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Leaving a within the Hereford Breed

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by Katlin Mulvaney

onesty, determination, passion and proven genetics are words describing Mead Cattle Enterprises, located off the beaten path, in Midville, Ga. While managing more than 450 cattle, Tommy and Robin Mead are leaving a legacy not only within the Georgia Hereford Association, but also throughout countless farms within the United States. Mead Cattle Enterprises’ legacy begins with a story. The story begins with an eager 12-year-old boy seeking his first Hereford show heifer, and continues to the person he is now, managing a more than 700-acre operation. Tommy Mead is the kind of person that, once you meet him, you will remember him for a lifetime. Where did his passion for Hereford cattle begin, you ask? J.L. and Erma Hadden, of Gibson, Ga., encouraged Tommy at age 12 to participate in the 4-H youth livestock events. They sold

him his first heifer, and little did anyone know that this 4-H livestock project would ignite such a vibrant passion for the Hereford industry, the same passion that drives Tommy today. From his first show heifer to now 30 years later, Tommy’s dedication is to breed and produce quality, functional, sound Herefords that thrive not only in the Southeastern climate, but anywhere. His passion for Hereford cattle stemmed from growing up on his family farm in Midville, just south of Augusta, where his three sisters, Karen, Becky and Janice, helped with the family’s commercial cattle operation. As the Mead children grew, so did their individual interests, and Tommy’s interest continued to grow strong for the Hereford cattle industry. “One of the most lasting memories I have from being involved in the Hereford industry is the relationships with the people,” said Tommy. “We are so blessed to be in a business where it is so people-oriented and where our cattle and program have been wellaccepted.” Mead Cattle Enterprises is known for consistently producing cattle that prove themselves through maternal traits, eye appeal, carcass merits and being quality cattle that meet industry demands.

“Tommy has developed bloodlines that are truly sought after and can be found in any area of the U.S.,” said Ray Hicks, secretary/treasurer of the Georgia Hereford Association. “Tommy has such a love and passion for this breed, and you can see it through his program.” From 25 donor cows, 100 replacement heifers and 50 herd bulls to daughter Tommie Lynn’s show heifers, Tommy places great emphasis on having cattle that will work in any environment and genetics recognized for their value throughout the breed. “Long after I’m gone, I want my cattle’s genetics to carry on the Mead Cattle Enterprises prefix,” Tommy shared. “It’s about having breeder acceptance and producing quality, functional animals that fellow producers can utilize in their programs.” Mead Cattle Enterprises is striving to utilize the most efficient, cost-effective practices possible. Flushing donor cows every five weeks allows them to produce more than 50 yearling bulls each year and 100


replacement heifers, which in turn allows them to move faster in producing the best genetics in a timely manner. “It’s mass producing our very best,” Tommy explained. “We can offer our customers the same topquality genetics we are currently using.” The bulls produced are proof of the quality; his bulls are used by commercial and purebred producers. “Satisfied customers come back the next year to support your program again,

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when they have functional animals that work for them,” said Tommy. An accomplishment that sits high on Tommy’s success list is being the owner of THM Durango 4037, the sire of last year’s National Western Stock Show Champion Bull, CRR About Time 743, and receiving the honor of being in a division winner’s circle again this year in Denver with THM Waylon 9334. Another major blessing in Tommy’s life is his family. After his sisters moved away from the farm and pursued other interests, it means a lot to Tommy to have them come back to the farm and help with farm day tours and special projects. “My sisters love to come back to the farm now and drive the tractor,” Tommy related with a good-natured chuckle. “They are a huge help and I am blessed to have them in my life.” On Jan. 11, 2003, Tommy was introduced to his future bride, Robin. The first time Tommy brought Robin to the farm, something in her heart felt at home. The memory of that day still makes her smile.

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“I remember seeing those redbodied, white-faced cows grazing out in the pasture, and I was caught,” recalled Robin, now Tommy’s wife of five years. “My love for the Hereford breed began that very moment.” Not only has their love for each other grown; so has their love for the Hereford industry. They are strong supporters of the Georgia Junior Hereford Association, where they have served as past advisors and mentors. Traveling to the National Junior Hereford show each year remains a highlight for the whole family. “Tommie Lynn has her own herd of bred and owned cattle,” said Robin. “Even though she is a senior in high school, we still make time to go to all the shows and Hereford events,” she added. Since being introduced to the Hereford industry, Robin has served in the National Organization of Poll-ettes and helped with the GJHA activities; she also helps coordinate the annual Spring Hereford Sale during the Georgia Cattlemen’s Convention in Perry. No story of Mead Cattle Enterprises would be complete without a tribute to the love and support of Hazel Mead, Tommy’s mother. She

shows her love by having lunch ready every day – for any farm help, or for visitors and friends dropping by – promptly at 11:30 a.m. She is a major asset, not only in helping with daily farm-related errands, but also in just keeping everyone happy. “It is so neat to see how the family works together hand-in-hand in all aspects of the operation,” said Ray Hicks. “This is a family that loves Hereford cattle and each other.” Mead Cattle Enterprises is more than just the name of a farm producing proven genetics. It is a name that stands for family, friendships and a love for the Hereford. When passing through Midville, take time to stop and visit the Mead family and try Hazel’s cooking; you will be amazed at the legacy Mead Cattle Enterprises leaves GC in your own life.

