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Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 1 - Chapter XVIII
Initiation and Growth of the Live Stock Industry in Alberta


The disappearance of the buffalo at the end of. the late seventies presented a serious problem to the government of Canada respecting the food supply of the Indians. From time immemorial the buffalo had been the principal sustenance of the aborigines, in 1879 the government imported 1,000 cattle from Montana for the purpose of distributing them among the Indians and creating a meat supply for these wards of the nation. The herd was placed in the Porcupine hills west of Macleod, and though badly managed and depleted by thieves and wolves, proved that the cattle industry could be established in Alberta. The condition of the Indians was tersely built by Crowfoot, the great chief of the Blackfeet nation, in an interview with Indian Commissioner Dewdney at Blackfoot Crossing in 1879: "If you drive away the Sioux and make a hole so that the buffalo may come in, we will not trouble you for food; if you don't do that you must feed us or show us how to live."

As soon as the Indians were placed upon their reserves the country was open for the establishment of the cattle industry. A number of ranches quickly followed, such as the Cochrane, Bar U, Oxley, Circle, Waldron, Quorn—names that recall the glorious days of the Cattle Kings to the old-timers of southern Alberta. The land regulations were revised under the authority of Act of Parliament (44 Vic. Chap. 16) to provide for grazing leases at low rates for large areas of government lands. Leases did not exceed a period of twenty-one years and the largest single lease was restricted to not more than 100,000 acres. The rate was $10.00 per 1,000 acres per year and the lessee was required to place at least one head of cattle for every ten acres embraced in the lease. By Order-in-Council September 17th, 1889, the rate was raised to S20.00 per 1,000 acres and the number of cattle reduced to one head for every twenty acres.

In 1881 Dr. McEachren, the veterinary inspector of live stock for Canada, reported that over 30,000 Montana cattle had been imported into Alberta and placed on the ranges in the Bow River valley and the Macleod district. The first general round-up was held in 1881 with W. F. Parker of Macleod as captain. By 1884 the ranching industry was fully established in Southern Alberta, located mostly in the foothill country south of Calgary. Forty-one companies were engaged in the business holding under lease an area of 2,782,000 acres. The North-West Cattle Association petitioned the government to prohibit sheep from running on the cattle ranges. Accordingly an Order-in-Council was Passed in October, 1884, defining the territory allotted exclusively to the cattlemen. The area was defined as follows: "On the South by the International boundary, on the west by the summit of the Rocky Mountains, on the north by the High River and its north fork to the Bow River, thence along the Bow River to the Eastern boundary of the provisional district of Alberta, and on the east by the said eastern boundary."

Grazing leases contained a provision that the even numbered sections were open for homesteading. This condition engendered considerable friction between the big ranchers and the homesteader. Many homesteaders on the pretence, it was alleged, of becoming agricultural settlers picked the choicest parts of the ranchers' leaseholds, and without paying rent went into competition with the leaseholder at the latter's expense. To obviate this difficulty a distinction was made between homestead settlers and ordinary lessees, by Order-in-Council April 7, 1887. By the new regulations homestead settlers were permitted to acquire upon application, leaseholds up to 2,500 acres, while ordinary lessees were compelled to obtain their leaseholds by public competition. The system of leasing with restrictions as to the number of cattle to be maintained was adopted in Alberta instead of the Montana system of paying a rental per head in order to prevent overstocking which would have led to the early destruction of the prairie grasses on the range, as had been the experience of ranchmen in the Western States. Regulations were enforced setting apart certain areas suitable as watering places for the common use of all ranchmen. These were reserved from settlement, as the procuring of water was essential to the continuance of the stock industry, and ranchmen were slow to sink wells.

In 1886 the officers of the Department of the Interior estimated that there were 104,000 cattle on the leased lands of Alberta, besides 11,000 more owned by non-leaseholders. There was in addition, a large number owned by homesteaders not included in this estimate.

Previous to September 1, 1886, there had been no tariff restrictions on cattle imported into the North West Territory provided they were for stocking the ranges and not sold until the end of a period of three years, and the proportion of one head per ten acres was not exceeded. On the above date the government of Canada imposed a duty of 20 per cent. This regulation prevented wholesale importation or driving from the regions south of the International boundary line where protracted droughts had dried up the ranges.

