November 2007
Featured Articles
Wendell and Nan stand in front of young heifers ready to be sold and/or bred.


 
High Tech Genetics
Focus of Gibbs Farm

By John Howle

When he removes the lid from a pressurized drum containing frozen calf embryos, the liquid nitrogen rolls out in a mysterious fog bringing thoughts of a mad scientist to mind. Wendell Gibbs of Ranburne certainly isn’t a mad scientist. Instead, he considers himself a happy cattle farmer who happens to own a successful Simmental/Angus beef cattle operation that begins with genetics and embryology and ends with marketing and auction sales.

On his property surrounded by acres of high quality grazing located along the gently rolling pastureland on the Alabama/Georgia border, Wendell and his wife, Nan, started Gibbs Farm with five registered Polled Hereford cows they purchased from Wendell’s dad, Dewey, in 1961, the same year Wendell and Nan wed.

In 1972, the first Simmental bull was purchased, and this was the year Gibbs realized how valuable quality genetics were to the cattle business. More Simmental bulls followed and over the years the herd makeup evolved into a predominantly Simmental herd. In 1992, the first Angus bull was purchased, and the current production of the black Simmental/Angus hybrid (SimAngus) began.

With a goal of producing a hybrid cross of cattle that produces high yields using the most up-to-date genetic technology, Gibbs became a man on a mission with the SimAngus breed of cattle. The farm’s mission statement summarizes the goal: "At Gibbs Farm, hybrids are not the by-product of a purebred breeding program, they are the breeding program."

 
  Wendell Gibbs pulls out frozen calf embryos from the liquid filled nitrogen tanks. The tanks store frozen embryos and bull semen.
The genetics of Angus combined with Simmental has been the focus of the Gibbs Farm operation.

"We selected the Angus breed because of the marbling and mothering ability and the Simmental because of the muscle, growth and milk," said Wendell.

Wendell is no stranger to the intricacies of the cattle business. He has served for years in the Alabama BCIA (Beef Cattle Improvement Association) and Alabama Cattleman’s Association. In addition, Wendell served as president of the Alabama Cattleman’s Association. During his year as president, Wendell traveled not only across the state of Alabama, but the nation as well learning cutting edge technology for cattle genetics and the intricacies of top quality beef operations.

It was during this time of travel that Wendell’s son, Doug, and daughter-in-law, Lucretia, sold their business and joined the operation. Doug now serves as operations manager. Due to the growing demands of the business, Wendell hired Gordon Hodges to serve as the genetics and marketing manager.

Doug and Gordon do all the genetic and breeding planning for each breeding season. In addition, Wendell, Doug and Gordon travel across the country in search of top, genetic breeding stock. Their travels have led them to some unique environments. Last spring, Wendell and Gordon were snowed in for five days in Souix Falls, South Dakota.

 
This is one of many bulls on Gibbs Farms. His name is Cy Young.  
In addition to taking care of the daily operations of the farm, Doug handles all the artificial insemination.

"Doug knows every individual cow and its performance," said Nan. "That’s quite a job considering we have 450 mama cows on the farm."

"Almost all our animals are produced through artificial insemination, frozen embryos or AI by bulls we own," said Wendell. "Doug is able to do all our AI procedures here at the farm, and we have an embryologist who comes in to flush and store embryos."

Wendell and his family feel the SimAngus cattle give them the best of both breeds.

"People who have bought our cattle have been very pleased with the genetics," said Wendell. "We do every kind of testing from birth and weaning weights to DNA and ultrasound testing here on the property."

Wendell said he makes use of all statistical information on his cattle at Gibbs Farm. "We send cattle to feedlots every year and use the carcass information to make sure we’re on track," said Wendell. "These SimAngus cattle have consistently produced high weaning weights, yearling weights, and good yields and quality grades."

Wendell has spent years of research working toward the goal of producing and marketing their SimAngus cattle. "I’ve been in the cattle business all my life," said Wendell. "The planning of the business and use of genetics technology for top-quality beef is something that took years to perfect."

All three of Wendell’s children grew up showing cattle, and the cattle business has been a part of the family their whole lives.

"My son, Doug, is our operations manager, my daughter, Lorie, is a veterinarian and my youngest daughter, Wendy, lives just down the road, so we have plenty of extra help with the grandkids."

Gibbs Farm will be having their Second Annual Bull and Replacement Heifer Sale on November 10 at 11 a.m. Central Time at their auction barn on the family farm. In addition to the SimAngus hybrids, purebred Angus and Simmental will be offered.

"For years we have sold cattle through private treaty sales," said Wendell. "We are truly excited to be selling out of our auction barn for the second year in a row."

They will be selling 265 head of cattle this year.

"Last year we had buyers from nine states," said Wendell. "It’s a great feeling to have people call and say the bulls and cows they have bought have done well."

For more information about the Gibbs Farm Bull and Replacement Heifer Sale, call (256) 568-7552 or visit them online at
www.gibbsfarms.net for additional contacts.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.