June 13, 2018
A busload of cattlemen spent three days visiting some of the best cattle ranches, research facilities and bovine-related businesses around Fort Worth, Texas, during the Alabama Farmers Federation’s annual Beef Tour May 10-12.
It was the first beef tour for Federation members Chet and Carol Matthews of Elmore County. They said it provided a unique opportunity to see how other ranchers select genetics to improve their cattle herd, design livestock handling equipment and implement grazing techniques with different forage varieties.
“Personally, the tour stop at F.E. Hill Ranch (in Fairfield, Texas) was one of my favorites,” Chet said. “They took a former mining operation and made it into a beautiful ranch. You would never believe the place had been mined.”
For Carol, the trip was an experience that spoke to her heart more than her interest in cattle.
“We learned a lot about cattle, but what impressed me most was the people we met,” she said. “At every stop we made they were so glad we were there, and they showed their love for the Lord. I just didn’t expect that. It was a good surprise.”
Chet, who has about 50 brood cows, said many things he saw at farms on the tour and the advice shared by others invigorated him to make changes on his farm.
“We saw some of the finest bulls I’ve ever seen,” he said. “There were outstanding Red Angus, Herefords, Beefmasters and others. I don’t know exactly which breed I’m going to go with, but seeing them makes me want to do better.”
Carol said even though they were hundreds of miles from Alabama, she met fellow farmers from her home state during the tour.
“Riding on the bus, sharing meals and visiting with the others on the tour, we made several new friends from Alabama who are also in the beef cattle business,” she said. “It’s nice to meet people who have the same interests as us.”
The tour was also a first for Walker County’s Garry and Teresa Rowland of Jasper. Garry, a former Federation State Hay & Forage Committee member, said he especially liked learning the types of grasses Fort Worth ranchers prefer.
“I really liked the stop at Texas A&M’s AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Overton where researchers talked about grazing trials that would also be applicable in our state,” he said.
The Federation’s Nate Jaeger organized the tour, which covered 614 miles and 15 stops. He said stops were designed to offer farmers with various size operations an opportunity to connect and learn.
“The tour featured a diverse group of hosts, ranging from a 36,000-acre ranch with 2,500 cows to a smaller 100-cow ranch that utilized management-intensive grazing on less than 100 acres,” said Jaeger, director of the Federation’s Beef, Equine, Hay & Forage and Meat Goat & Sheep divisions. “We also visited the Texas Farm Bureau state office in Waco. We were happy to meet with them and learn about their organization and issues important to their members.”
Jaeger said the Overton Research Center stop was a favorite among attendees because of its applied research conducted on beef cattle and forages. He said it’s beneficial to learn what other state Extension systems are working on to impact farmers in those state.
Next year’s Tour will be to Washington, tentatively in June.