The winter of 1886 was the hardest that the cattlemen of Alberta had Lip to that date experienced. For weeks the Snow was two feet deep on the plains and great numbers, particularly among the "pilgrim" cattle died. The losses were estimated by the owners and officers of the North West Mounted Police at fifteen per cent. These disasters taught cattlemen the importance of providing a store of winter fodder for emergencies of this nature and not to leave their herds to the luck of the weather. The most advanced cowmen began yarding their calves in the fall and feeding them during the winter. The number of cattle on the ranges in the summer of 1887 was placed at 101,382.

The regulations introduced by the Order-in-Council of 1887 differentiating between homesteaders' leases and large grazing leases, began to affect the large leaseholders. From 1888 onwards, the area under lease for grazing purposes steadily decreased, but on the other hand the number of ranchers engaged in the cattle industry increased, as did the total number of cattle on the ranges. The day of the great rancher with his 100,000 acre ranch was ended.

Owing to the demand for lands in Western Alberta for settlement, and to satisfy the land subsidies granted by Parliament to railway Companies, it became necessary to change the regulations respecting grazing leases. This was done by Order-in-Council dated October 12th, 1892, authorizing the notification of all persons who held leases upon the form which did not provide for the withdrawal of lands for homestead or railway purposes, that their leases would be terminated after the 31st of December, 1896; that they would be permitted to purchase up to ten per cent of their leaseholds at $2.00 per acre (this was reduced to $1.25 per acre by Orderin-Council April 22, 1893) and that after December 31st, 1896, it would be open to them to accept leases for the unexpired portion of the twenty- one years of such lands as was agreed upon with the government upon the terms of a lease that provided for the withdrawal of such lands for homestead or railway purposes.

When these restrictions went into effect there was a sudden decrease in the area under grazing leases. It fell from 1,579,285 acres occupied by 159 lessees in 1893 to 248,984 acres occupied by 375 lessees in 1897. As a rule the lessees were settlers who rented limited areas in the neighborhood of their homesteads. From that date the area steadily increased, due to the extensive settlement that followed. In 1910 the area under lease in Western Canada was 3,293,539 acres of which 2,023,169 acres was in Alberta. The winter of 1896-97 was a very severe season, in fact the hardest since the terrible year of 1886, but owing to the better care that experience had taught the cowmen, the losses were not nearly so heavy as on the former occasion. It is interesting to note than ten years later in 1906-07 the winter was a most severe one and caused considerable loss.

Though conditions surrounding the cattle trade of Alberta were very favourable, even from the beginning the quality of the cattle as a whole gradually deteriorated. Breeders without experience or capital engaged in the business, crossbred bulls became common, and carelessness in breeding methods lowered the natural increase. The wholesale purchase of stockers from Manitoba and the eastern provinces introduced many inferior animals, and when these sources of importation failed stockmen began importing Mexican cattle. The climax of this deterioration was reached about 1902. "These degenerate descendants" says Dr. J. G. Rutherford, "of the ancient Spanish breed, although hardy and exceeding in length of horn, as in length of wind and speed anything ever before seen among our western cattle, did not recommend themselves to the Canadian rancher and after a few years the trade died out in 1905."

Health:—As a rule the Alberta cattle do not suffer from diseases. This is in a large measure clue to the careful supervision by the Dominion Department of Agriculture from the earliest days of the industry. In view of the fact that many of the cattle in the early days came from the Western States where the ranges were stocked from the Eastern States the Government adopted a rigid policy of veterinary inspection and quarantine in 1884, (Order-in-Council Sept. 8, 1884.) This Order was made more restrictive in 1887 when the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed across the prairie. The period of quarantine was raised from sixty to ninety days. A reserve of two townships along the international frontier as far as the Rocky Mountains was constituted a quarantine grazing ground, and a quarantine station set apart south of the Milk River, Order-in-Council May 12, 1888. By Order-in-Council Sept. 17, 1892, three well marked and naturally bounded quarantine stations were established in place of the indefinite strip of two townships along the frontier. These were definitely outlined as follows:

No cattle were permitted to be entered between Set. 30th and March 31st of the following year in any year. This regulation was changed in 1894 respecting the location of the quarantine stations in order to secure better water supply and to give the North West Mounted Police better opportunities of supervising quarantine. The new reservation was defined: "All that triangular tract of country bounded on the west by the main stream of Willow Creek, on the east by the north fork of the same creek and on the north by a small coulee or creek emptying into the said North Fork." (Order-in-Council May 9, 1894.) The quarantine areas were provided with corrals and sheds.

