GFB News Magazine
Ranching the LBJ way
Posted on February 18, 2020 12:00 AM
By Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
In the 1960s, when President Lyndon B. Johnson was in the White House, he often ran the country from his ranch located about 50 miles from Austin, Texas.
Georgia Farm Bureau members attending the American Farm Bureau Convention in January had the chance to visit the LBJ Ranch.
Johnson often hosted political guests at his ranch while he served as U.S. Senate Majority Leader in the 1950s, vice president under John F. Kennedy and then president. Guests included President Harry Truman, Kennedy, Billy Graham, John Glenn and leaders of foreign countries.
Johnson loved to drive his guests around the ranch in a white Lincoln Continental convertible to look at his cattle.
“His idea was to get you here on the ground and give you a ‘gentleman’s tour’ to showcase the land,” said Clint Herriman ranch foreman of the LBJ National Historical Park.
When the Johnsons built a new show barn about a mile away from the main house in 1966, the walkways were made wide enough so LBJ could drive his Cadillac through the barn, and guests could admire his prize cattle.
Johnson began his ranch in 1951 when he bought 250 acres of family land from his aunt including the house that would become known as the “Texas White House.”
In 1957 Johnson started a registered Hereford herd with the majority of his cattle being sold for breeding. The ranch eventually grew to about 4,000 acres by the time LBJ died in 1973 and the herd to 400 head.
“LBJ chose Herefords because they were the gentlemen’s breed of cattle for his era,” Herriman said. “It was kind of like having a Cadillac parked in the driveway.”
Polled Herefords weren’t as popular then as they are today, so LBJ’s cattle were horned. To keep the hides blemish free and give the cattle a clean look, Johnson had his cattle branded on their horns instead of their hides.
Today, the LBJ National Park maintains a herd of horned Hereford cattle descended from LBJ’s herd.
“This isn’t a commercial operation but a historical herd. We view the herd as a living museum,” Herriman said. “We’re trying to maintain the genetics of the 1960s standard for Hereford cattle. They’re short and fat.”
Herriman and a staff of three maintain the herd of about 70 mama cows. The herd has two calving seasons. The ranch sells about 50-60 calves a year when the calves reach about 500 pounds. Most heifers are retained. Breeding bulls are sold between 18 months to two years weighing about 2,000 pounds. They average about $2,250.
Because the cattle are federal property, they must be sold at a public auction, Herriman said. Anyone interested in the public auction may contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
To see more photos, visitgfb.ag/LBJherd .