Outside the hustle and bustle of city traffic and noise in Green Country, here’s a ranch that’s older than the state itself.
The Williford Ranch, near Vinita, has changed hands a few times since its founding in the 1840s, but it’s done the same thing in some form or fashion for more than 150 years — produce cattle.
Richard Williford, Jr., purchased the ranch in 2003, and Ranch Manager Billy Williams came on the scene in 2010.
“The old man who homesteaded this place came through on the Trail of Tears,” Williams said. “He passed away in 1879, so this ranch has been here for a really long time.”
Originally a horse trainer, Williams took on a temporary manager position at the ranch.
“I came here in 2010 for eight weeks and I’ve been here ever since,” he said.
Williford Ranch runs about 600 head of cattle on 1,600 acres, and Williams said they have about 500 calves a year.
Williams’ experience with horses played well into his work at Williford Ranch.
“We do everything on horseback,” he said. “These horses live with these cows. They’re used to the horses. They’re right there every day, eating, drinking and sleeping.”
Using horses to check cattle, rather than riding out in a truck or four-wheeler, is easier on the ranch hands and the cattle, Williams said.
“It’s really easy to stir up cattle,” he said. “They’re a social animal and they want to stay together. We don’t do shock sticks or start whipping on them and thrashing them around They’re a nervous animal and they have a small lung capacity. They get stirred up and they run out of air, that stresses them. The easier you can work them, the stress level stays lower.”
The cattle have access to plenty of pasture and hay, and they feast on fortified grain in their final days, Williams said, and not a single animal on Williford Ranch is exposed to growth hormones.
But the real secret to great cattle, Williams said, isn’t in the feed or the pasture.
“We put our heart into it,” he said. “We are out here every day, freezing in the winter, hot in the summer, but we like what we do. I don’t know where you can buy them better, and I don’t know how to raise them any better. We have a love for the livestock. That’s what we like best.”