In a state where the Spanish first introduced cattle to the New World, the long history of cattle breeding and development in the Americas runs about as deep as Texas pride. On Monday, Dec. 3, Texas AgriLife Extension cattle specialist Dr. Joe Paschal will lead a special seminar focusing on the history of cattle in Texas and the evolution of cattle breeds and breeding in the United States.
The workshop, part of Texas AgriLife, Corpus Christi’s monthly seminar series, is designed for cattlemen and breeders across South Texas and will focus on both history and the latest developments in cattle breeding programs and techniques.
“South Texas varies dramatically in rainfall, vegetation, soil type, and climate from the humid Coastal areas in the east to the dry Rio Grande Plains to the west. This range in climatic conditions affects forage quality and quantity, which in turn influences the type of beef cow that is adapted to the ranges and pastures of this unique area,” says Paschal.
Because of its geographic diversity, he says making careful selection in the breeding process can contribute to greater success on the ranch.
Long before Captain Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis planted the first stake on the huge parcel of South Texas land in 1853 that would become the historic King Ranch, the Spanish had crossed the Atlantic with homesteaders and livestock, setting the stage for the birth of the cattle industry in the New World.
The first cattle to arrive were brought by Gregorio Villalobos, who would become the first cattle baron on the North American continent. His cattle had actually come from either Cuba or Hispanola and totaled about 50, mostly young calves. In the years following, cattle continued to be brought from Cuba and later Santo Domingo to the mainland of the New World. A brand book was established in Mexico City in 1529 and a national livestock association was formed there in 1537.
Soon raising stock became the common vocation of retired military officers and nobility of Spain who were the recipients of large land grants. In the 1530s cattle ranches were established as far north as the plains of Guanajuato and by 1539 wild cattle had reached the present day border of the U.S. and Mexico - what is now the South Texas border.
In a paper authored by Dr. Paschal and published by Texas A&M University, he recounts the story of how the early 1700s was a time of French encroachment into present day Texas. That led to the development of six Spanish missions north of Beaumont. Further development of missions around San Antonio and a mission and a presidio at Goliad in 1749 firmly established cattle herds in Texas. But establishment of missions ceased when Spain acquired Louisiana from France in 1762.By the end of the 18th century some of the old missions counted their herds in the thousands; Goliad reported 40,000 head, and several others reported over 10,000 head. These Spanish cattle remained uncontaminated by influence of other breeds, other than the original Andalusian stock brought from Spain to the Canary Islands, Cuba, and Santo Domingo, then to the mainland. They were called "Spanish" cattle, then later "Mexican" cattle. To northern U.S. cattlemen they were "Texas" cattle or "Longhorns." These "Longhorns" became the base stock for the currently popular "Texas Longhorn."In the mid 1800s U.S. cattlemen imported the British Shorthorn, Hereford, and Angus and by the late 1800s and early 1900s some of this influence had reached Texas. These cattle were more beefy and earlier maturing but lacked the adaptability to the climate of South Texas and resistance to disease and internal and external parasites of the Longhorn. The first crosses of these breeds survived and some adaptation was slowly acquired.
All interested participants can attend the approximate one-hour seminar beginning at 10 a.m. at the Texas AgriLife Extension office in Corpus Christi, 10345 Hwy 44, in the Center auditorium. To register, call 361-265-9201.