I have had quite a few inquiries lately about our South Poll cattle. Most people are just curious about the breed and others are wanting feedback on how they are doing for us. A few producers have connected with me stating that they are about to transition over to South Polls and they are wanting confirmation that they are doing the right thing. My answer is yes! Do whatever you can to add South Polls to your herd. They are a composite breed comprised of Barzona, Hereford, Senepol, and Red Angus. From personal experience, I’ve been impressed with the South Poll breed for their hardiness, carcass quality, mothering ability, disposition, frame size, heat tolerance, and fly resistance.
I’m not really sure the first time I had heard of the breed or pinpoint the first time I had seen them. We had followed Greg Judy and heard him speak a few times about his cattle as well as taking a farm visit to see Tyner Pond Farm near Indianapolis. We also heard Teddy Gentry speak at the Southern Indiana Grazing Conference. We purchased his book there and I’m quite sure it is the only book my dad has ever read cover to cover, let alone in one sitting.
In the meantime, though, we decided to raise registered breeding stock Herefords in 2011. We wanted to get back to the basics after raising show cattle. Nearly eight years later can I express the deep concern and frustration we have experienced. Our desire to raise original type, small frame Herefords that would finish well on grass eventually became a realistic disappointment. This is when we became open to the idea of adding a different breed into our herd.
My husband has coined the term that Facebook is “the blue devil” and refuses to have anything to do with it. I will admit to the negatives that social media brings, but I have made so many connections with different producers through Facebook that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Using it as a networking and marketing tool has been influential to our farm. Nevertheless, a producer in northern Indiana contacted me through Facebook about some of our grazing practices and mentioned he had a South Poll bull for sale. I believe that a year had passed from the first time I knew the bull was available. The price was even better at this point so here we were on another father-daughter trip off the farm. We traveled from the southernmost point of Indiana to the very top of the state in a miserably cold downpour of rain for the entire day. We brought him home and immediately turned him out with a group of commercial cows where he was anxious to get to work.
He was like nothing I had ever seen before and by far the best bull we’ve ever had on the farm. After researching his registration papers, bloodlines, and the breeder, I realized I’d bought a real gem of a bull. The breeder was Ralph Voss and it just so happened that the next field day in 2018 would be at his farm in Missouri. Dad and I take off again on another adventure to look at South Poll cattle. Our initial stop was at the Voss farm where we had our first up close look at a large herd. The impression it imposed on us was unbelievable. I remember thinking “this was it! This was the breed of cattle we had been searching for!” Looking across the field you could see a group of cows in their working clothes efficiently raising thick calves on grass. Some of our first impressions was that they had no flies, slick, shiny hair coats, grazing out in the hot July sun, moderate framed, and a calm disposition. On more than one occasion during the weekend, groups of 50+ people would crowd out into the field with these cattle and I never saw a change in their temperament. They weren’t concerned with us, only keeping their head down grazing and doing their job. This was certainly the kind of cattle I’d like to be raising because I knew back home my cattle were under a shade tree, not grazing, with long, dull hair coats, tortured by flies, and standing on tall, large frames. Overall, not an efficient cattle production, but we did have a bull at home that could help change that for us.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the field day surrounded by like-minded producers. The presentations were excellent and overall experience was well worth the trip. It made us excited to know there were still quality cattle out there. Sometimes you need to get off your own farm, see what else there is to offer, and what other producers are doing. Words can hardly relate to how great the group of South Poll breeders were to speak with and their willingness to share in their knowledge. We connected with Andy Sumners from Alabama about the availability of any stock for sale in the future. Fortunately, he informed us that he would have his ’18 spring born heifers available the following spring. At the time, we didn’t have any plans to purchase South Poll females, but we liked what we saw. We went home and sold as many Hereford cows as we could to replace them with registered South Poll heifers.
