comparison between modern-day ranching practices and equipment with that of yesterday
shows a marked difference. Today we see modern vehicles of all sizes, carrying
all sizes of loads at almost any speed desired and done in great comfort, almost
a miracle when compared to wagons.|
Cow trails, wagon ruts and rough surfaces
have been replaced by graded dirt roads, caliche surfaces, farm-to-market and
state highway pavements.
Cellphones, pagers and emails have replaced the
old crank telephones sending out their messages along the top
wire of barbed wire fences. The U.S. Mail is delivered six days a week right
to your mailbox.
Corrals, scales, loading chutes and double-deck trucks
have replaced the old trail drives across country to the nearest railroad loading
pens. Cattle trading involving “spit and whittle” sessions where all sharpened
their stub pencils and “figured” on the wooden saddle house door have been replaced
by sale rings, video auctions and protection on the future’s market.
once upon a time, not so long ago, all these things were nonexistent.
we had approximately the same amount of livestock running on the same acreage,
and we thought we were doing just fine. How did we do it?
For one thing,
we had more old cowmen in those days.
A real cowman tends to his livestock
first before he does anything else.
Many who tend livestock today, do
everything else first then tend their livestock last almost as an afterthought.
Probably the greatest difference in ranching of yesterday and today lies
in the winter feeding practices.
Today, huge trucks deliver formulated
feed to ranch-located overhead feed storage bins, to be dumped into automatic
feed dispensers mounted on pickups.
Merely call the livestock together,
drive slowly pushing the button and disperse the proper amount of feed.
first winter feed introduced in the past was cottonseed leavings, pressed into
huge chunks that had to be broken up with an axe or hammer before feeding. Next
came cattle cubes, in which the cottonseed by-products were compressed into bite-sized
cubes then placed into 100-pound gunny sacks for transporting to cake houses,
located on the ranches.
For a short period of time on many large ranches,
wagon or truck loads of cubes were hauled to small remote cake houses located
on the vast lands.
On feed days, a cowboy mounted his horse, rode to these
remote cake houses calling the livestock to follow then scattering his feed from
Another period featured cotton seed meal, the same product ground
into a heavy powder and delivered in sacks to the ranches.
Usually half-barrels or other small wooden troughs were used to mix meal and bulk
loose salt together in a formula to limit intake of the food to prevent overeating.
Where some operators just kept the barrels supplied, the true cowman studied
his grass, noting where areas were not being grazed then moved a meal and salt
barrel to the ungrazed area thus providing better utilization of his land.
required study, time and work, but it no doubt paid off in the amount of profit
made and the protection of the grasslands.
Trew - "It's All Trew" May
23, 2011 column
Topics: Texas Ranching