There’s a lot of beef in Alabama; just ask the 40 participants on the annual Alabama Farmers Federation Beef Tour.
Sandra James of Colbert County attended with her husband, Steve, and described the tour as a working retreat.
“It’s like being in a classroom while you’re on vacation,” she said. “We’re workaholics, and it’s hard for us to actually take a holiday, so this is ideal for us.”
Federation members visited 19 farms in 14 counties and covered nearly 900 miles on the bus tour May 4-8. Farms featured several breeds of cattle, purebred and commercial cow-calf herds, stocker cattle farms, heifer development operations and an order buyer business.
Federation Beef Division Director Nate Jaeger said the decision for an in-state tour came at the suggestion of past attendees, after years of traveling outside Alabama.
“We decided seeing what was in our own backyard would be worthwhile,” Jaeger said. “A tour of Alabama beef farms was rewarding because it proved you don’t have to be in ‘a cattle state’ to see high-quality cattle and progressive-minded farmers dedicated to advancing the beef business.”
The Jameses’ first Federation Beef Tour was last year when a group visited Minnesota farms for a week. The retired couple is new to the cattle business and admittedly is still learning.
“I thought the tour couldn’t get better than last year,” Steve James said. “But I’ve learned even more this week about grasses, forages, breeds of cattle and nutrition. I will probably get home Friday night and start implementing some of the things I’ve seen on Saturday.”
John and Pauline Morris of Jefferson County are veteran Beef Tour participants and called the Alabama tour enlightening.
“Living in Alabama, maybe we thought our cattle operations were not as good as other states,” John Morris said. “But it was an outstanding trip. We were surprised by the quality of the cattle and the exceptional farmers we have here.”
From silvopasture on a Winston County farm where cattle grazed under tall pine trees, to the heifer replacement program of a Conecuh County farmer who monitors and manages the tiniest details, John Morris said each stop was educational.
“No matter how many times you go (on a farm tour), there’s always something useful to learn,” he said. “We’ve seen some things on this trip we’re definitely going to try.”
Pauline Morris said besides opening her eyes to the wonderful cattle in Alabama, she learned a lot about the people here.
“The hospitality of Alabama farm families beats any we’ve ever had,” she said.
Located in every Alabama county, there are about 672,000 head of beef cattle in the state, ranking it 16th nationally. Beef cattle have an annual economic impact of almost $525 million in Alabama.