November 2006
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Elba Rancher Expands Pure-bred Angus Operation

 
  Michael McCart, a native of the Opp-Elba area, with his wife, Danielle, and son, Peyton, started Pine View Farms in 1994. He holds a degree in agriculture education from Auburn University.
Michael McCart and Partners Plan First Bull Sale

By Debbie Ingram

Michael McCart was just finishing up his senior year at Auburn University when he did his teaching internship in Brantley, near his hometown of Elba.

Going into the classroom, those four walls soon hit him square in the face, and the agriculture education major had to rethink his career decision.

“I realized I didn’t want to be inside.”

Just like that, McCart’s desire to teach was gone, but the classroom’s loss was the cattle community’s gain. At age 34, McCart is making his mark as a pure-bred Angus cattleman.

 
McCart, a purebred Angus cattleman from Elba, is expanding his operation by building a sale barn on his 136-acre farm. With McCart are his son, Peyton, 2, and Coffee County Farmers Co-op Manager Jimmy Tillis.  
McCart started Pine View Farm at his father’s old home place eight miles west of Elba, in 1994. On this 136 acres and an additional 250 acres of rental ground, he is building a strong Angus and Brangus cattle operation that began as a part-time venture.

“After college I went to work for Farmers’ Favorite Fertilizer in Evergreen,” McCart said. “I graduated in December 1993 and bought 33 registered Angus cows the fall of 1994.”

McCart had friends with registered cattle and in his job as a fertilizer salesman, he saw a lot of cattle operations. The uniformity of the Angus captured his attention. He got into the cattle business while keeping his day job.

But soon enough, the genetics involved in cattle breeding piqued his interest, leading him to artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

“I started custom AI breeding for the public and that business grew. The opportunity came for me to work with Genex. I started selling semen and then made contact with different breeders,” he said. “As an Angus breeder I couldn’t compete with the big boys, so to compete I offered to feed, develop and market bulls for them.”

 
  These 2-year-olds are part of McCart’s 200-head bull operation. Some of these will be sold in McCart’s First Annual Source for Profit Angus Bull Sale on December 16.
Today McCart relies wholly on artificial insemination. “It produces more marketability versus a natural calf,” he said. “And we use the best bulls in breeding.”

McCart now has first-generation Brangus, as his breeding program uses three-quarter Brahmas to clean up.

“We introduced embryo transfer two years ago to be able to build around particularly strong cow families. I identified my five best cows that produce the five best calves and purchased five more donors. I flush those cows to build our program around.”

While continuing to build his herd, McCart is now expanding his farm. He is partnering with two other Alabama breeders for the group’s first bull sale this winter. By 2008, the partners hope to expand that to a spring cow sale and a winter bull sale.

For not all of McCart’s hopes are on the bulls. His is a unique philosophy among cattlemen.

“We breed our cattle to try to provide the best females and with that, the best bulls will come,” he said. “We began selling females several years ago. I had the contacts and I had the ability to sell. I have made more money on females.”

McCart’s views are shared by his new partners, Clarence Ball of B.E. Cattle Company in Mobile, and Dr. Davis Sullivan and Dawson Holman of Alex City Cattle Company in Alexander City. McCart got to know the other two operations while working as a Genex representative.

The three farms have combined to form Performance Plus Angus Breeders. “All three of us are not big enough to have a sale on our own. I have been working closely with Dr. Sullivan (a former veterinarian turned OBGYN).”

It was Sullivan’s idea for the three to come together for a bull sale. A combination of feeding bulls, selling private treaty and consigning made McCart realize the partners had enough between them to sell.

The bulls are developed at Pine View Farms. McCart said Elba is a good location to market both Angus and Brangus cattle, particularly being in such close proximity to large operations in the Florida Panhandle. McCart’s target area is a 120-mile radius.

The first sale, the annual Source for Profit Angus Bull Sale, is December 16 at McCart’s farm. In advertisements for the sale, the three make clear their purpose with the words: “All good bulls come from good cows.”

“Our philosophy when making breeding decisions,” McCart’s words read in a Florida cattle publication ad, “is to produce a calf better than his mama. We are building our program around strong cow families.”

McCart’s thinking is similar to that of his local Cooperative manager, Jimmy Tillis of Coffee County Farmers Co-op in Elba.

“If that farmer or rancher is not doing good, I’m not going to do good for the future,” Tillis said. “I’m as concerned about his well-being as I am ours.”

Tillis said McCart has always done well, partly because of his high standards. “All his cattle have to look good and make a statement,” Tillis said. “Michael knows genetics as well as the way the animal ought to look.”

McCart nods in agreement. “I want a buyer to take that cow and go make money with her. Some people sell their worst cows to get rid of them. If they can make money off that good cow, then we’ve both done a good job.”

That means producing cows that will bring forth only the best calves, allowing ranchers to build strong herds. Cattle people know the desirable traits: low birth weights for calving ease; strong growth genetics to increase profits when calves are sold; positive carcass genetics so calves will feed and grade well in the feedlot.

To get ready for the sale, McCart is building an 80-by-100-foot sale barn with offices and sale ring. He plans to put 100 bulls and 100 commercial heifers in the December sale.

“Our goal is to have 200 to 250 bulls by December 2008 and to have a spring 2008 registered female sale.”

McCart doesn’t expect those numbers to climb much. Growth will come, he says, in quality. “The quality will go up. You can only sell so many animals in one day.”

This year Pine View Farm will calf 135 calves between McCart and his calf raising cooperators. More than half were artificially inseminated and about 50 calves were from embryo transfer.

McCart is the son and grandson of a farmer. That’s a legacy McCart and his wife, Danielle, can pass along to their son, Peyton, who is two years old.

“I grew up showing calves and steers. My dad had row crops,” McCart said. “I guess I just had an interest in cattle because I was raised around it. With the ag education degree, that is a broad education. Being up at Auburn in the beef unit, I saw what the registered end was like. I realized that was something I’d like to do.

“I could see where you could take AI and build a set of cows, a successful cow program, quicker and better.”

All those visits to cattle operations as a salesman provided McCart with a good prospectus on the industry. Naturally inquisitive, McCart asked a lot of questions. Listening and putting a plan into action paid off. He became a full-time cattleman in May of this year.

“This is the best time ever to be in this business,” he said. “The cost of production is as high as it has ever been but prices are good. Building this sale barn, it’s a big investment, but I feel we are at the next level in the business.”

McCart, who was 13 years old when his father died, acknowledges he sometimes feels his dad’s presence in the land. “I lost him at such a young age, but I wonder if he’d be proud of me.”

Looking around at the operation he’s built, McCart need not worry.

For more information on the upcoming sale, call McCart at (334) 806-5757.

Debbie Ingram is a freelance writer living in Dothan. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..