Monastery Cattle Operation: Source of Pride

Thanks to kind and infomative Deacon Greg Kandra for this posting, which Cowboy Papist finds to be just plain sad:

RICHARDTON, N.D. — A Roman Catholic monastery in western North Dakota is ending a century-old practice of raising cattle because of a lack of monks with cowboy skills.  The Assumption Abbey in Richardton intends to sell its herd of about 260 cows and rent pastures to other ranchers, monastery officials told the Dickinson Press.

Brother Placid Gross, 76, has tended cattle at the monastery for 51 years.  He and another monk look after the cows, but Abbot Brian Wangler said the monk helping Gross is a greenhorn and can’t operate independently.

“There is a lot to know if you are going to raise cattle,” Wangler said. “It is not a simple thing and it takes years and years of learning.

“Gross said he won’t miss the hard work but will miss the cows.”It is sad to see it happening,” he said. “It was nice to look out the window and see our own cattle grazing.”

Gross said the abbey once had one of the biggest ranching operations in the region and he remembers the days of raking hay with a team of horses. He said it’s been difficult for the abbey to keep up with new ranching technology and there isn’t enough help.

Wangler said ranching has been part of the monastery since 1893 when it was located in Devil’s Lake, and raising cattle helped the monastery remain self-sufficient.

“It was a living,” Wangler said. “You could milk a cow and drink it, slaughter a cow and eat it.  The monastery also raised pigs and chickens, but those animals were phased out over the years.”

Business Manager Odo Muggli said the abbey kept its cattle for 30 years longer than most monasteries.  “In some ways that is a source of pride,” he said.”

Leave it to a business manager to have the final say on running a cattle operation at a loss; our experience is that most ranchers have a pretty slim profit margin anyway.  Fact is that dinero is hard to come by in the cattle business these days and most stay with it, not because of the great revenue potential, but because of its way of life.

Can you imagine how much knowledge Br. Placid Gross has on cattle, with 51 years experience?  We’ll bet your last paycheck he’s quite a hand.  Cowboy Papist suspects that in many respects, the life of a monk would certainly seem to align quite well with the life of a working cowboy.

Hat Tip to the monks at Assumption Abbey.

“Few cowboys ever owned much; the primary reward of being a cowboy was the pleasure of livin’ a cowboy life.”

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