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Longhorns, llamas & watusi, oh my!
Rolling O Ranch menagerie part of Manteca Ag Tour
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One of the main attractions at the Rolling O Ranch in Manteca is this African watusi recently acquired by rancher Leo Omlin. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Rolling O Ranch in Manteca is home to a menagerie of attractions not found in many farms around the area.

There’s the African watusi, for one, with its distinctive pair of horns which is the latest acquisition of lifelong farmer and Texas longhorn breeder Leo Omlin.

And while his award-winning Big Red, which gave Omlin miles of bragging points when it won the honor of 2007 Horn Showcase Class Champion for having the longest set of horns in the United States, has moved on to another green pasture and a new owner in Oakdale, Rolling O still has about 100 longhorns to delight curious onlookers. Among them are Andy, a black-and-white steer that Omlin is grooming to become Big Red’s successor, and Big John which sports the curliest pair of horns among the steers and is a close ringer to the 2007 champion.

Longhorn Andy won the Grand Champion at the recent California State Fair in Sacramento, while another steer was  Reserve Champion.

But cattle will not be the only show stealers when the 2011 Ag Tour visitors roll into the Rolling O Ranch on Friday, Sept. 9, at around 2:30 p.m. Omlin is proud to point out the other attractions of the four-legged kind at his South Union Road spread. There’s Lover Boy Llama, for example, an extremely people-friendly and gregarious furry pet which is one of a pair that were given to him a few years back by people who did not want them in the farm property that they just purchased. The South American animal was christened by Sharon Lange, a friend of the Omlins who has befriended the tall animal.

Also sharing space at the farm with the longhorns and llamas in peaceful co-existence – and that’s not including the equally lovable guard dogs – are several sheep and goats plus a pair of colorful peacocks.

The longhorns, though, are the stars at the Rolling O Ranch. Omlin has been raising and breeding these hardy and disease-resistant cattle since 1975, selling them to other area farmers and ranchers, some of whom use them for rodeos. Some of his impressive and people-friendly longhorns have also been part of many Ag Day and Farm Day celebrations at various schools in Manteca Unified as well as private schools such as St. Anthony’s School. He has also been tapped to be part of the AgVenture 2011 excursion on Oct. 12 which will be held at the Manteca Unified School District Farm located behind the district office at Louise Avenue and Airport Way. More than 4,000 third graders are expected to take part in this educational tour which will give them a first-hand look at the different farm products grown in the area where they live and how these local-grown crops go from “farm to fork.”

Family farm started by Omlin’s parents in 1934

Cattle rancher Omlin was born in Manteca and grew up at the family farm. He was the younger son of Leo and Hermina Omlin who came to America from Switzerland in 1927 as newlyweds. Like many immigrants from Europe at that time, they did not come to the San Joaquin Valley right away.

“First, they went to Newark and worked there for a while,” said Omlin whose brother, Carl, worked at a sausage plant and drove a school bus for the handicapped before he retired. He now lives in Sacramento.

From Newark, Omlin’s parents moved to Ripon where they started a dairy. In 1934, they moved to Manteca and started the ranch on South Union Road on the corner of Veritas Road. Leo took over the ranch after his parents passed away.

The original farm house where he grew up has been replaced with a more modern home, although the old water tower still stands between the house and the big red barn. Leo and Joleen Omlin have one daughter, Josie, who currently works at Doctors Hospital in Manteca. She graduated from the University of the Pacific and is finishing her master’s degree at California State University, Stanislaus.

The Rolling O Ranch is a veteran of the annual Ag Tour. It has been part of the tour in previous years on two separate occasions. The ranch will be the second to the last stop for the bus that will be carrying the visitors.

The annual ag tour is sponsored this year by the Manteca Visitors Center, South San Joaquin Irrigation District, and Valentine Construction.

Tickets are $30 per person; $20 for members of the Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For tickets and for more information about the tour, call (209) 823-7229 or log on to

Below is the hour-by-house schedule of the day-long ag tour:

•8-8:15 a.m. – meet at Manteca Visitors Center for breakfast and check in, 1422 Grove Avenue at the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley.

•9-9:45 a.m. – Root Farms in Modesto where tour visitors will learn how many varieties of nuts are planted, harvested and classified there. A tour of the orchards will be available with many different samples to taste.

•10 a.m. to noon – Sciabica & Sons in Modesto where the visitors will learn how the Sciabica family keeps its family business a success after over 70 years in the olive oil business.

•12:30-2 p.m. – the 105-year-old Manteca Winery where the group will be served lunch while learning about the story of this local historical point of interest, the new wine bottle labeling, and the ongoing restoration being done by Valentine Construction company, the new owners of the compound (which included the old winery) that was once home to the Celpril seed company.