SkyDrone 13: Cattle roundup from the air


CAPULIN, N.M. (KRQE) – Across the cattle country of Northeastern New Mexico the approach of winter has meant roundup time.

At the Morrow Ranch near Capulin, one of the state’s oldest spreads, the task is a big one that starts each day long before dawn. Hundreds of cattle must be brought in from thousands of acres of often rugged grazing lands, run into corrals and prepared for winter.

Cows are physically separated from their calves to wean them. The youngsters will not be allowed back into the same pastures with their mothers from this point on.

Rancher Tim Morrow, some hired hands and friends are rounding up the cattle on horseback.

It takes hours of riding across miles of a combination of grassland, mesas and mountains. It’s a place famed western novelist Max Evans called the Hi-Lo Country. The name stuck and there’s even a movie by the same name based on ranch life in northeastern New Mexico.

The ranch hands often deftly maneuver their horses through thick brush to drive out cattle seeking escape from the roundup.

Once in the corrals, Morrow and his colleagues must separate the calves from the cows. Then they run them through a steel-pipe squeeze chute to “check the cows and see if they’re pregnant and if they are, then you give them a couple of shots, some de-wormer and get them ready for winter, and get them ready for next year for the breeding season,” he says.

Morrow is proud of the fact his place is not a trendy “gentleman’s ranch” where absent owners just run cattle as a side interest.

“This is a family ranch,” says Morrow. “My great grandfather started back in the 1890’s. This is the only way we make any money, is just through cattle and ranching.”

Fortunately says Morrow, cattle prices, although down from last year’s all-time highs, are still good. But Morrow laments the continued shrinking and fading away of many rural communities like nearby Des Moines, NM.

When he graduated from high school there in 1969, there were more than 200 students. Today, only a few dozen attend. Lots of old businesses are shuttered and decaying, the streets quiet mostly except for the traffic passing through on the highway, headed elsewhere.

“I don’t know how much longer we can go this way,” he worries. “We need to do something for people to work for themselves to stay in the small communities.”

He feels he knows whom to blame.

“I guess what I’m more worried about than anything is the government involvement in everybody’s business,” he says. “To me the government has become the entrepreneur where it used to be the people who worked for themselves or were in business were the entrepreneurs.”

Morrow still hopes there will be more young people carrying on in the business of agriculture.

“People in agriculture are still old,” he says. “There’s more opportunity for the 25, 35 or 40-year-old than there has ever been in agriculture because there’s so few to pick from.”

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