In 1899 mange appeared in some of the herds in the Little Bow and Lethbridge districts though it had been noticed before. Dipping or dressing was ordered (Order-iii-Council July 14, 1899). Stockmen most interested erected a dipping station at Rocky Coulee, eight miles southeast of Macleod under the supervision of Veterinary Inspector \Vroughton, F. Cochrane and Howell Harris. Six thousand eight hundred sixty cattle were dipped that season at this point. The disease spread over the entire southern part of Alberta, as far east as Maple Creek and north to the Red Deer. Dipping chutes were erected the next year at Pincher Creek, Lethbridge, high River, Medicine Hat and Willow Creek. By 1902 mange was pretty well eradicated except along the Red Deer River where 75 per cent were reported infected. Again in 1905 the Veterinary Director General reported that more cattle were affected with mange than ever before. Stricter measures relating to dipping and importation were enforced especially with cattle coming from Mexico, by the federal Department of Agriculture and the Western Stock Growers' Association, a fact that greatly discouraged the importation of Mexican steers. The Orders-in-Council of June 27th, 1904, and July 10th, 1905, defined the mange district and rules for the movement and shipment of cattle. The infected area was divided into fourteen districts, each placed in charge of a veterinary inspector. In case of small herds hand treatment with a specified preparation was authorized, but all large herds were required to be dipped twice in lime and sulphur dip. This necessitated the construction of large vats and of these 194 were constructed and ready for use in September 1904. During the year 547,705 cattle were dipped once and 422,805 a second time. The result was highly beneficial, and the infected area became so free from the disease that the Western Stock Growers' Association declared in 1906 that compulsory clipping was no longer necessary. The severe winter of 1906-7 led to drifting for great distances and as a result the diseased herds mixed with the healthy ones and the disease spread with extraordinary rapidity. Compulsory dipping was resorted to again in 1907, and 382,921 cattle were treated. By this treatment many districts were freed from mange. Since that year general compulsory dipping has not been ordered. A system of close inspection and quarantine has been adopted instead, and though the disease may still exist in some districts it is under control.

Cattle Stealing:—From the beginning of the cattle industry stealing was one of the annoying incidents of the business. The first form of this crime was running Canadian cattle over the border into Montana, but as the number increased on the ranges and a greater variety of brands were used the thieves adopted the obvious device of altering the brands on the old cattle and branding the calves with their own brand. These practices led the stockowners to form stock associations for common protection.

Stringent laws were passed by the Territorial legislature regulating driving of stock (C. 0. 1888 C. 17). Marking of stock, (1878, C. 12: 1.884 C. 14: 1887, C. 10: 1897 C. 23: 1898 C. 76) and Inspection of Stock (1899 C. 19). Rules respecting disposal of hides and marking of stock were also adopted by the associations under the authority of the legislature.

Purchasers of hides were compelled to keep a record of all hides of neat cattle, and every butcher was compelled to do the same. Notwithstanding these measures and the vigilance of the Mounted Police cattle stealing increased. More detailed inspection was required. The Western Stock Growers' Association was organized under legislative authority in 1896. A better supervision was thus exercised over the industry by those conducting it. The southern part of the province was divided into the following stock districts each governed by district associations:—Bow River, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Sheep Creek, High River, Willow Creek and Pincher Creek. The Association had power to make by-laws relating to round-ups, suspension and expulsion of members. In 1899 the stock inspection ordinance was passed compelling inspection by official inspectors of all stock before being loaded for shipment. By this means shippers were compelled to Produce title to the cattle in their possession.

For many years the Western Stock Growers' Association kept an expert brand reader at Winnipeg to detect illegal shipments and sales of range cattle belonging to members of the Association. At the present time the Provincial Government has brand readers and stock inspectors at the principal stockyards in the province. The railways are forbidden to accept cattle out of the yards unless they have been inspected by the Government inspector.

Another source of annoyance to cattlemen, especially those near the International line, was the difficulty of keeping American cattle from drifting on to the Alberta ranges. ln addition to Mounted Police patrols, the ranchmen kept line riders to drive American cattle back.