We took another road trip in the late fall of 2018 to Alabama to visit the Sumners’ farm as well as Bent Tree Farm. Once again, consistent to what we had already seen, the cattle looked great and were raising some very nice calves. Finally, in February 2019 the heifers were ready to be picked up. We were fortunate to find someone who were hauling horses in that area so they brought the cattle back to Indiana with them. We purchased 10 heifers and a bull and we couldn’t be happier with them!
To any producer looking for cattle that are productive, efficient, and low maintenance, with a focus on mothering ability and heat tolerance, I encourage you to look into the South Poll breed. The next annual field day is set for Friday, June 21 through Saturday, June 22, 2019 in Virginia at Mountain Glen Farm and McCormick Farm. The speakers will be Joel Salatin, Daniel Salatin, and Greg Judy. This won’t be one to miss!
Article originally published in the Goat Rancher magazine, May 2018.
Every producer strives to breed for the very best and your choice of buck is one of the biggest influences to your herd. When I am ready for new bloodlines to be added to my herd I am often limited in my choices ranging from monetarily to availability of quality stock as well as the driving distance to purchase one.
I am a strong advocate of limiting purchases from other farms due to diseases and other health related concerns. With that being said, this limits my options down even more.
I entirely believe that it's difficult to find (affordable) breeding stock better than what you can raise at home. After several years dealing with the struggle of finding a good buck, I became more open minded to the option of artificial insemination. We A.I. our cattle herd every year in order to introduce new genetics so why not try it with the goats.
Last spring I started purchasing a few straws of semen and by the fall I took a class to learn all about transvaginal artificial insemination with goats. The class was extremely informative and hands on, but much to my surprise it was more difficult than inseminating cattle.
I already knew I was going to need lots of practice, so I purchased semen from four different bucks and synchronized eight does. The day we were to breed was cold and pouring rain which made it miserable for us and the goats.
The first few does I was hesitant on, but my confidence quickly grew. I had some difficulty passing through the cervix and it wasn't until after that I figured I was still too early to breed. I crossed my fingers and sent the does back out with the herd with high that I got at least one bred.
When it came time to turn the buck out I made sure the A.I. does were put with a buck that had a marking harness on. Immediately I scratched out four does the first day that were covered by the buck. I certainly hung my head that day and thought my attempts were futile.
However, by the end of breeding season two does still weren't marked. That's a 25% success rate and I knew my timing was off so I was rather thrilled with the outcome.
In March, the first doe kidded on a cold Sunday morning out in the field. I was rather upset with my doe for only producing a single, but it was a live doeling and I was overjoyed with the fact that this was my first A.I. kid that I bred myself.
The next day I received news while I was at work that the other doe had triplets. My goal was four kids from both does and that's exactly what I got.
By the time it was all said and done, I had $1,500 invested in four kids. That includes the class, semen, shipping, and supplies.
Luckily my two favorite does were the dams to those kids and I got to add new genetics to my herd. I'm already making a list to purchase semen for this fall and plan to breed about ten does again. I hope I learned from my novice mistakes and my success rate exceeds my expectations next year.
Having the right kind of facilities makes goat ownership much easier! Like always, I like to keep our system as portable and cost effective as possible. We made the gates that hang on a hay wagon frame, built the tall frame on a small utility trailer, and placed the purchased chute on a skid. And that's how you work goats anywhere! We also made the cattle chute system under the lean to from gates, posts, and guillotine gates as well as the scales.
Nearly a year later, I am finally wrapping up the kidding data for 2018 just before we begin kidding for 2019. Looking back, I can honestly say that we were successful with our goat herd in 2018. During the year we never de-wormed a doe or lost any to parasites like we have in the past. This will make the second full year that we have not de-wormed any doe and before that it was still quite minimal. As far as management goes, we have prided our herd as forage only. I despise feeding livestock grain let alone goats. However, we have found that it might be easier and more affordable to add grain into our operation for the goats. This is especially true for finishing buck kids so we can attain a premium of #1’s when we send them to market. As an experiment, in 2017, we pulled bucklings at 90 days and finished them on grain as well as all they could eat sorghum sudan. I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the results though. In 2018 we started pulling kids off the does out in the field after they reached 30+ lbs between the age of 60 to 90 days. The kids went into a dry lot setting with water, minerals, hay, and were fed grain twice a day. The kids gained extremely well and a few were well over 100 lbs at 150 days. Consequently, the doelings were part of the experiment so those females in 2018 did receive grain at weaning. I didn’t think the doelings’ gain was very significant in comparison to the bucklings to make the grain worth it, but they have excelled this winter and some are the size of the 2017 does. I am going to assume that the few months they received grain really gave them an advantage. Additionally, we were beyond ecstatic with the check we brought home from selling the bucklings. It was a substantial premium compared to what we had received in the past.
