Theodore’s Cattle

(Left) A frail-looking Theodore Roosevelt, September, 1875 (a month shy of his 17th birthday). (Right) Theodore Roosevelt, likely in his mid-late ‘20’s (studio photograph, no  known credit or date).

(Left) A frail-looking Theodore Roosevelt, September, 1875 (a month shy of his 17th birthday).
(Right) Theodore Roosevelt, likely in his mid-late ‘20’s (studio photograph, no known credit or date).

By: Bert Entwistle

As Theodore stepped down from the train he stood for a moment in the failing light taking it all in. It was early September of 1883, and his presence in the tiny Badlands town of Medora was hardly enough to impress anyone. At five foot nine, painfully skinny and the picture of poor health, his thin moustache and wire frame glasses made him a portrait of a dude, which he was. At twenty-five, he’d left the wealthy trappings of his New York City childhood to go out West and make his mark. He told his friends he wanted to kill a wild buffalo before they were all gone. He was also there for his health, an issue he chose to keep private.

A Harvard graduate and politician by trade, Theodore was woefully unprepared for the rigors of the western lifestyle. He had really come to buy cattle, with plans to eventually start his own ranching business. Shortly after arriving he connected with three young Canadians; two brothers named Joe and Sylvane Ferris, and William Merrifield. Living on the Maltese Cross Ranch and grazing their cattle on public land, Roosevelt liked them immediately and the relationship between the four men lasted his entire lifetime.When he left Medora, he gave them a check for $14,000 to buy 450 head of cattle to start his operation.

His next order of business was to kill his buffalo and he enlisted Joe Ferris to guide him for the hunt. Everyone found out early that the little eastern politician didn’t like the name Teddy, but preferred his given name Theodore. Early in the relationship some still called him Teddy, or four-eyes, or sometimes even worse behind his back.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the future President of the United States had yet to prove himself to anyone in the Wild West; it wouldn’t be long before the skeptics became true believers. Ferris and Roosevelt scoured the Badlands on horseback for a week in all kinds of weather looking for a suitable trophy. After missing the first two that
he shot at, he finally got his prize and ran up to the dead bison and let out a war whoop that could be heard for miles. After concluding his impromptu celebration he handed Ferris a hundred dollar bill and returned to Medora a happy man.

Back home in New York his wife, Alice, was several months pregnant. The first letter that she received from him was full of excitement and typical Roosevelt enthusiasm. “Darling Wife,… by Jove, my usual bad luck in hunting has followed. I haven’t killed anything, and afraid the hall will have to go without horns, for this trip at least. But I have had adventures enough at any rate.”

Roosevelt talked about wagon breakdowns, missed shots at buffalo and antelope, rain, rough country, wind and generally miserable conditions. He was sick from drinking bad water, and subsisted on dry crackers and rainwater for several days. He wrote that after spotting four bull buffalo, they “… crawled nearly a quarter mile on our bellies like snakes.” By his own admission he hit the old bull “… too far back, and the wound did not disable him.” The bull recovered enough to catch up with the others.

“The next hour was as exciting as any day I ever spent,” he continued. They gave chase on foot and horseback. When they finally caught up to the wounded bull, Roosevelt writes, “… the bull turned to bay and charged me; the lunge of the formidable looking brute frightened my pony. He threw up his head and knocked the heavy rifle into my head.” Roosevelt was half blinded from bad eyesight and blood in his eyes. The bull then charged Ferris and he escaped with his fast horse.

Eventually, he claimed his trophy for the hallway, and after two weeks it was time to return to New York to be with his wife when she gave birth. Returning to Medora the following June was a bittersweet moment. His wife Alice died in childbirth and his mother died on the same day in the same house. The pain was nearly more than Roosevelt could take, and he knew the wild loneliness of the Badlands country was the only thing that might save him from the depths of his depression. He once wrote that “The Badlands look like Poe sounds.” When he returned, he declared that ranching would forever be his occupation, bought more cattle and plunged into the business with his three Canadian partners and loved every moment of it.

This time he came to the Badlands prepared; he looked like the cover of one of the popular dime novels of the day. He was covered in buckskins, chaps, a giant hat, silver Conchos and a big buckle. With his droopy mustache and glasses he raised more than a few eyebrows. Many locals had a good laugh on him, but he didn’t care, he was where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do. Roosevelt wasn’t the only one to take to the grasslands around Medora.

A few months before Roosevelt arrived, a Frenchman with the impossible sounding name of Antoine Amedee- Marie-Vincent-Manca de Vallombrosa Marquis de Mores had also decided to stake his claim in the grass of the Badlands. Tall and handsome, he was also wealthy and arrogant. He decided to buy land rather than free range his stock. Soon he had 3,000 fenced acres and hundreds of cattle. Since there was now a rail line, he built a slaughter plant and planned to ship his meat east by rail. It was the Marquis de Mores that founded the town of Medora.

Between Roosevelt, the Marquis and other area ranchers, the cattle business boomed. They could ship all the live cattle they wanted in livestock cars, or butchered meat in the Marquis’ new refrigerated railcars. It was a good time for Roosevelt. His childhood weaknesses and his asthma were long gone; he was now a healthy, even robust young man, toughened up by the country and the work. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had been fashioned into the foundation of the Rough Rider he would later become.

The legendary blizzard of ‘86 – ‘87 changed their world and the cattle business quickly and forever. The ranchers of Wyoming, Montana and the Dakota Badlands were wiped out. Every living animal on the open range was dead. In the spring, thawing rivers plugged up with the bloated carcasses of the cattlemen’s futures. The Marquis had left early that winter, and after the storm Roosevelt wrote that he had “… rode for three days without seeing a live steer.” The Badlands cattle business was done. As for the future president, he took the defeat in stride and moved on, but the Badlands of North Dakota had succeeded in shaping up a skinny, sickly rich kid into the man who now looks out proudly from Mount Rushmore overseeing what he helped build.


