By Jeff Ray

BLOOMING GROVE (CBSDFW.COM) – Cattle is the largest cash crop in Texas — but it’s a thirsty crop. It takes more than 10,000 gallons of water to grow one pound of beef. But one North Texas rancher has learned how to take whatever Mother Nature gives and run with it.

There are more four-legged bovines in Texas than in any other state, and building a cattle ranch operation is done from the ground up — literally. “It’s really all about the soil, that’s where it starts,” explained Gary Price of 77 Ranch near Blooming Grove in Navarro County.

From that soil comes the grass, which converts our sunlight into protein. The cattle convert that protein into meat. But the process requires water, and lots of it. “We will manage about two and a half billion gallons of water in an average year that falls on this ranch,” Price said.

The ranch has learned to hold onto that water using ponds and soil. The heart of the idea is to go native. After all, this idea has already won the test of time. “Native grasses and their resilience during a drought,” Price said, “we knew early on that was the direction we wanted to go.”

Throughout history, thousands of grass-eating animals did fine for thousands of years, living only off of what the Blackland Prairie was able to provide. “What we are trying to do is mimic what was going on with the bison a hundred years ago,” said Price, proud of his technique.

The rancher has slowly converted his old cotton land over to native grasses, keeping his herd moving through. To nobody’s surprise, it has worked. Price uses no well water. No fertilizer. No hay in the last seven years. As one might imagine, it is an incredibly efficient process.

Such efficiency is the byproduct of a profound sense of stewardship, built from 40 years anchored to this land. Anchored, but also in constant motion. “With native grasses in this part of the country, in Central Texas, you really need rotation,” said Price. Rotating his cattle through the land keeps the grass healthy.

Healthy grass means deep soil which can absorb whatever rain does fall, even during times of severe drought.

Staying in one place means adjusting to the world around you — weather patterns, market preferences and even, perhaps, sudden tariff wars. But you can manage that uncertainty by learning from the past, growing your roots deep and holding on to your soil — and water — as much as possible.