Railroads and Cattle Drives: A Historical Look


Movies have always made the cattle drives these exciting adventures. With the bad weather and the stampedes, it makes good drama. In real life, the cattle drive, short or long distances, was not that romantic. Most days on a cattle drive were boring, dust-eating hard work. Of course, for the young cowboy on his first adventure, it was a great trip. Most of these young hands were straight off the farm and had not been much farther than to the nearest town to get supplies for their families. So to drive a herd of cattle from Texas to Kansas or Montana was quite a trip.

My father made his first cattle drive from his home town in Texas to a railroad "rail head" about 40 miles away to ship the cattle to Fort Worth. He was about nine years old. He could still tell you every detail of the trip, even though he was in his sixties. He could remember the smell of the leather in the saddle barn down to the stink of many head of cattle plodding along in the dusty trail. For him it was a great adventure! And he loved eating out of the "chuck wagon".

Getting the herd to market had two main objectives; one to get them there period, without them dying on the trail, and to keep them as well as possible. Buyers did not buy sick cattle. So there were two dilemmas presented, to move the cattle as quickly as possible without killing them. This involved planning the trip to cross rivers at good places, find watering holes, and avoid as many Indians as possible.

When the railroads crossed the western part of the United States, cattlemen jumped at the chance to use them to move the cattle quickly and efficiently. It took less time and less cowboys to move cattle by rail. The cattle were loaded in box cars and then the cowboy's horses were jumped into a car by themselves. The cowboys either rode in the box cars or if there was one, joined the railroad people in the caboose. It also eliminated the chuck wagon for that part of the ride.

The problem was that the railroad only covered part of the country. So cattlemen still had cattle drives to get the cattle to the nearest railroad yard. A cattle drive included a lot more than just the cowboys and the cattle. Each cowboy had to have extra horses for the drive, usually about four each. So a herd of horses followed the cattle as the drive progressed. As mention, there had to be a wagon for a cook to feed the cowboys, and usually there was another wagon with all the cowboy's bedrolls and tarps and extra supplies. Both wagons carried barrels of water as water was scarce across the dry country.

At the end of the train ride, the cattle would be unloaded into giant pens at stock yards.The cowboys then saddled their horses and delivered the cattle to where ever the buyer wanted them. If they were headed on to another ranch the buyer would send his hands to get the cattle and drive them to their range. In that case the cowboy's would just catch another train and jump their horses back in the boxcar and head back home.…

Earn More Money with Beef Cattle Culls


According to NBC Business News, the total cattle supply has reached an all-time low due to the three year drought. This makes selling your cull cows at an excellent opportunity to make more money. Although culls make up 15 to 30 percent of a rancher’s income from cattle, few ranchers take advantage of earning more from each cull.

Why Culls?

Culling beef cows happen for a variety of reasons as you may learn from our Cattle Forum. Cows that have genetic faults, age, disposition, calving and reproductive issues are possible reasons ranchers decide to cull. However, few ranchers plan to make the most money from their culls.

Best Time to Sell Culls

Culls sell best around February and March according to Rick Rasby, a beef specialist at the University of Nebraska. The price is higher during that time — as much as $4 per hundred pounds. This makes sense when the fall and early winter is glutted with new slaughtered culls. Ranchers are likely to hang onto bred cows and young calves born during the late winter into early spring, thus the market for beef culls is at its highest demand.

Don’t Give Two for One Sales

Before sell your culls, the first thing to consider is whether you’re selling a cull or accidentally selling a pregnant cow. According to a study cited by Cody L. Wright, a South Dakota State University Extension Beef Specialist, when 306 cull cows were purchased, about 23 percent or 70 of the culls were pregnant. Those ranchers who sold them as culls lost money when they could’ve sold them as bred livestock. Check for pregnancy in all your culls, even if you’re sure they’re not. Use an ultrasound if necessary. Otherwise, you’re throwing away money.

Prepare Your Culls for Market

Choose your culls according to their health and fitness. They should be sound and not sick. Treating with medications now delays withdrawal times and can impact the market timing. If you have winter range — possibly with old corn stalks and downed corn — it will be cost effective to run your culls there. If you have to dry lot feed them, feed them a high protein diet to finish them. Shorter feed durations are preferable since the feed-to-gain ratio is higher.…

Tales from the Stone Cattle Trail: How a Golden Poo Changed All of China


Years prior to the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, his great-great-great grandfather managed to take over the great Sichuan province in a Trojan horse-esque maneuver. The grandfather's name was King Hui of Qin and he was about to start the creation of an empire.

