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!