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Fall Work on a Texas Ranch

Fall Weaning on a Texas Cattle Ranch.

As the leaves turn to Fall colors and the early morning air takes on a crispness, ranch owners are busy gathering herds for Fall weaning and shipping to market. This is the time of year when supply meets demand.

In 1867 Abilene, Kansas provided the first rail head markets, where the deals were made. Buyers for eastern meat packers in Kansas City, St, Louis, and Chicago depended on the men who suffered the long, dusty cattle drives north.

Cattle buyer, Joseph C. McCoy, had an idea, “…to establish a market where at the southern drover and the northern buyer would meet.” He picked the small town of Abilene in Kansas, where the Texas longhorns would trail from the southern ranches. Rail cars carried beef over the Kansas Pacific to the Missouri River for transport to the Hannibul tracks, and then on to Chicago packing houses. What followed were multiple cow towns competing for Texas herds.

Today we have it much easier. Cowboys drive the cattle to ranch headquarters, maybe half a days journey instead of three months. The babies are separated from the herd and fence-lined weaned. Only a seven-strand barbed wire fence separates the pairs, as the calves are weaned on fresh hay and nutritious cake, and some mommas are only a pasture away. This minimizes the frantic mooing between the two groups. Calves will add another 20-40 pounds before shipping.

The auction house representative shoots a video, and they are sold online  where buyers can watch a live-feed in a central location in Fort Worth or from the comfort of their living room via internet. Bids are called in by telephone.  Transport trucks arrive at the ranch on shipping day.

These days a valuable calf crop involves genetics and smart grass management.  The main purpose and business model hasn’t changed in the past 150 years: providing food for a nation of consumers.

Natalie Bright is a blogger, author and speaker. Her fun, historical western TROUBLE IN TEXAS series for middle grades, is a wild west adventure for the entire family, and the RESCUE ANIMAL series features true stories about rescue horses.  Read about Natalie’s grandmother and her cherry salad recipe, selected for “THE WESTERN WRITERS OF AMERICA COOKBOOK: Favorite Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Writing Wisdom” (TwoDot Publishing, June 2017). I you love women’s fiction, her novella is a dark, drama set in Texas 1930’s titled MAGGIE’S BETRAYAL, selected for the anthology, OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66.  Click on the BOOKS tab at the top of the page for more information.