Georgia Cattlemen Tour Hawaii Ranches

Dan Cattle, Georgia, Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (GCA)

Keoki Wood with Parker Ranch talking to the GCA tour group

By Southeast AgNet’s Randall Weiseman


The Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (GCA) took a group of producers on a tour of a lifetime to Hawaii earlier this month. Those on this venture were able to see a unique segment of the cattle industry in that state, which as we found out, is a bit different from what most of us are accustomed to seeing here.

While the overall schedule did allow time for stops at tourist attractions like Pearl Harbor and theHawaii Volcanoes National Park, the main reason for the trip was to view cattle operations in the middle of the Pacific. It covered two islands,Oahu and Hawaii Island.

Dale Sandlin
GCA Executive Vice President

Georgia Cattlemen’s Association (GCA) Executive Vice President, Dale Sandlin, was the main driver behind this tour. Before coming to Georgia, he served as Managing Director of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, and thus was very familiar with the aspects and people of the ranches we toured. Once we were back home, I talked with Dale about the trip and what all it involved.

Kualoa Ranch

The first ranch we toured was Kualoa Ranch on Oahu, where we were treated to seeing not only cattle, but also sheep, pigs and the various crops they grow. But, we were also treated to a tour of where many movies and TV shows have spent time filming. Big hits like Jurassic Park and Kong: Skull Island chose this ranch to shoot certain scenes.

David Morgan talks to GCA Tour group.

I had a chance to talk with one of the owners of the ranch, David Morgan, who explained what all they raise and how fortunate they are to be in an area that is an attraction for many in the movie and TV industry.

Representative Richard Onishi (D-HI-003)

After that ranch tour we stopped by the Hawaii State Capitol and met with Rep. Richard Onishi. He gave us a tour of the building and explained some of the issues they have been dealing with on the legislative front there.

Kapapala Ranch
Lani & Bill Petrie

The next ranch stops were all on Hawaii Island, with the first being the Kapapala Ranch. It started back in 1817 and is currently operated by Lani & Bill Petrie.

Lani’s parents came to the ranch in the 1950’s, and they took it over in 1977. After repairing many rundown aspects of it, a few more acres were added and the ranch today consists of 34,000 acres, or 51 square miles. As a matter of fact, a small plane is a part of their ranch equipment as they fly over it each day to check on their herd. I talked with Lani about their operation.

Ponoholo Ranch
Sabrina and Chris English

Our next tour was of Ponoholo Ranch.The owners are Sabrina and Chris English, as the ranch was purchased by her family in 1928. Like many cattle ranches in Hawaii, it runs along the side of a mountain. 10 miles long, but wider at the top. Both the upper and lower country consists of a total of 11,000 acres.

Pukalani Stables/Paniolo Hall of Fame
Tim Richards and Lisa Wood

Our next stop was at Pukalani Stables/Paniolo Hall of Fame. While there we met with two veterinarians, Tim Richards and Lisa Wood with Vet Associates/Cattle Producers Coop. They discussed a variety of issues that cattle ranchers in Hawaii face. Richards is also a County Councilman and I talked with him about some of those challenges.

Palani Ranch in Kona
Jimmy Greenwell

Another stop was at Palani Ranch in Kona, where we talked to Jimmy Greenwell, who actually is a retired cattle rancher. But he explained a lot about the Hawaiian Islands, how they formed at different times and thus have a bit different soils and a few different issues. But their family ranch was converted from 80-100 head to 3 herds of about 350 head.

McCandless Ranch
Keith Unger

Our next tour was at McCandless Ranch, run by Keith and Cynda Unger. Her family has been on the ranch since1915, and it consisted of 60,000 acres. In the early 90’s, the ranch was split and the Unger’s now work with 15,000 acres.

Sunset at McCandless Ranch

That evening, their family treated us all to a Luau on Ho’okena Beach, which is at the base of their ranch. And the meal featured wild cow burgers. I was able to talk to Keith about their ranch and about the wild cows which they see quite often.

Parker Ranch

Our last day in Hawaii was spent touring Parker Ranch, a cattle operation that many have heard about. The ranch, which was established in 1847, is currently owned by a trust and consists of 130,000 acres.

In August last year, over 30,000 acres of the ranch burned during a wildfire creating various challenges. Cattle had to be moved to other areas of ranch and neighboring ranches.

I talked with Parker Ranch Livestock Operations Manager Keoki Wood. He talked about that fire along with explaining some of the aspects of the well-known ranch. He also went into a little more depth about how weaned calves are shipped back to the mainland in specially built pods.

Keoki Wood and Jennifer Houston

One thing our group noticed on Hawaii ranches is the fact tractors are not something you see much of. Cattle of course are grass fed, and thus no hay fields and no hay equipment is needed on those ranches. Setting fence posts is somewhat of a challenge, but as one rancher told us that’s where a jackhammer comes in.

One of those able to take part in this Hawaii tour was Jennifer Houston from Sweetwater, Tennessee. Jennifer is a past National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President, and she and I talked about the trip and what she learned about ranching in that state.

To learn more about the cattle industry in Hawaii view videos provided by the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council on their website, www.hicattle.org/our-island-industry.

But in closing, all of us who were able to take part in this fantastic trip want to thank GCA Executive Vice President Dale Sandlin for all of his efforts in setting this all up. We also want to thank his wife, M’Randa for passing along her knowledge of Hawaii traditions and also GCA staff members Taylor Evans and Taylor Pearce who helped all of us get to where we needed to be to enjoy the many aspects of this once in a lifetime trip.