September 2007
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Alternate Feed Sources Prove Timely for Santa Gertrudis Breeder

 
  W.H. Box cuts corn for silage on Gary Weatherly’s farm in Marion County. The silage will be used as a feed source on the nearby Grandview Farms.
Alabama Connection Sale Scheduled for Oct.

By Susie Sims

Even before the drought kicked in last year, Brent Shaw was already looking for an alternate feed source for the 400 or so head of Santa Gertrudis cattle he oversees.

He has his eye on several options but ultimately settled on silage.

"Forage is the most important component in any cattle business," said Shaw, who is the farm manger for Grandview Farms in Marion County. "You can’t produce cattle without a good source of forage products."

 
Missouri native Brent Shaw has managed the Santa Gertrudis herd at Grandview Farms since 1994. He is shown in the farm’s newly constructed silage pit. Grandview is owned by Delmo Payne.  
Like all farms, Grandview Farms, which is owned by Delmo Payne, depends on hay during the winter months to provide the forage source for the cattle.

During years of drought, hay is usually in short supply and the past two years were a prime example of that.

"Last year we had to buy hay to supplement what we produced here on the farm," said Shaw. "The unavailability of hay forced me to look elsewhere to meet the nutritional requirements of the herd."

Shaw said he had already been thinking about adding silage to the herd’s diet, but hadn’t made up his mind. The hay shortage made it up for him.

"Last winter we used 15 tons per week," recalled Shaw. "We had the silage brought in each week."

This summer, Shaw had a pit dug near the farm’s commodity barn to provide more permanent storage for the silage on the farm.

"Coming out of last winter, the herd had the best body condition scores we had ever had," said Shaw. "We decided to make silage a permanent feed source for the herd."

He said the pit allows for more control over how much silage is fed and when it is fed.

Having the silage on-site will also allow for easier testing of the forage to ensure the animals receive the proper supplements.

Shaw has secured his source of silage locally from Gary Weatherly, a farmer who has provided Grandview with shelled corn for years.

 
  Herdsman Ethan Rudicell hooks a spray rig to a tractor on Grandview Farms.
Production Groups a Must

In order to keep feed costs down, Shaw utilizes production groups.

"Feed costs are the largest cost in cattle," said Shaw. "Anything you can do to bring down that cost and still provide the right nutrition is beneficial to the farm."

While Shaw is willing to look for new ways of feeding the herd, he is not willing to sacrifice nutrition.

"Without proper nutrition, you can’t produce a top-quality animal," he said. "And producing a top-quality animal is the point of it all."

Shaw mixes his own feed on the farm, which allows him to feed each group of cattle according to their specific needs.

"We try to meet the nutritional need of each production group," said Shaw. "It pays to feed cattle according to their stage of production."

Making Educated Decisions

Making the day-to-day decisions for a purebred cattle operation is no easy task. Shaw spends as much time researching his decisions as he does outside with the animals.

"It takes a lot of knowledge of genetics to make right choices to produce the quality of cattle we do," said Shaw. "If I don’t have the information I need to make an educated decision, I look for someone who can help me."

When he needs information, Shaw, who holds an animal science degree from the University of Missouri, usually turns to his local Co-op store in Hamilton.

 
Farm manager Brent Shaw compacts freshly cut silage which will be used as part of the winter feeding program at Grandview Farms in Marion County.  
"(Manager) Steve Lann does a great job," said Shaw. "He helps me with product research. He helps me make the right decisions."

Shaw also relies heavily on AFC’s district feed specialist John Sims and animal nutritionist Jimmy Hughes.

"I get more than products and materials from the Co-op," said Shaw. "I get information—usable information. John and Jimmy are always ready to help me however they can."

Shaw said when he first started thinking about installing a silage pit and making silage a part of the herd’s diet he contacted Sims for information.

The information provided by Sims and Hughes helped Shaw decide what materials to use to construct the pit as well as what nutritional value the silage would provide for the animals.

In addition to information, Shaw relies on the Marion County Co-op for chemicals, fencing supplies, creep feed, performance beef and horse feeds, and wormers. He said he also uses a mineral that is custom-made by the Co-op to suit his particular herd needs.

Genetics, Genetics, Genetics

In the life of farm manager on a purebred operation, it’s not all about feed.

Shaw finds the art of genetics challenging.

"I’ve been in Gerts for 30 years," said Shaw. "You think you know what will happen when you breed this bull and this cow, but sometimes, there are surprises—good and bad."

It takes a lot of study time to come up with the right combinations that prove successful. And in this business, success is measured by a title—National Champion.

Shaw said all the hard work is worth it when you’ve produced an animal that wins the Championship.

Grandview has produced several champions during Shaw’s tenure. The farm has turned out three Reserve National Champion bulls, two National Champion females and three National Champion Best of Polled.

Shaw said Grandview is always ready to help new breeders establish their own breeding programs. He can also assist with artificial insemination recommendations and advice.

All bulls sold by Grandview are guaranteed, noted Shaw.

To help around the farm, Shaw relies on herdsman Ethan Rudicell.

"Ethan is a good worker and is learning a lot," said Shaw. "He is an asset to the farm."

Alabama Connection

This year marks the 19th Annual Alabama Connection Sale.

The production sale will be hosted by Grandview Farms, Tinney Farms in Hanceville and Gray Oak Farms in Russellville.

The sale, which is set for Oct. 5-6, will be held at Tinney Farms. Available at the sale will be show prospects, cow-calf pairs, bulls and open and bred heifers.

Shaw said that buyers from 17 states are expected to turn out for one of the top averaging sales in the nation.

"We have worked hard over the years to build a good reputation for the sale and the farms involved," said Shaw. "We invite everyone to come out and see what we have to offer."

Shaw said the sale is open to those who are interested in Santa Gertrudis cattle as well as those who may just be a little curious about the breed.

Grandview owner Payne is a past president of Santa Gertrudis Breeders International.

Contact Information

Shaw lives on Grandview Farms with his wife, Marla, and two sons, Kaleb and Kolt.

Persons interested in contacting Grandview Farms about the upcoming sale or the Santa Gertrudis breed may call Shaw at (205) 412-5761 or Payne at (205) 468-5319.

Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.