SEM 230, Don Robertson, Director of Natural Resources for the Seminole Tribe
Because of his long-time work with the Seminole Tribe "cow and calf operation" (5), Robertson
offers considerable insight into the recent history and current efforts in the industry. He explains
that the Tribe is trying to breed Black Brangus back into the herds, which the Tribe used to have
but bred out (3). The shift to beefmaster cattle was costly since they are not high quality but
produce hamburger meat; they will damage a reputation (7). Robertson is striving to change the
quality of the Tribe's herds, not the numbers (8), and he will do it through breeding (11). He has
some idea about the government cattle program of the 1930s-the poor condition of the cattle,
that it was the beginning of some cross breeding Herefords with local stock (4). He believes it
would be ideal for the Tribe to have their own feed lot to eliminate middlemen and cut out the
transportation costs in their calf sales (21). Although some women work in the cattle industry,
they are outnumbered by men; "women have to be careful because men are stronger and they can
move around better." (13).
There are more cattle at Brighton than Big Cypress, and some land-11,000 acres-is leased on
the Miccosukee reservation to keep 3,000 head of Tribe's cattle; much of the herds at Big
Cypress and Brighton are of individual owners (15). Extension work with the herds is by the
University of Florida's IFAS through their agents at Fort Pierce, Ona, Immokalee, and
Gainesville, and Robertson does a lot himself (15). He discusses briefly the improved pastures
and agricultural leasing the Tribe engaged in, and mentions US Army Corps of Engineers and
Tribal water management changes as new developments in the last thirty years (17). The
environment and resource use has not changed too much, to his mind; hunting, for example, has
always occurred, and still does at Big Cypress, by tribal members and through the hunts they sell
Over the last twenty to thirty years, rodeo has changed considerably, with prizes well more then
ten times what they were a couple of decades ago (14). Seminoles who are involved with the
rodeos have the EIRA and also the PRCA. Robertson used to rodeo with the Indians in the 1950s
through the 1970s, before he worked with them; "They have always been in rodeo, and it is
pretty strong still with the Seminole Tribe" (14).
Over the last two years, the Tribe has grown sugarcane. More recently, a couple of individuals
have begun to plant it. Cane does well, it diversifies their agricultural efforts, and it may be more
profitable than cows. They have contracts with US Sugarcane to grind it, another company to
harvest. All the cane is at Brighton (17-19). Ninety-seven percent of the land is used for cattle.
Although some of it is suitable for cane, most of it will remain in cattle (19).
Interviewee: Don Robertson
Interviewer: Rosalyn Howard
24 April 1999
H: I am meeting today with Don Robertson. We are at the Cattle and Range office
right after the cattle sale, April 24, 1999. Don, can you tell me what your position
is with the Tribe?
R: I am the Director of Natural Resources, that is all the natural resources with the
Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. I am the cattle manager. I am over cattle
operations and land operations.
H: What was your function here today at the cattle sale?
R: Well, I coordinate the sales, all the cattle sales for the Seminole Tribe, whether it
is a private treaty, or you send it to the livestock market, or it is sent over the
video sale-like we had today. I coordinate and sell all the cattle, and then at
shipping time I am the one who coordinates everything and handles the shipping.
H: How long have you been doing this with the Tribe?
R: Since 1989. I came to work in 1989. Ten years.
H: What are the differences in the cattle breeds people have today versus twenty or
thirty years ago?
