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  < Back to Table Of Contents  < Back to Topic: Modern vs. Vintage Farming

article number 509
article date 12-08-2015
copyright 2015 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Faces On Our Farms, 1976, Part 4: Raising Livestock
by USDA
   

From the USDA 1976 Yearbook of Agriculture.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pictures are placed after the text which refers to the picture.

* * *

The U.S. is a strong livestock nation. Meat, milk and eggs are prominent in the national diet. Throughout the world people tend to move up from starchy foods to proteins as their levels of affluence improve. For example, 35% of the calories consumed in the U.S. are from animal products, compared with 32% in West Germany, 13% in Brazil, and 6% in India.

Livestock have, over the years, worked well with crops on our family-type farms. Livestock largely were put out to pasture in the summer during the busy field work. The heavy chores of feeding and caring for animals came during the winter months when the family wasn’t busy in the field.

Now livestock farming is becoming specialized. More animals are confined year-round as the chores get more mechanized. It used to be said “the eye of the master fattens his cattle,” indicating that feeding was an individual art; increasingly, rations and management systems are packaged.

Still, a good farmer can simply walk among his livestock and sense whether things are going well.

   
Photo by David Warren.
   
Photo by David Warren.

Making beef takes patience—and time, as Bing Furnish knows when he moves Herefords, Angus, Charolais and other beef cattle out to pasture on the Hitch Ranch, Guymon, Oklahoma. Yearlings are kept on pasture until they weigh 6-700 pounds. Then they’re brought in to a feedlot and fed to 1,000-1,100 pounds before slaughter.

   
Photo by Bill Marr.

If long-range prospects look good, a cattleman may decide to enlarge his breeding herd and produce more meat—but it will be 4 1/2 years before more beef shows up at the store. First, he keeps a heifer calf rather than let her be fed for slaughter; that reduces the beef supply that year.

The heifer has her first calf as a two-year old. When that calf goes to market a year or two later, it replaces the beef supply lost when its mother was held back from slaughter. Her second calf is the first to increase the meat supply—14 to 24 months after it is born. Time elapsed from the decision to increase meat supplies: 4 1/2 years or more.

From afar, cattle look like ants in the pens of the Steve Marks Cattle Co. feedlot in Zamora, California. These feed lots are divided into pens where cattle of similar age and size are fed together. Cattle in each pen “graduate” together to market.

   
Photo by Jack Clark.

Rations for cattle in big feedlots are scientifically formulated for proper balance of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, fiber and vitamins. As the costs of ingredients change, computers alter the mix to create least-cost rations. We know more about healthful livestock rations than we do about human diets.

To meet rising labor costs and the need for greater efficiency, livestock often are confined in buildings and lots so feeding and watering can be automated. Waste disposal creates a costly problem. A feedlot of 1,000 cattle has a waste disposal problem equivalent to a town of 6,000 people.

Their food is delivered to them by chain feeder, their water is conveniently located in special containers, and their nests are just a few feet away. The breeder hens of Perdue, Inc. are pampered to lay as many eggs as possible in their Salisbury, Maryland, houses. The eggs will be hatched to become broiler chicks.

   
Photo by Ray Lustig.

Young farmers on a tour visit a 1,000-capacity hog finishing building astraddle a lagoon. The lagoon catches manure dropping through a slatted floor. This holds down odors. The slurry is used on fields as fertilizer, thus recycling nutrients into the soil.

   
Photo by Angus McDougall.

This open confinement building for feeding beef cattle was demonstrated at the 1975 Farm Progress Show in Illinois. Manure falls through a slatted floor into a collection pit, where it may be pumped into a wagon for spreading on fields. Or it may be pumped directly into an irrigation system.

   
Photo by Gordon Baer.

Cowboys on motorcycles are becoming a common sight on some cow-calf operations. The George Landers farm at Dadeville, Missouri, raises Charolais cows and calves. Cow-calf herds on grazing land provide the beef calves that move into specialized feedlots for finishing. Three out of four pounds of the beef we eat comes from roughages.

   
Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Even though gutters behind dairy cows are scraped clean mechanically in stanchion barns, there’s still lots of handwork for the entire family in spreading bedding and cleaning up. Lisa Marietti is going to lend a hand to grandfather Dominic Marietti in Chepachet, Rhode Island. Younger granddaughter Nicole will get her chance later.

