I have decided to dedicate a series on West Texas ranchers called “Why I Ranch.” Each month I will highlight a rancher in West Texas and ask them to share their story about the ranch life.
This October we are featuring Mr. James K. Rooter Brite, Jr. from Bowie, Texas. Rooter is a father, rancher, conservationist, and my friend. The Brite Ranch has been a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) for Rooter’s entire life. He has been a director of the TSCRA since 1999, and has served on their Agriculture and Research and Natural Resources and Environmental committees since 1994. He has served as a director of the Upper-Elm Red Soil and Water Conservation District since 1979. He has served on the Association of Texas Soil and Water Conservation Districts board and on the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. He represents the National Association of Conservation Districts on the National Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative steering committee. Additionally, he serves on the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Natural Resource and Environment Committee.
How did you get your start in ranching? I am a third generation on this ranch. I was born and raised on the ranch where my grandfather J.A. Brite purchased in 1929. I took over my dad’s cow herd in the mid-1960s and purchased the ranch from dad in 1974, when I began full-time management of the ranch with my wife, Lynda, and eventually my son, J.K.
How important is agriculture to your family? Agriculture is about one third of my income. You have to look at the cumulative value of everything you do on the land. Management decisions you make now will make a difference 30 years from now. It all adds up, whichever direction you go. At an early age I learned the cause and effect of different land management practices. These first-hand lessons I learned from the land stimulated my desire to learn more and be diversified in my management. I apply land management practices that are practical, using common sense. I don’t do things because they are what somebody else thinks might be good. I do things because they work on this land, and that’s what makes the difference.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? The only constant is inconsistency with the weather and markets.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? There needs to be a much greater attention on ag, but it must be taught by qualified and experienced teachers.
Who did you learn the most from along the way? By college age, I was intrigued by the land so I enrolled in Texas Christian University’s two-year Ranch Management program. TCU Professor Chip Merrill inspired me to try new things and not be afraid to try something different. I approached the resource management of the ranch using a short-term reactionary response to changing forage, production, and anticipated market condition. My long-term management is of a continuing upward trend in success of native forage. I feel like we can utilize our current management methods and maintain, or in areas of need, improve the productivity of this ranch in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.
Thank you Rooter!
This September, Mr. John Treadwell will share with us his story on “Why I Ranch”.
John ranches in Tom Green, Menard, and Schleicher counties. John is the recipient of the 2006 Statewide Lone Star Land Steward and Leopold Conservation awards. John has a mix of sheep and cattle on his operation and holds resource stewardship at the top of his priorities.
How did you get your start in ranching? I grew up as an unpaid cowboy during the peak of the screwworm infestation. Getting rid of those flies is one thing the Government did correctly. Later, after college and the Navy, I got a lot of pleasure from gardening, producing food for my family and neighbors when I lived in Dallas and gardening was also a stress reducer from my corporate job. Years later, after I sold my business, my son Brian asked me to assist him in his guiding/outfitting hunting business based on the family’s 4000 acre ranch in West Texas. We soon outgrew the home ranch and needed to lease other properties for hunting, but were appalled at the condition of the available ranches. We decided to look for a block of land that would enable us to manage the deer, quail and turkey populations to ensure sustainable and controllable numbers for our hunting operation. He eventually found two adjoining ranching properties for sale and we had 8000 acres in Eastern Menard County. Hunting alone would not float the note so we added cattle and began dividing the existing pastures to apply our version of high intensity/short duration rotation system so that we could bank grazing and would not need to feed our stock during the winter.
How important is agriculture to your family? I think my family is more aware of what goes into the food we consume, and are appreciative of the work we go to in order to produce it. But, a lot of gardening is not fun and the same goes for chickens, sheep and cattle. So often there is recognition but not commitment.
What makes ranching in West Texas so unique? West Texas ranching causes one to be cautious in his planning because nature is so unpredictable and we are so near the desert as far as rainfall’s reliability. We need to be continuously grateful for what we receive because it could easily be worse.
Do you feel like there is enough emphasis on agriculture in K-12 education? I think that some exposure to plant and animal growth and behavior could be part of Biology but since no university has a degree in sustainable ag or organic ag, where would the instructors come from?
Who did you learn the most from along the way? I’d have to credit Rodale, Allan Savory, Walt Davis and Jimmy Powell and of course Holistic Ranch Management. I observed my Grandfather and Father as being the opposite but still influential. Make a plan, observe, and re-plan.
Thank you John!