Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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Since 1950 the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association (OCA) has officially represented the Oklahoma beef cattle industry at the state and national levels. From its earliest days Oklahoma has been cattle country. During the 1500s Spanish livestock were accidentally introduced onto the plains of present Oklahoma. The state's modern cattle business originated with the American Indian ranchers of the Five Civilized Tribes. Oklahoma cattlemen later offered improved bloodlines, and by the twenty-first century the state furnished one of the nation's largest markets for feeder cattle.

Oklahoma cattle ranchers established a way of life that sought to protect their shared values and principles, giving birth to the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. Shortly after 1900 many attempts were made to create a statewide organization for the protection of the industry. By 1950 Oklahoma had nearly forty regional livestock groups but lacked a statewide body to unite those diverse interests. As ranching continued to grow in the state, ranchers realized that they faced many of the same obstacles, including government involvement and/or interference in the industry, the prevention of epidemic diseases, and the elimination of animal theft.

On March 6, 1950, a group of ranchers from Seminole each contributed five dollars to pay for a charter (written by Lyle Boren) and incorporated the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association. In those first days the OCA lacked a central office, treasury, and substantial membership. Just two years after its founding, the association was actively encouraging and incorporating the various regional cattle organizations that dominated the state. By 1953 the OCA began planning a statewide membership drive complete with a meeting in centrally located Oklahoma City. By the end of that year the OCA was truly a statewide organization.

Developed when low prices and government involvement plagued ranchers, the OCA adopted a posture of political neutrality (in terms of party politics), allowing itself to accomplish much and bolster the cattle industry. The OCA focused on epidemic disease and rustling as major concerns. By contributing thousands of dollars to Oklahoma State University researchers, the OCA helped eradicate or lessen the threat from numerous maladies. Tackling the rustling question decreased the theft rate statewide. Nationally the OCA concentrated on influencing legislation to protect the cattle industry.

At the end of the twentieth century headquartered in Oklahoma City's Oklahoma National Stockyards, the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association continues to provide a voice for approximately thirty-five hundred members, many of whom are not ranchers but entrepreneurs involved in other areas of the beef cattle industry. The OCA is Oklahoma's official Brand Registry Agent and publishes the Oklahoma Brand Book. Its monthly magazine is the Oklahoma Cowman.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Paul F. Lambert, et al., Historic Oklahoma: An Illustrated History (San Antonio, Tex.: Historical Publishing Network, 2000). Joseph A. Stout, Oklahoma Cattlemen: An Association History (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Cattlemen's Foundation, 1981).

Todd E. Leahy

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