The McFaddin family, of which Bob McCan represents the fifth generation, has always seen the value of productive working land.
“We’ve had a cattle company for almost 140 years,” McCan, who manages ranches in Victoria, Bee and Refugio counties under the umbrella of McFaddin Enterprises, said. “We also operate a large-scale recreational hunting enterprise to diversify our ranch income.”
Using rotational grazing on native rangeland, the family strikes a balance that meets the needs of both livestock and wildlife, benefiting both.
“Healthy land means a healthy environment which contributes to a healthy bottom line,” McCan said.
McCan, who has served as president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, understands the forces that buffet ranching families and can lead to land fragmentation. In 1987, his extended family partitioned the historic McFaddin Ranch. McCan’s father and aunt kept their holdings together as an operational unit, he said. The Victoria County property, where they operate today, was purchased in 1878.
“We have been able to keep our portion of the ranch intact and operational since then—and hopefully for many more generations,” McCan said. “From a ranching perspective, productive land is the foundation of a sustainable agricultural enterprise. If ranching families can’t remain economically viable, then it’s likely they will have to sell off a portion of the ranch. Once land is broken up, it generally moves out of agriculture.”
While he looks at the land through rancher’s eyes, McCan, a lifelong resident of the Coastal Plains, also sees the big picture. The population in his hometown of Victoria has doubled from about 33,000 in 1960 to more than 66,000 in 2015, following the state’s growth trends.
“Our Victoria County ranch is near the confluence of the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers, which are vital water sources for both agriculture and urban areas,” McCan said. “We’re very concerned about how water will be apportioned in the future.”
In addition to supplying agriculture, cities and their attendant industrial uses, the rivers must also retain enough water to provide freshwater to nearby bay systems, which are ecologically and economically essential.
“All of the uses are important,” McCan said. “Just as we strike a balance between livestock and wildlife on our ranch, the users are going to have to strike a balance between the demands—and realize how important open space is to our water supply.”