This article originally appeared in the summer 2018 Ranch House Journal.
By Meg Drake
Rancher, Texan, conservationist and advocate are just a few words that describe Bob McCan. As the fifth generation to occupy and manage McFaddin Enterprises, Ltd. in south Texas, just outside of Victoria, McCan has seen his fair share of changes as it relates to sustainability, conservational efforts and managing a large cow-calf operation.
Through many years of involvement in the industry, including serving as president of both Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and National Cattleman’s Beef Association, McCan brings a wealth of knowledge to the topics of cattle ranching and what it takes to run and sustain a successful diversified operation.
- What makes up McFaddin Enterprises, Ltd.
McFaddin Enterprises is primarily a cattle company that operates a commercial cow-calf operation in Victoria, Refugio and Bee Counties. We also operate a recreational hunting enterprise on all the properties we manage, which consists of two family ranches in Victoria County and one large lease ranch which lies partly in Refugio County and part in Bee County. Another part of the company is our horse operation. We raise and sell polo ponies. I have been a polo player and enthusiast for many years and so was my father. Our horses are all raised on the ranch and will spend the first couple years of their training on the ranch doing cattle work. We maintain a broodmare band of anywhere from eight to 15 mares. We have two thoroughbred stallions that have polo breeding and backgrounds. The broodmares consist of mares that all had experience playing polo or were good ranch mares, many did both. We sell three to four made polo horses a year and about the same amount of green started horses. We have a polo field on the ranch and spend a lot of time there having practice games or schooling young horses. Most of our hunting enterprise consists of annual leases with long time lease groups, however we have started doing some package hunts on one ranch where we have built a lodge.
- For those that aren’t familiar with Victorian cattle, describe the cross and why it works for South Texas?
Our cattle operation is primarily a cow-calf operation with commercial Victoria Braford Cattle.
My grandfather Claude K. McCan Sr. developed this commercial breed back in the 1930’s. The cattle are essentially a 3/4 Hereford blend with a 1/4 Brahman influence. The cows and bulls are all the same cross. We had a closed herd for many years perfecting the uniformity of the cattle.
For the past 20 years, we have infused some new blood into the herd to maintain a good amount of hybrid vigor or heterosis. This is done mainly with a herd of F-1 cows that we have, which we breed to polled Hereford bulls, however, we have also bought a few outside bulls from Braford Association sales.
These cattle work extremely well along the Gulf Coast area of Texas, however, we have sold bulls all over the country. Our cattle have enough Bos Indicus to thrive very well in harsh environments, whether in high humidity areas or tough arid climates as well. They have enough Bos Taurus influence that they will produce a good carcass animal also and have been known to grow enough hair to survive the colder environments of the central plains.
We typically market 85 to 100 commercial bulls a year and 300 to 400 commercial Victoria heifers.
- Your children are the sixth generation to work on the McFaddin Ranch. What do you think has kept the operation sustainable and running for such an impressive amount of time?
I think that every generation of our family has been able to do something to diversify the revenue of the ranch. My great-great grandfather, James Alfred McFaddin, and his son, Al McFaddin, farmed a lot of the ranch as well as ran cattle. My great-uncle Al was one of the first to introduce Brahman cattle to our area and developed an excellent herd of purebred Brahman cattle that he marketed very well.
My grandfather Claude K. McCan Sr. realized the need for better carcass animals to meet the needs of a growing population of consumers, so he started crossing our Brahmans with Hereford, eventually developing our Victoria Braford breed.
My father, Claude K. McCan, Jr. started our recreational hunting enterprise because he knew we needed an alternative stream of revenue to operate and maintain the ranch properties.
I have tried to continually improve and diversify our operation so that it is not only environmentally sustainable but it also has to be economically sustainable.
- What future plans do you have for the ranch?
Probably the biggest plan I have for the ranch is doing a strategic plan for our operating company and also for our family that are involved in ownership of the operating company and land.
We have a lot of younger folks in the family including my children who are coming along. I would like to get some directional input from all of them as well as from some of the older members of the family. I think it is wise not to proceed with too many new plans or directions unless we have good buy-in from everyone involved. I believe this is prudent since my children may also be involved in the management at some capacity, I want to set them up for success.
- Aside from being a producer, in what other ways are you involved in the cattle industry?
Aside from being a producer, I have been involved with the cattle industry through the major state and national advocacy associations. I served as President of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and more recently as President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. I also served as chairman of our local Soil & Water Conservation district for many years and as chairman of the State Grazing Land Conservation group.
I believe it is important to stay active in these organizations to make sure we have a viable industry and a political environment that supports that.
- What do you think is one of the biggest challenges the industry currently faces?
One of the biggest challenges in my opinion today, is the erosion of private property rights and regulatory overreach. We witnessed in the last administration how close we came to losing authority and property rights to our water in the Waters of the United States proposal at E.P.A. We will see this again in other agencies and it is something we have to be vigilant on because it is so important to the viability of our industry.
- Through your work in conservation, what do you think is one of the most pressing conservational issues today?
As far as Conservation issues that are tantamount to our success or sustainability of ranching, I would say land fragmentation is a big one for many reasons.
(1) So much of our food and our water originates and perpetuates in the big open spaces. A lot of ranch land and agriculture land is being developed into urban or suburban landscapes.
(2) Many ranch families, if they haven’t planned ahead and see their younger generations wanting to cash out, once that happens it doesn’t stop.
Another big conservation issue in our part of the state is brush encroachment and invasive species. It is getting more and more expensive to operate in our region because we have to spend so much on brush treatment so we don’t lose production for our cattle and wildlife.
- What advice do you have for families hoping to sustain ranches for multiple generations? What different efforts lead to helping make sure ranches are set up and suitable for fourth, fifth and even sixth generation mangers/owners?
The best advice I could give to families hoping to sustain ranches for multiple generations is communication and education. Communication to your family or heirs about what the ranch is doing and where it is going. Also, educate the family on the value of keeping the land intact and maintaining a sustainable operation for everyone involved and for the future generations.