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Texas Beef & What Cowboys Do

Visitors from Pennsylvania once asked my husband, “Are cowboys real?”

The answer is yes! Cowboys and cowgirls are not mystical legends  manufactured and once  glamorized by Hollywood. They still work and ride on today’s modern ranches.

Every successful cow-calf operation or beef producer relies on men and women with skills and horses, and these punchers are good at what they do, as most have been “day workin'” their whole lives.

The herd of mama cows are the cornerstone and the bulls are the future of a successful ranching operation, and keeping our livestock healthy is a priority. Cows can get cuts, pink eye, infections, or split hooves. A man on foot or on a 4-wheeler can’t drive a sick 1500 pound Black Angus across miles of grass into a pen without frightening an already scared animal and risking more injury. A confident cowboy on a well-trained horse is invaluable at getting the job done while maintaining calm and order.

Any cow or calf with health issues is pulled from our all-natural program, and identified by removing the ear tag and cutting a small notch cut in one ear. Come fall shipping, a profitable calf crop allows us to operate for another year and giving us the ability to support the families we rely on to stay in business.

The question always comes up about overgrazing and concerns that cows are bad for our planet. Why would we destroy the very land that provides our livelihood? Cows turn what humans can’t eat into protein. Much of agriculture byproducts are not for human consumption. We rely on the natural grass to feed our herds, and we manage those grasslands to the best of our ability. Blessed with sunshine and rain, the pastures of central United States provides nutrition for a wide-variety of wildlife, not just cows, as it has for centuries.

Trail Driver L. B. Anderson recalls a drive through Kansas in 1874, “on the Ninnisquaw River, I saw more Buffalo than I ever saw anywhere else. As far as the eye could see over the plains was a solid mass of moving buffalo all drifting northward.

Although the massive herds of American Bison are gone, maintaining the grass is a priority for today’s ranchers. On those dry years we cut the numbers of the main herd. On those wetter years, we are able to rebuild the numbers by keeping additional replacement heifers rather than selling them. You would be amazed at how fast the land heals itself from moist winters and wet springs. Our ranch is host to antelope, bobcats, mule deer, cotton-tailed deer, wild turkeys, quail, crane and too many varieties of birds to name here- all relying on the vegetation or seeds of the rolling plains. We are not only owners of the land, we are its caretakers as well. 

We are beef producers, just in the same way that there are others who work at dairies producing milk, corn producers, peanut farms, or fish hatcheries. Growing the food that feeds a planet is a 24/7 job. Rest assured that the nation’s cattle ranchers are passionate about what they do and take their jobs very seriously, ensuring that we produce the best tasting Texas beef possible for consumers.

It’s no myth. Skilled cowboys and cowgirls continue to be essential to the cattle industry. We are blessed with a dedicated, hardworking labor force who understands the importance of what we do. Next time you sit down in front of a plate of food, say a prayer of thanks for that farmer or rancher. We’ll keep working hard for you.

Natalie Bright is the author of “KEEP ‘EM FULL AND KEEP ‘EM ROLLIN’: The All-American Chuck Wagon Cookbook”. With over 100 recipes, cattle drive history, archival photos, and her own Texas ranch photography, you can bring a taste of the old West to your kitchen. Available now for pre-order at all online bookstores. She is also the author of the Trouble in Texas series for middle grade readers and a series of easy readers about rescue horses.

The 2020 pandemic has impacted book publishers in a big way as they struggle to keep their employees safe and adjust production schedules. The release date of KEEP ‘EM FULL has been pushed to spring 2021. If you have already pre-ordered my book, thank you for your support and understanding. If your public library or local museum needs a program about chuck wagons for summer 2021, please let me know. Hopefully, I’ll be traveling and speaking during that time, and I look forward to meeting you!