Times Record News
Wichita Falls, Texas
Oct. 25, 2008

Family still dedicated to ranch after 70 years

by Matt Kelton

What do you gain from putting your heart and soul into managing a North Texas ranch for seven decades?

Take a close look at the Graves T-Bar near Henrietta and youll get a good idea.

Alan and Jacquetta Graves, the generation currently managing the working cattle operation, are as dedicated to the land as their parents were in the beginning.

The T-Bar received the Outstanding Rangeland Management award from the Texas Section Society for Range Management during the associations annual convention this month in Nacogdoches.

Graves T-Bar Ranch has always been a cow-calf operation. The cow herd is now mostly commercial Angus, consisting of about 250 cows with a 950-pound average weight.

The ranch originated in 1937 when Oscar and Fern Graves, Alans parents, began acquiring property south of Henrietta. Over the years, land also was added from Jacquettas family, part of which has been designated as a Texas Century Ranch.

As a child, Alan began working on the ranch as soon as he could hitch a ride in the pickup and, in 1976, Alan and Jacquetta took over all ranching operations from both families.

While the Graveses see to the day-to-day ranching chores, help also comes from daughter Haley, son Geron, son-in-law and daughter Robert and Nala Chambers, and grandsons Conner and Holt.

From the beginning, we realized that the land had to be managed properly in order to support a profitable cow-calf operation, Alan said.

He has made a concerted effort over the years to teach his children and grandchildren the importance of investing their time and resources back into the land that has supported them for so long.

Much of the land acquired over the years was in crops, and was replaced by perennial grasses. In fact, Alan became so good at seeding grass that in the 1970s and 80s, he began harvesting and selling Kleingrass and KR bluestem to help make ends meet.

Brush control, primarily on mesquite, has always been a priority on the T-Bar Ranch in an effort to reduce brush competing with native and improved grasses and to conserve water resources. Alan began as a young boy carrying a three-gallon spray can from early morning until midafternoon, applying kerosene as a basal treatment. Later, he added a broad-leaf herbicide to help in the kill and was nearly 100 percent effective.

These long days gave everyone involved an understanding of what it takes to stay on top of brush encroachment. Alan and his father believed this selective method was the most environmentally friendly way to address the problem, resulting in the least amount of chemical applied to the land.

For more than 30 years now, Graves has hired one or two high school students to help spray mesquites, though the work has become easier with the use of four-wheelers.

Jacquetta, a longtime English teacher at Henrietta High School, keeps an eye out for new hands during the school year.

Alans boyhood introduction to weed control was celebrating the Fourth of July each year by pulling cockle burs.

The family carries out proper grazing management of forage resources. Over the years, rotation grazing of two-, three- and four-pasture systems has been used. Movement of cattle is based on summer rainfall, condition of pastures and how the cattle and grass look.

Wildlife has always been important to the Graves T-Bar, and includes bobwhite quail, deer, dove and many nongame species.

Alan and Jacquetta have decided not to lease any hunting or fishing rights, although it could be a significant income for the ranch. Alan recalls the great moments he had with his father and then with his own children hunting game together or fishing in the stock tanks. He prefers to save these resources for his growing family and for friends so many other children and dads can enjoy this quality time together.

Alan and Jacquetta Graves like to refer to the term sustainability.

When thinking of their efforts to take care of their ranch, 70 years of sustainability in this family has resulted in a productive and profitable ranching business. And, most importantly, future generations will see that sustainability continues to be the goal.