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Learning through visiting cattle farms in Alabama

Hello all,

I know several people called last week while I was out; however, I was at a conference in Mobile, Alabama.  The conference had several tours available, but of course I chose to attend "Where's the Beef?".  We toured the following facilities:

1.  Hastings Farm is located between Mobile and Pensacola. The family raises Rotakwa Red Devon cross cattle, which are fed on grass with no hormones or antibiotics.

2.  Perdido River Farms serves as a tribal entity leading the Poarch Tribe's stewardship of agricultural land. PRF produces feeder calves. In addition to the cattle production, PRF manages 2,200 acres including a pecan orchard and 200 acres of row cropland utilized for farming peanuts, soybean, cotton and wheat.

3.  Gizmo Angus Farm is located in the Florida panhandle near Pensacola. Because of its location, Gizmo Angus Farm has been active in beef organizations in both Alabama and Florida. Cunningham Farm, founded around 1950, emphasizes marketing replacement females regionally versus locally.

4.  Located just east of Mobile Bay and 30 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, Auburn University's Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope enjoys a climate ideal for a diversified research program. Long growing seasons and mostly mild winters allow research on all of Alabama's major row crops as well as on turf grass, vegetable and fruit crops, pecans, beef cattle and forage.

I was able to take away some keys points.

  • First, they have similar forage issues.  While Fescue may be our "scourge", they have Bahiagrass. Bahiagrass is well adapted to sandy soils and tolerant to drought and poor drainage.  In addition it is very tolerant of low fertility and soil acidity.  The aggressive nature and drought tolerance of bahiagrass make it ideal for erosion control along roadsides and highway rights of way. However, its aggressive nature also makes it difficult to control as a weed in the landscape. 

    Bahiagrass is particularly well suited for use in pastures. It produces forage earlier in the spring and later in the fall than bermudagrass since it is less affected by decreasing day lengths and cool temperatures. Unfortunately, bahiagrass forage is less digestible than 'Coastal' bermudagrass of the same age (maturity). The use of good grazing management to keep the bahiagrass between 2 and 6 inches will keep the quality relatively high (54 to 56 percent TDN and 10 to 11 percent CP) and allow for better utilization.
  • Many producers are switching their herds to black-hided cattle.  Many are still retaining an 1/8 or 1/16 of eared genetics for heat tolerance.  However, the CAB price incentives are affecting the cattle breeds of the area.
  • Producers are trying to develop niche markets and have done very well - especially the freezer beef.  The main take away was that it has taken them several years to develop the market and word of mouth has been their best advertisement.  One facility has requests from TN and LA!  The families drive to the farm to pick up their steer - just a little added customer service for those that cannot pick it up directly from the locker. 

  • Many farms plant either millet or sorghum for the cattle to graze.
  • Finally I met many wonderful cattlemen/women on the tour who shared their experiences.  The bus ride was a great time to discuss/compare cattle production from all over the US.

It seems I came back in time to enjoy another round of cool weather!!  What a year!







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