Introducing Bill Bryan, 2010-2011 GCA president

Farming and Family Bill Bryan, daughters Christy and Kayla, and wife Nanette.

Life like no other


Article and photos by Katlin Mulvaney

t has been said a man’s best friend is found in his dog. Walking through the pasture feeding stocker pellets to a group of commercial mama cows, Bill Bryan and Cocoa, an Australian Shepherd, have a relationship built on trust, love and respect for one another. From early morning’s checking cattle, fixing fence, hauling calves for neighbors to bush hogging pastures, they define friendship perfectly.

Meet the 2010-2011 Georgia Cattlemen’s Association President and his family, who reside in the lush hills of Summerville, Ga. Being married to Nanette for 26 years and raising their two daughters, Christy, 22, and Kayla, 15, Bill says they have a life they would not trade for anything. Managing more than 600 acres and 200 cows, Bill takes pride in being a family-owned and operated business, relying upon occasional farm help only when work is especially busy. Bill explained how he made his best life decision in 1990, when he purchased land and invested in cattle. This was a turning point for the

PAWS AND BOOTS become one as Bill Bryan and Cocoa walk the fields.

Bryan family. With a background and a career as a used-car dealer, Bill knew farming was what he wanted to pursue, and now he specializes in marketing, hauling and producing quality hay, and using other important skills needed for producers. A Field Representative for Bluegrass Stockyards in Lexington, Ky., Bill works to compile stocker calves around the state to sell in group lots via Internet sales. To be able to support your family, he says, you have to think about creative ways to diversify your operation and how you market your cattle. Depending on the time of the G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

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Introducing Bill Bryan, 2010-2011 GCA president, year, Bryan’s Farm may have an additional 150 head of stocker calves being fed and pre-conditioned before selling them. Raising cattle has been one of the most rewarding experiences throughout Bill and Nanette’s life. “I am very proud of Bill and what he has accomplished starting from scratch and building to what we have today,” said Nanette. “He is hardworking, dedicated and has a true passion for agriculture, especially the cattle industry, but most importantly he loves what he does.” While supporting Bill with the farm and the family’s needs, Nanette has made a significant impact in many organizations. Serving as Chattooga County Farm Bureau Women’s Chairman, Georgia Farm Bureau District 1 Women’s Committee member, Red Carpet CattleWomen’s President and the President-Elect of the Georgia CattleWomen’s Association, she shared how blessed she is to live the life they have. “I thank God for all He has given us and the opportunity we have to live and work on our farm. I am very proud of Christy and Kayla. A lot of their friends growing up did not understand the farm life, but both of them embraced it and used it as a way to educate them,” said Nanette. The Bryan daughters were born with a passion for farming. Christy, majoring in agriculture business at the University of Georgia, drives home most weekends to share the responsibilities of the daily chores on the farm. With her interest and love for agriculture, she hopes to pursue a career in an agriculture field while maintaining a vital role in the family farm. “I remember Dad telling me I could drive the truck the day my feet could touch the pedals,” laughed Christy. “I admire my parents so much! They started with nothing and now are richly blessed in every area of their life. It has taught me to be responsible for the things you have and be thankful.”

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Sitting on the corner of her pink bed, Kayla, a freshman at Trion High School, shared how the farm life has instilled morals and characteristics most friends her age do not possess. “I always knew Christy and I were different than a lot of our friends,” said Kayla. “There were days when we were on the school bus riding to school and would pass a farmer spreading chicken litter, when immediately everyone would start screaming at how awful the smell was, and we didn’t mind it. Growing up on the farm has taught me responsibility and hard work.” When calving season comes around, Nanette and Kayla take turns checking cows and appreciating the simple pleasures of farm life. “You are out on the tractor checking cows early in the morning; other than the tractor noise, you are surrounded by nature,” shared Nanette. “Being able to drive up on a newborn calf, still wet and its mother taking care of it, to me is the most rewarding part of my job. I am truly blessed.” Though farming for a living presents challenges, the Bryan family pulls together to face these challenges with faith and a sense of humor. “I just get up each morning and do what has to be done,” said Bill. “You are going to have challenges in anything, but it’s how you handle them that speaks about who you truly are. We have tried to teach our girls this while laughing once in a while.” With the occasional joke, there is always laughter present in the Bryans’ home. As the sun starts to set behind the western hills of Bill’s property and discussion about the evening’s dinner plans begins, several things remain true about the Bryan family: they value hard work, honesty and most importantly a love for each other. Without a strong family, there would be no family farm. GC


Coggins for more than a few minutes will leave you enlightened about the vast enterprises in which he and his family are involved. This family-owned-and-operated business located in Lake Park, Ga., has been operating for more than 70 years. It is here in the sandy-soil region of Georgia the family has planted 2,600 acres of carrots, 1,600 acres of cotton, 1,200 acres of corn, bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers, operates eight greenhouses, and manages a diverse line of fruits. The produce enterprise is named Coggins Farm Supply and acts as a separate business from the cattle. The Coggins family, made up of three hard-working brothers and their individual families, believes diversifying their constantly growing operation is what it takes to be successful. Diversification is what the Coggins family takes pride in and what has made their business into the multi-faceted enterprise that is thriving today. Perry Coggins, Mike’s grandfather, was a dairy and tobacco farmer in the late 1930s and early 40s, but dis-