   
Photo by James Karales.

Hogs have probably paid for more farms than any other single farm product, hence the term “mortgage lifters.” Hogs are raised in every state, but most of them are in the Midwest near the corn and soybeans which make up the bulk of their feed.

Hog prices go up and down in cycles. With too many hogs, the price goes down, and farmers cut back production. This results in less pork, the price of hogs goes up, and farmers raise more. It’s seemingly as endless and inevitable as the tide.

Geneticists and breeders have remade the hog from a chubby, short, lardy animal to a long, heavily-muscled chap with larger, leaner pork chops and bigger hams. The average amount of lard per 240-pound hog has declined from 29 pounds in 1960 to 12 pounds now.

Lean cuts in a hog carcass—such as pork chops, hams and loins—have increased from 37 percent of the carcass in 1960 to 50-55 percent today.

March Lockhart, a graduate chemist, turned down a move to the big city and a promotion in order to stay on his farm in El Dorado, Arkansas. He was reared in the city, became interested in farming through a high school friend. He and his wife Pat work at regular jobs but raise Berkshire hogs and Tennessee Walking Horses part-time on their farm.

   
Photo by Michelle Bogre.

You can get a tan for the weekend swimming party even while feeding hogs.

   
Photo by Michelle Bogre.

The hogs could care less as long as you get back on time to feed them again.

   
Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Livestock and chores go together like ham and eggs. Chores and farm youngsters are also a pair. Chores build responsibility, versatility, humility, dependability, and a lot of other virtues—often not acknowledged by the youngster until 20 years later.

Raising poultry is big business where birds are handled in huge batches with amazing efficiency. Most of the broiler business is vertically integrated. The broiler chicks and the feed are owned by a firm which contracts with the farmer to feed them in his broiler houses. The farmer is paid a set amount per pound of broiler meat, and he gets a bonus if he does a good job.

It takes about 7 1/2 weeks to raise a 4-pound broiler on 7.6 pounds of feed.

Meantime, poultry breeders have developed birds with more meat on the legs and breasts. With this efficiency, poultry has moved from a Sunday treat to an everyday place in the diet.

Moving turkeys in Utah in October is dry dusty business so masks such as that worn by Tracy Cook are almost necessary.

   
Photo by John Running.

Easily frightened and stampeded, turkeys are moved gently down a slight slope, urged on by burlap sacks. They’ll soon be on their way to market.

   
Photo by John Running.

Automatic waterers and a moving chain of feed seem to stretch into infinity. The height of both are adjusted as chicks grow larger in the big broiler houses of Bill Swilley in El Dorado, Arkansas.

   
Photo by Michelle Bogre.

Milk has nourished the nation. The baby’s formula and the carton of milk start here where dairying is one of the most demanding jobs in farming. The cows have to be milked morning and night 365 days a year, including Saturdays and Sundays. No shutting off the cows for a couple of days’ vacation.

Labor is hard to get for that job, expensive to keep; so dairying remains largely a family enterprise averaging 25 cows. Buildings and equipment must meet health standards, and the investment may easily run $1,800 per cow.

In an effort to keep up with rising costs, dairymen have increased average milk production from 5,314 pounds per cow in 1950 to 10,354 in 1975 through better feeding and management, and artificial insemination which brings a good sire within reach of every dairyman.

In sophisticated herds, computers select the best matings from characteristics of blood lines.

Heroines of the Heizer farm in Middlebrook, Virginia are the 160 Brown Swiss and Holstein cows which move through the farm’s sophisticated rotary milking parlor twice daily to be milked.

   
Photo by Betsy Frampton.

Giving milk is a delicate physiological function triggered by hormones. Appropriately, cows are fed well, kept comfortable and calm, and treated gently. Most dairymen know their cows by name or number and speak gently to each one during the mechanized milking.

   
Photo by Betsy Frampton.

Future milk producers—Holstein calves—on the John Leal farm, Norco, California are brought their daily ration of pulverized alfalfa by Catarino Llamas. Youngest calves are fed cows’ milk; later cows’ milk mixed with pulverized alfalfa; and finally, grain as they get older. Calves are often started in pens up off the ground to keep them clean and healthy.

   
Photo by Dana Downie.