Markets and Prices:—To the rancher of experience and who exercises judgment the cattle industry in Alberta has always been a financial success. The supplies required for the Indian reservations and for railway construction camps in the eighties provided a market from the first. The grass-fed steer was a new article of diet even for the western men who hitherto had been used to eat the cast-off bull teams of the ox-cart trains. In 1884 the Northwest Cattle Company sold 800 steers at $65.00.

Export to Great Britain began in 1887 via Montreal. After paying all expenses the ranchmen realized $45.00 per head. Next year 5,000 were shipped from the Calgary district. Properly selected and finished animals realized from $40.00 to $50.00 profit, but underbred and unfinished cattle were a loss to the shippers.

The beginnings of the British Columbia trade date from 1890. In 1892 prices fell from $50 to $35 per head for steers. Shipments to England continued to grow, 6,500 being shipped in 1893. Next year more cattle were shipped to England than in any previous year. Prices varied from $40 for four-year-olds to $35 for three-year-olds and heifers. The output of the ranges in 1895 was reckoned by the North West Mounted Police at 25,000 fat cattle, most of which were purchased by Gordon & Ironsides, Winnipeg. 7,000 stockers were imported from Ontario. 50,000 cattle were shipped over the Canadian Pacific Railway from the North West Territories in 1896, 18,000 of which went to Great Britain and 2,000 to British Columbia. 12,600 of these came from Alberta. The development of the mining industry in Southern British Columbia and the extension of the Crowsnest Pass Railway into this region opened up lucrative trade in butcher cattle which could not qualify for the eastern export market. One firm was killing about 400 per month for the Kootenay trade. Prices ranged as follows: 4-year-old steers, $40 to $42.50; 3-year-old steers, $35 to $37.50; fat cows and other classes, $27 to $32.00. 16,000 stockers were shipped this year. By 1898 the exports of fat cattle from Manitoba and the North West Territories fell to 40,000. Of this number about 7,000 went to the United States. Beginning with 1898 the supply of stockers fell short of the demand. The removal of the quarantine regulations in 1897 opened a new market for this class in the United States, not only from Manitoba and Ontario where the ranchers had formerly obtained their supply of stockers but from the Territories as well. The exports of cattle from Canada to the United States suddenly rose from 1,930 in 1896 to 92,864 in 1899. Of this number 35,000 were shipped from Manitoba and the Territories.

Notwithstanding, the exports of fat cattle increased. In 1898 Gordon & Ironsides shipped over 26,900 cattle,' 12,000 of which came from the Alberta ranges. The Canadian Pacific Railway handled 43,000, over ten per cent of which went to British Columbia. The shipments of fat cattle in 1899 aggregated 31,938, of which 20,000 were from the Alberta ranges. The total exports including stockers were 67,000, compared with 59,000 the year before. The export of stockers fell rapidly after 1900, and in 1901, 20,000 were brought in from Manitoba and Ontario. The export shipments in 1901 showed a marked decrease under those of 1900, due to the wet, late summer preventing the proper fattening of the animals. The exports eastward tabulated by the Canadian Pacific Railway were 31,456 compared with 43,863 the previous year.

Since 1900 there has been no effort made to replenish the large herds of earlier days. The result has been brought about by the settlement of land formerly used for ranching purposes, consequent upon the discovery of its suitability for growing wheat. Another cause has been the disinclination of the Federal Government to grant long term leases, preferring to open the land for the homesteaders. Large ranchers sold off their herds, while others moved north and eastward of the Red Deer River. This area in turn developed rapidly, and the rancher was again driven out by the homesteader. The practice of marketing calves and spaying heifers further diminished the numbers of the herds to accommodate the limited areas open for range purposes.

On account of repeated expressions of discontent on the part of the farmers of the province respecting the conditions surrounding the sale and shipment of live stock, the provincial government appointed the Beef Commission in 1907, and the Pork Commission in 1908.

The Beef Commission found that about fifty per cent of the cattle raised were exported. These comprised "toppers" weighing from 1,200 lbs and upwards, smooth and well finished. The discontent arose over the disposal of the remaining fifty per cent which comprised butchers' stock and small animals, tough and unfinished. It was found that this portion of the beef crop was sufficient to glut the domestic market, and the Commission advised that farmers and ranchers should make a greater effort to produce export cattle. In view of the changing conditions of the cattle industry due to rapid settlement the Commission strongly urged winter feeding. A number of enterprising owners had experimented along these lines but found that range cattle did not thrive well under the conditions incident to close housing. housing in open sheds convenient to good pasturage was recommended. In this way wild range animals gradually would become quiet, a condition necessary to successful shipping.