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Story and Photos by Katlin Mulvaney


persed in the early 70s when the Coggins family began raising vegetables and commercial cattle. Once the family opted to re-enter the commercial cattle business, they decided that with the climate and resources available to them, Brangus genetics fit their needs. They were initially attracted to the breed’s heat tolerance, fertility, adaptability and easy fleshing ability on forages. “I have always loved Brangus cattle,” smiles Mike as he walks up to pet one of his favorite cows in the pasture behind grandmother’s house. “Over the years Brangus cattle have had a poor perception and docked at the stockyard, but I challenge folks to take another look. Brangus and Brangus influenced cattle are producing offspring with more pounds underneath the hide.” Raising not only heavier calves for the commercial producer, Mike also places emphasis on maintaining manageable birth weights. He reviews breed standards and expected progeny differences (EPDs) in all of their AI sires in the hope of producing calves that will “mash the scales down at weaning” and rise to the top of their contemporary groups.

Raising cattle with high-quality carcass merits, more efficiency in production, practicality and doability in a commercial operation, are more than just terms used to impress farm visitors coming to view cattle at BWCC. These terms are true standards that each animal, commercial and purebred alike, must meet.

“As a whole, Blackwater Cattle Company has some of the best Brangus genetics in the country,” says Cal Whatley, ranch manager for DCJ Ranch located in Opelika, Ala. “We are using their purebred bulls on our F1 tiger stripe females and they are some of the thickest bulls I’ve seen in a long time.” Raising cattle with high-quality carcass merits, more efficiency in production, practicality and doability in a commercial operation, are more than just terms used to impress farm visitors coming to view cattle at BWCC. These terms are true standards that each animal, commercial and purebred alike, must meet. Andrew Conley, manager of the beef cattle division at BWCC and president of the Georgia Brangus Breeders Association, says their vision is: “quality is not an option – it is mandatory.” After each calving season all breeding females and bulls go through steep culling standards, as Conley and Mike place much emphasis on durable and proven traits.

“We produce genetics we believe in,” shares Conley. “This means we don’t sell anything off our place, we wouldn’t use ourselves.” Extensive performance data records are kept on both herds throughout the year. All replacement females will have data including weaning weights, yearling weights, pelvic measures, carcass merit ultrasound measures and annual calving records. The bulls are put through a range-ready test, where they are turned out into a marsh-condition pasture throughout the summer. Conley says this is to make sure the bulls will hold up in real-world breeding conditions as well as be range ready for producers across the Southeast. More than 150 bulls will be sold at their third annual “The Cowman’s Kind” sale, Nov. 13. “About the only thing different between our two cow herds is that we weigh our registered calves at birth and have a spring calving season to Continued on page 46

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Continued from page 43

“Intensive herd health program.”

Juniors: Quality Show Prospects Available

Roger and Janet Greuel Richard and Ann 438 Price Road Brooks, GA 30205

Phone / Fax: (770) 719-8118 Email:

Certified Herd No. 262


November 20, 2010 Alabama Brangus Breeders Heart of Alabama Bull Sale Uniontown, Alabama

January 8, 2011

11th Annual Lake City Invitational Brangus Bull Sale Lake City, Florida


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complement our fall calving season for our registered cows,” explains Mike. BWCC believes not only in their genetic quality, but also in a quality nutrition program. They have developed a creative feeding program using vegetable by-products. The vegetable culls are fed directly to the cattle, with different by-products being fed during different harvest seasons. Starting in January through the end of June is the prime harvesting season for the carrots. With more than 75,000 pounds of cull carrots harvested per day, this provides an excellent economical opportunity to dispose of the waste as well as offering a nutritious feedstuff for the cattle. The carrots have a total digestive nutrient (TDN) value of 76 percent, and when supplemented with the special blend of minerals and free-choice forages, this offers balanced nutrition. The special mineral blend was created by feed specialists after they had done a thorough nutritional analysis of the carrots, the forages and the water. Mike compares the carrot nutrient concentrations to corn, with a similarly high starch and sugar value. The carrots and vegetable byproducts have proven to be more costeffective while not losing the easy fleshing ability in both dry and lactating cows. Throughout the hot summer months, cattle have free-choice grazing of bahiagrass and Tift 85 bermudagrass; they are then transitioned over to graze oat fields during the winter months. “We produce calves with manageable birth weights, raise them on the fewest pounds of grain to yield the greatest pounds of gain,” explains Mike. Whether you are passing through for a family vacation headed to the relaxing and beautiful beaches of Florida or just coming down to buy new stock, the Coggins family will be more than happy to show you around. “They are honest people to do business with and that means a lot when your livelihood is based off this,” shares Whatley. GC

Power Behind Every Bull B y K a tl i n M u l v a n e y


It is within the power of every man to become great. - Wallace D. Wattles

he Merriam Webster dictionary defines power as the ability to act or produce an effect; possession of control, authority or influence over others with a physical might. Throughout history, individuals in influential positions have had to earn the respect of their peers before they could lead effectively. Even in our country’s darkest hours, we have seen individuals’ true colors and character arise. This holds true for the Georgia Bull Power Group. Over the last six years from the sale’s inception, the Bull Power Group, made up of numerous consignors raising different breeds, has defined “power” in its own way.

