Taking the bull by the horns: Tinian seeking to revitalize cattle industry

Currently, there are about 1,500 to 1,700 heads of cattle in different ranches on Tinian. Photo courtesy of USDA

Saipan— In the 1960s, Tinian was known as the “bread basket of the Marianas.” The island had several ranches and farms owned and operated by locals. Cattle, livestock and crops were distributed for local consumption and, if there was enough, sold to Guam and Saipan.

One of the big ranches on Tinian during that time was called the Bar K Ranch, owned by the late businessman Kenneth Thomas Jones Jr., who imported cows from New Zealand and had them breed with cattle from Tinian and Rota. Bar K Ranch had good machinery to operate because it had its own veterinarians and pharmacy. The ranch, which produced its own feeds for its livestock, was the first U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved slaughterhouse outside of the mainland United States.

The cattle industry was briefly interrupted when the $250-million Tinian Dynasty was built on this sleepy island in 1998. Until the China-owned casino facility went bankrupt and shut down in 2016, Tinian was branded as a gaming destination for Asian gamblers.

The CNMI Senate is now pushing for Tinian’s economic progress and part of the strategy is to revitalize the island’s cattle industry.

While the Bar K Ranch does not exist anymore, the residents who used to work there continued to raise cattle and manage their own farms up to this day.

Sen. Jude Hofschneider of Tinian said his office, in conjunction with the municipal leadership, has teamed up with the Cooperative Research Extension and Educational Services and Commonwealth Development Authority to get Tinian’s modular slaughterhouse certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.