The Robertson family began building their Grove, Okla., ranch 120 years ago
GROVE, OKLA. – In 1902 Thomas (Tobe) and Mary Robertson crossed the Arkansas border in a covered wagon with their two sons and settled in Peter’s Prairie where they bought more than 100 acres and started running cattle.
Delaware County’s clear running fresh springs and dense timber areas laid east of Grove, Oka., near the Missouri and Arkansas borders. It was perfect place for growing hay and crops – and some of the timber rich land near the Whitewater area of Delaware County was cleared to allow grazing for the Robertson cattle.
Thomas and Mary dropped off their two sons, ages 16 and 13, with a team of horses, dynamite, chopping ax and a crosscut saw, Abby (Robertson) Sumter, a great-great granddaughter of Thomas and Mary Robertson, said. The boys were left on Peter’s Prairie for several months to clear the land.
“They cleared the land to plant orchardgrass and red clover for hay,” Abby said. “When they got the cattle herd started, they free ranged in the area.”
“In the winter Thomas and his sons would bring in the cattle and feed them hay out of the barns, wagons, and hay lots,” said Hogeun Apperson, Thomas and Mary Robertson’s great-great-great-grandson.
Circle R Farms Cattle Company a family-operated business owned Darrel and Carol Robertson and their two daughters Abby Sumter and Terra Apperson. They also get some help from one hired farm hand.
Darrel Robertson is considered one of the most experienced anglers on the Major League Fishing Tour. In 1999, Robertson won the Forrest Wood Cup on Fort Gibson Lake and the Ranger M1 Millennium. Hogeun serves as the ranch manager.
“As a member of the Circle R family I couldn’t take more pride in the accomplishments of my family and their dedication to being good stewards of the land and animals that they have been blessed with,” Hogeun said, adding that the cattle business is rarely easy or lucrative, he said.
“Our family has met every challenge head on with a firm faith in God,” he said.
He had his wife, Danni Jo, brought the seventh generation into Delaware County in July, with the birth of their daughter, Honey Jo.
From that humble start, Circle R Farms Cattle Company has grown into a commercial cow/calf operation that runs a herd of 1,000 on 5,000 acres.
“Our cow herd is Angus based,” Hogeun said. “We do cross with other English breeds of cattle and a couple of continental breeds, like Hereford, Red Angus, Simmental, and Gelbvieh.”
Circle R Farms Cattle Company sold their Brahmas based cattle in 2000 and replaced them with an Angus cow herd.
The ranch breeds cattle in the fall and the spring.
“We try to keep breeding season to three months,” Hogeun said.
In the past Circle R Farms calve heavily in the fall, he said.
“In more recent years we have evened out to about 50-50 in both seasons,” Hogeun said. “I believe there are positives and negatives for both fall and spring calving cows.”
In the spring, a late ice or snowstorm can make calving challenging, but the added growth and lower hay usage from the cows and calves having good grass is a definite positive, he said.
Hogeun said calving in the falls goes smoothly, especially if bulls are pulled out at the correct time.
The only time Circle R Farms uses artificial insemination is when the ranch is marketing a group of bred heifers, he added.
“We always have a strong demand for our replacement heifer and bred heifer crops,” Hogeun said.
“The rest of our cows are all covered by herd sires,” Hogeun continued. “We focus on purchasing high-quality purebred bulls that are phenotypically correct and display strong maternal traits without giving up ground in regard to weaning weights.
“Our replacement heifers will be utilized in our herd for generations. We fluctuate often between selling calves right off the cow, weaned, or backgrounded to 800 or so pounds, depending on the market and cost of feed and labor, he said.
Circle R Farms grows all their own hay including Bermudagrass, fescue, alfalfa and orchardgrass.
“We are very careful to not overstock and to utilize rotational grazing where it works so that we don’t have to supplement our cow herd with hay or feed during the spring, summer, and fall,” Hogeun said. “Last winter we only fed hay from late November to mid-March.”
Circle R Farms work the cattle twice a year.
The herd is wormed, calves are given a respiratory and black leg vaccine to the calves and the bull calves are knife cut.
“We have been fighting recent health problems; pink eye, foot rot and digital dermatitis,” Hogeun said. “We have made huge progress in limiting our antibiotic usage to just cattle that specifically need it and a different option won’t work.”
Circle R Farms keeps salt and mineral out year-round, and dust bags up in the summer.
Darrel Robertson, Hogeun’s grandfather, made it his goal to keep fresh water to all the herds using either drinker tanks, springs or creeks.
“This has made a tremendous impact on the herd’s health and weaning weights,” Hogeun said.
Circle R Farms has two ranch rodeo teams and an adult team.
“These ranch rodeos are fun, but are very competitive,” Sumter said.
The ranch rodeos consist of events that pertain to real life ranch work.
“Some days you can gather, sort, rope, work, doctor…without a glitch,” Abby said. “Then there are the days where nothing wants to seem to cooperate. The same goes for a ranch rodeo.”
The family tries to find local ranch rodeos to compete in and hopefully soon can get a few more going in our own hometowns and county, she said.
The Robertson family continues to live on the farm where those first roots were planted over a century ago. The family tree has grown more branches to include four children, seven grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Darrel and Carol Robertson are parents to a son Toby Darrel Robertson, who passed away in 1972. The family tree also includes their three daughters and their families: Terra and Charlie Apperson, and children, Hoguen, Harley, Hannah Apperson and Hoguen and Danni Jo’s daughter, Honey Jo Apperson; Abby and Jake Sumter and their two children, Alexa and Toby and Tessa and Craig Booth and their two children, Aspen and Alaina.
All three daughters, as well as most of the grandchildren, are involved in the seasonal “cattle working operations” on the farm. A family quote that is heard during those events is, “How can you call it work, when we’re having this much fun?”