DAROL DICKINSON IS A MODERN-DAY CATTLE BARON

Gratitude to Country Living with their huge Ohio Rural Electric circulation for publishing this article on Longhorn Head to Tail Tours and Dickinson Cattle Co Inc. of Barnesville, Ohio.  Also gratitude to freelance writer Tom Reed. 


Longhorn CattleDAROL DICKINSON IS A MODERN-DAY CATTLE BARON, raising Texas longhorns on a nearly 5,000-acre ranch -- not in Texas but in the rolling Appalachian hill country of Belmont County.

He depends on the Internet for most of the ranch sales. His "cowboys" ride the range not on horses but on Honda 4x4 all-terrain vehicles and wear ball caps, not cowboy hats.

But don't let the modern touches mislead you. In many ways Dickinson is still an old-fashioned cattleman, a self-made entrepreneur with a strong sense of core values and some strong opinions.

Darol can provide a six-generation pedigree on most of the cattle. "If you cant do that," he says, "you should be in a different business."

The Dickinson Cattle Company ranch, with up to 1,600 head of cattle, is located on reclaimed strip mining land just off 1-70 near Barnesville, about 100 miles east of Columbus. It has now become an educational tourist attraction as well as a working ranch, with tours offered during the summer months.
Dickinson, now 68, began his career not as a cattleman but as
an artist.

Originally intending to be an artist, Darol Dickinson displays some of his work in his office at his ranch in Belmont County. He decided on Ohio as the site of his ranch because of its good grassland and abundant rainfall.

"When I went to college, I intended to do fine arts, portraits of livestock and stuff," he says. In his early twenties and newly married to wife Linda, he made a living painting portraits and doing illustrations for books. The couple also acquired a few longhorn cattle and began breeding them on their property in Colorado. According to Darol, "The longhorn business soon got to be better than Western art."

He doesn't paint anymore -- he doesn't have the time -- but he proudly displays a couple of works in his office, including a picture of a horse he made when he was about eight years old. His cattle brand reveals his artistic past. It's called "Paintbrush D" and is shaped like a short-handled paintbrush lying on its side and pointing toward the letter "D."

When Dickinson decided to move the ranch from Colorado, he was looking for an area that offered good grassland, abundant rainfall and easy access to the Interstate. After considering locations in Mexico, Canada and several states in this country, he decided that the Ohio site best filled the bill.

Darol is general manager of the ranch, which is now owned by
the Dickinsons' four adult children. Two of the sons are actively involved in ranch operations. To put it simply, Joel handles the cattle and Kirk does "all the computer stuff." That's no small matter, since the company does 90 percent of its sales online. Linda is the office manager. Outside of the family, the ranch employs between 9 and 11 people, depending on the season.

The cattle -- mostly Texas longhorns but also some African Watusi and BueLingos -- graze on the ranch's 61 pastures year-round. Hay is used for feed only when snow covers the ground. Dickinson says there are two ways to make a profit in the cattle business. One is to sell registered cattle, which bring premium prices; the other is to sell retail beef.

The Dickinson Cattle Company website offers photographs and detailed pedigree charts for its sale inventory. Although most of the cattle are sold online, Dickinson shows cattle several times a week to customers who visit the ranch, mostly by appointment. Occasionally a potential buyer will drop in unannounced. That was the case on my first visit to the ranch, when I found Darol talking with a rancher from North Carolina. He invited me to join them on a two-hour tour of the ranch in his SUV.

We rode into the hilly pastures, each populated by a bull and several cows. The bulls had colorful sports-related names such as Super Bowl, Victory Lap, Win Win and Mile Marker. Darol displayed an amazing ability to name the cows, their ancestors and their offspring, talking about them as if they were members of the family. Darol can provide a six-generation pedigree on most of the cattle. "If you can't do that," he says, "you should be in a different business."

Dickinson is concerned about the future of ranching, pointing out that the United States now imports 17 percent of the beef we consume. But these concerns haven't affected his sense of humor, reflected in signs around the ranch such as "Longhorn Beef -- because the West wasn't won on salad," and another that says the ranch provides enough beef to feed 1,764 people "and all the vegans in the world."

Ranch tours are offered to the public in June, July and August. A small bus actually takes you into some of the pastures to view the large herds. The cattle don't seem to mind the intrusion, especially when kids on the bus are tossing out "cow candy," pellets of compressed grain sold at the ranch.

At the end of your visit, stop in at the Longhorns Head to Tail ranch store if you want to take home some beef products or Western-themed souvenirs. ##

TOM REED is a freelance writer from North Olmsted.

Dickinson Longhorn Cattle is located on St. Rte. 800, just south of Exit 202 on 1-70. For more information, visit the website www.longhorntours.com or call 740-758-5050.

Tours by appointement for groups of 10 or more.

Please see our tour site for more information:

http://www.longhorntours.com


Registered Texas Longhorns since 1967

DCCI~~~ Purveyor of “one owner” quality Cattle.

 

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