The system of milking used by dairymen depends somewhat on the number of hands available to help. Michelle, one of 10 children on the Ray DePriest farm at Palmer, Alaska, takes the milking machines to the cows. Machines are attached to an airtight pipeline leading to a cooling tank.

   
Photo by Charles O’Rear.

In another system, cows take turns moving into a milking parlor where the dairyman is in a pit and works machines at chest level.

Part of the pipeline milking system on the Norland-Rowbotham farm in Walworth, Wisconsin, is a receiver jar filling with milk fresh from a cow. It will automatically empty into the pipeline when full. Pipelines and jars are flushed and cleaned after each milking. Regular bacteria counts are taken to assure that sanitation is adequate.

   
Photo by David Brill.

Question: Would you rather have the milk the tank truck can hold (38,000 pounds of it) or the milk that the cow can produce in a year? Pick the cow’s production—it was 50,759 pounds in 1974. That’s nearly 24,000 quarts.

The average milk cow delivers about 10,000 pounds a year. But this cow from Mowry Farms in Pennsylvania was the first to top 50,000 pounds.

   
Photo by Robert Bjork.

Yet an Indiana cow topped her record in 1975. You need the right genes for that.

Sheep can’t be surpassed at converting what would be wasted roughage into wool and meat. But sheep raising has its problems. In farm areas sheep-killing dogs can mangle a flock overnight. In range areas, wild predators feast on Iamb.

Besides, sheep herding on the range is a lonely life and the number of people willing to adopt it is declining. So are the number of sheep, dropping from 30 million sheep and lambs in 1950 to 14 1/2 million in 1975.

Range sheep move and munch from winter to summer pastures, accompanied by men who spend six or seven months virtually alone moving the flock from one grazing area to another. Basque shepherds of Northern Spain and Southern France played a major role in establishing the Western sheep industry.

   
Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Among today’s Basque shepherds are Jean Etchamendy, owner of the Etchamendy Sheep Company, who continues to work the trail after 25 years because of the difficulty in hiring shepherds.

   
Photo by Suzanne Peterson.

With a shepherd’s crook and a lamb he has saved is Jose Aleman. Lonely and homesick, he returned to his native Spain after this drive.

   
Photo by Suzanne Peterson.

Cattle move down the highway on a Sunday in California. The beef business is a mixture of new and old. Cowboys on horses still herd and work single animals for branding, medical treatment, and the like.

   
Photo by Charles O’Rear.
   
Photo by Charles O’Rear.

But cattlemen use pickup trucks, motorbikes, snowmobiles, even helicopters to look after their herds. There are short drives to pasture and at roundup time.

Trucks are used to haul animals long distances to pasture, feedlots or packing houses.

Open range still exists in many places, but fenced herds are common. Breeding management may consist of an available bull or include artificial insemination, computers, and weight-for-age records.

In the fall, cattle that have been on the open range in Montana are brought in for winter pasture near ranch headquarters. By whooping and hollering, such as Gary Mills of the TEE Bar Ranch is doing, cowhands separate calves to check them out for physical condition and weighing.

   
Photo by Lowell Georgia.

Cowboy pay ranges widely; many receive wages, room and board and often run cattle under their own brand along with the employer’s herd.

Out on pasture at the Ira D. McClurkin Farm in Montgomery County, Alabama, a reluctant cow nears the end of the trail when McClurkin and two hands, Elijah Clayton and Alex Robinson, arrive to take her back to the farmyard.

   
Photo by Shepard Sherbell.
   
Photo by Shepard Sherbell.

There are days when nothing is as cantankerous as an animal that doesn’t want to do what you want it to.

   
Photo by Shepard Sherbell.

Branding is still necessary to identify cattle, especially in open range where the cattle of several ranches may be mixed. Even within one ranch, more than one brand may be required.

On the Pape Ranch at Daniel, Wyoming, there are three brands: one for the corporation, one for the animals that Norman Pape runs, and another for those run by John “Peck” May, a hand on the ranch.

First the branding irons are heated on the fire . . .

   
Photo by Jonathan Wright.

. . . then the calves are flipped for the branding. These calves are larger than usual for branding because they were missed in the spring roundup and brought in during fall roundup.

   
Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Finally, there is the actual branding operation. Branding offers protection against rustling, which is still a problem in the West. Hijackers even pick up livestock from pastures in farm communities across the country.

