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Throughout history and to this day, cattle ranching has defined the . In the Great Plains, which usually refers to the territory from Montana to Minnesota and down to Texas and New Mexico, cattle ranching is a primary activity.
As the U.S. expanded westward, ranches popped up throughout the Great Plains. In nine states, including Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Oklahoma, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Nearly half of the beef cattle in the U.S. are raised west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains, and one-third of Great Plains ranches have at least 1,000 cattle. The U.S. Census of Agriculture counts the nation’s cows every five years. Currently, there are 319 million humans and 89.9 million cows, marking a ratio of 3.5 to 1.
Ranching was — and is — well adapted to the Great Plains environment. Cattle consume the region’s nutrient-rich grasses, just as bison did. Tillage agriculture also isn’t needed to sustain the herds. Similarities exist between ranch activities in the late 19th and early 21st centuries, as the cycle is related to the seasons and the grass available for the cattle. One difference is ranchers now often feed cattle grain supplements or hay. However, ranchers still must manage drought, cattle diseases, predators, and government regulations.
Image Credit: Bailey Alexander / Unsplash.com