Dave Edmiston called me while I was sitting next to a cattle trailer in the middle of Iowa. I was wondering why the tractor pulling it was festooned with a cartoon image of a flaming pig, but then I was in the middle of Iowa. I asked Dave how long his family had been in the cattle business. He had two answers. He could trace his family back to the ‘Old Three Hundred,’ the original band of Texas settlers who received land grants in Stephen F. Austin's first colony. That hardy group of intrepid souls settled in central Texas in the 1820s and brought 30 head of cattle.
“That was probably the first time cattle ranching came to Texas,” he said, but the Edmiston connection disappeared for a little over a century before Dave’s grandfather started a cattle ranch. So his second answer? He’s a third-generation rancher in Brady, a small town in McCulloch County, which he describes as really “Deep in the Heart of Texas.”
“Look at a map,” he said, “and find the geographical center of the state. That point is just about 20 miles from Brady. Our other claim to fame is the Annual World Championship BBQ Goat Cook-off. This year’s event is August 30thand 31st. We triple the town’s population during those two days.”
McCulloch Country is where he and his family run a cow-calf, hay, grain and wildlife operation. “I grew up on horseback there. I was on a horse at 5 and doing chores at 7 or 8, so I guess you could say this has been a life-long job. I learned early that if you take care of your cattle, they’ll take care of you.”
Dave left the ranching business for a while after he graduated from San Angelo State University. He spent most of his time coaching high school football but grabbed the chance to get back to it with his brother and father. “I was commuting over a hundred miles on the weekends to help them,” he said. “It made more sense just to join them.”
The number of cattle is dictated by the weather/range conditions and the drought has Edmiston playing a little more cautious this year. Like a lot of other Texas cattlemen, he wants to make sure he doesn’t overwork his pastures. “We can’t crowd our livestock. We need to give them ample pasture so they get good body scores,” he said. “If we have to pour money into feed, we’re taking money out of our pockets.”
Cattle might be the family business for another generation or two. He and his wife, Peggy, have two daughters; Michelle is Assistant Dean of Finance for the College of Engineering at Texas A&M, and Celeste is a Manager at Dillard’s in Tulsa. “We have two grandchildren, too. Michelle and her husband, Troy, have a son, Garrett. Celeste and Tim gave us our first granddaughter, Alexa, just a month ago.”
It was his hard work with several Texas beef organizations that earned him his appointment last year to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB). He was appointed to the Texas Beef Council in 2010 where served on the Audit and Budget Committee and the Beef Resources Committee. He is also state director for the Texas Farm Bureau, serving as chairman of the Public Affairs Committee. In addition, Dave is a life member of the San Antonio Livestock Exposition. The CBB nomination came from the Texas Farm Bureau. He was appointed by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in November 2012 and he’s just beginning his first term as a member of the Value Subcommittee.
Excellent appointment, too, since he’s always ready to talk about the value of a good cut of beef. “Consumers have the final choice of what to eat and they know beef is the highest quality and the best source of protein. We need it to live a good, healthy lifestyle. I’m proud that cattle producers play such a great role in bringing good nutrition to the marketplace,” he said.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.