Grand Saline, TexasDownload
Somewhere between hobby and livelihood, Ron Gabriel’s cattle and horse operation feeds his passion for ranching, a passion he found when he was young despite not growing up in a farming family. Working on ranches during summer breaks woke Ron’s desire to someday be a rancher, a goal he achieved 35 years ago when he bought his first piece of property – 20 acres – his first seven cows and one quarter horse brood mare.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Ron says. “It’s something you have to love to do, and it has to be born in you.”
Since then, he’s expanded to 1,700 acres, primarily using the land to grow hay to feed his own animals. Last year he produced more than 1,000 rolls of hay and another 1,500 square bales. That hay feeds his now 300 head of Black Angus cattle and 20 brood mares. Interestingly, while his herds are certainly larger than when he started, both have been reduced in recent years: his horse operation had grown to 150 brood mares, but he sold the majority of it several years ago; he also sold off many of his cattle in 2011 as a result of the drought that drastically reduced hay production. He’s now working to rebuild the cattle herd, buying some animals and keeping his heifers instead of selling them. The horse herd he plans to leave at its current size, selling the new animals when they are grown to the enthusiasts who then show them with much success: Ron’s operation has produced 13 world champion quarter horses.
In addition to his ranching operation, Ron owns an oil servicing business with offices throughout the U.S. That business is actually his main revenue source, with his ranching done more for the pleasure than the income. “The way I do it, it pays its own way,” he says. “This is not my source of income, I do it because I love it.”
Ron also serves on the Legacy AgCredit board of directors, a position he’s been reelected to twice. “I was interested in learning something new and seeing if I could help out,” he says. “It’s been fantastic – I couldn’t have paid for the experience.”