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What is the Bull Power Group? More than six years ago, there was concern about having an outlet for smaller producers to market their cattle. Marty Ropp, director of field services for the American Simmental Association, helped promote a group marketing concept to several influential Georgia purebred producers. Why not consolidate resources and pull together a few lots from several different breeders to make sale costs more cost-effective? Once the vision was embraced by Billy Moss, now the Bull Power Group coordinator, the wheels began moving toward making the vision a reality. Continued on next page

“It [Bull Power Group] is made up of a handful of producers who don’t have enough cattle to have a sale of their own,” says Moss. “I began prompting producers to come up with the ‘cream of their crop’ bulls to offer in the sale.”

Behind Every Great Bull is a Great Manager After interest was sparked among several potential consignors, the next decision was hiring a full-time manager for the bulls, a manager with cattle sense and a strong agriculture background. They located and hired Terry Chandler to manage the bulls. Coming from a strong farming background and having worked as a County Agent in Walker County, Chandler displayed a trustworthy work ethic and a strong cattle sense, shares David Gazda, Southeast regional manager for the American Angus Association and owner of Gazda Angus Farm. The bulls are brought to Chandler’s farm in Danielsville, Ga., in May, where they are fed and raised through November. “The group has great confidence in Chandler and his management practices,” says Moss. “We place great emphasis that all the bulls need to be fed and handled the same way so they all are on a fair playing field.”

There is Power in a Name After consulting a group from Alabama that had been successful in hosting a similar group sale, the newly formed group still lacked a name. Moss explains how years earlier there was a group called “Steer Power Group,” known for selling quality steers for Georgia Junior Cattlemen. This is where the name “Bull Power Group” was coined. The consignors wanted to be known for quality bulls that prove themselves in any commercial or seed stock operation. The sale started as a predominantly SimAngus sale, but on Nov. 5, 2010, more than 70 bulls ranging from Gelbvieh and Balancer to Angus and Hereford will be offered. “The bulls are managed in a pasture situation and fed once a day, getting them as ready as they can be to do their job when they leave here,” says Terry Chandler, manager of the Bull Power Group bulls. Being in a forage-based environment and fed a high soluble fiber diet provides the bulls with the opportunity to gain 3 pounds or more a day. Chandler explains that the goal is not to push the bulls hard so they can gain quickly, but so they will be healthy and properly conditioned to handle breeding conditions. Along with a healthy body condition score, there are other criteria the bulls must meet before being sold in the sale. “We require the bulls to have ultrasound data that measures back fat, intramuscular fat and ribeye areas; breeding soundness exam and have been vaccinated twice prior to the sale,” explains Chandler. “Potential buyers want to know this information, so we provide all of this on the day of the sale.” When seeking consignors for next year’s sale, the Bull Power Group prides itself on having a consistent set of

breeders who value a quality breeding program, utilize optimal genetics within their respective breeds and guarantee their offspring are proven. “When I need a bull, I am looking for genetics I know will work, coming from some of the most respectable breeders across the state,” says Russ Elliot, of Elliot Farms located in Lizella, Ga. “I recommended the sale to a friend last year and we both are going back looking for a few replacement females this fall too.”

The sale offers 70 elite bulls as well as 50 to 60 females ranging from 12- to 15-month-old heifers to heavy bred females. Offering a variety of replacement females targets another set of potential buyers, Moss explains. Unlike the bulls that are raised on Chandler’s farm beginning at 200 to 240 days of age, the heifers remain at each consignor’s farm until three days before the sale, when they are brought to Partisover Ranch in Colbert, the official sale site. This allows the females to acclimate to their surroundings for a few days, Moss says. Each January the executive Bull Power committee meets to review the sale the previous fall. They reevaluate the market and what buyers are demanding, while establishing a number limit of how many consigned lots will be needed to meet the demand. “Anyone who has ever come to the sale has never said they couldn’t afford a bull,” Gazda explains. “The quality of the bulls runs deep from start to finish, and at the end of the day you have bought yourself a powerful herd sire for next year’s calf crop.” Wattles’ opening quote makes you realize the Bull Power Group is more than just a name or set of bulls. It is truly made up of men and women who are leaders within the entire beef industry. Their values and character will long outlive the quality “power” of their bulls. GC G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

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By Katlin Mulvaney

Planting Dreams

Where the Green Grass Grows

“I’m gunna live where the green grass grows... raise our kids where the good Lord’s blessed... plant our dreams where the peaceful river flows...”


hese are a few phrases in the famous lyrics of Tim McGraw’s song, “Where the Green Grass Grows,” but for Stephen Cummings, owner of Bamboo Road Farms in Marshallville, Ga., these lyrics ring true to his life. As you enter the family-oriented community of Marshallville (population 1,335), you are one left turn and an S-curve away from the beautifully landscaped and manicured Bamboo Road Farms. As you pass fields of peanuts being harvested, tractors raking hay, cattle grazing contentedly near the fruiting pecan trees providing a cool canopy of shade, you will see the homestead of Stephen and Lynne Cummings. Greeted by their red heeler, Rebel, you will meet a happily married couple who

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pride themselves in the life they have built in Macon County.