What’s Neat About Wheat

Oh yeah, there’s some risk, too

Wheat grazing can result in daily average gains of 2 to 2.5 pounds on stockers, which makes it an excellent economic grazing resource

Wheat grazing can result in daily average gains of 2 to 2.5 pounds on stockers, which makes it an excellent economic grazing resource

By: Loretta Sorensen

Cattlemen who graze wheat will know the basics of their strategy remain the same from year to year. However, with all the variables involved, no two plans will be exactly the same. “Weather, grain prices, the amount of fall forage accumulated in a wheat field and many other aspects of the practice all affect the decision to graze, how many cattle to stock, when they go in and come out,” Ted McCollum, Beef Cattle Specialist at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, says. “There are benefits and disadvantages as well as risks for both wheat farmer and stockman.”

McCollum, who’s worked in research and extension at Oklahoma State University and now with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, also works with his family operation which grazes stockers on small grains pasture. In addition to acting as a consultant and educator for beef producers, McCollum has also participated in wheat grazing research. Selection of wheat variety is probably one of the first steps in developing a grazing strategy.

“There are what some refer to as dual purpose wheat varieties,” McCollum explains. “They produce ample forage and provide satisfactory grain yield. The grain farmer would need to determine whether or not they’re planting wheat just for grazing or if they plan to harvest a crop too, and what kind of grain yield they want to achieve.”

An additional wheat characteristic that may be desirable for grain farmers is how well wheat emerges in warmer temperatures in states like Texas. “That will ultimately affect fall forage production,” McCollum continues. “On the opposite end of that is the early or late maturing wheat. Depending on the grazing agreement, one or the other could benefit both grain farmer and beef producer.”

Dale Blasi, Kansas State University Professor and Extension Specialist in beef cattle nutrition and management, notes that grain farmers in his region may increase seed population and fertilization in order to produce highly grazeable wheat stands.

“Some grain farmers who also produce beef reserve ground for grazing wheat, rye or triticale,” Blasi shares. “If their small grain is planted under a center pivot, the producer may be able to put cattle on the grain earlier than grains planted on dryland.”

Because wheat is high in protein and moisture, it can serve as an economic resource for adding weight to calves. “On wheat, light cattle will probably perform just as well as heavier animals because it’s such nutritious forage,” McCollum says. “If I were putting calves on grass, I’d probably purchase heavier animals because lighter weights require more nutrition to add weight.”

Whenever wheat starts growing rapidly, for example in the early spring, there's going to be the risk of bloat. If you're running breeding females out there, tetany can also show up.

Whenever wheat starts growing rapidly, for example in the early spring, there’s going to be the risk of bloat. If you’re running breeding females out there, tetany can also show up.

Oklahoma State University Extension Ag Educator, Greg Highfill, says wheat grazing can result in daily average gains of 2 to 2.5 pounds, which makes it an excellent economic grazing resource.

“Before it can be grazed, wheat has to have enough growth to have developed what we refer to as a secondary root system or tillers,” Highfill imparts.

“That causes wheat to be firmly anchored to the soil, reducing any damage due to grazing. Grazing start dates vary greatly from year to year and region to region, depending on weather conditions, moisture levels and the wheat’s growth stage.” McCollum explains that assessing the actual amount of grazeable forage prior to putting cattle on wheat fields in fall is an essential part of wheat grazing strategies in his region.

“Evaluating that forage and knowing how much of it is projected to be available before temperatures drop to a level where the forage is no longer growing is key to selecting a stocking rate,” McCollum says. “If cattle have to be removed from the wheat field before projected gains are met, or producers must provide an alternate feed source, then costs increase and/or performance suffers.”

It’s been quite some time since the majority of wheat farmers charged beef producers per-acre prices for grazing. The most common practice across the country is charging per pound of gain. “There may be a few farmers who still charge per head or per acre,” McCollum says. “But that’s the exception.

Charging per pound of gain benefits the cattle owner because they only pay for weight actually gained. Paying a flat per-acre or per-head fee and not realizing desired gain would be a disadvantage for stockmen. The farmer can also benefit from the gain-based lease because if calves perform, lease payments will generally be higher than those for a per head or per acre lease.” Another common practice in wheat grazing scenarios is the verbal contract, which could increase risk for both beef and grain producers.

“If the agreement is between a grain farmer and beef producer who have a longtime relationship, verbal agreements probably work,” McCollum suggests. “I would encourage putting some terms in writing. Not that it has to be a 15-page, attorney-authored document. But written terms in the event that someone’s memory fails and there’s a question about the original grazing terms.”

Graze-out wheat, a term meaning wheat that is grazed through maturity and not harvested, is common for Southern Plains grain farmers. “The decision to graze out or harvest wheat is based on many factors,” McCollum says. “Selecting the best possible wheat variety for that option could mean planting a late maturing wheat in order to get the most value out of the practice.” Pricing wheat grazing resources can be a complex process. McCollum doesn’t necessarily agree that feedlot cost-of-gain figures provide the best standard for calculating the cost of grazing wheat.

“In some of those comparisons, the figures used for feedlot gain are the figures related to bringing a 700-pound animal to a finish weight of 1,300 pounds,” McCollum says. “In wheat grazing, you’re probably bringing that 400 or 500-pound animal to about 700 or 800 pounds. Animals grazing wheat and those finishing in a feedlot aren’t on the same growth curve.” McCollum adds that animals in a feedlot are developing in a much more consistent environment. “Wheat grazing conditions may be much less predictable than having a feed truck come by twice a day,” McCollum adds. “Accurately assessing that difference is important to fixing a grazing price agreement.”


Beef producers should also consider the risk of death loss to bloat and carefully monitor animals, especially in the last weeks of the grazing plan. “Any time wheat starts growing rapidly, there’s risk of bloat,” Highfill says. “That’s typically found in spring, around the first of February when temperatures start moderating and wheat comes out of dormancy. Because potential for bloat is so unpredictable, the best precaution is careful monitoring and quick response if an animal does bloat.”

An important risk factor for grain farmers is yield loss. Research at Oklahoma State University has demonstrated that wheat yield can be reduced between 0% and 15%, with the average most years around 8% through wheat grazing. “Certainly some years it could be lower or perhaps higher, depending on weather conditions,” Highfill relates.

