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Cattle feed of last resort during drought

Cattle feed of last resort during drought

Sept. 18, 1984: Cattle on a ranch outside of Carrizo Springs, Texas, eat prickly pear cactus that has had its spines burned off.

A long drought in Eastern Texas had forced ranchers to take desperate measures. “Every farmer and rancher in this area is broke,” says local bank president Larry Max. “We don’t have any turf left. Even our mesquite trees are dying.”

A last resort, according to Max, is “burning pear” to feed the cattle. It means taking a blow torch to burn thorns off prickly pear cactus so that the cattle can eat what is left.

These two photos by retired staff photographer Larry Bessel accompanied a Texas drought story by staff writer J. Michael Kennedy in the Sept. 23, 1984 Los Angeles Times.

Sept. 18, 1984: A worker on a ranch near Carrizo Springs, Texas, burns spines off cactus so that cattle can eat it. It takes skill to burn the spines properly. Too much heat and the cactus is ruined. Too little heat and the spines are left which hurts the cattle. Credit: Larry Bessel/Los Angeles Times.

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