King Hui's first step in the take over of the great Sichuan province of Shu was to commission the making of five life sized stone cows. These cows were then splattered with gold upon their rear ends and placed in a field. A scout from the nearby Sichuan King of Shu saw these cattle and immediately scurried back to his master in order to carry a tale of cattle who purportedly were pooing gold. The Shu king became was quite excited-and somewhat gullible-and requested to have these cattle shipped to him. His mind was undoubtedly filled with the idea of an unlimited supply of golden cow pies. Unfortunately for the Shu king, the King of Qin could not bring them across the thin mountain path lanes and into the valley.

Ultimately, a solution was found. The King of Shu allowed the King of Qin to make a larger, well built road big enough to carry five stone cattle-or a large army-into the country.

The road building completed, the cattle were sent in to the King to his dismay. On his receipt of the cattle, the King of Shu realized that they were merely stone figurines and sadly sent them back to the King of Qin.

The road that was built by the King of Qin served another purpose however. In 316 B.C. the King Hui invaded Sichuan using the Stone Cattle Road and took over a countryside that had previously been impregnable.

The creation of the Stone Cattle Road marked an important deviation in Chinese history. It brought all of Sichuan under Xia culture and influence, doubled the size of King Hui's lands and made it into a super state. The takeover of the kingdom of Shu in Sichuan allowed the Qin to gain a strong foot hold in China and a ready supply of grains and minerals. This supply ultimately enabled the first Emperor of China to overtake the rival Chu state and unify China.

Keay, John. China: A History. Basic Books, 2009.…

'American Idol': Austin Cattle Call Auditions in the Heart of Texas with John Wayne and Casey Abrams


This was one episode of "American Idol" I was looking forward to. First, it was coming from one of my favorite cities. Second, I was looking forward to seeing more high quality auditions this time around. Last but never least, the first Wednesday night episode not on for two grueling hours. It was on for one hour. Unfortunately it messed up my time with another show I was flipping back over to from time to time. Obviously I did not miss that much. Since Austin, Texas is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World" I can't say it was all that from the auditions. Leave it to "American Idol" to do it their silly way season after season.

Apology from "American Idol" Producers – Lame

Case in point of this show doing it their way started with some nonsensical hype coming from Ryan Seacrest. He announced on Twitter and his radio program an apology would be made on "American Idol" later that night regarding Steven Tyler's behavior. They showed the written apology at the start of the show followed by some audition clip we've never seen. Steven Tyler made some reference to a person's last name. Why show a written apology and then Tyler doing a dirty deed afterwards? This was nothing but a publicity ploy to bring more viewers to this declining show that's getting more irrelevant every year.

Highlights of Austin Auditions

There were a few auditions that stood out for me. The rest simply did nothing for me or I did not see them due to the other show I was watching from a former "American Idol" judge. Hollie Cavanaugh was very nervous and crying, but managed to pull herself together when Jennifer Lopez gave her a second chance on her audition. This time she turned everyone around including the new resident "mean" judge, Randy Jackson. Hopefully Hollie will pull herself together in Hollywood.

It was certainly a refreshing change of pace to see a very handsome cowboy in the audition room. He needs to get further in the competition, because John Wayne Schulz will have a huge fan base in no time. However, as far as vocals are concerned Casey Abrams, a Seth Rogen double, was the best of the night. He was featured at the end of the show naturally.