Budding Dreams

Lynne graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Education degree and taught middle school for eight years until she met and married Stephen in December 2006. Being a full-time stay-at-home mom for their two children, 2-year-old Lainey and 1-year-old Emmery, she wouldn’t trade these years for anything, she explains. Stephen and his father, Carl, owned and operated the largest water tower maintenance business in the United States until they sold the company in 2008 and now manage and buy timberland. Each afternoon Stephen takes his

Lainey Cummings, 2 years old, loves to ride sitting close to her “da da” in any of the eight tractors that run daily on Bamboo Road Farms. With all of the tractors having special names, she says she loves “Old Red” the most.

curly red-haired daughter, Lainey, accompanied by “Mr. Gribbits” (Lainey’s frog doll that never leaves her side), on a tractor ride. Not just any tractor will do, though. Lainey suggests to her “da da” which tractor to ride on each evening. She has specific names for all eight tractors on the farm. From “Big Red” to “Little Red,” “Big Green” to “Dirty Green,” the 2-year-old knows the difference between all eight perfectly. “No matter how busy I am, this is something I take time to spend with her,” says Stephen. “It’s important for me to do what I say I’m going to do, not only in business, but with my family. When they are little they are most impressionable and I want to share my love for farming with

them as well as spend that quality time with my daughters.” Stephen says he has a great life. Having grown up in the country, he wants his own children to have the same kind of childhood he had because it is the life lessons and character instilled in him that made him the person he is today. He also says growing up in a farming environment provides the foundation for being a successful business person when you grow up. Farming, he says, is a business and a way of life.

crop, Stephen says he places great emphasis on sound structure, weaning weights and disposition. He says he breeds heifers beginning at 15 months, first via artificial insemination to a sire of low birthing EPDs (expected progeny differences), then turns them out with a herd sire. “It is important to me that I get a first live calf on the ground, then will evaluate the cow’s maternal and body condition score after weaning,” says Stephen. There are three predominant cow families represented at Bamboo, thanks to Wayne Bennet’s genetic powerhouse donor cow, Vanessa D029. Stephen has used her offspring as the genetic foundation of his Charolais herd and flushes them to the breed’s pinnacle sires such as “Duke 914,” “Cigar E46” and “Wyoming Wind.” Stephen has worked closely with Floyd Wampler, Southeast Charolais Field Representative, in creating an effective marketing plan for his calves. Wampler advises having uniform, quality calves to offer someone who comes on your place and the cattle will speak for themselves. “Having the best product for potential customers is Bamboo Road Farms’ vision,” explains Stephen. “I want to first produce the quality I’d be proud to sell, then reach out and start building my clientele.”

Implementing Charolais Genetics

From the first 50 head of commercial females Stephen purchased from Jonny Harris when he was 16 years old, to now managing more than 250 head of registered Charolais, Angus and commercial crossbred cows, Stephen’s tie to the cattle industry has grown into more than a hobby and now is the way of life for his young family. “I’ll be honest; the real reason I’m so passionate about getting back into the cattle business is for my kids,” explains Stephen. “I showed steers growing up and want to allow the same opportunity to my kids.” In his opinion, Stephen says, Charolais and Angus are breeds with the most traits complementing each other. The end result for all beef cattle producers is to produce consistent, quality beef for consumers. He says Charolais genetics are known for performance and high-yielding carcass values, which means more quality product being produced. Utilizing Charolais genetics increases marbling yields when crossed with any continental breed, according to the American-International Charolais Association website. It goes on to explain studies of actual performance data conducted at feedlots using Charolais-influenced calves with the results indicating that Charolaisinfluenced calves are “the ideal model for the modern beef industry with average daily gains of 3.5 pounds and finishing out at close to 1,400 pounds.” The AICA has started an innovative marketing system called “The Business Side of Beef,” which is designed to take advantage of value-added opportunities for Charolais genetics, which provides more avenues for Charolais producers to market their cattle.

“I believe Charolais and Angus genetics fit nicely in the Southeast environment and forages we have available,” says Stephen. “Another thing I admire in Charolais cattle is the longevity. It is not uncommon to have a 14-year-old female still in production, with her offspring heifers producing calves with ease.” The American-International Charolais Association has worked hard to increase breed standards of calving ease, milking and maternal traits, according to the AICA website. With their identifiable uniform white hide color, Charolais cattle have been ideal for cross-breeding for years, says J. Neil Orth, executive vice president of AICA. With five donor cows, Stephen is finally moving out of the blueprint stages and now striving to incorporate more embryo transfer technologies in his breeding program. Culling more than 20 percent of each herd’s calf

Living Where the Green Grass Grows

Driving through the side pasture, Stephen spots a new calf lying in the grass and quickly calls one of his employees, George, to make sure he comes to tag and weigh the calf before dusk. As the sun begins to set in the west, Stephen makes his way back to the house so he can have time for the “favorite girls” in his life. “Lynne and I have definitely been in the building stage of all aspects of our lives the last few years,” smiles Stephen as his gaze shifts to Lainey’s first Father’s Day portrait hanging over the door of his barn office. “From starting a new family, increasing our purebred and commercial cow numbers to building a new house, I guess you could say the Cummings family is all about raising the very best. I want to live here, on the farm, where my girls can appreciate the cattle, the way I do.” GC G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

