“Hawai’ian tree” saddles are built on A-fork
trees with all leather and rawhide pieces
removable for replacement, because it quickly
molds in the wet environment. They are stored
hanging because rats eat the saddle leather
and rawhide. Saddles do not have sheepskin
because the wet environment makes it moldy.
The Kealia Ranch is all about lava,
home-grown horses, good cattle,
grass and adapting… Hawai’i-style
Beach trippers know Hawai’i for its surf and tropical fl owers. The
same mild island climate that attracts tourists is also conducive to
cattle ranching: cattle rank as the state’s third largest commodity.
Raising cattle on an island limits market access, but an advantage
is year-around grazing. In 1915, the McCandless family established
the Kealia Ranch — now owned by descendant Elizabeth Stack —
near Captain Cook in the Kona region of the Big Island.
Volcanoes raise the Big Island from the ocean. The ground consists of
solid ‘A’ă and Păhoehoe lava. Trees and plants tenuously grow from decayed
organic matter caught in lava crevices. Most of the island’s plants are
non-native. The African kikuyu grass grazed by Kealia cattle is a non-native
18-percent protein tropical forage planted for domestic cattle grazing.
The 10,000-acre ranch gains 7,000 feet in elevation in its 10-mile stretch
from ocean to mountain summit. The country is steep and lava rough.
Horses must be shod at all times. “Everybody learns to shoe their own
horses,” says Sara Moore, Kealia Ranch manager. “We carry nails and shoes
on our saddles. Because if you lose a shoe out in the fi eld, you’re pretty
STORY AND PHOTOS BY MELISSA HEMKEN
70 I WORKING RANCH I JUNE / JULY 2019