“Typically, early planted wheat reduces yield loss. In today’s beef market, the profit realized from the gain in pounds of beef may easily offset yield loss.” In the Southern and High Plains, wheat grazing practices are likely to remain popular regardless of related risks.

“In this area (Texas), there are no other fall grazing resources that provide the gain potential of small grains pasture,” McCollum says. “So it’s the best option for stocker producers here. The strategy also allows producers to accelerate fall calf weight gain to target spring feeder markets.” Blasi says that although the practice isn’t as common in Kansas as in southern states, it still gives beef producers and wheat growers an opportunity to add value to their operation. “With favorable growing conditions, cattle can achieve amazing gains on wheat,” Blasi concludes. “You can’t ignore wheat grazing opportunities when they’re available.

Pasture Lingerie

By: Arn Anderson, DVM

Tye was tight. He based his life on the old adage “waste not want not”, and he carried it to the extreme.

As a sworn bachelor, Tye never fell for the trap of current trends or popular opinion. His fences were really just continued patches of old wire. His farm shop resembled a warehouse of cast off, salvaged, repurposed and recycled hardware, farm equipment and building supplies. He had buckets of bent nails, piles of rusty hinges, boxes of old bottles and reclaimed wood screws. Tye made a religion of not buying anything new, and anything free (needed or not) was gathered onto the back of his flatbed farm truck and soon found a home in Tye’s farm shop. He truly lived the proverb “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”.

The hot dry summer had brought the flies and dried what native grass was left into long brittle stems. I had convinced Tye not to throw salt into the eyes of his yearlings and to let us come take a look at what his problem might be. It sounded like pinkeye, with cloudy eyes and blind cattle. Tye might be cheap but every now and then he accepted advice if he thought you may have a good idea. We found the yearlings penned behind the shop and Tye waiting at the head catch.

The pen and alleyway were constructed of WWII-era metal sheets used in the South Pacific to make runways for war planes. The chute itself actually looked like Tye had taken Johnny Cash’s advice, but instead of a Cadillac he built a squeeze and head gate one piece at a time from every known chute manufacturer. Random parts were welded, bolted and wired together to make a functional, albeit strange and multicolored, piece of equipment.

The cattle seemed to know their way through the maze and after examining a few draining, cloudy eyes we concluded our phone diagnosis of pinkeye was pretty good. I explained the use of antibiotics (not salt), the need for fly control, brush control and early recognition and treatment. We talked about vaccination, varieties of pinkeye, and prognosis. Just in passing our vet student extern mentioned that some people recommended putting a patch over the affected eye. This was meant to keep the sunlight out and reduce pain. The vet student and I climbed back into the truck and I told Tye to call back if things did not improve. I honestly never thought about the visit again until I drove by Tye’s place a week later accompanied by a couple more vet students.

As we rolled out on another farm call I made the curve and started to go by Tye’s front gate. I slowed to a stop. I had to look twice at the calf standing by the cattle guard Tye had built from reclaimed railroad iron. Chewing on a clump of dried bluestem was a baldy heifer with one eye covered with what, in all my copious experience, appeared as one half of a DD bra. It was like looking at an accident. I could not stop staring. I knew I needed to go but I couldn’t resist and I pulled the truck over the rails and up close to the heifer. No joke – she had half a bra, a big blue bra, glued over her right eye. Tye had taken the time to put the part with the wire on the top and he had cut off the straps.

The heifer trotted off to the rest of the group. Then we saw it. Like a bad underwear commercial, several of Tye’s heifers were modeling various styles, colors and configurations of bras. There was the other half of the DD, half an athletic bra, part of a leopard garment and the right half of a black lacy number. The calves were happy and grazing, each modeling their variety of ladies unspeakables. Even bent over the steering wheel and with all the laughter in the cab, I could hear Tye’s old truck rumbling up the gravel road. The students tried to erase their smiles and I jumped from the driver’s door to meet Tye and give them time to compose themselves.

Tye was ecstatic. He explained that while shopping for work clothes at the mission thrift store in town he had noticed the bras and remembered what the student had said. Well he thought about it and bought a bunch at the great price of four for a dollar.

Now, he had never bought a bra before but that sounded like a good price and the lady at the cash register had assured him he was getting a deal. He then used the tubes of glue he salvaged from the sale barn trash can, and what do you know? He had instant pinkeye patches. He explained in a serious tone that the wire reinforced ones worked the best and he could identify the calves by the color and style of their patch. Well I bowed out from the conversation with an explanation that I needed to go on a call. I made a circle through the bovine lingerie section and headed for the highway with both students on the floor roaring with laughter.

Pinkeye is a bacterial infection that can be spread through a number of vectors from flies to tall grass or hay. The proper name is contagious bovine keratoconjunctivitis, and a large amount of pinkeye is caused by a bacteria called Morexella Bovis. That said, it is important to remember that pinkeye is not all caused by the same bacteria. Vaccination can be effective if the timing is right and the environment and vectors are controlled. Early recognition and treatment will help lessen the severity. Most animals recover with little lasting damage but weight loss, market value and even the ability to gain later in life are all negatively affected by this disease. Other diseases can and will cause eye lesions. Visit with your veterinarian to confirm your diagnosis and establish a treatment and control plan.

Tye’s heifers all improved. We now warn all vet student externs to watch what they recommend. There was a rumor started by the ladies at the thrift store but I did my best to put that fire out. I will admit it was tough to try and explain why an old bachelor bought twenty bras in a single day.

Build Yourself A Little Bitty Backgrounding Lot

By: Jennifer Showalter

Backgrounding lots vary greatly from one outfit to the next, but regardless of how spiffy one is or is not, the lot needs to be designed to accommodate calves as they transition from the cow to the feedyard. During this time the calves are expected to gain both muscle and bone before going on to be finished. With this in mind, WR thought it would be good idea to take a look at some of the elemental choices out there if you’re seriously thinking about putting up a little, bitty backgrounding lot. This is what we found:

Like bunk space, waterers need to be sized according to the number of cattle utilizing them. In addition to the size of the tank, water flow and pressure must be taken into account so the water volume is replenished in a timely fashion. Keeping them open in the dead of winter is extremely important for those producers who are used to the thermometer dipping below zero.

