Ozarks Roots-A Texas Rancher in Missouri
The sun has just crept above the eastern horizon. Sunlight glints off the windows of the house on the hill, but it will be awhile before it strikes the horses and cattle in the low-lying pastures on each side of the house. Bill and Georgia McCloy and their youngest son, Ben, have finished their morning coffee and head to the barn.
A typical day on the ranch
After feeding the horses the McCloys saddle-up a couple horses so they’ll be ready when they need them. “Ben takes the truck with a mixture of feed and Deccox (coccidiosis medication) and heads one way and I take the tractor and go the other way to feed the old cows,” Bill said. “Then we both feed the young cattle. We unroll hay for the cattle in the field and put round bales in feeders for the ones in the lot.” Sometime in between they tag, vaccinate and brand any new cattle they’ve bought or doctor any sick ones they find. True to their cowboy roots, the McCloy’s do their cattle work horseback. “We’ve got about four guys we can call to help us work calves,” Bill added. “Then we refill the feed trucks and fuel them up for the next morning. If it’s not Wednesday or the second or fourth Friday we go to fixin’ the broken stuff,” Bill chuckled. So goes a typical day on Piney River Ranch. “If it’s Wednesday we prepare the arena for the roping and if it’s the second or fourth Friday we prepare for the team sorting,” which is typical evening entertainment at the C.O.B. Cattle Co. Arena, Bill explained.
The business of ranching
The Piney River Ranch, so named because the river horseshoes around creating much of the property line, runs a herd of cow/calf pairs, 700 feeder calves and 70 horses. Some of the calves are backgrounded for other people and some of the horses are there to be started or trained, but most belong to Bill, Ben or Ben’s wife, Brandy, who is an avid barrel racer. Bill uses Corriente and Longhorn cattle for roping. “I let Ben start the colts,” Bill said. “He’s younger and bounces better.”
The McCloy’s bale their own grass hay and usually end up buying more before spring arrives. Yearlings in the feed lot get about 5 lbs. of feed per head and a steady diet of hay. Bill feeds the calves a corn and commodity pre-mixed feed from MFA. This feed mix contains a salt and mineral supplement. For the cows he keeps loose and block minerals available in feed bunks.
The McCloy’s buy feeder calves at local barns to try to take advantage of value-added programs when they sell. “We try to stay on the top end of the markets- we need every penny,” Georgia laughed. Although they do source and age verify and brand their cattle, Bill doesn’t advocate a mandatory premises or animal identification program. “I just think people ought to have the choice,” he said.
In the beginning…
Bill and Georgia McCloy moved from Morse, Texas to the 1000 acre ranch west of Licking, Mo., in 1978. Bill’s family owned cattle, feed lots and irrigated farm land. They wanted to expand the family business, so Bill’s father contacted a friend in the real estate business. The long, flat bottom land edged with steep hills and running water had just gone on the market the day Bill’s dad came to look at it. He must have been smitten, because he looked at only one other farm before buying it.
Bill and Georgia took up the task of building a ranch and raising three boys. Both were well-suited to the job; Georgia’s family owned a ranch in Colorado that neighbored Bill’s family’s ranch there.
A place for the boys
In 1989 Bill and Georgia decided that their boys needed a hangout. A 100 ft. by 200 ft. indoor arena was just the ticket. Complete with a concession stand, bleacher-style seating, 11 horse stalls and all the accoutrements necessary for any rodeo event, the boys and their friends never needed to look far for entertainment.
The boys have grown up now; Cody lives in Atlanta and works for CNN, Otey lives in Ottumwa, Iowa, and works for Dodge Rodeo Co. Ben lives on the farm where he helps with the cattle and the arena and trains horses.
Bill said his advice for anyone looking to grow in the cattle business; “Get with something that works and stick with it. There’s always somebody with some gimmick- some mix or treatment- stick with a sound health program and stick with what works.”