The exporters urged better selection of pure bred sires and better feeding, and many prominent witnesses before the Commission recommended the establishment of a cannery for "rough and thin animals, and those which have served their day in the dairy herd."

With respect to the retail trade the Commission found that the profits of the local butchers ranged all the way from ten per cent to one hundred per cent according to the volume of business, and the methods used. The whole retail trade was said to be in control of one Company, the president of which said that if he were to close clown for ten days the people would be starving. The Commission found that almost without exception the small shipper exported at a loss. "It would appear," runs the report, "that the transportation companies, commission merchants and all corporations interested in shipping endeavour to discourage the small shipper." The chief difficulties lay in delays in transit, and delays in supplying cars. To effect a remedy the Commission recommended the appointment of a Live Stock Commissioner by the Provincial Government. This officer was appointed and live stock men soon reported considerable improvement in shipping. In 1910 the cattlemen of Alberta and the other prairie provinces working through the provincial departments of agriculture, the various live stock and breeders' associations, the Western Live Stock Union and United Farmers of Alberta opened negotiations with the railway companies to obtain satisfactory regulations for shipping live stock. After several tedious conferences an agreement was arrived at in 1913 which was sanctioned by the Board of Railway Commissioners of Canada. Shipping regulations, owing to the changing conditions of the live stock industry in the West, high freight rates and other circumstances, have never been regarded as just by the cattlemen and applications are being constantly made to the Railway Board.

The chilled meat trade was discussed by several of the witnesses before the Beef Commission. The principal witness was Dr. McEachren. V. S., Manager of the Waldron Ranch since 1883. He stated that if the dressed meat trade could be established it would increase the value of beef cattle from twenty-five per cent to thirty per cent, but that the difficulties in the way were almost insurmountable.

Notwithstanding the difficulty of securing adequate and profitable markets for cattle and beef products the number of cattle steadily increased in numbers and value (luring the five years from 1911 to 1916. The number of milk cows increased from 147,649 to 284,895 and the average farm value per head from $43 to $77 in the period. Other cattle increased from 592,076 to 893,886 and the average value from $27 to $56 per head. By 1916 the great shortage of food products due to the war caused beef prices to rise to unprecedented levels and to continue to do so until many months after the close of the war. The high prices of beef were counteracted by correspondingly high prices of grain and labour, and consequently the cattlemen received no more net profit during the period of high prices than in normal times.

In order to encourage beef production during the war the federal Department of Agriculture authorized in 1916 what was known as the Car lot policy to effect a more equal distribution of live stock throughout the country, especially from the areas of the province that had suffered from drought to the central and northern parts where grass and fodder were in great abundance. By this policy the Government paid the reasonable traveling expenses of the representative of any group or Association of farmers desiring to purchase feeding or breeding stock in Carload lots. Later, in 1917, this policy was supplemented by a free freight policy in cooperation with the railroad Companies. The Car lot policy was effective in turning back to country points a large percentage of stockers and feeders of all classes and prevented a ruinous depletion by slaughter and exportation of the live stock herds. Under the Free Freight policy female breeding stock was shipped free from the stockyards to country points, the railway Companies bearing twenty-five per cent and the federal government seventy-five per cent of the freight charges. From September 21, 1917, to December 31, 1919, some 40,000 heifers were turned back from the central stockyards of Alberta. This work was enlarged by the Provincial Department of Agriculture, by the Live Stock Encouragement Act, 1917. Under this act the Provincial Government gave assistance to farmers to obtain female breeding stock. Five or more persons engaged in practical farming could organize as an association and each could procure a loan up to $500.00 for the purchase of cows and heifers. All purchases and arrangements were subject to the approval of the Live Stock Commissioner. Up to December 31, 1920 over 26,000 cattle had been placed on farms in Alberta at a cost to the Government of $1,704,000.00. The first instalment in payment of the loans became due in 1922.

