Mr. Woods and the Gate Cuts

by Robert Shuford 
Briggs Ranches has sale coming up soon, and that reminds me of fine old gentleman by the name of Mac Woods. He used to run Briggs Ranch from the Catarina operation. 
His wife was school teacher and rode the school bus, getting on in the morning at the first stop and off in the evening at the last stop. Us kids all liked Mrs. Woods but, trust me, having one of your teachers aboard really puts the damper on the horseplay. 

Anyway, about Mr. Woods. He was well renowned judge of cattle. Les Brown, the ranch manager on the ranch where lived as kid in Southwest Texas that ran Santa Gertrudis cattle like Briggs Ranch did, told me a story about Mr. Woods I’ve never forgotten. One time Mr. Woods came over to buy some heifers. This was probably in the ‘GOs. Mr. Brown had four or five hundred head in the pens. They backed one of the trucks up to the chute and put man on the cut gates. Mr. Brown said you went either straight on the truck or to one side or the other. 
Now, you folks who have done this know what a pain it can be cutting like that because you’ve got to hold ’em on the truck till the next keeper comes along. Not with Mr. Woods. Mr. Brown said the boys started pushing cattle down the chute at fair clip while Mr. Woods called “truck” or “out,” meaning off to one side. Mr. Brown said they loaded one truck lickity split then backed up another. (That was when you mostly had single decks.) Before you know it, they had about four trucks loaded. As Mr. Brown told it, when he looked at the heifers he had left, he saw that Mr. Woods had pretty well topped the herd. Folks, that’s good eye for cattle. (Mr. Brown could do the same thing. When got older, he put me on the cut gates. He called ones, twos and threes – register, commercial and shippers. He kept you busy.) 
grew up handling Santa Gertrudis cattle. They tended to be on large operations where the cattle got worked twice year on average. So they could be little unruly when you got to the pens with them. don’t mean wild, mean they just hadn’t been handled much. If you don’t chouse them around, they’ll work in the pens as easy as any cattle. To me, that goes for anything. Heck, if you wanted me to, could make your ol’ pet milk cow wilder than Hogan’s goat. 
Speaking of milk cows, when was kid down on that ranch between Laredo and Eagle Pass saw some hands make “milk cows” out of some wet Gert cows. You see, we had the main headquarters up near Catarina and two line camps down below. It was about 20 miles to each one, whichever direction you went. Headquarters had 10 to 12 men and the camps had four or five men apiece. All three had a cook. Groceries like beans, beef and vermicelli (fideo) came from headquarters. If you wanted milk or cheese, you got your own. 
All of the hands were from Mexico and they all liked milk. They would go out and run up four or five head of wet cows with fresh babies and keep ’em at the home pens and milk them every morning. Hard to believe know, but you can milk Gert cow, it’s just that she usually don’t care for it. 
What you do is hold the calves off at night, let the cows in the next morning, rope ’em, tie ’em to the fence first and then tie their legs nine ways to Sunday and get your bucket. One cow is good for around pint of milk. Not that she don’t have more, it’s just getting it from her. Do that three or four more times and you got enough milk for glass at breakfast, and maybe cup at dinner or supper. Except for me. Kinda put me off milk. still don’t care for it. 
In those years from the time was kid and now, Santa Gertrudis cattle have been used in crossbreeding programs. I’ve seen some crosses really like. like Hereford bull on Gert cows. That’s good calf. But it doesn’t have to be Hereford. was talking to man recently who knows lot about Gerts, and he pointed out that if you’ve got good solid set of cows, you can go on them with anything. If you want to keep your calves red, go with a Red Angus. If color isn’t important, you can go with Charolais. The point he was making to me was, if you’ve got solid set of cows, you can change your calf crop in one breeding season by changing bulls. 
think it all comes down to your personal situation and area. But know from experience that Santa Gertrudis can be found all over the U.S. Back in the ’80s, spent few years hauling registered cattle. When B.K. Johnson had the Chapparosa Ranch at La Pryor, Texas, he used to have an annual sale. He would have your cattle delivered anywhere in the continental U.S. for free or little set fee. got in on the Southeast and Eastern U.S. They sent couple of big trucks to Jackson, Miss. to the old mule barns, and me and two others delivered the cattle from there to the buyers’ ranches in 32-foot Goosenecks. On one of my last runs delivered to Alabama and Atlanta, then took one cow on up to Virginia and then came back to Northeastern Kentucky with six head. (It was the best way to load to deliver.) 
Going across to Kentucky it started snowing and by the time got there it must have been a foot deep. thought, “These South Texas cattle are gonna freeze up here.” The place went to had an oI’ Texas boy as manager and asked him about it. He showed me the heated barn where they would keep the cattle for the winter. Then he told me to follow him, he wanted to show me something. We went down to one of their paddocks and there was wad of Gert cattle with hair as long as any Charolais. He told me that was last year’s Chaparosa cattle. They adapted to the cold in one year. He said they had to keep them in heated barn the first winter, but after that, they were fine. 
I  wouldn’t have believed it if hadn’t seen it myself. guess you can go anywhere with them and do anything. don’t recommend milking them though. That’ll sure put you off milk. 


Leave a comment


Email(will not be published)*


Your comment*
Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Submit Comment

© Copyright Texas Cowboy Art - Site created by Blade Resources