Miraco manufactures both energy free and energy efficient waterers. The energy free waterers are designed to keep water from freezing in the winter without the need for electrical hookups, but the biggest advantage is the quality of water provided. The patented roll away balls keep the water clean, cool, and algae free in the summer months. The poly material used in Miraco livestock waterers is impact resistant and will not rot or rust in any way. This poly material, coupled with sloped bottoms, makes cleaning of these waterers a simple task. Go to for more.

Your choice of two sizes of Cobett open drinking area waterers make it easy to decide which one fits best in your new backgrounding lot. These units are made of heavy duty, UV treated, high-quality black polyethylene and don’t require electricity to heat them. There is room inside, however, to hang a low wattage heater in case the temperature dips real low on those cold winter nights. Check out

A secure fence is a must around any backgrounding lot. The stoutness requirements of the fence will be depicted by the degree of confinement. The more pressure there is on the fence, the stronger it must be. With a variety of wire options out there to fit different needs, an off-set hot wire can be an added form of reinforcement to help keep cattle off the fence regardless of its type. Braces and post spacing will also need to be considered depending on how much pressure is behind the fence.

Stay-Tuff’s 949-6-330 and 1348-12- 330 would both be an excellent choice for cattle backgrounding lots. The high tensile wire used in Stay-Tuff fence does not stretch out and become loose like low tensile wire, and the fixed knot construction holds up against heavy pressure from cattle without the need for replacement or repair. Stay-Tuff fixed knot fence is available with Class 3 Galvanized or Class 40 Zinc Aluminum coatings that will far outlast traditional fencing with a thinner Class 1 galvanized coating. More info can be found at

nrew-3Red Brand barbed wire fence is available in 2-point and 4-point styles. The tough red-tipped steel barbs resist bending resulting in durability and reliability, while the 12-1/2 gauge twisted cable easily handles cattle pressure. Red Brand also offers a variety of knotted wire. Their Mocarch® knot acts as a hinge that gives under pressure, while their Square Deal® Knot prevents Red Brand fences from buckling or sagging and provides extra strength and rigidity with ample flexibility for ideal installation. Red Brand’s Cross Lock® Knot firmly affixes the fence wires together providing superior resistance to movement from animal penetration or from severe snows. All Red Brand products are made in the USA, assuring consistent quality and durability. Find out more at

Face it, a lot of feed is wasted if you don’t have a decent bunk set-up, so now’s not the time to cheap out. Have a look at what we found for deliverable, affordable bunks.

If you like the durability of steel, check out these beauties from Werk Weld Inc. located in Armour, South Dakota. Their spiffy blue 20’ Fenceline Bunk features a 10 gauge feed pan with feed saver lip to keep the feed in, a 12 gauge 1.5” square tubing panel with 14 openings, and drain holes in both ends. At 1,000 lbs. each, these units easily stack and delivery anywhere a semi can get in. Have a closer look at or call 800-987-7360.

If concrete is more your style, consider the 6,000+ psi line feeder bunk sections from The Concrete Works, LLC. These 8’ bunks feature a 32” exterior width (at top), are 13” deep, have a 6.5” clearance and weigh in at 1,650 lbs. A semi can haul 34 of these steel reinforced units right to your yard, ready to go. They come with a full manufacturer’s warranty when used in agricultural feeding systems applications. Go to www.theconcreteworks. com or call them up at 877-464-7575 for more information.

Trying to save a penny or two when it comes to purchasing gates and panels for a backgrounding lot too often results in bent up pieces of art that can never be straightened back out.

The For-Most swing gate and frame features an overhead truss constructed of 2” 10 gauge tubing. The outside uprights are 2” 10 gauge with the swing gate support made of 2” sch. 80 (double wall). Dual plunger latches help ensure the latches catch and hold properly. Controls can be operated on horseback. They are available in 8’, 10’ and 12’ widths. The frame height choices are 6’ 6” and 9’ (ride through).

For a comprehensive lineup of sturdy gates, go to your stash of WR back issues (we know you have ‘em hid somewhere), and find the April May 2013. Turn to page 24, and flip through the article Great Gates; there you’ll find some solid choices from Powder River, Filson, W-W, Priefert and Morand to finish off your new backgrounding pen.

Questionable Quotes

By: Tim O’Byrne

Every time we do the Salute to the Feedyard issue, I’m reminded of my own years spent in the hustle and bustle of the pens and feed lanes. And so, it is only fair that I impart unto you some of my musings.


1. “Plugged leg? No problem, man, I’ll be there in a jiffy. Got an extra shovel?”

2. “I hate it when things are boring around here.”

3. “I hope it rains again tomorrow.”

4. “That’s OK, Horse, I didn’t even feel you smush my knee into the gatepost for the third time this morning. I must be getting used to it. Carry on.”

5. “Well, I’d love to keep shootin’ the breeze with you all morning here in the return alley, but I really should get back to riding my bank o’ pens.”

6. “Wow, I totally missed that one. Thanks, Mr. feed truck driver.”

Seriously, #6 happened to me (it probably happened to you, too), and I’m glad the guy caught it at the bunk… later, as I learned to drive feed truck, I found out just how much you can see from up there, especially those sick critters that try to hide from the pencheckers by fakin’ that they’re eating. Teamwork and humility. That’s a successful combination.

Let’s have a little fun. I need you to go back in your archived WR back issues in order to qualify to win this little contest. But first, let me tell you what the prize is. Bear and Son Cutlery, Inc., in Jacksonville, AL, sent me this 100% American-made bone handled pocket knife. This knife is so special it deserves to be shared with a reader. The blade on the 37⁄8”Cowhand™ is 440 high carbon, rust resistant steel. It also features nickel silver bolsters, a one- hand open finger hole on the hollow ground blade, liner lock and pocket clip. It’s one heck of a knife, and it retails at $80 bucks.