The number of cattle reached the peak in 1919. In that year there were 336,596 milk cows and 1,247,448 other cattle. By the end of 1920 the number of milk cows had decreased to 305,607 and other cattle to 1,050,334. The decrease was due to the very dry season of 1919 in Southern Alberta, and the severe winter season of 1920. This was one of the longest and coldest winters since 1906-07 and resulted in a great shortage of feed and a high mortality of the ill-nourished stock in many parts of the province and a heavy liquidation. Prices also reached the peak in 1918. The average farm value of milk cows rose to $93 per head, and the average farm value of other cattle to $70 per head. The highest price reached on the Calgary market was $16.80 per hundred live weight in May 1918.

The fall of 1920 marked a great slump in cattle prices to pre-war levels. This was accentuated by the United States Emergency Tariff of 1921 imposing a duty on Canadian cattle entering the United States, which with the adverse exchange rate raised the tariff to nearly forty per cent. Since 1911 Canadian cattle entered the United States free of duty and a considerable trade was growing. In the four years ending 1920 over 90,000 cattle were shipped to United States points from Alberta. The effect of the tariff has been to close this market to the Alberta producers, which coupled with a restricted export of dressed beef has brought back the days of three-cent and four-cent beef.

For many years an agitation has been fostered by the Western Live Stock Union to have the embargo placed on Canadian cattle by the British Government removed. The agitation was taken up by the Governments of the Dominion and the provinces in 1920 and delegates sent to give evidence before the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Cattle Embargo in Great Britain. Hon S. F. Tolmie Minister of Agriculture for Canada, and Hon. Duncan Marshall, Minister of Agriculture for Alberta, attended the Commission and gave evidence on behalf of Canadian and Alberta cattle owners. A permanent export outlet seems necessary to Alberta to find P. market for partially finished cattle which cannot be absorbed by the domestic trade. Owing to climatic conditions, shortage of labor and to the sparsely settled and partially developed state of the country, Alberta will produce for a long time a larger number of store cattle than can be profitably finished at home.

Interest in the chilled meat trade was revived in 1921 by the appointment of a Commission by the Alberta Government. Messrs. John Wilson, Vice President of the Alberta Cattle Breeders' Association, William Spurrell, Chairman of the Chilled Meat Committee of the United Farmers of Alberta, proceeded to England that year and made careful investigations into this phase of the cattle trade. The findings of the Commission indicated that there were favorable possibilities in the trade. The cost of transporting the carcass of a 1,200 lb. steer, dressing 660 pounds to London from Edmonton was estimated at $38.67 and the total returns therefor at $126.30.

Investigation was also made by the Dominion Live Stock Branch in the summer of 1921 into the conditions under which the Canadian live fat cattle trade with Great Britain was carried on and what measures of improvement could be suggested. The investigation led to the conclusion that Canadian live fat cattle could be profitably marketed in Great Britain provided care was observed as to numbers, quality and regularity of shipment.

The basic stock of the prairies was the American cattle imported in the early eighties, principally of the Texan and Spanish strains. The opening of the export trade to Great Britain taught the ranchers that if they were to gain a foothold in this market they must get rid of culls and breed high class steers. The local market was crowded and even culls were not salable at paying prices. The pure breeds introduced were mostly Herefords and Shorthorns. Polled Angus were also introduced and some of the most successful stockmen bred from West Highlanders. Carelessness in this respect was common. Commissioner Herchmer in his report for 1889 stated: "All sorts of bulls, many of them perfect brutes, run the prairie, and as long as free ranging is followed I cannot see that there can be any general improvement. In one herd a traveller will see Shorthorns, Galloways, Herefords, Polled Angus, occasionally a West Highlander and a good sprinkling of runts."

Beyond the ranching country principally in Central and Northern Alberta, conditions in this respect were no better. A great many inferior cattle were brought in by settlers from Nebraska, Kansas and Oregon. One official of the Department of the Interior reported that it was almost impossible to imagine that such inferior specimens of the bovine species existed in the world.

Ten years later Commissioner Herchmer reported: "I regret to report that the class of cattle in the country is not generally as good as formerly. The steers show less breeding and are smaller, caused, I think, by reducing the number of Shorthorn bulls and using Herefords, Angus, etc., indiscriminately. The best ranchers are now going back to Shorthorns. The best steers come from small ranches where the stockmen feed hay all winter and can attend to the breeding of their cows."

In order to improve pure breeding the Territorial government undertook for a number of years to import pure breds from the East for the small farmers, bearing the cost of transportation except a nominal charge of $5.00 per head. This support was continued by the Alberta Government for a few years.