R: Well, we are kind of changing our operation, our cattle breeding. It started about
four years ago. Prior to that they had Brahman cattle, Hereford cattle, using
Brahman bulls, and then they used Hereford bulls, and then they went to
Beefmasters-that is a breed, called the Beefmaster-and they were using
Beefmaster bulls, and Brahford bulls, and Beefmaster cows. Now we are in the
process of changing to get more genetics into our herd and get what the packer
wants and the consumer wants, the type of cattle that do well in the feed yards
and that do well when you slaughter them at the end product. So that the meat is
more palatable, it has a more consistent taste to it. This is the kind of genetics
that we are trying to put in our cattle. We have switched to using Brangus bulls,
which we started about four years ago. We are upgrading, through the cows that
we have now, trying to get everything to Black Brangus. For that reason, like I
said, we are going to put genetics, we will put better grading in the cattle, better
quality, and that is the kind of cattle that they are looking for in the feed yards,
that the packers like to buy, that feed. And then they slaughter better. So, we
are in the process now of changing, which hopefully in the next four years we will
be all black-everything, all our mother cows, all our brood cows. By keeping the
heifers and buying replacement heifers we will be keeping all the black ones and
pretty soon we will have the whole herd black again.
At one time there used to be Brangus cattle here in Big Cypress, just Big
Cypress. Most all of the cows here were black at one time. But then they
changed and went into the Beefmasters, and finally they just kind of bred the
black out. I think that was a mistake. I think they should have stayed with the
black cattle and the Charolais-type cattle. Just like on that sale today, the black
calves and the Charolais-type calves, they brought the most money. Compared
to the Beefmasters, the Hereford, [and the] Brahford-type cattle that were sold,
those cattle were anywhere from three to five cents a pound more. We have
been trying to gear up to get from point B to point A, to that deal, and that is what
we are striving now to do. We have been buying black bulls now, Black Brangus
bulls, for four years, and mostly here we have got this just about all covered with
black bulls now in Big Cypress. We are about half because we started here
H: So, in Brighton it is about half as many, you are saying?
R: Yes. Only about half of the bull battery that we use is black and the other half is
still Beefmaster and Brahford bulls, which we are going to phase out. We are
phasing them out each year. We will go buy maybe anywhere from thirty to fifty
bulls at each place, and we get rid of forty or fifty bulls of the Beefmaster and
then we are replacing them with the Black Brangus. So, I would say that about
two more years and we will have all the bulls changed, and in maybe four years
we will have all the females changed, maybe.
H: So it is the black that sell better? That is the more palatable kind of beef?
H: Do you know anything about the cattle or ranching practices before the
government introduced cattle to the Seminoles?
R: No, not really. I just know that the government sent all those Hereford cattle here
out of Arizona, way back there in the 1930s, I believe it was. They sent them in
here from those drought-stricken areas of Arizona and New Mexico. Of course,
that is the kind of cattle that was out there, the Herefords. They sent them in
here on rail cars. I do know that they went to Cornwell-Cornwell, Florida-and
they unload them at Cornwell, which is North of Brighton, and quite a few of them
were dead because they came out of that drought and they were poor. The ones
that survived, they drove them to Brighton, and that is how they got a lot of the
Hereford in their cattle, starting there. And then they started cross-breeding and
all, and then they began to come up over the years. I do know that much about
H: Can you tell me about the differences between Brighton and Big Cypress,
besides that they have a little bit different stock of cows? Are there more cattle
ranchers on Brighton reservation than there are on Big Cypress?
R: Yes, there are probably ten or twelve more cattle owners in Brighton than there
are in Big Cypress. One reason, there is probably more pastureland, and that is
why they have more cattle owners. There is more pastureland available up
H: Besides the calves, are there any other products from this cattle industry?
R: Well, whenever a cow has run its course, or it has gotten old and its production
has gone down, we sell them. We sell those cows. Sometimes we ship them to
a packing house where they are slaughtered and most of that beef is used for
hamburger meat. Or we send it to the livestock market and they buy it off the
livestock market, cows that are worn out, or crippled, or [there is] something
wrong with them that they are not in good production anymore. We send those
in. Plus bulls that are crippled, or bulls that got too old, or their semen is no good
anymore, we send them to the livestock market and they are sold there. But
basically our deal is calves, we sell the calves off. Like today, we sold those
calves on this video sale, what we call contract calves. We are contracting those
calves. They were sold here today, April 24th; well, the delivery date on those
cattle, to those people who bought our calves, will be in August. August first we
will start shipping these calves out. We will just take them right off their mamas
right then and they will be loaded. They will be sorted for sex and weight and
then they will be put on trucks and sent to the destination of whoever bought our
cattle. I will know that in a few days, who bought our cattle, the different people
that bought our cattle. They are sent to their destinations in which they will raise
them from then on. But we are a cow and calf operation, is what we are.