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Raising Club Calves under the ld Oak Trees CLUB CALF FEATURE

by Katlin Mulvaney

nder the shade of the Water Oak trees bordering the pond of the roadside cattle pasture is a favorite gathering place for the Darby family. This special place underneath the gently swaying limbs is where the family enjoys many beloved summertime cookouts. It’s where spending time with loved ones is more important than the 5-pound catfish caught on the end of 9-year-old grandson Gage’s fishing pole.

Joe and Martha Darby, owners of Darby Club Calves, and children.

Joe and Martha Darby live on the 60-acre family farm in the rolling hills of Calhoun, Ga., where their 18 head of club calf bred cows are their pride and joy. Raising their two children, Jody and Haley, around the cattle business came as second nature to thirdgeneration cattle farmer, Joe. Joe was raised by his hard-working and Armyveteran father, Louis, and loving mother, Joy, on the family-owned-and-operated commercial cattle farm, which is located just a few miles west from where Joe lives today. Showing a few cattle projects throughout grade school and high school, Joe says he exhibited a few champions, but always had this driving passion to continue becoming more competitive. He convinced his dad to start incorporating artificial insemination technology and later embryo transfer and flushing technologies, which provided endless possibilities of unique genetics to incorporate into the herd.

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Joe’s career was built around the Georgia Cooperative Extension System in Gordon County. He worked under Jack Dyer, who Joe says was the backbone of his career and gave him the foundation of knowledge about all aspects of the beef industry and general farming practices. “From teaching me about the basics of farming to working closely with the Tele-Auction at the Red Carpet Cattlemen’s Association, which Dyer helped start, he was a great friend and constant teacher,” said Joe, as he tossed out a few blocks of fescue-mixed hay for the cattle. Retiring from Extension in 2007 after 30 years of service, Joe said the relationships he built working in Extension and with many club calf and purebred producers across the United States have been among the most valuable things he has benefited from. The “dear friendships,” always being able “to call a buddy up” and


ask what “hot bloodlines” are being used for next year’s calf crop, and being able to continually learn new “tricks of the trade,” are “what it’s all about.” “I am constantly researching new sires in the club calf world, because I want to put bulls on my cows who will hopefully be a nice match,” explained Joe. “Sometimes that match is not always going to be as great as you had hoped, but you have to try different sires to see what works.” Joe consigns a few show-prospect calves in the Final Drive Club Calf Sale in Calhoun and the Georgia Club Calf Producers Association Sale, which is held in conjunction with GCA’s Convention and Beef Exposition in Perry each year. As a charter member of GCCPA, Joe said he commends the youth for working so hard throughout the show season earning points going to shows. “With just my small herd I am the first to tell you this is an expensive hobby, but being able to go to the shows and seeing how good the cattle are and how hard some of these kids work is why I enjoy it so much,” smiled Joe. Having all of his cows calve within 60 days of each other makes giving annual vaccinations and implanting the steer calves with Ralgro a lot less stressful on him, Joe explained. He also offers the cows a liquid feed supplement in the winter along with the ryegrass he drills in October. Also, as co-owner of another small herd of commercial cattle, Joe stays busy feed-

“ W i t h j us t m y s m a l l h e r d I a m t h e f ir s t t o tell you this is an expensive hobby, but b e i n g a b l e t o go t o t h e shows and seeing how good the cattle are and how har d some of these kids wor k is why I enjoy it so much.” Joe Darby G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

March 2011 41

Club Calves, from page 41

ing and checking cows each day. “From carrying Gage to school in the mornings and picking him up in the afternoons, making a stop by Bojangles for a little breakfast, feeding hay and checking cows, going to Calhoun Stockyard on Thursdays, trading and hauling a few cattle, to helping work some customer’s cattle, I stay pretty busy,” chuckled Joe. Driving back through the cattle pasture, going under the faithful oak trees once again, Joe spotted his dad heading to the mailbox to get the mail. Close to his 2 p.m. school pickup duties, Joe pulled out of the driveway with the white F250 farm truck, passing the old plow used to prepare the ground for planting more than 40 years ago; now used as landscape to the right of the driveway. He reminisced how far the Darby family has come in raising cattle. “We may not be big-timers who raise a lot of show calves, but I believe in quality first, not quantity,” smiled Joe. “Being able to pick up Gage from school every day and spend one-on-one time with my grandson is something I wouldn’t trade for anything.” GC

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Jan, and daughters Sally Kate and Anna Marie, assist Steve Blackburn on the farm.

New Era for GCA Article and photos by Katlin Mulvaney

Engaging the 20 to 40 age group in the benefits of being active in a local Cattlemen’s chapter and educating them about the policy issues pertaining to the beef cattle industry is vital for the Association growth. 28 May 2011

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Visionary. Determined. Leadership.