Let’s go wayyyy back to the August September 2007 issue of WR. I’ll bet some of you still have one in the bookshelf. Now… look on page 65. What is the name of Chapter 2 of Dr. Bob Blomme’s upcoming retirement book, if he ever gets it wrote?

The first one to call me with the correct answer WINS! Pretty simple. It’s 702-566-1456, leave a message, I might be away from the office. If I don’t call you back, it means somebody beat you to it. If you still want to chat, call me back some day, I like to hear from readers an y chance I get. Keeps me grounded.

My travels took me through a quiet feedyard town in southern Alberta this summer, and I did what I always do no matter where I go… stop in at the local market and check out the beef assortment, packaging, labeling, and price. This was a shocker! A Tbone was marked regular at $53.77 / kg ($24.44 lb. Canadian). That’s $22.38 / lb. U.S.! This ¾ lb. steak costs $17.13 U.S.! And it ain’t even cooked yet. And that wasn’t the only sticker shock I encountered north of the 49th! Canada, you sure have some pricey BBQ’s up there.


Although WR Senior Editor Troy Smith is a remarkable journalist and photographer in his own right, I mistakenly attributed the beautiful photograph on the lead spread of the story Being Bold (June July 2014, p. 81) to his lens, when the credit should have gone to Nick Gerhardt, a friend of the Nielsen family who was featured in the piece. Our apologies, Mr. Gerhardt.

Writing The “Real” Old West

Inspired by poorly written accounts of life on the range, an authentic cowhand takes up the pen to set the record straight

The “real” life of an 1880’s cowpuncher was a lot different than what was being published at the time. Thankfully, Andy Adams picked up his pen and dispelled many a myth.

The “real” life of an 1880’s cowpuncher was a lot different than what was being published at the time. Thankfully, Andy Adams picked up his pen and dispelled many a myth.

By: Bert Entwistle

In 1903, Andy Adams published a book called The Log of a Cowboy. Although sold as a fiction novel, it was really Adams’ first person account of his years as a working cowboy. The book tells of one of his trail drives, a five-month trip moving a 3,000 head mixed herd from Brownsville, Texas, to the Blackfoot Indian Agency in northwest Montana. The outfit left Brownsville on April 1, 1882 and arrived at the Indian Agency on September 8th, a journey of more than 2,100 miles.

Born in 1859 to an Indiana pioneer family, Adams’ father, a Confederate soldier, moved to San Antonio about 1880 looking for a fresh start among his old comrades. Always fascinated by horses and the cattle business, the fifteen year-old Andy Adams left home to make a life as a cowboy.

“My worst trouble was getting away from home on the morning of starting,” he recounts in the book. “Mother and my sisters, of course, shed a few tears; but my father, stern and unbending in his manner, gave me his benediction in these words: “Thomas Moore, you’re the third son to leave our roof, but your father’s blessing goes with you. I left my own home beyond the sea before I was your age.” And as they all stood at the gate, I climbed into my saddle and rode away, with a lump in my throat which left me speechless to reply.”

By 1882, he was working as a hired hand helping to put together a herd from many different sources, including Texas and Mexican cattle. Before heading north, they planted the circle-dot brand on the herd’s left hip. For more than ten years Adams worked as a cowboy and helped to move cattle from Texas to the end of the next trail. In the early ‘90s he decided to try his hand at business and gold mining in places like Nevada and Cripple Creek, Colorado. Both ventures failed.

By 1894, he had settled in Colorado Springs, with no gold and very little else to show for his thirty-five years of life. Adams was always frustrated with what he read in the books and magazines of the period, often complaining to anyone who would listen about how inaccurate the accounts were. It was easy to see the authors had never been up close to horses and cattle.

After some encouragement from friends he began to sell articles to various publications in Colorado and eventually to the east coast magazines. In time, he realized that the public had an appetite for western stories and began his first and most successful book, The Log of a Cowboy, published in 1903. The book was really a way for Adams to respond to the bad western writing of the time, and it cemented his career as a novelist. Today, a hundred and eleven years later, it is still in print and considered by most western historians to be the finest account of the late nineteenth century working cowboy ever put into words.

In 1935 Andy Adams was laid to rest here, in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso County, Colorado.

In 1935 Andy Adams was laid to rest here, in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso County, Colorado.

The book puts the reader in the saddle with the cowboy as he eats the dust of 3,000 cattle seven days a week for more than five months. Adams learned the craft from the punchy old timers as they trailed the herd north.

“On April 1, 1882, our Circle Dot herd started on its long tramp to the Blackfoot Agency in Montana. With six men on each side, and the herd strung out for three quarters of a mile, it could only be compared to some mythical serpent or Chinese dragon, as it moved forward on its sinuous, snail like course.”

At the start of the drive, his boss gave everyone the advice that all cowboys learn fast on the trail, “Boys, the secret of trailing cattle is never to let your herd know that they are under restraint. Let everything that is done be done voluntarily by the cattle. From the moment you let them off the bed in the morning until they are bedded at night, never let a cow take a step, except in the direction of its destination.”

Adams wrote about choosing his remuda of six to eight horses, and described the saddles and tack of the period in great detail. The writing often contradicted what was being printed at the time, but his readers came to realize his articles and books were a result of real life experiences and a sharp eye for detail.

Stories of swimming the herd across rivers and dry drives and lightening-induced runs (stampedes) filled the pages with the harsh reality of the trail. Encounters with bears, wild cattle and lost cows from other herds were common. The importance of camaraderie and humor between the cowboys was also a large part of the story. He wrote of one of the hands named Ash Borrowstone getting disturbed at night by a couple of coyotes.

“There was no more danger of attack from these cowards than from field mice, but their presence annoyed Ash, and as he dared not shoot, he threw his boots at the varmints. Imagine to his chagrin the next morning to find that one boot had landed among the banked embers of the camp-fire and was burned to a crisp.”