   
Photo by Jonathan Wright.

A working cow horse is a cattleman’s best assistant.

   
Photo by Bill Marr.

This one will keep the rope taut until Leroy Tillotson and Lawrence Kock of Farnam, Nebraska, have finished administering an antibiotic for the bull’s infected leg.

   
Photo by Bill Marr.

Most cattlemen have some knowledge of preventive medicine from experience, courses in college, or through the Extension Service. They know, too, when it’s time to bring in one of the nation’s 29,000 veterinarians. Keeping the nation’s livestock and poultry healthy costs farmers $400 million a year.

Youngsters learn fast on a ranch. David watches his father, Norman Pape, prepare to inoculate calves for blackleg.

   
Photo by Jonathan Wright.

Young cow emerges from specially-designed holding chute after being checked by veterinarian Dr. David Bisbee for pneumonia and pregnancy. She also was weighed and given shots following a summer on the range. Just part of the fall roundup on the TEE Bar Ranch in Montana.

   
Photo by Lowell Georgia.

Show rings such as at the Nebraska State Fair in Lincoln are more than beauty contests. Judges “look under the skin” for the cuts of meat that consumers want, and watch for weakness that might impair the animal’s ability to produce.

   
Photo by Bart Stewart.

Youngsters learn to select good livestock, put together an efficient ration, and bring the animal up to the day of the show in tip-top “bloom” condition.

   
Photo by Bart Stewart.

Less attention is paid to the physical appearance of livestock these days and more to performance—such as weight-for-age, feed per pound of gain, and carcass cut-out. These are indications that a bloodline can perform under normal conditions, make money for a commercial operator, and turn out the kind of product the market wants.

Pride of ownership comes through especially at show time. Sam and Robert Shuey groom prize Hereford they showed at the Ohio State Fair.

   
Photo by Gordon Baer.

There is a very special relationship between farmers and ranchers and the animals they work with, and it shows. Chuck Smith of Farmington, New Mexico won first place for his California breed rabbit at the San Juan County Fair.

   
Photo by John Running.

The fast-paced action of a livestock sale can be a lively show to watch. Someone in the grandstands winks or nods or tugs his ear and one of the ringmen waves and shouts “I’ve got a 45” or “I’ve got a 63” (meaning $4,500 or $6,300) and the auctioneer—Col. Jewett Fulkerson—announces the bidding for the Polled Hereford being led by Walter McKeIlar, ranch manager of the CMR Ranch, Senatobia, Mississippi.

   
Photo by David Warren.
   
Photo by David Warren.

It’s the annual picnic sale at the ranch—one of the well-known private sales in the beef industry. A one-fourth interest in a bull at the 1975 sale brought a top price of $12,000. Ranch owner M. P. “Hot” Moore has held 34 consecutive annual sales.

Ringman Wesley Hayes shouts a prospective buyer’s bid to the auctioneer at the CMF sale.

   
Photo by David Warren.

Results are worth shouting about. The average sale price at CMR might easily run $3,000 to $6,000 per animal, and once hit a record $7,965 per animal.

Ringman Bobby Baker is caught up in the fever of the sale. There’s a lot of psychology to keeping the sale momentum going and the bids coming. A good auctioneer is an artist at it.

   
Photo by David Warren.

Men, women and youngsters attending such sales are intent on the bidding, constantly checking the sale catalog for the pedigree of the animal being auctioned. These animals are being sold for breeding—not slaughter—and their bloodlines, the performance of their dams, sires and earlier ancestors, govern their value.

   
Photo by David Warren.

Ranch owner Moore says he likes to breed out the “middles” of a beef animal, which don’t bring much at the meat market, and breed in the “rear ends” that provide bigger and better rump roasts, porterhouses and sirloins.

   
Photo by David Warren.

This Hampshire boar is being sold for breeding purposes at a private auction in Mahomet, Illinois. Good ancestry is important in hogs as well as in dairy and beef cattle.

   
Photo by William Kuykendall.

Farmers look for lean, heavily muscled hogs that will gain fast, produce more meat from less grain, have big litters and stay healthy. That kind will make money and produce the meat consumers want.

Farmers will come from across the state to bid for them. It doesn’t have to be daylight to conduct business, as the Lyle Bidner Hog Sale indicates.

   
Photo by William Kuykendall.
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