H: What kind of changes have you seen in the commercial livestock industry over
the past thirty years?
R: Well, there has been a lot of changes. Compared to what they used to raise, I
mean, the cattle have gotten a lot better than they were thirty years ago, in
quality. You just mean with just the Seminole Tribe, or do you mean all over?
H: The Seminole Tribe.
R: Yes, the quality has gotten better. When they first started they were using
Brahman bulls on Hereford cows and they were getting a pretty good hybrid
cross. But the packers and the buyers, they do not like that heavy Brahman
cross, they just do not do well. I mean, it makes a good female, a good
crossbred female to breed Brangus bulls, or Angus bulls, or Hereford bulls to, but
they have changed their cattle. Their cattle have gotten better. Then, when they
went to the Beefmasters, that breed, for some reason, was hot at one time. I
mean, people liked them, but they did not kill good.
H: What do you mean, they did not kill good?
R: The end product. When they finished them, they went to feed lots, and they
killed those steers, they did not grade very good. You have your Standard, you
have Select, and then you have U.S. Choice, and then you have U.S. Prime. The
correct grading, probably, you would like at least-everybody tries to shoot for
this and it is hard-you would like to have at least eighty percent of your cattle
grade Choice when they come out of the feed yard. When they are finished
feeding them, and they are ready to be slaughtered, and then they slaughter
them, then they inspect the carcasses. The USDA [United States Department of
Agriculture] inspects the carcasses, the graders. You would like to see eighty
percent grade Choice and then the rest, twenty percent, can be Standard and
Select. That is a lower grade of meat. The Beefmasters were probably grading
about twenty-eight percent Choice and about the rest would be Select. And that
is a lower grade of meat. And so, this is why we have tried to put these genetics
in our herd now, because the black cattle, the Angus cattle and the Brangus
cattle, for some reason that English breed of cattle grades, they grade. They
have a higher percent of grading Choice than .. they probably grade better than
any breed of cattle there is. So we are infusing that black-hided cattle into our
herds to get where we were.
We were kind of losing our reputation for a little while with these Beefmaster
cattle. They just were not grading and buyers just will not buy it. I saw that
today. I saw Beefmaster cattle sell today that were five cents under everything
else. They were straight Beefmasters. That is one reason that we are making a
change. But they have come a long way in their cattle from way back there in the
1930s up to now. And we still have a long way to go. I mean, we are fifty
percent of what I would like to see them be. That is why I said in maybe four
more years we will be at the point that I think we will be raising some real good
reputation cattle again. When you get cattle that will do like that, that will meet
the criteria that those packers and feedlot people are wanting to buy, when you
get to that point, they will be wanting your cattle. They will pay a premium to get
those cattle because those cattle perform for those people. They will gain good
in the feed yard, they will grade good, and they will cut out good when they
slaughter. And when you get people wanting your cattle, and you get several
people wanting your cattle, that is what makes that price go up. But if it is just
that you have cattle out there that are just fairly-doing cattle, they are going to
pay you that fairly-doing price. They are not going pay that premium. That is
where I am trying to get our cattle herds today, into that pricing. And it has
moved. It has come a long way from what it used to be.
H: What do you see as the future for the livestock industry here with the Seminoles?
You mentioned you want to improve the grade of the cattle. Do you see this
industry as a tremendously expanding industry, or the size of it remaining about
the same but the quality changing?