On final delivery to the Blackfoot Agency, he encountered several local Indians. “The next morning, before we reached the agency, a number of gaudily bedecked bucks and squaws rode out to meet us. Physically, they were fine specimens of the aborigines.” The stories of the Indians were like icing on the cake for fans of Adams’ work.

From his Colorado Springs home, he produced another six books after Log of a Cowboy and many more articles. He wrote for a wide variety of audiences including young readers and those who loved short stories. As he got older he was known for encouraging and sponsoring young western writers in authentic western fiction. Adams ran, unsuccessfully, three times for El Paso County (Colorado) sheriff and lived quietly as a bachelor until his death on September 26, 1935.

For lovers of Western history, a night with Andy Adams on the long trail drive north will make you feel like you’re in the saddle riding night herd under a starlit sky to the music of the coyotes.

Keepers of the Grass

Your Future As A Rangeland Manager

Range management encompasses a great many elements, from riparian area strategies to outdoor recreation management.

Range management encompasses a great many elements, from riparian area strategies to outdoor recreation management.

By: Loretta Sorensen

Students who consider the great outdoors to be the perfect office location may want to contemplate pursuit of a Range Management degree. Susan Edinger Marshall, Rangeland Resources and Wildland Soils professor at Humboldt State’s Forestry and Wildland Resources Department in Arcata, CA, says working as a Range Manager is all about plants and animals.

“Rangelands are part of a very fragile environment in the sense that they’re greatly influenced by events such as drought, fire, and major storms,” Marshall says. “Nature can wipe out with one event all the good management that land owners and range managers do to protect and support the land. That said, we still must do all we can to foster a healthy rangeland environment and learn as best we can how to prevent any further degradation of the rangeland ecosystem.”

Rangeland ecosystems throughout North America are comprised of vast grassland, shrubland, woodland and desert landscapes. Range managers typically work with both private landowners and public lands officials to integrate information about plant communities, soils, wildlife species, livestock use, watershed functions and land use policy to conserve and restore wildland ecosystems. Some career activities include invasive plant control, endangered species surveys or planning for a sustainable livestock operation.

Passion for working outdoors, desire to support healthy rangeland management activities and interest in interact ing with wildlife all fit well with rangeland management activities. In general, there is no “typical workday” in the industry. Managers work with hydrology, botany, ecology and wildlife.

Cambra Fields, from Pryor, OK, completed a Natural Resource Ecology and Management, Rangeland Ecology and Management degree. After graduation, she started working with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as a Rangeland Management Specialist. She’s pleased that her job allows her to help educate landowners and promote conservation.

“Through my job, I’ve been able to see my dad’s wetlands restored from a cropped floodplain into an excellent wildlife habitat,” Fields says. “I highly recommend pursuing your passion.”

Rangeland management jobs are commonly offered through the Federal Government, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Graduates may also work in an academic setting as a professor or for a research organization such as Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Graduates also find job opportunities at the state level, working with publicly owned lands such as state department of agriculture lands, wildlife, parks or recreation.

Private landowners, ranches, ecological consulting firms, landscaping companies and tribal agencies also need the skills of rangeland managers.


Degrees are offered in 18 U.S. states, as well as Canada and Mexico. Montana State’s undergraduate program gives students the opportunity to complete either a Natural Resources and Rangeland Ecology or Animal Sciences degree. Equine Horsemanship, Equine Science, Natural Resource Science & Management and Fish & Wildlife Science & Management courses are also available.

Their major focuses on managing the rangeland soilplant-animal complex, giving students an understanding of grazing and other land uses within a framework of total resource management. “In most rangeland jobs, you should expect to be in the field half the time and in the office the rest of the time, depending on the season,” Marshall shares.

“It’s important to have fundamental knowledge of plants and soils. In past analysis of successful range management graduates, we’ve seen distinctive markers indicating that students with an athletic background, those highly involved in service clubs and church affiliation like youth groups are the kinds of students attracted to range management positions. Students involved in Future Farmers of America (FFA) also make a good fit. Having an agricultural background isn’t a requirement for the degree, but it’s a big advantage to those students with that experience.”

If a graduate doesn’t immediately secure a rangeland management position, most degrees will also prepare them to work in a conservation capacity. “Just about every county in the United States retains a soil conservationist,” Marshall says. “If students don’t land their ideal job at first, there are still job opportunities.”

There are state-level job opportunities such as state department of agriculture lands, wildlife, parks or recreation.

There are state-level job opportunities such as state department of agriculture lands, wildlife, parks or recreation.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) assists students who seek a rangeland management degree outside their home state. Students residing in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming are eligible to request a reduced tuition rate of 150% of resident tuition at participating two-year and four-year college programs outside their home state. Most programs are structured around a fouryear degree.

Many institutions limit the number of new WUE awards each academic year so interested students should apply early. More information is available at A typical four-year program will include at least 18 semester hours of course work in range management, including courses in range plants, range ecology, range inventories and studies, range improvements and ranch or rangeland planning.

Other courses focus on plant, animal and soil sciences. Plant taxonomy, plant physiology and ecology, animal nutrition, livestock production and soil morphology are among the topic focuses. Management studies will involve resource management sources, such as wildlife, watershed, natural resource or agricultural economics. Students also study forestry, agronomy, forages and outdoor recreation management.

“Some graduates work with recreation restoration or control of ecological changes such as invasive weeds like knapweeds,” Marshall explains. “Some jobs will interface with several types of responsibilities such as use of public lands and permittee agreements.” The theme for the 2015 Society for Range Management annual conference is “Managing Diversity.” Among the conference topics are “Urban Open Space Grazing,” “Rangeland Analysis and Synthesis,” “Retaining Sage Grouse Habitat,” demonstration of new iPhone apps, and “Groundbreaking NonLethal Strategies for Minimizing Livestock Depredation,” illustrating the broad range of job activities encompassed in range management opportunities.

“Students don’t have to have an agricultural background to be a good fit in range management,” Marshall adds. “Some of my best students have come from urban areas but they have a strong interest in outdoor activities. The best way to decide if this is a good career fit is to review job abstracts. Current activities include working with sage grouse preservation, using social media to communicate to our audience and many other types of activities. It’s rewarding to work in this environment because soils support plants, plants support animals and animals support us. This is a highly relevant career choice.”

More information about Rangeland Management degrees and options is available at

BLM Reasoning (today’s oxymoron)

Chinese officials denied entry to U.S. loads of hay because they detected genetically modified alfalfa in the mix.

Chinese officials denied entry to U.S. loads of hay because they detected genetically modified alfalfa in the mix.

By: Tim O’Byrne

Pssst! Word on the gravel road is… the BLM doesn’t recognize cheatgrass. Yeah. Cheatgrass as a forage does not officially exist to the BLM according to reliable sources. That’s why the formidable bureau refuses to include it in a range analysis as having at least some nutritional value, encouraging grazing and control of the drought-tolerant weed and becoming part of the solution to reducing range-fire fuel instead of being a part of the problem. That’s also why they refused to take part in a recent University of Nevada Cooperative Extension study overseen by educator Steve Foster and range specialist Brad Schultz to test the idea that cheatgrass grazing might actually be a good idea.

The BLM experts need to talk to an old boy like retired IL Ranch manager Jim Andrae, who’s spent more days on the rangelands of Nevada than most of them have had hot meals. In fact, if they don’t want to take precious time out of their day for a face-to-face lesson like that, especially with them being so tied up with litigation and whatnot, they can flip to page 97 of this issue of WR and read about how back in the day the original effective range managers (Jim Andrae and his peers), used controlled burns and early turnout of cattle onto spring-green cheatgrass areas to not only control the fire fuel levels and weed encroachment problems by hammering it hard and early, but also put a few extra pounds on some hearty cows. Oh, but that would be admitting that cheatgrass might actually be a forage after all.


In what can only be described as a scene in a bizarre foreign film, one in which we Americans could not watch without snickering at the irony, China, a country known for having added the toxic substance Melamine to raw milk, wheat gluten and rice protein, has turned away U.S. alfalfa because it discovered some of the plants were genetically modified. Approximately 30% of alfalfa seed in the U.S. is modified to resist Roundup, but hay brokers from California were intent on shipping only non-biotech hay to feed the massive country’s protein hungry dairy cows. How the genmod hay ended up on a slow boat to China is anyone’s guess; it could have been a mix-up in storage, or cross pollination… but last summer Beijing stamped it “Return to Sender”, causing a quick-felt collapse in the international hay shipping business back on our dusty shores.


toppin-2Folks, we sent out a survey awhile back to some select readers, just to get a feel for what’s going on out there with y’all, and we were very happy to have you return so many of them.

The final question on the survey asked if you had any comments or suggestions on future stories for upcoming issues. It ended with a little note from me, stating that, “I’ll read every one” of your suggestions. Well, folks, this here’s the last batch. I’ve read a couple hundred already, and sure want to thank you for your wonderful comments and suggestions. And I promise I’ll get to this last draft once the spring rush is over. We are blessed to have so many loyal readers, busy ranchers like yourselves, take time to help us understand how to bring you the best magazine we possibly can.

Again, WR thanks each and every one of you, and if you didn’t get a survey and want to make a suggestion or comment, we’d love to hear from you. Just mail it to WR Editor, PO Box 91269, Henderson, NV, 89009, or email me at .

Run It With The Sun

SunPumps offers this solar powered 3-phase, 460V 10 HP pump that delivers 250 gallons per minute from a depth of 75 feet.

SunPumps offers this solar powered 3-phase, 460V 10 HP pump that delivers 250 gallons per minute from a depth of 75 feet.

By Jennifer Showalter
It comes up every morning… why not put it to work?

We have been granted the gift of the sun coming up each and every morning, so it only makes sense to put it to work. From energizing fence chargers, automatic gate openers, water pumps, large scale irrigation systems, to overall household and barn electrical needs, solar power has the capability of running it all.


Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity by directly using photovoltaic (PV) cells, also known as solar cells, or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). CSP systems force large areas of sunlight into small beams by way of lenses or mirrors and tracking sys tems. Solar power can be used to energize both direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) systems. AC is the standard form of electricity for anything that plugs into utility power. This is the type of power used in homes and barns. DC solar power is less expensive than AC solar power, but cannot power standard AC appliances. Off-grid solar power systems store DC electricity in batteries, which can be used as needed or converted to AC power by way of an inverter.

Solar power systems can operate solely on their own with a back-up battery or other power source, or they can be connected to the grid. Grid connected systems feed excess produced electricity back to the grid and eliminate the expense of electricity storage devices like batteries. Power providers in most states turn back electricity meters as power is fed back into the grid. If more electricity is used than what is produced in a given month, the customer only pays the power provider the difference. Additional equipment, regulations, insurance, and safety guidelines go along with grid connected systems, depending on location. “Solar panels when active are like utility electricity lines, so it is important to follow the guidelines,” says Seth Pepper with Tucson-based Agriculture Energies. “Even though they are silent, they still pack punch,”

Solar panels are usually placed facing the equator so they capture the maximum amount of sunshine. They may need some adjustment throughout the year depending on the tilt of the earth. Peak panel output is typically from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fog, snow, rain, ice, bird droppings, and dust can affect the performance of the panels and must be cleared or accounted for in the way of a backup storage battery, generator, water storage tank, or an alternate form of power. Solar panels are low-to-no maintenance, but these limitations cannot be ignored.


  Arizona producer Harvey Allen’s 30 HP solar pump system from SunPumps fills the flood irrigation canal, and runs the center pivot operating on solar.

Arizona producer Harvey Allen’s 30 HP solar pump system from SunPumps fills the flood irrigation canal, and runs the center pivot operating on solar.

Like with most purchases on a ranch, solar powered devices and systems have some overhead costs that must be considered. Pepper explains, “The challenge for solar is that it is a cash purchase. The cost is all upfront, but the cost is justified if you consider that solar panels have a 25 year warranty and are expected to last at least 50 years. Now, if in the beginning it takes a few years to pay it off, wouldn’t you say the long-term benefits of ‘free energy’ outweigh the initial costs?”

