National Geographic : 1973 Oct
Old Paint is a Piper Cub for cow boss Charlie Dunning, who searches for strays dur ing fall roundup in one of the Padlock's two airplanes. After spotting a bunch, he writes their location on a paper bag, weights it with a rock, and drops it to riders below. Aerial scouting also reports empty water tanks and gates left open by hunters. Finishing school for matur- ing beeves, the Padlock feed lot, streaked at center by sun reflecting power lines, holds some 5,000 cattle that are fattened on a grain diet. A few fine specimens of the new generation will stay on as brood cows to replenish stock. Others remain until they reach market size-about 1,100 pounds-at 15 to 18 months. The rest are sold at half that weight to commer- cial operators who feed 500 to 50,000 head at a time. Thus begins a beef-handling proc ess that affects the quality of meat reaching the consumer, and the price he pays. Pests, disease, and weather losses add to ultimate costs. Wild-eyed and wringing wet (below), a cow emerges from a dipping vat filled with a solution that repels flies, ticks, and lice.