National Geographic : 1952 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine fields and gave us a summary of their annual crop production-potatoes, onions, wheat, barley, flax, sugar beets, and alfalfa. They balance these operations by raising a Minne sota-pattern crossbred pig and by winter feeding lambs. "We have been producing an average of 280 spring pigs in the last few years," they told us. "Our father was one of the first farmers in the Red River Valley to fatten western feeding lambs, and we sort of inher ited this business from him. It always shows a nice profit. It utilizes farm hay and feed and gives us a substantial amount of manure to be returned to the soil." Usually the lambs, up to 2,500 head, are bought in the State of Washington in late fall, fed all winter, and sold off in the spring. Incidentally, every year at least 10 percent of the net income of the Brandt farm is set aside for church and charity. On the 1,700-acre farm of Albin and Walter Olson we saw a purebred herd of 250 Here fords. The Olsons decided to balance their grain operations with livestock in 1936, when they bought 14 purebred cows and a purebred bull. From that nucleus they built up their herd. They also feed commercial cattle as one of their regular farming operations. Only once during this tour of Red River Valley farms were we distracted from cattle, sheep, and swine. This was upon our arrival in the village of Casselton, where our thoughts turned to poultry. There the women of the American Lutheran Church served us a boun tiful dinner of fried chicken, true country style. Experimenters Replace Indian-fighters Our plane carried us next to Miles City, Montana, where the Range Livestock Experi ment Station of the U. S. Department of Agriculture is located, in the heart of the State's range area. The station sprawls over 56,300 acres in an area about 10 miles square, formerly the site of the Fort Keogh Military Reservation of Indian warfare days. Most of the terrain is rough, broken badlands, typical of eastern Montana range country. Work here centers chiefly on grazing in vestigations, cattle-feeding tests, beef-cattle breeding, and swine breeding. The three principal breeds of beef cattle in the United States are Herefords, with their characteristic white faces and red bodies; black Aberdeen-Angus; and Shorthorns, which may be solid red, red with white markings, white, or roan.* The Hereford, which outnumbers all other beef cattle in the United States and thrives particularly on the western ranges, originated in the valleys of the Severn and the Wye, in the west of England. The breed takes its name from the County of Herefordshire, drained largely by the Wye. The Shorthorn, once well known in the United States as the Durham, came from England's Counties of Yorkshire and Durham. The Aberdeen Angus, extremely popular today in the East and Middle West, developed in eastern Scot land where Aberdeen, Kincardine, and Angus (Forfar) Counties face the North Sea. In Angus they were familiary called "doddies," and that name often is applied to them by their admirers in the United States. Meat Production Speeded Up Research at the Miles City station has dem onstrated that selective breeding can establish lines of beef animals that will gain weight rapidly in the feed lot. It can now be safely predicted that a steer sired by a rapidly gain ing bull will inherit his weight-gaining char acteristics. This basic principle has been used in developing a cooperative beef cattle re search project among 35 States and the U. S. Bureau of Animal Industry. The program will make possible quicker production of beef from a given amount of feed and facilities. Systematic crossbreeding also produces re sults. Of this year's crop of coming yearling steers at the Bar B Ranch near Ogden, Utah, for example, 389 head of Shorthorn-Here ford crosses averaged 526 pounds, compared with a 492-pound average for 760 head of coming yearlings of one breed. Our flight from Miles City to Twin Falls, Idaho, gave us an insight into the desperate need of the western range country for water. From the air the irrigated areas stood out boldly in their lush vegetation, giving dra matic evidence of the possibilities inherent in millions of acres of land now barren most of the year or densely covered with sagebrush. From Twin Falls we drove north to Ketchum, Idaho, in the heart of sheep coun try. On the way we paused to watch a flock of 1,100 yearlings grazing on alfalfa and to talk with their herder. His dog was by his side, and his canvas-covered wagon stood a short distance away. The meeting was unusual in the extreme for him. The man just happened to be close to civilization temporarily. Usually a shepherd's life is lonely-his home is his wagon, his only companion his dog, his surroundings the high hills, far from the main highways. Sheepherding requires special characteris tics in a man. Best in the West, say the sheep men, are the Basques from the Pyrenees. * See "Taurine World: Cattle and Their Place in the Human Scheme-Wild Types and Modern Breeds in Many Lands," by Alvin Howard Sanders, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1925.