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Cattle in the Cotton Fields

A History of Cattle Raising in Alabama

Brooks Blevins

Publication Year: 2014

Cattle raising today is the most widely practiced form of agriculture in Alabama and ranks second only to the poultry industry in terms of revenue. Brooks Blevins not only relates the development and importance of the industry to agricultural practices but also presents it as an integral component of southern history, inextricably linked to issues of sectional politics, progressivism, race and class struggles, and rural depopulation. Most historians believe cattle were first introduced by the Spanish explorers and missionaries during the early decades of the 16th century. Native Americans quickly took up cattle raising, and the practice was reinforced with the arrival of the French and the British. By 1819--after massive immigration of Anglo-American herders, farmers, and planters--cattle played an integral role in the territory's agriculture and economy. Despite the dominance of the cotton industry during the antebellum period, cattle herding continued to grow and to become identified as an important part of the region's agriculture.

In the early decades of the 20th century, the boll weevil drove many planters out of the cotton business. These planters adopted a midwestern model of cattle raising consisting of purebred English breeds, enclosed pastures, scientific breeding and feeding practices, and intimate cooperation among cattlemen, government agents, and business interests. This model of farming gradually replaced the open range herding tradition.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

...matter, would find familiar little if anything in the modern cattle industry. Larger, meatier animals roam pastured fields enclosed by barbed-wire fences. Roundups and brands are as rare in Alabama today as purebred Herefords were in the nineteenth century...

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1. The Melding of Traditions

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pp. 1-12

...explorers and missionaries began bringing cattle to the North American mainland. One of the earliest means of livestock introduction was the Spanish exploration party. Ponce de Leon brought cattle and swine on his second trip to Florida in 1521. The livestock...

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2. Piney Woods and Plantations

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pp. 13-42

...progressed, livestock raising continued to play an integral role in Alabama agriculture. The shape and significance of livestock raising were affected by numerous factors: region, socioeconomic status, and location in time. Alabama's cattle raisers, for instance, differed in many ways from region to region and from farm to farm over the half century...

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3. Agricultural Progressivism and the South

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pp. 43-75

...of labor relations, political structures, financial and credit systems, and agricultural practices. Scientific and technological advances engulfed more and more of the South's and Alabama's nether regions in the Cotton Belt and threatened the traditional open range. The heralds of agricultural progressivism-public institutions...

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4. The Midwestern Model Meets the South

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pp. 76-113

...entry into World War I and its entry into World War II witnessed further adoption of the midwestern style of cattle raising by Alabama agriculturists and a rapid decline of traditional open-range herding practices. The exigencies of wartime food production, the influence of extension agents and agricultural researchers, and federal...

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5. Cattle in the Cotton Fields

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pp. 114-142

...urbanization, and government influence transformed a rural, agriculturally dependent section into a largely urban region no longer dependent on one or two staple crops and, for that matter, no longer chiefly dependent on farming. Cotton, which for almost a century and a half symbolized southern agriculture and society, lost its hallowed place as the king...

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6. New Farmers in the New South

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pp. 143-166

...farm population, like the nation's, has fallen to minuscule proportions. Within the cattle industry the past three and a half decades have witnessed numerous developments as well. Technological and governmental forces have encouraged the growth of a widespread, multiregional cattle industry in Alabama, one no longer centered in the Black Belt...


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pp. 167-174


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pp. 175-196


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pp. 197-206


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pp. 207-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780817387549
E-ISBN-10: 0817387544
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817309404
Print-ISBN-10: 0817309403

Page Count: 235
Illustrations: 22 illustrations
Publication Year: 2014