Back to the kidding data! Like I said, keep in mind our does are forage only and our management is quite different than other operations. We try to learn and improve every year based on our kidding results. We ended up with 60 kids from 31 does for an average of 1.94 kidding rate per doe. The birth weight was up to an average of 6.7 lbs compared to the past and I assume that is because of a higher rate of singles. The average age of the does kidding were 3.3 years old. We still have a very young group of does and typically that average is much younger always skewing our data. We had 10 singles, 15 twins, and 7 triplets. The high amount of singles was infuriating, however, I am going to blame this on our management. If I remember correctly, the fall of 2017 was a drought and I know the condition of our does were not up to par the way it should have been. We had even kept doelings on the does for 5+ months which was a strain to them. Furthermore, we do not flush our does, fence line tease, or anything else of that nature. We simply turn the buck loose with no preparation. This is something that needs to change in the future.
As for the kidding, our does are phenomenal! I am always so proud of the mothering ability of every doe and how little assistance we provide beyond management. There are always sour apples in the bunch though, two does did not have enough milk and out of 4 kids, all but one died from starvation (no, I don’t bottle feed kids). The young does simply did not have any milk at all. This was the first for us and something very surprising from what we assume was passed through the dam’s sire’s genetics. Needless to say, those does are no longer with us anymore. For genetic faults we had kids with multiple teats from does with perfect 1x1 udders as well as split scrotums and the ends of the ears being flipped up. These were are culled from the kid crop. Our does are all closely related and when we bring new genetics into our herd with new sires then it is always a tragedy to see what faults they can bring as well. Ultimately, I should not dwell on the bad, but on what good came from our kidding season!
The sires used were PBG Hoosier Ten High, FMF Golden Achilles, FMF Uhtred, and LFK Ramblin Blues. The buck, Ten High, was used on the majority of our does. He was an extremely impressive buck being proven as a Maryland buck test top ten. I saw him the weekend that he came home from the test and was surprised by how good he looked. I was very fortunate to be able to purchase him from Hoosier Hills Kikos. FMF Golden Achilles and FMF Uhtred were both home grown 2017 buck kids that excelled in our program. Achilles was one of our top gaining bucks on forage by weaning and he was from a first freshener doeling. We lost her that fall to meningeal worm so I was glad to keep some of her genetics living on. Uhtred was a buck that wasn’t one of the top gaining bucks but he had a thick, full thigh and plenty of cover over his topline. His twin brother was identical to him in nearly every aspect including weight, but it was a last-minute decision to keep Uhtred and we are glad that we did. His dam is an older doe that has proven herself with no issues so I knew the maternal characteristics were proven. Also, his sire, ZBF Thor was top ten at the Oklahoma buck test. Finally, LFK Ramblin Blues was a buck that we used through artificial insemination. He sired four kids from two does.
The graph displays the average daily gain from kids sired by each buck. Ten High being a performance tested buck is not a surprising pick for top ADG, but I will admit he sired mostly buck kids, whereas, Uhtred sired mostly doelings. Achilles sired the most singles so I wasn’t surprised by the data from him as well. Ramblin Blues had some top notch kids from two of my best does that were born a month before the rest of the herd began kidding.
Also, I believe that the age of the dam is directly related to ADG of the kids. The graph shows the average age of does bred by each buck. Uhtred and Achilles bred a group of does who were younger than Ramblin Blues and Ten High.