R: I believe the size will probably stay. It may get a little bigger, but we have a ways
to go on the quality. That is what I am striving for, to get a better quality. I would
rather have 5,000 real good quality cattle than I would 10,000 just mediocre. I
mean, that is in comparison; you can do a lot more with better quality cows than
you can with just cows. If we work at it, and the industry is changing so fast as it
is now, and we can catch up with it, then I would say we are going to have to go
to good quality or we are going fall by the wayside. I mean, people that are not
going to make these changes in the next ten years, they will either go out of
business or they will just get paid for ground beef. I mean, their beef, that is all it
will be good for is to grind it up. They call it grinders.
This is what I have been striving for ever since I have been here, to raise good
quality cattle. Because if you do not, with the technology that they are doing now,
with all this ultrasound . .. They are ultrasounding these carcasses, they are
ultrasounding live cattle to see what size rib eyes they have, and they are testing
all of these sires now, bulls that they are raising and selling. They are testing
them for what they call a sheer test on their meat, their offspring. That sheer test
is for the tenderness. They are trying to get a consistent product. You can go to
a store now and you can buy a U.S. Choice piece of beef at Publix, you can go
over to Winn Dixie and get the same, that says U.S. Choice, New York Strip, and
you can take them home and cook them and sometimes they have two different
tastes. One will be real good and tender and the other one will be kind of tough.
That is what is hurting the cattle industry today, they are not raising a consistent
piece of meat. Until they get it down to where most of your animals that go to
slaughter, steers and heifers, if they have the right palatability, they have the
tenderness, they have the juiciness, and their product is consistent most of the
time, that is what they are going to now. And the people that do not get on to
that program, that do not start raising beef like that, that beef is just going to be
what it is for. They going grind it up and make hamburgers and you are going to
be paid for hamburger meat. They are using electronic tags now in these cattle
that go to feed yards. They are putting electronic tags in their ears and they
know exactly where those cattle come from when they kill them. They will have,
for example, Seminole Tribe. And if those cattle do not perform in the feed yard,
that guy is not coming back and buy your cattle. He is going to say, to hell with
the Seminole Tribe, I am not going go back and buy their cattle any more, if we
are not raising the right kind. Because they are spending a lot of money.
Just like they are ultrasounding cattle now, they are ultra sounding the backs on
these steers and heifers. Say they have been in a feed yard one hundred days,
and they have another fifty days to go to finish those cattle, they will go in and
ultrasound these cattle with a machine, it is called ultrasound, and they will
ultrasound those ribeyes and they will know just exactly how big those ribeyes
are in that animal, or the back fat on them and all. They are not going to feed
that animal if it has not got the right size ribeye. They will cut him right there.
They will cut him out and he will go to slaughter, and he will be made as
hamburger. They will go ahead and finish that carcass, take it on the next fifty
days, because it is costing them so much money to feed those cattle, and then
they get to the end product and it is no good and they have wasted a pile of
money. This is that technology that I am talking about. It is moving in that
direction so fast, I thought it would be ten years; it is not going to be ten years. I
thought that four years ago, it is going be ten years or twelve years before they
ever get to that. Heck, it is done it in two or three years now. They are moving
into that, and that is what is going to happen. And if you do not raise the right
kind, you are just going to be an ordinary rancher, they are not going want your
cattle. And then, the ones that do, they are going pay a premium for that kind of
cattle. And that is what I am trying to get us to, where we are raising high quality
beef that at that end product will be a high quality carcass. Then that way they
will want to buy your cattle. And they will pay a premium for them.
H: So, the changeover that you are trying to achieve, are you just trying to do it by
the breeding, or are you going to buy a herd of the black cows?
R: We are going to do it by the breeding. We are going to grade up through using
high quality bulls, bulls that are proven, that have performance data behind them.
They have bred cows, they have taken those calves and put them in feed yards
or grassed them and put them in feed yards and they gained three or three and a
half pounds a day, and they slaughtered U.S. Choice, and they have all this data
behind them. I try to buy bulls out of herds, out of people that have the data
behind their bulls, and buy those high quality bulls, and we will upgrade our cattle
through a breeding system.
H: Is the price affected to any degree by the transportation costs, because of where
you are located?
