Cattle Ranges of the Southwest Page: 14 of 32
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support a cow." This may be an exaggerated estimate, but it is certain
that the interests of stockmen demand the speedy extermination of
these little anilnals. So far all efforts in that direction have been
unavailing. As long as the State, counties, corporations, and nonresident
individuals hold titles to considerable portions of the lands
in the stock ranges, it is likely to be impracticable for any effectual
remedy to be applied to the evil. It is quite possible for the dogs on
a given section of land to be killed at small expense, but as long as
those onl the adjoifilig sections are not also killed, they will multiply
and restock the sections temporarily freed from them. At every session
of the Texas legislature bills are introduced looking to the State taking
this serious matter in charge, but so far no bill that meets the demands
of the situation has become a law. If the State would start in to kill
the prairie dogs and jack rabbits on all the public lands, and force the
owners of all other lands to do likewise, the benefit to the stockmen
directly, and indirectly to the people of the State generally, would be
Another factor that is tending to decrease the value of the ranges is
the rapid spread of prickly pear and thorny shrubs over previously
open country. Hundreds of square miles of the richest grazing country
in southern Texas has been overrun with prickly pear, and the growth
is each year becoming more impenetrable. In many of the southern
counties it has been estimated that this cactus has already decreased
the carrying capacity of the range one-fourth to one-third. The prickly
pear is indeed a curse to the stock country. Some years ago, before
cotton-seed hulls and meal were available as a fattening food, the pear
was quite largely used after the spines had been disposed of by roasting
or boiling. Now: the cheaper and better cotton-seed hulls, which
do not require a like amount of labor in their preparation, have almost
entirely displaced it as a forage. The fruits are produced in great
abundance, and when ripe are eaten with evident relish by birds, hogs,
and cattle, and the seeds are thereby being very rapidly disseminated
over whatever country is still free from it. Not only does the pear
increase from the seed, but if a joint of the stem is broken off and falls
on the ground, it takes root and produces a new plant.
As a result of this rapid increase of prickly pear, the grass is being
eaten to the roots wherever stock can get at it between the clumps of
cactus. Paths are worn and the ground is trampled and packed, and
the only grasses tlat are allowed to ripen seed are those growing
within these thorny citadels of cactus plants. Cattle on the range will
not eat prickly pear unless driven to it by hunger or thirst. It is a
better substitute for water than for food, but with this statement of
facts the best has been said concerning the forage possibilities of this
plant. It is a fact that it is spreading every year over a wider extent
of range country, and that its presence in any considerable quantity
is on the whole detrimental to the best interests of stockmen.
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Bentley, Henry Lewis. Cattle Ranges of the Southwest, book, 1898; Washington. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2412/m1/14/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .