by Sheldon Grothaus
When people think of Texas, they think cattle. Cattle ranching is the very heart and backbone of Texas itself. The romance of sprawling cattle ranches are painted vividly throughout history. Even the “big screen”, poetry & novels have entertained this passion which once was the way of life. Typically, healthy rolling grassland were the ideal ranch, but often time, in the early days of cattle ranching, one would use the land they had.
However, in today’s world, there is far more in raising cattle than simply sticking them onto a piece of land. A great cattle ranch, and the herd(s) must be consistently, properly and meticulously managed to be a success.
The size of a ranch plays a small part in the success of a cattle operation. With the proper provisions, even a small ranch can be used to raise cattle. But, naturally, the larger the ranch the more profitable the cattle operation can be.
Fencing, pastures, water management and grazing management all play enormous roles in the success of a cattle operation.
Cattle ranchers must be committed to use natural resources wisely. Water management not only includes drinking water for the livestock, but water used to irrigate pastures and grow crops for grazing and feeding. Healthy grassland and water are the most valuable commodities on a ranch.
Early on cattle were bred/modified to best suit the terrain. Whether a rough & rocky terrain or rolling prairie, historically cattle indigenous to certain areas were able to survive, and most often time, thrive on the native grasses and graze.
In Texas as ranches became established and grew, so broadened the markets, it was realized that there was more money to be made and cattle were railed to feedlots out of state to the Midwest and California. Texas seemed naturally a perfect starting point to breed and raise calves because of its milder climate compared to the Great Plain and Northern states.
Calving historically began in late January, this way weaning of calves was completed when the spring/summer pastures were at their healthiest ensuring the calves had a plenteous supply of nutrition.
Today this is still in practice with many cattle ranches; but with the modernization and availability of a vast amount of other resources, cattle are “supplemented” with hay, minerals, and other feeds. Often time cattle are supplemented in time of drought instead of sold or shipped to other parts for grazing.