Last Thoughts of the Episode

I'm grateful "American Idol" did not have a slew of sob stories for this episode, unlike last week's barrage. There was another audition I liked from Austin, but her voice not so much, was Courtney Penry. She did this chicken move for the judges that was actually spot on. Courtney also has a crush on Ryan Seacrest. In typical Idol fashion we saw take after take of dreadful auditions that need to be retired soon from the show, but that's never going to happen. Enough of that and it's on to Los Angeles auditions Thursday night. One more week and these tedious auditions will soon be over and done with. Hallelujah


American Idol – Official Site for Videos, Photos and Community, American Idol.com

Stephanie Krikorian, "'American Idol' Season 10: The Austin Auditions, TV Recap", Speakeasy – The Wall Street Journal

Len Melisurgo, "'American Idol' recap: Steven Tyler issues 'apology' in Texas", The Star-Ledger – NJ.com…

Tips to Design and Register Cattle Brands


Branding your cattle is a way to safe guard them against theft. It is also the law in states such as Montana, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. In most states, you have 30 days from the time you purchase your cattle until you brand them to remain free of any entanglements of the law. It is fairly simple to register a cattle brand. The tricky part is to design a livestock brand.

Avoid closed characters on your registered cattle brands

When you are designing a cattle brand to register with your state livestock department, keep in mind that close characters are easier to botch and harder to heal when your brand your cattle. The area within the closed area is more likely to be damaged. It will usually peal completely away and will be harder to read. Characters such as O, P, B, or anything that is connected should be avoided.

Choose two to three characters for your registered cattle brand

The more characters a brand has, the harder it is on the cattle, the person who does the branding and even the person researching the brand for registration. There are so many possible combinations and places to brand cattle, that keeping it simple will actually be healthier for your cattle.

How Registered Cattle Brands are read.

Generally, a registered cattle brand reads from left to right and from top to bottom. Thus, the arraignment of your characters is important when selecting a cattle brand to register. Another part of registering a cattle brand requires that the location of the brand be registered as well. In other words, where will you brand your cattle? On the left or right? On the hip, ribs, shoulder or neck. Some states also allow cheek brands to be registered as well. Keep in mind that if you register your cattle brand as a right hip brand, you must always brand your cattle on the right hip. Someone else may have the same brand registered; only the left hip is designated for their brand.

Once you have designed your brand, you will need to take it to your state livestock department to have it registered. At the office, they will research to ensure that the brand is not duplicated by anyone else. The registered cattle brand is good for three years in New Mexico. Registered cattle brands are also considered a salable asset. If you are having trouble designing a brand from scratch, consider purchasing an unused brand that is registered to someone else.

New Mexico Livestock Board

Colorado Brand Inspection Division

Montana Department of Livestock…

Dexter Cattle, Great for Homesteaders


Dexters are a fairly rare breed that is coming into popularity here in the United States. They originate out of Ireland. Where small landowners loved their size and their dual, sometimes triple, uses.

Dexters can be black, dun or red. Most come with a beautiful set of horns. They are very adept at using these horns safely.

The height of the Dexter bull is between 38 and 44 inches. The Dexter cow is between 36-42 inches. Because of their smaller size, some people mistakenly call them miniature. This is wrong. The Dexter Cattle Breed is a true breed. Dexters are, by nature, a smaller breed of cattle.

Dexters can be used for meat, milk and oxen. Because of their size, a whole Dexter beef fits nicely into a freezer. No need to find someone else to take half. The Dexters have plenty of milk to raise a calf and meet a family's needs.

The Dexter breed is gaining popularity in the homesteading populace. There are many reasons for this. The Dexters eat less than regular cattle. You can raise two Dexters to every one of another breed. They are easy on fences and pastures. They are easy birthers and great mothers.

Most Dexters are very docile. They like people and can be halter trained fairly easy. This wonderful attitude makes them perfect for milking and becoming part of a homestead family. Yes, some people buy Dexters solely as pets.

Most Dexters are registered. This helps in the sale of breeding stock. It also gives a record of bloodlines and how many calves registered cows and bulls may have. There are two registries right now. One is the American Dexter Cattle Association (ADCA). The other is the Purebred Dexter Cattle Association (PDCA). Both are great sources of information.

Dexters are long-lived and it is quite common for a Dexter cow to have a calf at 18 and 19 years old. Dexters on the whole are very hearty and not prone to diseases. They seem to adapt well. They can be found in almost every state of the union.

Dexters are gaining in numbers here in the United States. Their very dark, lean and slightly marbled meat is one of the reasons. It has a lot of Omega 3 and CLA in it. And it comes in smaller cuts.

Dexter cattle can be found for sale on the Internet, and at sites such as the ADCA and PDCA. There's a Dexter that will fit anyones taste!…