Cattle Ranges of the Southwest Page: 16 of 32
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PRESERVATION OF WATER SUPPLY.
One of the most serious mistakes made by the stockmen of the
Southwest is that of not making ample provision for an abundant
supply of stock water in anticipation of the periodical drought to
which the region is subject. With a few exceptions the streams of
the Southwest do not run continuously. In many of them the water
runs only after rains, and all that is available for cattle is what is left
in the deeper water holes. In good years, when the rainfall is up to or
above the average and is distributed at intervals throughout the year,
these chains of water holes in the river beds furnish enough water for
stock purposes. But when the rainfall is below the average, and particularly
when two or more dry years follow in succession, much suffering
and loss are bound to result, if no other provision is made.
To obviate this deficiency, every stockman ought to build dams,
tanks, or artificial ponds which may be filled by the natural drainage
of the land back from the streams. Where the ground water is within
reasonable depth, wells should be sunk and windmills put up. In
many sections of Texas and eastern New Mexico artesian water may
If these precautions are not taken in years of plenty to provide
against water famine in years of drought, the losses of stock will be
very heavy. More is often lost during a dry year than can be regained
in three or four good years. The loss is not confined to cattle alone,
but there is also the permanent lowering of the carrying capacity of
the range. When water is scarce cattle become weak, and although
there may be excellent grass far back from the water holes, the stock
congregate in their immediate vicinity, so that every sprig of grass is
eaten off and the ground sometimes becomes trampled and bare for 3 or 4
miles in every direction. Dams or tanks can be provided at intervals
of 5 miles over the range and all this destruction of valuable pasturage
would then be prevented, as cattle would at no time be required to
go more than 29 to 3 miles for water, and they would naturally feed
away from the water, where the best grasses could be found. Grasses
that grow in wet lands have not the sustaining qualities of upland
grasses, being more succulent and containing less of the fat-andmuscle-forming
ingredients. Wherever water is abundant it will be
found that cattle feed through preference on upland grasses far distant
from the water, whereas if they have to travel from 10 to 20 miles
for water, as is often the case during drought, they will stick close to
the water and die of starvation rather than risk the chances of dying
of thirst in the good grass country. If the carrying capacity of the
ranges is to be increased, it is necessary that provision be made in
advance against a scarcity of water in times of drought.
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Bentley, Henry Lewis. Cattle Ranges of the Southwest, book, 1898; Washington. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth2412/m1/16/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .