The ZX Ranch in Paisley, Ore., was founded in the 1880s by a prospector named J.D. Coughlin. He acquired the land under the Wetlands Act of Oregon and within 20 years sold the marshy ground to the Kern County Land Company. They spent millions of dollars to drain the Chewaucan Marsh and create an extensive irrigation system, making large-scale hay production a possibility. With hay to feed, the cow herd size quickly grew. By the end of the 1930s, the ranch owned 230,000 acres and leased an additional 1.5 million acres. It is believed that from this time to the mid-1950s, the ranch had a maximum herd size of approximately 30,000 breeding cows.
The story of the brand, however, remains a bit speculative. Mark Williams, the current manager of the ZX, offers his hypothesis:
“The Brattons were the first settlers in this valley and one of their brands was the XYZ,” he says. “A lot of the old ranches around here have simple letter combinations as their brands. There’s also the YZ. I think they just kind of decided to use ZX. It isn’t easy to alter. On the old, old irons, the Z was always smaller than the X.”
During the last century, the ranch has traded hands six times and is currently owned by J.R. Simplot. The acreage sits at 1.3 million acres, with about 80,000 deeded and the rest leased from other private owners, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
In addition to a 200-head remuda, the ZX runs 11,000 head of mother cows, 500 head of bulls, and 9,000 calves, bringing their annual herd size to somewhere around 20,000 beeves.