Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Numbers Decrease, but Ranchers Continue to Round 'Em Up

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Numbers Decrease, but Ranchers Continue to Round 'Em Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Beverly Fleming

It is a bright but slightly hazy Monday morning in late August. The blistering heat has not yet settled over the waving grasses as I watch a handful of horseback riders and the same number of cow dogs work a herd of cattle. It is a scene right out of an old Western movie, except for the stark silhouette of a cell phone tower rising at the back edge of the pasture and the fact that I am parked on the edge of International Golf Parkway.

As I watch the tableau unfold before me, a lone cow breaks from the advancing herd, making a determined U-turn. Her break for freedom is quickly curtailed as an ever watchful cow dog checks her flight and heads her back into the herd.

Too quickly the scene is over as the cattle are pushed into a corral and the gates are closed. The cattlemen head in single file back to the trucks parked near the barns where the calves will be separated and loaded into waiting trailers. Most are headed to Superior Livestock Auction in Fort Worth, Texas.

Some, either too large or too small, will be sold at North Florida Livestock Auction in Lake City. This is a scene that is quickly disappearing from St. Johns County.

Cow/calf enterprises, once the No. 1 cash crop in Florida, has fallen to the No. 12 spot and the pastures that supported that industry will soon be replaced with asphalt and buildings.

For Richard Pacetti of Pacetti Farms, where I saw the cattle being rounded up, this has been a way of life for his family for generations. The 68 year-old farmer turned rancher has been working the family farm since 1960.

"Those calves going to Texas were actually videotaped this past April. Bidders view the prospects and buy them. They put down a deposit and then you better have them ready when the time comes to ship them," Pacetti said. He sold 315 head that way.

Pacetti is a member of a unique group in Florida. There is a sign on the fence of one of his pastures stating: Century Pioneer Family Farm.

The signs came last year from the Florida Department of Agriculture and were presented to 87 families around the state. …

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