There is assistance to help with acquiring solar power, but it takes some time to get it. A good starting point is to visit your local NRCS office. “Upwards of 70% of the purchase price can be reduced from tax incentives, but you have to be able to use those tax benefits,” Pepper continues. “Farm banks are a great resource for low interest loans to ranchers, and there are grants available through the USDA, specifically the REAP program. Our experience is that this approach will take a lot of patience – and if you can do these projects without waiting, why wait. However, if you need assistance, the grant programs can make a lot of sense.”

The economics behind going solar are site specific and therefore each rancher has to consider his or her own situation. Pepper finds that solar power is the most attractive when compared to other sources of energy for off-grid operations. He adds, “An area we see the most advantage in solar power is the growing increase of ranchers taking on growing their own livestock feed in order to stabilize their costs. Pumping the water to these large fields can eventually be pumped for free when the system is paid off. There is some real stability for the rancher in this. A lot of ranchers we run into seem to think little watering livestock tanks are all they can run off of solar and do not know that solar can feed large irrigation systems.” Joe Lines with SunPumps in Safford, AZ estimates, “Usually the payback on most off-grid solar pumping systems is two to three years in the USA.”

With there being a wide array of both off-grid and on-grid solar systems, WR thought it would be good to highlight a few companies and products that might be of some help to our readers. This is what we found:



With solar pumping systems ranging from 1/8 HP to 100 HP, SunPumps offers a comprehensive line of pumps.

The energy from the PV panels of SunPumps systems generates DC power which in turn is used to power DC motors that pump water from a source. The PV panels also create enough power to move entire irrigation systems over the ground. The solar panels generate maximum power in full sun conditions when large quantities of water are typically needed, but SunPumps still encourages customers to store water as a reserve if possible.


Agriculture Energies installs solar systems as large as 500 horsepower.

Agriculture Energies installs solar systems as large as 500 horsepower.

Here’s a company that will walk beef producers through the entire process of going solar, from project analysis, engineering, financial procurement and follow-up maintenance. The Agriculture Energies team works together to design a system that maximizes the solar system energy production at the lowest possible cost for the best return on the investment to the system owner. Agriculture Energies, in business since 1970, prides itself in developing and installing systems that are as large as 500 horsepower and have been in the field working for over a decade without any downtime failure.


The Artisan Reliant would be good for pastures.

The Artisan Reliant would be good for pastures.

The Reliant solar pump system from Artisan Pumps supplies fresh water for rural homes, farms and ranches. The simple and sturdy pump is ideal for gardens, stock watering, irrigation, and filling and maintaining ponds. As a replacement for windmill-powered pumps, the Reliant offers reliability, low cost of ownership and a far lower profile. The ¾-hp motor is driven by solar or low-amp grid-tie electric power. The pump can run dry without damage, perfect for pasture situations where flow may not be checked every day. Reliant offers two choices: Model 101 pumps to 400 feet at constant flow rates. Model 102 delivers flows of 2.7 gallons a minute, up to 3,880 gallons a day.

Remembering David Stoecklein

by Tim O’Byrne

At times, the WR team will come together in appreciative reflection upon our journey of the past several years. This issue is Volume 10, Number 1; quite a milestone. We often think back to our very first issue which went to press in the fall of 2006. The very first copy to arrive in the WR editorial office hangs on the wall, along with the very first letter we received from a rancher/reader congratulating us on our launch. And more than once, way more than once, somebody on the WR team, including me, will say something like, “You know, nothing beats that first cover”.

That first cover, a gritty shot featuring Texas cowpuncher Bubba Smith and the crew working a branding, was
just a superb example of a ranch action shot. And the fella who took it, David Stoecklein, has been on the WR
masthead since Vol. 1, #1. We were saddened to hear of our friend’s recent passing, but dang glad to have known
him. His images have graced so many of our features and covers I couldn’t begin to count them. His body of work was, and is, every bit as outstanding as it is prolific.

In this issue, in memoriam, Dave’s name remains on the WR masthead. Next issue we will respectfully retire it forever. It was a great ride, Dave. I’m at peace knowing you’re finally able to see what the colors of the rainbow look like from the other side.


This is like the fourth year now that we’ve run the annual national cattle association/group year-end wrap-up (see page 92, this issue). This year’s submissions really got to me. The issues are unbelievably complex and of the gravest importance; Waters of the US, importing beef from a known Foot and Mouth disease area of South America, COOL,
the health of the Beef Checkoff. It didn’t take long to realize just how important it was that the individuals in these groups maintain a steady course in protecting our industry, its people, and the spinoff economies. If it wasn’t for these unwavering individuals, and for the people who support them in their tireless, unselfish efforts, the Herculean, often unrewarding task of keeping the detractors and bullies in line would be doomed to failure. The industry’s collective strength would deteriorate rapidly, and beef production as we know it today would fracture, dissolve
and fail on several broad levels.

Here’s my challenge to you in 2015: Join a beef cattle organization that appeals to you, whether state or national, attend a meeting or convention, and let those leaders know you are behind them 100%. If you find yourself in a position of power, conduct yourself professionally, transparently, and with the pride and dignity worthy of this handshake way of life.

Our industry deserves to have emphatic participation in order to leave the next generation something to be excited about. Go. Join today.


Not known for my over-the-top brilliance, I proved that point once again a few months back. On p. 18 of my
September October 2015 column, I devised a scheme in which to give away a Bear and Son Cutlery knife that they
had given me to test. We like to do that every now and again with items or books submitted to us. My plan was to
take the first caller who could correctly identify some line in a back issue. I waited, the first caller called, they won the
knife, end of story, right? Wrong. Five or so more folks called in the ensuing week. It was then that I realized the folly
of my contest; some folks get the magazine (in the Heartland) before others (the west or Florida). The contest was
unfair from the start. The only thing we could do was to give those other callers a knife, too. This is where things get
warm and fuzzy. Bear and Son sent me enough knives to cover my foible, and that’s what we did – we sent them all
knives. Thanks, Bear and Son! The next contest will be fool-proof.