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  • Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

    A comparison of ranching:
    past and modern days

    by Delbert Trew
    Delbert Trew
    A 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    Cow trails, wagon ruts and rough surfaces have been replaced by graded dirt roads, caliche surfaces, farm-to-market and state highway pavements.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“spit and whittle” sessions where all sharpened their stub pencils and “figured” on the wooden saddle house door have been replaced by sale rings, video auctions and protection on the future’s market.

    But once upon a time, not so long ago, all these things were nonexistent.

    Yet 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.

    The 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 sacks.

    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.

    It required study, time and work, but it no doubt paid off in the amount of profit made and the protection of the grasslands.

    © Delbert Trew - "It's All Trew"
    May 23, 2011 column
    Related Topics: Texas Ranching
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