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The Cattle Companies

Cochrane Ranch riders, near Cardston, Alberta, 1904.

The Cochrane Ranch Company bought over six thousand head of cattle in Montana in 1881. They had cost the company only sixteen dollars per head, but the I.G. Baker Company, which had promised to deliver the cattle to the ranch west of Calgary, charged an additional two dollars and fifty cents per head for delivery. Frank Strong was the foreman in charge of the drive north of the border. He divided the herd into two groups - the steers in one unit and the cows and calves in another - and drove them, with the help of thirty cowboys and three hundred horses, at an exhausting pace across the prairie. Along the way many cattle died, too hungry or weary to keep up; the cowboys traded the dead calves for money or food. When they arrived at their destination, it was winter, and many more cattle died before they could find water or shelter.

Despite initial setbacks such as these, the business of big companies like the Cochrane Ranch flourished over the next few decades. By 1888, the ranch claimed to be "the largest ranch in the Dominion." Large cattle companies had a lot to do with the original success of the Alberta cattle industry, even though, by 1914, the Cochrane ranch had been sold to the Mormons and much smaller ranches had become the norm. The Oxley, Walrond, and Bar U were among the largest and most successful ranches of their time.

See also:

[back] [Farming and Homesteading]

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