In 1884, James Hitch drove a herd of longhorns from Kansas to the Panhandle region, where here, ranchers lived and played by their own rules. Little did he know that his grandson would live by his own rules as well and grow the Hitch family business into one of the largest and most successful cattle businesses in the high plains.

Ladd Hitch was born April 5, 1918 in Guymon, Okla. He quickly jumped into the cattle business, working alongside his family. He furthered his education by receiving a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1939 from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). After 10-months of service in the Navy during World War II, Hitch returned to the ranch, where he would lay the foundation for his family’s cattle business that lives on today.

In his first bold move, Hitch insisted in experimenting with new approaches to cut costs and make the business more efficient. He was the primary force behind the Hitch family’s decision to introduce center-pivot irrigation systems to the Oklahoma Panhandle, where they drilled a number of wells in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Hitch also opened one of the area’s first large-scale cattle-feeding operations in 1953 at the ranch headquarters near Guymon, which is still operating today with a 52,000-head capacity. He later opened two additional feedyards northeast of Guymon and southwest of Garden City, Kan. Combined, the three feedyards have a present-day capacity of almost 160,000-head of cattle and feed more than 350,000 cattle per year.

Hitch also pioneered the use of feeding cattle high-moisture corn, which allowed him to cut feed costs by purchasing corn from local farmers instead of a grain elevator. He stored the corn in large silo pits at the feedyard, which are still used by the operation today.

Hitch dedicated a lifetime of service to the cattle industry right to the very end when he passed away July 29, 1996, during the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association annual meeting in Oklahoma City. His entrepreneur spirit lives on in his grandsons, the fifth-generation of Hitch cattlemen, who continue to own and operate Hitch Enterprises, Inc.

"Under my grandfather’s direction, Hitch Enterprises experienced planned and sustainable growth," says Chris Hitch, co-owner (with his brother Jason) of Hitch Enterprises, Inc. "Most importantly, he shaped our business — and the cattle-feeding industry as a whole — through his forward-thinking and courage to break traditional practices."

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