Conditions have improved since those early days. Some of the foremost breeders in Canada have established herds in Alberta. Mr. Frank Collicutt of Crossfield has a herd of over 500 Herefords, the largest in Canada. In 1917 the Courtice Cattle Co. transferred their entire herd of Herefords from Kentucky to a new home on the Bow River east of Calgary. This is reputed to be one of the finest breeding herds in Canada. As a mark of the enthusiasm of the Alberta breeders it may be cited that prices as high as $11,900.00 and $20,000.00 have been paid by Mr. Collicutt for pure-bred Hereford bulls, Gay Lad 40th and Gay Lad 16th. Other prominent breeders of Herefords are McIntyre Bros. of Magrath who have the finest herd of female pure-breds in the Province; John M. Davidson, Coaldale; Mace Bros., High River; and John Wilson, Innisfail. In 1913 the Alberta Government established a number of demonstration farms at different points in the province. At each of those farms a model herd of some one or two beef and dairy breeds are kept for the purpose of improving such breeds in the vicinity of the farms. In the same year the Dominion Government, through the Live Stock Branch of the federal department of agriculture adopted a policy of loaning pure bred bulls to approved associations of farmers for breeding purposes. Five years later 260 bulls of various breeds were loaned to Alberta associations and it is worthy of note that of this number 226 were Shorthorns. It will be seen, therefore, that Shorthorns have maintained their popularity, particularly with the farmers. The Herefords are more popular with the big ranchers. Shorthorns are well represented in the herds of Charles Yule, Carstairs; Louis Bowes, Calgary; Wm. Short, Edmonton; The Prince of Wales' Ranch, high River; W. W. Sharpe, Stettler; William Sharpe, James Sharpe and Percy Talbot, Lacombe; Hon. Duncan Marshall, Olds; J. G. Clark, Irma; and T Bertram Ralph, Airdrie. As representative of the type of excellence aimed at by Alberta breeders it may be cited that "Dale Viscount," a Shorthorn bull owned by Hon. Duncan Marshall, won second in his class at the Chicago International in 1919.

For many years the pure breeders of cattle in Alberta were organized as one body, The Alberta Cattle Breeders' Association, but in 1917 separate associations were formed representing the Shorthorn, Hereford and Aberdeen Angus breeds. It marked the careful attention that is being given by Alberta breeders in later years to the improvement of the respective breeds.


Brands are used in order to identify live stock on the open range. The letter, sign, numeral or character constituting the brand is determined and allotted to each owner of stock by the Recorder of Brands. This official is appointed by the Government and keeps a record of the brands and the owners to whom they have been allotted. The presence of a recorded brand on any stock is prima facie evidence of ownership. No person may have more than two brands for horses and two for cattle. In order to denote the transfer of ownership of any stock, the transferrer is compelled to mark his vent at the time of the transfer. In case, however, the stock are intended for slaughter or export the purchaser may waive this right in lieu of a certificate of purchase from the former owner.


In the early days of the Province live stock ranged freely over the prairie, but as settlement advanced and grain growing became an important industry some legal restrictions were necessary to protect the farmer and the grain grower. Such restrictions are embodied in the herd and pound laws. Under the Pound Ordinance a pound district may be formed by proclamation of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council of any territory not less than a township not included in a municipality, provided a majority of the landowners in such territory do not object. Within the area of the Pound district animals designated "estrays" may be impounded and disposed of according to law. The Lieutenant-Governor in Council has power to define what domestic animals shall be prohibited from running at large and to fix the time in the year during which the pound law shall be in force.

The herd law applies to districts north of township 24 and east of Range 11 West of 4th Meridian and south of the 55th parallel in the Dominion Lands survey. In this part of the Province the Lieutenant- Governor may form a herd district in a manner similar to forming pound districts except that the area of a herd district may not be less than 144 square miles. The law operates only from May 15th to Oct. 30th of each year. During that period estrays may be impounded and disposed of by law. The first pound law was passed in 1881, and the first herd law in 1883.

These laws and others, viz., the Entire Animals Ordinance, Protection of Sheep and other Animals from Dogs, Stray Animals Ordinance, The Sheep Trailing Act, Act Restraining Dangerous and Mischievous Animals and the Fence Ordinance were revised and consolidated into one Act—The Domestic Animals Act, in 1920.


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