The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the oldest and largest organization of its kind in the United States, was launched at Graham, Texas, on February 15, 1877, under the name Stock-Raisers' Association of North-West Texas. Cattlemen in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the Indian Territory were invited to join. The call for the initial meeting was made in the fall of 1876 by a few leading cattlemen, among whom were James C. Loving and C. C. Slaughter. The immediate objective was to systematize the "spring work" and to curb cattle rustling. Col. C. L. (Kit) Carter was made chairman of the organizational meeting, which was held at the courthouse in Graham (rather than under an oak tree, as subsequent legend had it). Among the ranchers present were John Nicholas Simpson, Samuel Burk Burnett, and Joseph Graham. Carter was elected president of the association, a position he held until 1888 except for one year, when poor health intervened. Loving was elected secretary and was reelected each year until 1902. Such strong measures against cattle thieves were proposed at the original meeting that some present did not take membership for fear of retaliation by the lawless element. The association was incorporated in 1882. That year the system of assessment "per head" of cattle was adopted; it is still in force. In 1883 the inspection system was inaugurated. Inspectors were eventually located along the trails, at shipping points, and at terminal markets. This practice resulted in recovering many cattle that by accident or design got into herds in which they did not belong. The protection offered by this system drew small and large operators into the association fold, including Robert Justus Kleberg of the King Ranch and the Kokernots of West Texas. Other measures for discouraging theft included granting rewards to those who identified persons who had stolen cattle or horses from association members (payable after conviction). In addition, from 1893 to the mid-twentieth century the association employed a staff attorney to assist with the prosecution of those charged with theft, as well as with other matters. The secretary's office remained at Loving's ranch until 1884, when it was moved to Jacksboro.
In 1883 the association listed 730,000 cattle, and by 1895 its members reported 1,385,303 head. By 1893 the distribution of its membership had spread to such an extent that the name was changed to Cattle Raisers Association of Texas. The present name was adopted in 1921, when the organization merged with the only other cattlemen's group remaining in Texas, the Panhandle and Southwestern Stockman's Association, which had been founded in 1880. In 1945 membership stood at 6,000 and represented 3,500,000 cattle. Rains in the spring of 1957 brought an end to one of the Southwest's most severe and widespread droughts and resulted in a resurgence of membership, which reached a new high of 13,000. In the late 1950s the association's officers went to Florida to observe the results of screwworm eradication in the Southeast and to help set in motion a series of events that resulted in screwworm eradication in the Southwest. The program, financed in the beginning largely from voluntary contributions by the stock industry, was perhaps of more benefit to livestock producers than any other program in the twentieth century. Working through and with the Southwest Animal Health Research Foundation and government agencies, the association played a major role in the program, which brought about an end to the pest through release of millions of radioactive-sterilized screwworm flies. In 1961 the association recognized the growing importance of cattle feeding in the Southwest by establishing the cattle feeders division, and that same year the association established award programs for Four-H members and Future Farmers of America who had made distinguished records in livestock production and management. In little more than a decade the Southwest had become one of the nation's leading cattle feeding areas. In 1955 there were 227,000 cattle fed in Texas, and in 1969 there were 2½ million head fed, mostly in large modern commercial feedlots utilizing tons of Texas-grown grain sorghums. Control of cattle theft continued as one of the primary objectives of the association. In 1943 the secretary of agriculture had made the association the brand-inspection agency for Texas cattle, a responsibility that significantly expanded its operations. In 1966 mechanization of the mammoth TSCRA brand records was initiated. Machines were installed that quickly transcribed and recorded brand inspection information received daily from inspectors at markets throughout Texas. Inspection records relating to missing or stolen cattle could also be retrieved speedily from the brand files. This mechanization was a great aid to association inspectors and other law enforcement officers in the detection and apprehension of cattle thieves and was regarded as one of the most significant strides in this field in many years.
In 1979 the association founded the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to education, research, and charitable activities to promote the cattle industry. In 2003 the field-inspector force, thirty-one strong, was one of the most important services offered by the association. As specially commissioned Texas Rangers, the inspectors combined legal authority with detective skills and cattle-industry knowledge. Inspectors helped recover more than $4.3 million worth of livestock and property in 2002. The association also actively monitored governmental affairs on both state and national levels, representing members' interests in such areas as taxation, farm legislation, immigration, and pesticide regulation. In addition, the association offered members affordable insurance. The Cattleman, a monthly magazine begun in 1914, coupled with News Update, provided the latest in industry news, trends, and association activities. In 2003 the TSCRA had 12,800 members, predominantly in Texas and Oklahoma, representing 3.6 million cattle. The membership of the TSCRA extends over several states and includes owners of herds ranging from less than a hundred up to many thousands. Association policy is determined by a board of directors headed by an executive committee and the TSCRA president. Past presidents have included such prominent Texans as John Barclay Armstrong, Richard Mifflin Kleberg, Robert Justus Kleberg, Herbert Lee Kokernot, and Dolph Briscoe, Jr. Don C. King served as secretary-general manager from 1966 until 1995, when Steve Munday assumed the position of CEO, followed by Matt Brockman in 2001. Offices of the association and of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Foundation were located at 1301 W. Seventh Street, Fort Worth, along with the Cattle Raisers Museum and the Waggoner Library, a research library for the cattle industry.