Long-time Bonnie Plants employee Bill Rainer may split his time between Bullock County, Alabama, and New Summerfield, Texas, but in either location he’s never very far from his Braford cattle.
"I’ve had cattle most all my life, but I’ve only had the Brafords about 12 years. They’re just great cattle," Rainer said.
Originally from Bullock County, Rainer lived several different places over the years, but always called Bullock County home. He now spends most of his time in New Summerfield where he works as a station manager for Bonnie Plants. And it was there Rainer first learned about Brafords.
"I’ve worked in East Texas since 1995, and I didn’t even know what a Braford was until I went there," Rainer recalled.
"My predecessor at Bonnie had Braford cattle, and he asked me to go pick him up another bull. I went to a Braford breeder’s place to buy the bull, and while I was there I bought myself 20 brood cows from him," he explained.
Since purchasing those 20 cows in 1997, Rainer has expanded to two herds of about 125 cows – one in Alabama and one in Texas.
But Rainer is more than just a producer of Braford cattle. He serves as president of the United Braford Breeders, an association dedicated to the improvement of the breed. And Rainer’s efforts to improve his own herd have been successful as one of his bulls was Grand Champion at the 2008 Fort Worth Stock Show.
Braford cattle are 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Hereford, and Rainer still develops some replacement stock from purebred Brahman and Hereford cattle in addition to his registered Braford bulls and cows.
"Brafords are great cattle because they are efficient. They don’t require the extra attention some cattle need," said Bill, and his wife Janet agreed.
"The Brafords are really good cattle. They make great mamas with lots of milk, and we don’t even have calving problems with our first-calf heifers. The bulls seem so huge, but they’re gentle enough to eat pellets out of your hand. They’re such pretty cows. It’s beautiful to see a pasture full of white faces and long ears," Janet said.
Bill and Janet live on land that has been in her family for generations, and she said it’s always been a home place surrounded by cattle.
"Mama and Daddy always had cows. In fact, Daddy was one of the first people in Bullock County to own Santa Gertrudis cattle. I’ve always enjoyed being around cows, and the Brafords are especially fun for me," she said.
In addition to the positive attributes Brafords have on their own, Bill said they make an excellent cross for other breeds of cattle.
"We only keep a select number of bulls intact to sell each year, and they are great for Braford operations or to cross on another type of cow," Bill explained as he looked over the cattle records on the clip board he grabbed from behind the seat of his truck.
"Particularly for people with Angus or Angus-type cattle, crossing those cows with a Braford bull is a fast-track to a three-way cross-type of cow. The black, white-faced brood cow is a great cow, and with an Angus-Braford cross, producers get the added benefit of Brahman genetics for heat and insect tolerance, and superior mothering abilities," Bill said.
He also added his cattle aren’t pampered and fed-up fat to look good.
"They might get a treat of a few pellets to get them from one pasture to another, but their main food source is fescue. We don’t even feed as much hay as a lot of cattlemen do. These cattle keep their condition with minimal input, and that’s important to me and the customers who buy these cattle," he said.
Bill does transport some weaned cattle from one herd to another, and he currently has young bulls for sale here in Alabama that were produced in Texas. Similarly, many of Rainer’s replacement females born here in Alabama will be sent to his Texas herd to be bred to his herd sires there.
"One of the young bulls I have for sale is a brother to our grand champion bull," Rainer added.
In addition to the Rainers’ love of Brafords, the couple also enjoys their work with the United Braford Breeders.
"It’s a small association because it’s a less-common breed, but it’s a wonderful group of people and the association does a lot to support the kids who show Brafords and have an interest in the breed," Janet said.
Braford cattle have filled more than just pastures for Bill and Janet. Their home and the cabin on their Bullock County Farm are filled with photos and other mementos of their cattle, and the couple is particularly pleased their oldest grandson Vann has begun showing Braford calves.
"Showing cattle is good for young people. They learn a lot and it keeps them busy," Janet said.
And with two herds of cattle several states apart, Bill and Janet know all about busy.
"But we love the cattle, and the other Braford breeders we’ve met make the meetings even more fun," Janet explained.
For more information on Braford cattle, visit the United Braford Breeders online at www.brafords.org.
Kellie Henderson is a freelance writer from Troy.