November 2017
Farm & Field

Testing the Fence


Michael McCart manages the bull test for R&K Farms.

Southeast Alabama Bull Test raises the quality bar.

The Southeast Alabama Bull Test delivered on its first-year promise in 2016: to provide high-quality bulls to area cattle producers.

The plan this year is to jump a higher fence.

"Everybody was pleased last year," said Michael McCart, who manages the bull test for R&K Farms owners Ronny and Jane Nicholson. "Buyers were really pleased with the condition of the bulls. The consigners were pleased. The sale was good."

Pleased, however, didn’t mean satisfied with the status quo.

"We really want to provide the best quality," McCart said. "So we encouraged our consignors to dig deep, to deliver the best possible bulls."

That meant starting with bulls available within about a 120-mile radius of Coffee County.

"We screened the bulls hard and we emphasized quality, quality, quality," he said. "If they didn’t meet our criteria, we just couldn’t accept them."

That began with the weight. Last year’s test started with some bulls in the 600-pound range. Bulls tested this year had to weigh at least 800 pounds.

"The beginning weight this time was around 900 pounds," McCart said. "That alone is going to bring your better bulls and your superior managers."

Weight, of course, isn’t the only consideration. The Southeast Bull Test looks for superior EPDs, sound feet and legs, excellent carcass and just all-around high performance.

"We had a lot of feedback from last year’s buyers," he reported. "They were very pleased with the condition of the bulls, even after they were turned out. And that goes back to the feed."


Feed is the Foundation for Performance

When it comes to inquiries about any changes in management such as feed, McCart grinned and responded, "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it."

A foundational practice for managing the test is feeding CPC Grower 13% R from Alabama Farmers Cooperative Inc. The recommended feeding rate on the CPC Grower label is 1-2.9 pounds per 100 pounds of bodyweight daily. The feed includes not less than 13 percent crude protein, 3.5 percent crude fat and 24 percent crude fiber, as well as calcium, salt, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin A. The active ingredient is monensin sodium, to prevent and control coccidiosis.

The feed was recommended by Brandon Bledsoe and Ben Courson of Opp’s Co-op.

"The service from the Co-op has just been phenomenal," McCart said.

R&K Farms and McCart, who also has a beef herd, have been feeding CPC Grower for three years, both as creep and post-weaning. In the bull test, CPC Grower is offered free choice.

"When the buyers looked at the bulls on the sale floor, they saw a lot of muscle definition," he recalled. "They weren’t fat. They were in superb condition. A lot of feed just puts on fat. This feed intensifies the natural muscle and bone. That’s what we like about it."

While acknowledging that genetic potential also impacts gain, McCart said this feed outperforms competitive products.

"This feed, as far as the performance, improved performance like no other feed I’ve used," McCart remarked.

Proof is in the replication. All the bulls on the test responded to the program.

"They’re like peas in a pod out there," McCart observed. "They’re a uniform set of bulls. They are superb in every way."


Disposition Counts

The days of the raging bull are gone. Nobody wants one on the farm and nobody wants their heifers to throw calves with poor dispositions. They’re not sought after on the farm or in the sale barn.

"Temperament is not a problem," McCart said. "I spend a lot of time in there among them on foot and on horseback. I touch them a lot. Disposition is something that’s very important to us."


Buyers at the 2017 Southeast Alabama Bull Test Sale can expect an even higher standard of quality than seen at the 2016 sale.


Take a Look Today

None of those involved in the new bull test program expect buyers to simply take their word on the exceptional attributes of these animals. The proof will be in the sale catalog that will include performance, gain and ultrasound data on each bull. The bulls were delivered July 1, began the test July 21, weighed and evaluated Sept. 14, and will be weighed and evaluated again Nov. 8.

"Any data somebody might need is available," McCart reported.

This year "is available" means online or in print. McCart takes a lot of pictures. Buyers look at those photos and can find the data they need online at or on the Facebook page by the same name, Southeast Alabama Bull Test.

For additional information or to request a catalog, here are the contacts:


Mark Your Calendar

The 2016 sale drew over 100 potential buyers for a standing-room-only crowd at the Coffee County Stockyard, 73 County Road 248, New Brockton, AL 36351.

The 2017 sale also will be held at the Coffee County Stockyard, starting at 1 p.m., Dec. 9.

Any producers interested in raising the quality of their herd will be there.

"These are the bulls that will increase the quality of a herd," McCart stated. "They’re adapted to this climate. They will perform well in the Southeast."


Pam Caraway is a freelance writer from Florala. She’s been writing about Southeast agriculture for over 25 years.