R: Yes. The same calves that were selling in Texas were a little higher today, you
could see that up here. They do not have that freight. There is about a seven
cent per pound, seven dollars per hundred-a hundred weight, difference in
transportation. So, a calf they pay eighty-five cents for here, they would probably
pay ninety-one or ninety-two cents in Texas because they do not have that
freight in it. And that hurts us, that hurts us from way down, because all your
packing houses, all your feed yards, are all out there. And that is the only place
you can feed cattle because it is too hot here, it is too humid, too much rain.
They are in those arid areas where it gets cold and cattle do well on feed out
there. Like I was telling Carolyn today, it is easier to transport the cattle to the
feed than it is to bring the feed to us. And if we had a feed yard, it would get too
muddy here in the rainy season. It would get too muddy, and cattle would not do
good. But those areas are suited better to feed cattle in feed yards out there.
So, yes, that transportation, it is costly to us. But we do not have any other way.
We do not have any feed yards in Florida because of what I said. That is why
our cattle are a little bit cheaper than anybody else's in the United States since
the closer you are to the feed areas, the less the freight is.
H: Although your costs are comparable because you still have to feed cattle, and I
imagine the prices for that are the same. Can you tell me about the differences,
or are there differences, in the work that men versus women do in the cattle
R: Well, there are probably way more men that work in the cattle industry than there
are women, but I do know some pretty good women who ranch. We have some
here who ranch, that are cattle owners in the Seminole Tribe that are women,
and some of them do a good job. I mean, they are out there checking their cattle
and feeding their cattle hay. But there are way more men that work cattle. And it
is a little dangerous, I mean, to get in the pens with cattle and move them around
and work them, give them all their health shots and de-worm them and stuff like
we do. It does get... it is really .. women have to be careful because men are
stronger and they can move around better. But there are some good women
cowboys that I do know. Or cowgirls, I should say. [Laughter] I know some that
can rope just as good as the men. Maybe better. Who knows? [Laughter] But
there are a lot of women on the outside, out in Texas and in the West, there are a
lot of women cowgirls out there. But there are more men that do the work. I
mean, it is mostly men, really.
H: Tell me about rodeos. Are they larger and more important events than they were
thirty years ago?
R: Yes, ma'am. The rodeo business has gotten way bigger. There is a lot more
money nowadays than there used to be, and it is more organized. There are a
lot more rodeos over the United States and even in Florida. There is a lot more
than there used to be back when I used to rodeo myself, and the money is way
bigger now. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the PRCA, they are
big. I mean, I remember when you were lucky to win $500, where you can win
$5,000 now at an event or $10,000 at an event. Back in my day, you were lucky
to win $500 in any event. Nowadays it has gotten up there. It is nothing for
some of those bull riders in that Professional Bull Riders Association to win
$150,000 or $175,000 a year, just in winnings, where you were lucky to win
$12,000 or $10,000 a year, back a long time ago.
H: Did you used to be involved in the rodeo?
R: Yes, ma'am. I used to bulldog. They call it steer wrestling or bulldogging, but I
used to be in it. There are a lot of Indian cowboys here.
H: Yes, and there is an Indian Rodeo Association, isn't there?
R: Yes. Over here, where we are, they call it the EIRA, the Eastern Indian Rodeo
Association, and there are some good Indian cowboys that rodeo. They have
their own, and then they rodeo in the PRCA also. There are a lot of good Indian
cowboys all over the United States. And it is pretty big in the Seminole Tribe. I
mean, it has been here a long time. And when I was not working for the
Seminole Tribe, I used to come out to Brighton-because I was born and raised
in Okeechobee-and I used to come out to Brighton and practice with them, back
in the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s. I used to come out there to Brighton and
practice with those Indian cowboys. They have always been in rodeo, and it is
pretty strong still with the Seminole Tribe.
H: What about extension help for people who are raising livestock. Are there
extension agents, or who would they go to for that type of [help]?