What do these words mean and how do they pertain to this article? The definitions of these words from Webster’s dictionary tell us: • Visionary is characterized by vision or foresight. • Determined is having reached a decision, firmly resolved. • Leadership is the office or position of a leader and having the capacity to lead. These words carry strong meanings. After visiting with the 2011-2012 Georgia Cattlemen’s Association President, these adjectives hold true to the character of Waynesboro, Ga. resident Steve Blackburn. “Steve is never too busy to talk about the beef industry,” said Carroll Cannon, newly-elected GCA Executive Committee member. “I look forward to working with such a passionate individual over the next year.” After graduating from the University of Georgia, Blackburn worked as a sales representative at animal health companies in Colorado and

Kansas. Born in Albany, Ga., and raised in nearby Waynesboro, he currently serves as the Southeast Regional Manager for Allflex. His experience working with cattlemen across the country for the past three decades gives Blackburn a unique perspective entering his term as GCA President. “I've enjoyed working with Steve the past two years and know that he will do a great job as President,” said Josh White, GCA executive vice president. Blackburn said staying on the road for trade shows and regional sales meetings is challenging to manage his growing commercial herd. He emphasized “growing” because he is looking

forward to the 27 bred heifers scheduled for delivery later this summer. Having a supportive family and friends at home to help in the daily management of the cattle when he is away makes Blackburn confident in his ability to fulfill the responsibilities of GCA President. Brother and partner Rickie – along with wife, Jan, and two girls, Anna Marie, 12, and Sally Kate, 10 – are all involved in getting the chores done. There are some great friends and cattlemen in the area that also pitch in when needed. When the Blackburn girls are not helping with chores, they stay active at Edmund Burke Academy cheering and showing registered Brown Swiss heifers on loan from a local dairy.

GOALS AS PRESIDENT Blackburn shared his thoughts and goals he seeks to accomplish during his presidency.

#1. Strengthen Voice “An annual GCA membership is on average $50. Depending on what chapter affiliation you have, dues may be more for local chapter dues. Divide this $50 membership fee into 12 months, this comes to roughly $4 a month, which divided into a four-week month is an estimated $1/week. This $1 investment into your industry not only pays for a committed and passionate staff, but provides proper political representation on the local, state and national levels. GCA works fervently with the National Cattlemen’s on issues such as protecting private property rights and fighting excessive government regulations. While you are hard at work on your farm or ranch, GCA staff and volunteer leaders are hard at work in the legislative arena fighting to protect YOUR interests. Another advantage of your investment is receiving this magazine each month. It not only serves as valuable resource to use in making management decisions for your pasture and herd, but is truly the avenue of communication from the state office to you and me on the farm. All of this for $1/week, not bad!” #2. Attract Younger Producers With the launching of the new

member benefits coupons in 2010 (see page 8 for details), Blackburn has modeled the “Just Ask” program from the Florida Cattlemen’s Association in hopes to reach the 5,000+ member mark by April 2012. “Membership is the lifeline of our Association,” stressed Blackburn. “We need to take it upon ourselves to share within our realm of influence about the importance of GCA and its benefits.” Targeting 5,000 members is just the beginning, Blackburn explained. While he recognizes the wisdom and experience of past and current leadership, Blackburn said it is time to inspire the next generations. “Engaging the 20 to 40 age group in the benefits of being active in a local Cattlemen’s chapter and educating them about the policy issues pertaining to the beef cattle industry is vital for the Association growth,” said Blackburn.

#3. Enhance Meetings “Coming off a great Convention with excellent speakers at the Cattlemen’s Colleges, it is important for us to continue having the ‘meat in the meetings.’ ‘Meat’ is a metaphor for relevant topics that appeal for all age groups of members.” Seeing an increase in demand from consumers about being more knowledgeable on meat they are purchasing to feed their families, means GCA members need to stay abreast of the new technologies and innovations in order to meet the needs of consumers.

NEW ERA IS UPON US After 50 years of “building the association,” Blackburn said it is time to “hand off the Association to the next generation.” “It’s an exciting time to be a cattle producer and in GCA,” Blackburn said with a smile. “When you pause and realize how much Georgia’s cattle industry has developed and grown in the past 50 years, it makes me honored to be a part of developing future generations of GCA members.” A unique event being planned to target future generations is GCA’s Jekyll Island Summer Conference, July 21-23 (see page 45 for registration details). This weekend event has activities and workshops for all age groups.

From having time to enjoy the beach with fellow cattlemen, casually meeting about current policy issues and hearing first-hand from staff about the direction of GCA, this is a weekend where business will be combined with fun, said Blackburn. “This will be an event where you can bring the kids and enjoy a relaxing weekend on the beach surrounded by local Jekyll Island attractions while also having opportunities to sit through several structured meetings from industry experts,” added Blackburn. As GCA leadership and staff gear up for a successful 2011, White reminds us about the importance of being cohesive in our efforts. “Steve has set out an aggressive agenda for the Association for the next year and I’m confident our local and state leaders will work together with staff to exceed these expectations.” GC G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

May 2011 29

Amanda Fender hands Wayne Jones the home-raised hamburger meat he ordered.

