Our registered Angus cattle had their start here in the 60’s. My parents were raising dairy heifers when they started the cattle operation and began to keep a few of the dairy/beef crossed calves as they continued that effort. I remember many of the original cows being half dairy and even a few pure Jerseys. We even had a blue cow that must have been part Shorthorn. To make the sale of home raised calves work better my father bought a registered Angus bull from a nearby farm. I think it was 1964 or there about. We added registered Angus to the herd in other purchases, my brother and I had 4H heifers and a registered Angus bull became a mainstay on the farm. The commercial cows remained the majority of the herd until about 2011.
The early Angus cattle here were not always “special”. A family who were great friends of my parents managed a plantation which had a large herd of high dollar Angus. We got several herd bulls and show heifers there over the years. As we say around here, “long story short” I learned very quickly that show cattle and functionality were not in bed together. Only until we bought more locally did we see fitting Angus for us.
I’ve tried about all of the breeds via AI on the commercial cattle. As a youngster I also tried some of the more favored fad Angus bulls. I learned a repeated story: they were not always partners of functionality. The lightbulb moment for me was a contact with the late Larry Leonhardt and knowing that he did things differently and he occasionally mentioned Dr. Jan Bonsma. I am not a copycat but I do like to try close to what other folks have done to succeed. I have tried some fairly intense inbreeding, along the line of Larry’s efforts. That has been a learning experience. But the study of Dr. Bonsma’s work has had a great impact on me in the oddest ways. I have learned some of what I already knew. That probably sounds funny. I knew what a feminine looking cow and a cow with good traits and calf raising ability looked like from experience. I also knew what a non-functional cow looked like, unfortunately. Dr. Bonsma’s work reassured me that what I saw was what I saw. And he expanded my mind and skill set via his writings. I am forever indebted to both Larry and Dr. Bonsma.
I know my limits. In every contest the final score is “Environment 1 – Eddie 0”! I cannot raise alfalfa consuming cattle here that are as big as a rhino and as hairy as a grizzly bear. That type will fail here. And the easiest thing I can grow and the cheapest thing I can feed in winter is stockpiled KY 31 fescue. You can hate it, you can try to whip it, you can do anything you want including throwing a lot of money on it as a smother crop, but it wins the economical test if your livestock are the right type. Let me tell you: we have the right type, by selection, by experience, by choice, by breeding and on purpose. To almost quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, we don’t have any “girly bulls” or even any “manly cows” that fail on fescue. Call me a liar, call me names but just call me for supper! We have bred in resistance to KY31 fescue and success based on generations of cattle, knowledge of bloodlines, individual cattle and because of gestational programming. Environmental fit: For example, the 2020 calving season lasted a total of 46 days. About ¼ of that group was cows over 10 years old. Bred on fescue, raised on fescue, calved on fescue. Good old KY31.