. There have been
senior projects done on the distribution of rare and endangered
plants, the plant communities of Escuela Ranch, and the birds of
Escuela Ranch. For more information on this valuable preserve, please
visit the Biological Sciences Website by clicking here.
view of Escuela Ranch in 1978.