A new herd bull has joined our family
Last weekend brought an end to our family’s months-long search for a bull.
When we sold Architect, our loyal bull for the past five years, back to the registered breeder who sold him to us, we knew he would be hard to replace.
Architect was as gentle as an old dog and loved to have his back scratched. The minute he heard the chains clanking on a metal pasture gate he began sauntering over to greet us. He kept a careful watch over his “girls” and sometimes it seemed he would gather them up just for fun. He also produced excellent offspring.
We had kept several of his daughters to grow our herd, so the time had come to go bull-shopping. It is a quest that is far more complicated than many would think. Most buyers look at a chart called EPDs, or expected progeny differences. By examining a bull’s genetics, it is scientifically possible to predict the size of the calves he will produce, his fertility, how much and how fast his calves will grow, whether females will have a good milk supply, and more.
Some buyers go strickly by the numbers, while other buyers, such as Rich, make their final selection largely on phenotype, or its looks. Rich looks for things like a straight back, a large hind quarter and a thick muscular frame, qualities he believes will work well in our farm-to-consumer beef operation. Shay and Ashley have developed an eye for bull shopping by phenotype, while Cole is more of a numbers man. I trust them to produce the high quality end product I love to sell.
It seems others looking for bulls have criteria similar to ours because the bulls we’ve picked out end up being the top-selling ones — and at a price beyond our budget. But Saturday, we found a bull at the Clemson bull-test sale that would suit our needs and was in our price range.
His registered name is E.J.B. Macho, something Ashley and I promptly argued needed to be changed. Macho, we said, implies arrogance and a mean aggressiveness. We could tell right away the bull was friendly and gentle, so the name clearly didn’t fit. We decided Braxton would be a great name. The fellas were of the opinion the name is the name, so on the way home we broke in to “Braxton the Bull” cheers. So far, Braxton isn’t sticking. Our compromise suggestion is E.J., but I’m not sure how this is going to end.
Meanwhile, literally hundreds of pages of sale catalog print-outs and beef magazinescan now be discarded.
While it is nice to have a new herd member, sometimes the search is as fulfilling as the end result. Just like in life. Those who recognize that life is a journey to be enjoyed along the way will be all the better off.
At the sale I had a great chat with a retired federal meat inspector. Turns out he most recently worked at a plant in Senecca, South Carolina, that makes Snow Creek sausage. He said some sausage is 50 percent fat and that he’s seen plants where the process is shut down until that percentage can be reached. Snow Creek sausage, however, makes a product that has no more than 28 percent fat and only uses young hogs for their product.
It’s a product that is available at local grocery stores and is one I’ve tried before and liked. Now, if I can’t buy local, it will be my preferred brand.