R: Well, of course, IFAS [Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the
University of Florida] has an experimental station at Immokalee, and Ona, and in
Fort Pierce, and, of course, Gainesville. We get assistance from them. And then
we have Sabrina Tuttle. She works with the extension office in the University of
Florida plus with the Seminole Tribe.
H: And she lives here?
R: She lives in Okeechobee. She works at all the reservations. It is through a grant
that we have her or an extension agent, but a lot of the technical advice comes
from me also, for the 4H, the cattle owners, and the cattle program, and the Man
H: So, you are in charge of cattle for all the different reservations?
R: Yes. The cattle are on this reservation, here on Big Cypress, and at Brighton,
and then the Tribe has a herd of its own over here. We lease part of the
Miccosukee reservation. We lease 11,000 acres from them, just down the road
here, it borders the Big Cypress reservation. And that herd of cattle, we have
3,000 head there. That belongs to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. Mitchell
Cypress is the President of that. That is a Tribal herd right there, where Brighton
and Big Cypress are individuals, they are individual cattle owners. We have forty
up there and thirty down here. They are individual herds and I am the technical
advisor over all of them, and then that down there, I manage that also for the
H: Compared to all the individual owners, what is the size of the Tribe's herd?
R: Right now we have, at Brighton, counting the two-year-old heifers and the
yearling heifers, we have 5,500 head up there at Brighton. Here we have about
3,500 head, counting the yearlings, and the two-year-olds, and the cattle owners'
cows. And that is not including the Bulls. We have about 160 Bulls here, and we
have about 220 up there at Brighton.
H: You say you grew up around Okeechobee, near the Brighton reservation. Can
you tell about changes in the physical environment in this area over the last thirty
years? What has changed?
R: Well, the land has changed. Of course, when they first started out they had a lot
of native pastures, just native grasses, and then they went into .. they leased
out the land to farmers, and they came in and planted tomatoes and different
vegetables. And then after they grew their crops, the non-Indians, they planted it
back in grass and improved pasture. So, there has been a lot of land turned over
in thirty or thirty-five years. It has turned over into improved pastures, and then
we have a water resources [office] that works within the Tribe.
H: Is that part of what you are in charge of?
R: No. That is a different deal from me. They have come in with engineers from the
[U.S. Army] Corp of Engineers, from South Florida. They have set up ditches,
they have designed ditches to bring in water off of different canals, for watering
livestock and irrigating the land. They have their own water quality where they
test the water. This they did not have thirty-five years ago. And the water coming
in for the tribe comes in from north of us, from Lake Istokpoga, and Kissimmee
chain, and all that area. Where that water flows south, it comes onto the
reservation, and they test the water every two weeks and they have, like I said,
the water resources. They have that water quality where they test the water:
when it leaves us it is clean, where it goes into the lake, since we are so close to
the lake. The same way here: the water comes in from the North, they test the
water and try to meet the environmental [regulations.] [End of Tape Side A] ...
some big change up there. And then they have their own environmental [offices]
within the Tribe. We have to do just like the outside does. I mean, we are not
any different than they are as far as restrictions and different environmental
methods, and BMPs-Best Management Practices-that we try to do on the
reservation and with the pastures or the land. We have to meet those standards
also, like anybody else. So, there has been a big change. Plus, we have
changed also. They did not grow sugarcane thirty years ago, and we are into
sugarcane. We are into citrus. We also have some citrus groves, and we also
have close to a thousand acres of sugarcane now, which we will probably
increase a little bit each year, four or five hundred acres, or maybe more, if we
can. But we are advancing and getting diversified, which is one of the things I
thought we should have done, and which we have done.
H: Has the sugarcane been profitable?
