Converting Farmland to Range

“The first sunny day after a rain may be the first day of the next drought ”  – Jack Dunn of Circle Dot Ranch, Agua Dulce, Texas

I see now why Warren Hilliard decided to convert the place we now call home into a ranch in 1936. In those days much of our country was farmland, predominantly upland cotton, with some corn and milo maize thrown in the rotation. Hilliard was at that time the county judge, but also a cotton farmer, or overseer landowner. In the spring of ‘36 another citizen asked him “Warren, what are you putting out?” Curious to know if he planned to put out cotton or corn. Hilliard replied “I am putting out cropland into grazing land!”

This week we saw the first flood of 2017. Last year we counted nine floods. Much of this ranch is alluvial bottom land bordered by two creeks. So, when the county gets over four inches of rain on saturated soil, the creeks are inclined to “come out,” and half our land is underwater. If we had it laid open by plowing for crops, much of our soil would be on its way to the gulf of Mexico each spring.

Cattle seem to have a sixth sense about flooding, and in forty years we’ve never lost a single head from floods. Right now they’re up on top of the hill munching round bales.

The good news is that the rains make the grass grow, as well as weeds and brush and wildflowers. This means that our grazing and browsing Corriente cattle will get fat and make a lot of babies. Dad always said “basically as ranchers, we’re grass farmers.” This year already promises a bumper crop. 

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