Photos and story by Katlin Mulvaney

hy decide to open a locally grown produce and meat minimart store? This question might seem elementary to some, but Steve and Elaine Roberts have been embarking on a unique entrepreneurial adventure since August 2010. This is when the vision of building the 1,800square-foot store started becoming a reality. Elaine recalled a few apprehensions she and her husband had to face over the course of the next six months of building the store. The husband-wife team of 43 years and now owners of Roberts Taste of the Farm in Nashville, Ga., said they had never run a store before; nor did they know anything about how successful a “buy fresh/buy local” market store would be. For years the Roberts had entertained opening a small store right on the farm, because of the dozens of requests they would receive throughout the year about the opportunity to purchase some of the meat from Steve’s steer calves. After meeting the demands of the Roberts’ nearby neighbors and family members for meat, Steve began designing the blueprints of what is now a thriving family-owned and operated business located 21 miles from the farm and homestead.

24 July 2011

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Inheriting the land from Elaine’s father, they built the store on the site where her family’s old Gulf Gas distributer was located. Groundbreaking of the new enterprise began in Fall 2010 and nine months later the community welcomed a new business. For the burgeoning business, opening the doors to the public on May 2 required numerous hours of organization, certification and several levels of inspections from state and local meat inspectors. Conforming to the city limit requirements and obtaining permits to open a business was also a tedious process, said Elaine. From a required sign permit for the store’s road-side sign to USDA surprise inspections, the Roberts’ entrepreneurial adventure is well on its way of being a great success. The official grand opening was scheduled for the last part of June, as the vegetables were due to be in full harvest. Remaining a family-owned and operated business is a niche market for the Roberts. Steve and Elaine’s only son, Carroll, supplies the store with all the produce he and his four children grow. Some of the popular

items sold daily are Silver Queen & Meritt varieties of sweet corn, red and green tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and zucchini. Another unique marketing tool the business strives to offer is selling all-American products. From

Steve and Elaine Roberts stand in front of their new store in Nashville, Ga.

the bottled drinks in the cooler and old-fashioned hoop cheese to the boxed dinner products found on either side of the store’s two isle shelves, Elaine prides herself on ordering all-American made items – except the chicken wings, which she pulled out of the freezer to show were imported from Chile. “Want to have the reputation that we have quality, rather than quan-

tity,” smiled Elaine as she opened one of the cooler’s doors and organized the left-over barbequed meat Steve made from the prior day’s smoked Boston butts. “I want to have our customers walk away knowing they received the best quality possible and supported American products.” Even though the produce and beef are mostly raised by a Roberts family member, the demand for the beef is greater than Steve’s current supply. Meat sold is steers Steve has raised that are primarily purebred Hereford and Angus crossed calves. Moving an estimated 1,400 pounds of home-raised beef a week means Steve will have to have steers ready for harvest at different times of the year to fill this demand from his customers. Currently Steve is raising 300 calves a year, with a strong market to sell around 30 high-quality seedstock Hereford and Angus bulls to cattlemen, then steering everything else. Steve said the demand for produce

and meat has more than doubled since the doors opened for business. “A lot of our customers want to have a convenient dinner after a long day at work, so I’ll cook steaks, ribeyes and roast on the grill all day so when they get off work they can stop by and pick one up on their way home,” explained Steve as he opened the smoke-filled grill to turn pork chops for the restaurant’s lunch

crowd. Steve’s home-raised beef is harvested at a processing plant 22 miles from the store, and sides of beef are picked up in freezer trucks every four to five days. The hamburger sold is guaranteed to be 90 to 95 percent lean with no fillers. All of the hamburgers sold in the store and restaurant are hand-made patties. Steve and Elaine have trained all four of their employees to be multifaceted in all areas of the business. From kitchen duties and filling meat orders from customers to checking out people at the register in the front of the store, everyone pitches in and pulls their weight when needed, said Elaine. “There are not enough words to use when describing the type of kind-hearted and good people the Roberts are,” thoughtfully shared Amanda Fender, full-time salaried employee at Roberts Taste of the Farm. “They really care about serving the community from the bottom of their hearts.” Cathy Barber, kitchen manager, said beginning each work day with a prayer sets the tone for the positive working atmosphere and depicts her ‘kind-hearted’ bosses perfectly. “They believe in treating people right,” said Christal Jarvis, one of Roberts Taste of the Farm multi-purpose staffers. Future aspirations for the business include expanding the restaurant, making it more of a steak house, and also becoming certified to ship the

custom meat within and out of state. “People buy cheaper grades of meat in the stores partly because that’s all that’s available sometimes,” explained Steve. “The meat we are producing is some of the most tender, highest grading Choice beef, and I want to make this readily available for my customers.”

Wayne Jones, lifetime friend and Berrien Middle School Health and Physical Education teacher, said having a store selling “home-fed cattle is not only convenient, but something that is not readily available.” “Our school has started ordering teacher lunches from the restaurant, because it’s great food, so convenient and is supporting a business owned by tremendous people,” shared Jones. The Roberts are “good folks with hearts of gold,” Jarvis concluded. GC G E O R G I A C AT T L E M A N •

July 2011 25

Georgia Cattleman Feature Stories  
Georgia Cattleman Feature Stories  

This document serves as a sampling of producer profiles and feature stories I've written for the Georgia Cattleman. The published date may b...