By Guy Weadick
More than one observer lately has pointed out that ranching properties in Alberta are becoming harder to obtain than ever before. Also their children carry on, or else operate ranches of their own, earlier obtained.
When a ranch of any size today is sold to someone from a distance, it is something out of the ordinary. The changing of the ownership of the pioneer Walrond Ranche property in Southwestern Alberta brings to mind that although the new owner is not originally from Alberta, he is a pioneer cowman of the Southwestern States with a great many years of practical experience in the range and beef cattle industry.
He is Mr. John F. Miller, whose headquarters is located at Las Vegas, Nevada, and who for years has conducted various interests in Nevada, Arizona and California.
One of Alberta’s earliest cattle outfits
One of the first “big outfits” to engage in the range cattle industry in Alberta was the Walrond Cattle Ranche Ltd., which marked ’em WR. Its financial sponsor was the Old Country syndicate.
“Doc” Frields, a Montana cowman, their range manager in the early ’80s trailed in 10,000 head from that State to the new ranch location, northwest of Macleod, Alta., in the Porcupine Hills about thirty miles north of the present town of Lundbreck, Alta.
In those early days they had a vast territory to select from; their foothill choice offered, and still does, the important essentials necessary for a good cow ranch — good water, springs and creeks, good grass and shelter.
In those days of the frontier, many of the top hands of the Alberta range drew wages from the WR at one time or another. Many of them had come to the country from distant cattle ranges of Texas, Indian Territory, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana.
Some came north with trail herds, some to remain (some of their families are still here), and others drifted back farther south, to where, as they claimed “the weather suits my clothes.”
Among the top wagon bosses who at various times ran the Walrond wagon was John Lamar, a Texan who had come north with a trail herd from his native State. He was the father of the well known bronco rider, Joe Lamar, who was killed in the Horse Show Building at Victoria Park (Calgary Exhibition Grounds) while trying out bucking stock for use in “The Stampede” on its initial presentation in Calgary in 1912. His son Eddie Lamar has been for several years now prominent in the oil development in Alberta. He makes his home in Calgary.
When the Walrond Ranche sold off its cattle and went out of the cattle production business, the land was leased (something like 35,000 acres of deeded land) to the P. Burns Ranches Co. Ltd.
Along in 1944 the property was sold to John F. Miller of Las Vegas, Nevada, who shortly afterward also purchased the property and bulk of the cattle of the Porter ranch (another old-time spread), which joined the Walrond on the north.
John F. Miller is a friendly and unassuming man. He has lived most of his life in the Southwest since first arriving in California as a boy from his native Iowa.
He has been engaged in the beef cattle industry for nearly seventy years and has worked as a cowhand, range boss and owner over the immense area where for many years range herds of all breeds from Texas and Mexican longhorns to Herefords, Shorthorns, Angus and Brahma cattle have been produced.
He is thoroughly familiar with all angles of the beef cattle industry and the various types of rangeland over the great expanse known as the Southwestern cow-country.
John Miller likes cattle and is giving much time and energy, and making a substantial financial outlay, to determine the best way to improve the quality of all breeds of beef cattle and how to turn the best finished product under the varying conditions offered by the different types of rangeland.
In his Alberta ranching operations, Mr. Miller had as the foundation of his present herd, the fine quality commercial Hereford cattle with registered Hereford bulls purchased with the Porter ranch property.
In addition he imported some registered Brahma bulls, which he is breeding to selected Hereford cows. This herd is run separate from the Hereford herd. While Mr. Miller is familiar with what has been accomplished in the South with cross-breeding Brahmas with other breeds, he wants to experiment to his own satisfaction to see what can be accomplished in the more rugged climate of the north, when the best blood of both types of cattle are mixed.
The Brahmas are immune to ticks and other insects; they are immune to pink eye, cancer eye and other eye disorders; they have sweat glands which the other breeds do not have; they have a muscular membrane between the hide and the meat that enables them to move their hide and dislodge insects; their span of life averages ten years longer and Brahma cows have been known to give birth to calves at the age of 22 years. They have a higher dressing percentage over all cattle; they mature quicker, they are better grazers because of their heat resistance and because of their ability to convert poor pasture to good beef; they can and do travel great distances to water and give more and richer milk than cows of any other beef breed.
In addition to his cattle interests Mr. Miller has for many years been successfully engaged in the hotel business, first starting in that line years ago when he built the first hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, when that now modern and enterprising city consisted only of a few tents and shacks. In those days cattle and mining were the principle industries.
Mr. Miller visits his Alberta ranch property about three times a year and is a member of the Western Stock Growers Association and keeps track of their activities through their official publication the Canadian Cattlemen.