R: Yes, ma'am. We have only harvested twice. We just put it in a couple years
ago. Carolyn, she is over at the sugarcane. We started it a couple years ago,
myself, and Carolyn, and a couple more of us. It looks like it is going to be more
profitable than the cows, to be honest with you. [Laughter] I never thought I
would say that because I am originally a cowman. I wanted to go to sugarcane a
couple years ago, and we got the approval from the Board of Directors, me and
Carolyn. We kind of put our heads together and got it started. A lot of people
were against it, to start with, but now they have seen the profitability that is going
come off of it and the future of it looks real good. So, we are gradually getting
bigger and bigger in sugarcane.
H: So, do tribal members work in the fields?
R: Yes. We have some tribal members in the sugarcane. And in land use, which I
am over, we give them help. We help them with some of our equipment. We
have some operators that disk up the ground. Of course, some of it is contracted
out to people that have heavier equipment and stuff, or the engineer sets off the
water system and all the irrigation and the drainage and stuff. We do some of
the work, plus we contract some of it too. And we have two tribal members who
have put in sugarcane this year, they went in and put in some sugarcane in for
themselves, and this is new also. They just planted it a few months ago. But we
have already harvested two crops. And it has been good. The tonnage and all
has been real good, that we have cut, and the sucrose has been real high in it. It
has done well. U.S. Sugar [Corporation, Clewiston] grinds all our cane, and we
have a contract with Sugar Land Harvesters to do the harvesting of our cane.
As a matter of fact, next Friday we are having our appreciation dinner for
sugarcane. We have completed our second year of harvesting and we are having
a little party at Brighton. All of the sugarcane is in Brighton.
H: Since you said its looking more profitable than the cattle business, can you see a
lot of the land that is now used to breed cattle being turned into sugarcane?
R: Yes, probably ninety-seven percent of the land is used for cattle right now, or
maybe a little less, but not much. Not all of the land is suitable for sugarcane. I
mean, there are areas on the reservation that would not probably be profitable to
grow sugarcane in. The quality of the dirt is not good enough, but where there
are places that sugarcane can be grown, it might go that direction. It could. I do
not think you will ever see it, we will still be big in the cattle, still a large amount of
it will be used for cattle.
H: As far as how much people relied on the environment to make a living, to survive,
have you seen a big change in their reliance on the natural resources?
R: No, not really. The ones who have been in the cattle business have been in it a
long time. It is just like I said, the pastures have changed, and we do have
environmental restrictions that we do follow, as far as water and the lease of the
land. But I have not seen any real big [changes] except just the changes I said.
H: What about hunting and fishing? Is that something that would come under your
R: No, ma'am. The Tribe has their own ... Since the reservations, they hunt.
Now, nobody is supposed to hunt except tribal members. But at Big Cypress
here they sell hunts, they have a hunting deal where they sell hunts. They hunt
wild hogs and they hunt different exotic game. They have an area over here that
is probably about twenty-eight hundred acres, I think, that they use for hunting
and they do sell those hunts over there.
H: When you say they sell them, what do you mean?
R: Well, they charge a fee for hunting. Anybody who wants to go hunting, he has to
buy what they sell; like if they are going to sell a wild hog hunt, they get X
number of dollars for hunting wild hog out there. And they have guides that take
them hunting. But that is just a certain area. They call it hunting adventures.
That belongs to the council. The rest of this hunting is done by tribal members
only, and it is protected for them, just to hunt. No non-Indians or nobody outside
H: Well, that is about all of the questions I have to ask you. Do you have anything
to add that I have not asked that you think we should know?
R: Well, we are always looking, trying to plan and put together. I would like to see
some more things in the cattle industry done that we are not doing, which I
discussed with Carolyn today at this sale. I would like to see us get into, maybe,
owning our own feed lot out West and feeding our cattle instead of putting them
on a sale and selling them like this. Just take them, raise them here, truck them
to our own feed yard, and feed them. Our end product would be going into the
packinghouse instead of the middleman, like we are selling now. Somebody
buys them, and they take them from there, and put pounds on them on grass or
feed. And then they go to a feed. I would like to see us breed our product, raise
our product, and finish our product. I would love to see that happening to us. I
think me and Carolyn are going to probably go, maybe in a few weeks or so,
scout out some of this. We almost bought a feed yard eight years ago. It did not
take place and I was pushing hard for it back then, and I still would like to see
that done, [that] we raise our own beef and finish our own beef. You can make
money in it like that, instead of giving up part of it like we do, now. You can make
money on the end if your program is good and is run right, and managed right. It
is just like anything else, if you run it right. I think they would see more money
coming back to them that way than they do now. We are kind of at their mercy.
