Ranch Life

For the ranchers and their families living in the Interior, the yearly cycle became a routine that was seldom interrupted. In the spring, cattle were moved from their winter feeding grounds into the surrounding rangelands. When the heat of summer arrived, the cattle were allowed to drift to the summer ranges in the upland areas.

A photograph of branding at the Alkali Lake Ranch.Click to enlarge,
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Branding at Alkali Lake Ranch - Courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

These ranges were used in common by all of the ranchers in a given area. Pastoral leases of Crown Land were, in many cases, a formality that was overlooked by ranchers. By common agreement, they turned their cattle out on the unfenced grasslands. During the summer, the ranchers hired crews to cut and stack a small amount of hay as insurance for the occasional hard winter. In early fall, the ranchers worked together to round up the cattle and bring them into a holding area where the calves could be branded and the individual rancher’s cattle separated. After the round up, cattle buyers came through the territory purchasing cattle. Often the purchased cattle had to be driven to market before winter, but sometimes cattle were left for the ranchers to feed through the winter. Buyers picked them up in the spring when the cycle began again.

A photograph of stacking hay at the Chilco Ranch. Click to enlarge,
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Stacking hay, Chilco Ranch - Courtesy of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin

Most of the day-to-day ranching activities were performed by the ranchers and their families. They looked after the feeding, seasonal moving of herds, and doctoring of sick cattle, but the longer trail drives and the spring and fall round-ups required additional men to assist. In most cases, local Native bands filled the need for labour. The ranchers soon recognized the value of their Native neighbours and their contribution to the ranching economy. In turn, the Native people could earn much-needed money by working in an area that was a natural extension of their traditional lifestyle, living close to the land and working as a team.

Media Files

Audio Tapes 4256:1 Cattle Ranching in the Nicola - “Yearly Cycle”
A rancher talks about the yearly ranching cycle in the Nicola Valley.

A flash player with audio describing the yearly ranching cycle in the Nicola Valley.

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Audio Tapes 2726:1a Cattle Barons- “Round-ups”
A rancher describes the early round ups in the Nicola Valley.

A flash player with audio describing the early round ups in the Nicola Valley.

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Audio Tapes 4256:1 Cattle Ranching in the Nicola - “Branding” A rancher talks about round ups in the Nicola Valley and about branding.

A flash player with audio describing round ups in the Nicola Valley and about branding.

Click here to read transcript
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You need the Adobe Flash Player to listen to the above audio. Get it by clicking here.