New Markets

With the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886, the ranchers of the British Columbia Interior no longer had to drive their cattle to the coast to get them to market. Ashcroft became the main centre for shipping cattle from the Cariboo, Chilcotin, and Nicola Valley ranges. From there, cattle could be sent by rail to the growing market on the west coast or all the way to eastern markets.

A photograph of Burns Meat Market, Revelstoke in 1910. Click to enlarge,
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Interior of the Burns Meat Market, Revelstoke, 1910. B-00007 - Courtesy of Royal British Columbia Museum

For ranchers in the Okanagan Valley, the new mining areas of the Kootenays became a lucrative market. During the mining boom, the monthly cattle drives averaged 100 head during the summer and early fall, and 250 head during the late fall or early winter in the last drive of the season.

For a brief time in the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Klondike goldfields became an important market for British Columbia cattlemen. Cattle were generally sent by rail to the west coast and shipped by barge to Skagway, Alaska where they were driven over the Dalton Trail or White Pass to the Klondike. But during the summer of 1898, a number of Chilcotin ranchers set out to drive their cattle overland on the old telegraph trail to Northern British Columbia. Unfortunately, the lack of good grazing and the extremely muddy trail made the trip arduous. Only a few of the ranchers were able to deliver their cattle to Dawson, and most lost cattle and money in the attempt to get them there.

With the population growth in the lower mainland, especially in the Vancouver area, the consumer began to demand not only high quality beef but also availability of meat all year round. This resulted in changes in the ranching industry. More extensive forage crops had to be cultivated for winter stall-feeding. With the production of more hay crops, ranchers could provide beef on a year-round basis by holding marketable cattle where they could stall-feed them through the winter.

Media Files

Audio Tapes 2726:1a Cattle Barons- “Norman Lee” Mrs. Norman Lee talks about her husband, Norman’s, cattle drive to the Klondike.

A flash player with audio of Mrs. Norman Lee talking about her husband, Norman’s, cattle drive to the Klondike.

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