We are way down in South Florida and we have to truck our cattle, and prices.
We are kind of at the mercy of the buyer right now. I mean, I no-sold some cattle
today, which last year I did not. I did not like the price, and I no-sold them and I
will put them back on the sale. I hope I made the right move. Maybe they might
be a little higher, this weight of cattle. I thought the other weights we sold were
okay. But that five-hundred-pound calf, I thought he was sold too cheap today,
so I no-sold him.
H: What does that mean, no-sold him?
R: I did not sell him.
H: So, even if someone bid on it, they are not going to get it?
R: No, they are not going to get it because I no-sold it at the end. Whenever they
did not go any more and they said sold, then I was sitting on the telephone and I
told the man up there at Superior Livestock Auction in Fort Worth, I told him no-
sell that lot. So they just no-sold it. They announced it. But, those cattle sold
too cheap, I think. And I hope when I put them back on in a couple of weeks or
maybe a month, I will put them back on the video sale again, I am hoping they
are a little bit better. If they are not, I made a mistake.
H: What was the price that was bid for them?
R: They were seventy-four sixty.
H: And what price did you want?
R: I wanted seventy-eight cents. And the heavier cattle, the five-hundred-seventy-
five-pound steers, they almost brought seventy-four cents. They brought seventy-
three fifty. And they were seventy-five pounds more. That should not be that
close. There should be a wider gap there. Those cattle at seventy-three fifty
was okay. I sold them. But that seventy-four cents for 500, I thought it should
have been up there around seventy-eight cents. That was too close to the
difference of the weight. It was too close in the price, I thought, so I no-sold
those 500 pounders. That is what I am saying. If we had a feed lot, we could
take those cattle and not even sell anything, just ship them right on to our feed lot
when they got big enough. We could ship them to our feed lot and we could
grow them out, feed them and grow them out. And I think the cattle owner and
the Tribe would utilize more money by doing it that way than to go through
selling them like we did. And that man is going to do the same thing, what I am
talking about, he is going to take them and probably put them on grass for a
couple of months, then take them out of the grass pastures and go into a feed
yard and feed them for 150 days and then slaughter them. That is one kind of
project I would like to see done. I have wanted to see that done for a long time.
Me and Carolyn are going to probably scout that out, maybe this year, or this
summer, or something, and maybe look for either a feed yard to buy or go get
hooked up with a feed yard some way where we could feed our own cattle and
do it that way. I think we could do better because we have done it. We have fed
some of our cattle and we did pretty good. I mean, we have made money at it,
made more money than we would if we would have had sold at that time, you
see. I would like to see that happening. I would like to see, maybe, in the cattle
business, us get into a big heifer program, raising heifers. Growing out heifers:
keeping our heifers, growing them out, and breeding them. And selling them.
This is the tribal herd I am talking about. And selling them as bred females.
Because I saw some females sell yesterday that were bred heifers, having their
first calf, and I saw some that had a calf at their side and were bred back, and
they were bringing $800 and $900 a head. Yesterday, on that video sale. And I
think, instead of selling a $350 dollar heifer, like we are doing now, keep it a year
and a half and sell it for $800, and I think you can see a pretty good profit that
way. Those are some of things I would like to see done. Plus, what I said, get
better quality cattle, which I have been striving to do. Through genetics and
using real good, high quality, good performance-tested bulls, performance data
bulls, upgrade our cattle like that. Those are some of the goals I am trying to get
done and hope that I will.
H: Thank you, very much for your time.
R: You are welcome.