The above graph shows the average amount of kids the does had sired by each buck. You can see that Achilles sired more singles than Uhtred which correlates with the below graph on birth weight.
The above graph in green shows how many kids were sired by each buck, the pink shows how many of those were doelings, and the blue shows how many of those were bucklings.
The majority of the herd was born the first part of April and by August 9th averaged 60.5 lbs at an average of 130 days and average ADG of 0.42 lbs a day. This includes both bucklings and doelings. The top buck gained 0.72 lbs a day, but was culled for reasons that didn’t make up for his growth rate. This info was collected from 46 kids. The others were sold elsewhere as pets or breeding stock. From 27 doelings born only 16 were kept back as breeding stock.
Based on that info, what did I change for 2019 kidding? First off, the does had better nutrition before breeding and all doelings were pulled by at least 90 days which will hopefully improve our kidding rate this year. If not, there will be a lot of culling! I did like pulling the large kids from the does earlier than 90 days, especially if they were triplets or a large buck twin. It gave the other siblings a chance to catch up. We will not be feeding the doelings and bucklings together in the same pen this year. Doelings will go elsewhere with good forage if any grain. Bucklings hit rut near the end which affected their gain to finish off because they were so worried about the females. This year we will also be keeping wethers to finish out with the doe herd as grass fed. I’m not sure if we will have interest from consumers in the meat or if we will make any profit from keeping them longer to finish on forage. In addition to the data I already collect, I will be adding a maternal index score to each doe based on her performance.
To conclude, I fully understand that our data is not going to be as high as some producers and we definitely have areas to improve upon. I am still proud of our does that were all (but one) bred and raised on our farm. I know exactly what they are or are not and their strong points might be mothering ability, parasite resistance, and easy keeper; not just the highest producer.
I just can't seem to find an app or excel sheet to suit my needs so I make my own. It's a word doc with pictures, pedigree, production records, and maintenance history. I will create my own notebook by printing each animals record on a front/back page of a ZipBind presentation kit. I carry it all around the farm in a plastic clip board case with a storage compartment. I'm a visual learner so pictures help me identify who is who or from whom. It's so handy during kidding season! All information is there and we can quickly write in notes and kid info. It's a lot of work initially but well worth it! I've kept our records like this for many years. I just update or add pages as needed.
I have had so much interest from other producers wanting me to send them a copy of the word document that I have made a downloadable file accessible to anyone to use! Enjoy!
Rotational grazing has been the most cost-efficient way to manage our farm, soil, and the livestock. It is a more labor intensive approach and not ideal for everyone's operation, but we can produce more meat per acre with rotational grazing. Our home farm is 95 acres which is split between pasture and woodlands. We have been fortunate enough to lease and own several hundred acres nearby for grazing and hay as well. There are 45 paddocks on the main farm ranging in size from .25 up to 7 acres. The goats stay on the same paddock during the winter from the onset of breeding season to just prior to kidding. The rest of the year they spend their time rotating paddocks across the farm at a rapid pace. Every move to the next paddock is dependent on forage availability. This means we may move the herd every few hours or every few days.
Initially we invested a lot of labor towards the design of the layout and the infrastructure for our farm. We began this system in 2011 when we purchased 5 doelings. Each year our management has improved immensely and as our herd grows our labor is now decreasing. There truly is a technique and method to rotationally grazing. The main concerns that we have are fencing, shelter, and providing water and mineral to each paddock. With 45 paddocks, not everything is set up as stationary or permanent. We are continuously improving our system, so portability is our best option.
laid out above ground in fence rows to each tub. We have been creative and found ways to make water tanks out of large tires and even from cheap plastic totes. With a little plumbing we can make just about anything work for our operation. If all else fails though, we have portable water carts that can be filled up and placed anywhere as well.
and easily cleaned if needed. Both designs are simple yet effective to offer mineral to the entire herd. Currently we use Vitaferm or Wicks high copper mineral. We always keep Sea-90 salt available as well. Sometimes I'll get creative with a mix of salt, kelp, and DE.