El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750 Page: 69
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to three million head of livestock in Texas were in-
fested by screwworms. In the I96os, E. F. Knipling
and R. C. Bushland discovered a process for eradicat-
ing the screworm by dropping millions of sterilized
adult male screwworm flies into infested areas. These
flies mated with the females, which then laid eggs that
would not hatch (Richardson 1978).
Science has also helped the ranching industry by
developing vaccines and diet supplements to help
make livestock raising more productive. Today, around
ninety-five percent of the ranchers in South Texas vac-
cinate their calves to prevent such diseases as blackleg
and anthrax, and "drench" them (force medicine into
their stomachs) to eliminate internal parasites. Most
ranchers also spray their animals to reduce such pests
as flies and lice (Carson, Paschal, Hanselka 1992). Add-
ing phosphorus to water and feed and providing other
mineral supplements have proved an important means
of preventing "creeps," a debilitating illness resulting
from diets without adequate minerals.
Improved Grazing Pastures
Another scientific development has been new equip-
ment designed to eliminate and control the brushlands
which had begun to invade South Texas ranch lands.
Dissatisfied with the grubbing hoe and ax they had
used since the 189os to try to control the spread of
mesquite and other brush, they began to experiment
with a number of different methods. A recent sur-
vey indicates that as many as ninety-five percent of
ranchers have used some type of brush management
within the last ten years. Current mechanical meth-
ods of brush and weed control include shredding,
roller chopping, chaining, discing, root plowing, grub-
bing, and bulldozing. Brush may also be controlled
by spraying herbicides from the air or ground, or by
putting them directly into the soil (Carson, Paschal,
and Hanselka 1992).
Again, a good example of this type of effort was that
of the King Ranch, which built and experimented with
various types of brush-control machinery. In I951, the
ranch developed an astonishingly effective machine-
a giant funnel dozer and root plow powered by dual
tractors and weighing over IIo,ooo pounds-which
could clear about four acres of brush an hour, cutting,
shredding and leaving it stacked in windrows. It also
pulled a sixteen-foot blade about sixteen inches below
the ground surface. The cost was about four dollars
per acre, and for many years the ranch had two of
these giant machines working day and night. Between
1936 and 1953, the King Ranch cabled 10,700 acres,
dozed 103,998 acres, and root plowed 141,264 acres of
ranch land, spending some $751,259.75 to do it. Herbi-
cides were also tried, but generally with unsatisfactory
results (Lea 1957).
Rancho El Nifio Feliz, owned by Diego Guti6rrez
of Laredo and located in Zapata County, has been
completely root plowed and all brush cleared. In co-
operation with scientists at Texas A&M University,
Gutierrez has planted various types of grasses for graz-
ing his cattle. Over the years in the region, some
seventy-five percent of the ranchers in the area have ex-
perimented with grasses from many parts of the world.
Some of the most common perennial grasses include
Klein grass, Buffelgrass, bluestems, Bahia, and Love
grass. The cost for this runs about fifty dollars per acre.
Some ranchers prefer using annual species of plants, in-
cluding haygrazer, Sudan, ryegrass, turnips, sorghum,
and small grains like oats, wheat, and rye. This costs
about thirty dollars per acre per year (Carson, Paschal,
and Hanselka 1992).
While the new Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle was
recognized by the USDA in 1940, the quest for the best
cattle to raise in South Texas continues. Common on
area ranches are Herefords, Angus, Santa Gertrudis,
Brahmans, and mixed breeds. Many ranchers use vari-
ous types of crossbreeds, and some continue to raise
Longhorns. For example, Frank Graham, foreman on
the Alta Vista Ranch in Jim Hogg County, has a herd
of over a hundred longhorns which produce from sixty
to seventy calves each year (Frank Graham interview).
Many ranches work closely with veterinarians to im-
prove their livestock productivity by doing fertility
tests on bulls, monitoring the conception rate of cows,
The Ranch in South Texas
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Graham, Joe S. El Rancho in South Texas: Continuity and Change From 1750, book, 1994; Denton, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28328/m1/81/?q=el%20rancho: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.