Commercial Producer of the YearLimestone County farmer Wesley Stroud is a man who stands behind his product. In fact, Stroud has so much confidence in the quality of his cattle, he retains ownership of them right through the feedlot stage.”We started retaining ownership with the Pasture To Rail program about 10 years ago, and I would advise anybody to start that way,” Stroud said. “Just send a few, see how they do, and go from there.”Stroud explained that the Pasture To Rail program and retained ownership provide him information about how his cattle perform in the feedlot and “on the rail.” He then uses that data to improve his overall cowherd.In recent years, Stroud and his wife, Melba, have retained ownership of practically all the calves they sell. Extension Livestock Agent Gerry Thompson said this practice stands in sharp contract to the norm in Alabama.”The bulk of feeder calves sold in Alabama are marketed through some type of auction sale at weaning time. However, Mr. Stroud believes that retaining his calves through the feeding stage and selling them as carcasses allows him to take maximum advantage of the superior genetics he has utilized in his herd,” Thompson said.Thompson admits that retained ownership is not for the faint of heart, but he says Stroud is willing to accept the risks associated with volatile feed and cattle prices because he believes his cattle will perform profitably in the feedlot environment.The Strouds, who have been in the beef cattle business for almost 50 years, recently were named the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association’s (BCIA) Commercial Producers of the Year. Their farm consists of about 750 acres of owned and leased land on which they maintain about 200 brood cows and replacement heifers.Stroud said the BCIA record keeping system has allowed him to track the performance of individual cows and replace those that don’t generate a profit.”We bred 32 (replacement) heifers this year, and we might cull 27 or 28 cows,” Stroud said. “The ones that don’t breed back will go first, then we will consider age. And if a cow’s calf doesn’t do well in the feedlot, she’ll get marked to go.”A firm believer in the value of genetics, Stroud uses Angus, Red Angus and Salers bulls in his natural breeding program. The bulls are purchased from BCIA tests and individuals who have a reputation for producing quality seedstock.”When we send calves to the feedlot, they’ve got to live and they’ve got to gain,” Stroud said. “Gain comes from genetics. A big factor in producing good calves is selecting the bulls with the best genetics and matching the cows to the right bulls.”Over the years, this philosophy has paid dividends for Stroud. Reports from the retained ownership program consistently show his calves not only perform well in the feedlot but also grade well on the rail. However, Stroud said the reports indicate he could benefit from larger ribeye areas in his calves, so he is now working to address that need.Stroud also is working to reduce his dependence on stored feeds by improving his forage program. He grows and harvests his own hay and utilizes soil testing extensively. The Strouds also store their hay in barns or under tarps to preserve its quality, and they forward contract feed supplements–primarily soybean hull pellets.Although Stroud worked 39 years for Wolverine Tubing Co. in Decatur, his fellow cattlemen never considered him a part-time farmer. In fact, he is admired by his colleagues in the Tennessee Valley for having managed to run a large-scale cattle operation while working an off-farm job.Today, the Strouds’ son, Wes, an agribusiness teacher at Bob Jones High School, helps his parents on the farm. Their grandson, Samuel, who is a student in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, also helps when he can.Wesley Stroud has been a director of the Limestone County Cattlemen’s Association for more than 25 years. He also has served as president of that organization and currently is on the board of directors of the Alabama BCIA. Stroud is a graduate of the Alabama Master Cattle Producer Program and is certified in the Beef Quality Assurance Program.Seedstock Producer of the YearYou might say the Boyd family put the community of Richburg on the map. Located just west of New Brockton in Coffee County, the small town became famous around 1898 when Leon Augustus Boyd moved his lumber company to Richburg from Iron City, Ga. For more than a decade, Boyd harvested lumber from the area’s virgin pine forests–employing hundreds of workers and operating a moveable railroad on which he transported wood. By the 1940s, the Boyds had shifted their attention to farming, but many of the town’s residents continued to work with the family as sharecroppers.Today, L.A. (Lee) Boyd IV drives a pickup truck instead of a locomotive, and he does most of the work on his farm himself. But like his ancestors, Boyd and his wife, Harriette, are attracting attention to the small south Alabama town, thanks to their award-winning Simmental herd.Recently named the Outstanding Seedstock Producer of the Year by the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA), Boyd has earned a reputation for raising high-quality Simmental bulls and heifers. His herd consists of about 125 purebred cows, most of which are black.The cattleman said his operation has evolved over the years from a combination of commercial cows and purebred Polled Herefords, to all Polled Herefords and later to Simmentals.”My main priority is to make a profit every year,” Boyd said. “I am not a hobby cattleman. Every decision I’ve made has been based on remaining profitable. Right now, a lot of my customers want black cattle, so we are focusing our attention on producing homozygous black bulls.”Boyd uses the BCIA and Simmental Association record-keeping systems to track the performance of his cows. He also is a member of the Wiregrass Farm Analysis Association. Boyd said his participation in BCIA has helped him make more informed decisions about which cows to keep and which ones to sell.”It has shown me which cows are my better producing cows,” Boyd said. “BCIA also has given me the opportunity to test my bulls against those from other farms in BCIA-sponsored tests.”Coffee County Extension Agent Stan Windham said Boyd had the top Simmental bull at the Wiregrass Bull Test for four of the last five years. His farm also produced the champion Simmental heifers at the Alabama Junior Livestock Expo in 2001 and 2002 and the reserve champion in 2003.Boyd sells most of his heifers and bulls by private treaty or through BCIA sales. This year, however, he sold five bulls and 10 heifers to producers in Venezuala. Boyd said his marketing philosophy is a bit unusual, but it is rooted in his need to make profit.”It may not be the best way to do things, but everything I have is for sale,” Boyd said. “If it is a heifer I really want to keep, she might be priced higher, but I don’t hold anything back. (As a result), I don’t always keep my best heifers.”Boyd Farm is a former district winner in the Alabama Farm-City Committee’s Farm of Distinction competition. He is a member of the Coffee County Farmers Federation’s board of directors and served as president of the Wiregrass Polled Hereford Association and the Coffee County Cattlemen’s Association.
BCIA Honors Top Beef Producers