Minnie Lou Ottinger Bradley was born December 15, 1931 to Thomas and Zulema Young Ottinger in western Oklahoma. At an early age, she showed a strong interest in livestock as she grew up on the family wheat farm. She joined the 4-H Club and actively participated, although the Future Farmers of America (FFA) was then limited to male members. While in 4-H, she exhibited Angus cattle, sheep and swine. At age ten, she won a blue ribbon at the Oklahoma State Fair for sheep raised on her ranch. After graduating from high school in Hydro, Oklahoma she enrolled at Oklahoma State University, first chartered as Oklahoma Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1890 and then commonly known as Oklahoma A&M. She was the first female student to enroll in animal science, graduating in 1953 and minoring in agricultural journalism.
Her first job was assistant the executive secretary of the Texas Angus Association and later worked for J. P Walker of Angus Valley Farms in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1955, she married Billy Jack Bradley, a classmate from Oklahoma A&M and the couple had two children, a son and a daughter.
In 1955, they purchased a Texas ranch near Childress with Billy Jack’s parents and called the combined properties Bradley 3 Ranch. The families ran the ranch for some time until Minnie Lou became the head of it. At the last report, Billy Jack was residing in Vernon and the ranch near Childress was still being run by Minnie Lou and their daughter. Their son had predeceased the couple. Minnie Lou is widely known for her early work in recognizing the value of the Angus breed and for her success at cross breeding Angus and Hereford animals. Her portrait was unveiled in 2014 and hangs in the Saddle and Sirloin Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky.
Angus cattle were not new to the southwest by 1900. According to the American Angus Association, the hardy breed was first imported to the United States by George Grant who brought four Angus bulls from Scotland in 1873. Grant is cited for having cross bred the bulls to Longhorn cows and the offspring proved to be more hardy in the winter and to have good weight gain. In the decades that followed, the breed became firmly established in the American cattle industry.
The Bradley 3 Ranch eventually grew to 11,000 acres and usually ran Angus bred cattle. Considered to be somewhat of a ranching “Wonder Woman,” Minnie Lou typically worked every day, even getting up at 2:00 in the morning during calving season. She also cooked all the meals for the ranch hands. She also found time to teach agriculture classes at Texas Christian University.
(Image credit: cowgirl.net)
The ranch has weathered several droughts including the one it was in when the families bought the place. It is a modern organization, employing DNA records in its breeding operation. The family also started an Angus beef marketing company and ran it for many years.
Minnie Lou won the International Livestock Judging Contest in Chicago, Illinois in the late 1940s when she was still a student at Oklahoma State. She also was one of the first women to serve on the board of the ranching organization American Angus Association serving as its President in 2004, the first woman to serve in that position. In 2006, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. Other awards and recognition includes being named an OSU’s Animal Science Graduate of Distinction in 1988, and being named as Oklahoma State University’s Master Breeder in 2010. She has also won many other state and national cattle industry awards.
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