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3 Periods in the History of Cattle Ranches in the United States

April 14, 2016



Drive through states like Texas or Montana and amidst the vast land you’re bound to see at least a couple of cattle ranches for sale. Farm property has been a valuable part of the American society since the birth of the nation and remains an important aspect today. Still, as technology continues to increase cattle ranches have become more scarce and employment of farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers is projected to decline 2 percent from 2014 to 2024.

It’s unfortunate if this trend continues as not only are cattle ranches a valuable part of providing food and supplies to the rest of society, but they also actually help their environment. In fact, light cattle grazing (less than 35% use of primary forage species) to moderate grazing (35 to 45% use of primary forage species) usually encourages forb production, which benefits wildlife populations.

In appreciation of this great industry here are three important periods in the history of the American cattle ranch.

  1. Spanish Conquistadors: American ranchers can indirectly trace their roots back to the first foreign settlers of this land, the Spanish conquistadors. When the Spaniards came here in the 16th century they brought cattle with them and quickly established plots for land in them as part of the hacienda system. You could say these were the earliest forms of formal cattle ranches in America.
  2. Early American Days: Ranchers really started to become a thing in American culture during the 1800s when citizens began their migration out West. These early days of ranching were very much the “Wild West” in many ways in that they operated on open range principles. Cattle were even allowed to graze freely on the public land that no one technically owned.
  3. Modern Times: Today, while farming perhaps isn’t as big an institution in this country as it once was there are still cattle ranches for sale and people working on them providing a traditional service.

In some areas of the country it’s fair to wonder if population growth has had an effect on farm real estate. For example, Montana’s population is projected to grow by 14.1% between 2013 to 2043.

Cattle ranches have been a part of American society for hundreds of year and will continue to be at least for the foreseeable future.

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