Frozen water tanks are not a major concern for Georgia cattlemen, yet each winter provides a few days when freezing temperatures can create extra chores around the cattle’s water supply. Fred Hale knows that extra chores for a cattleman are unwelcome, especially when you’re managing and feeding a herd of several hundred.
Before his retirement, Hale worked as the herdsman for 27 years at the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center, Watkinsville, Ga., which is one of nearly 100 research locations in the Agricultural Research Service in the USDA. The 1,180-acre center maintains a herd of about 300 cows, and Hale said at times the center may have up to 1,000 cattle involved in various grazing studies.
Research at JPC-NRCC is focused on improving soil quality and water quality and quantity in Southeastern pasture and cropping systems; developing sustainable crop and animal production systems suitable for the Southeast; and preventing pathogen transport to Southern Piedmont landscapes from poultry and other animal production systems.
Cattle used to drink from streams and rivers that run through the center, Hale says, but in recent years those areas have been fenced to prevent cattle traffic. That meant more cattle waterers were installed in the center’s pastures, creating the need for more daily management from the herdsman.
“We used to just let the hoses leak a little to keep them from freezing,” Hale said. “But that usually makes for extra mud around the waterers.”
That’s when Hale developed his idea to let the hose leak into a second, empty trough. His idea, entered into Drovers' annual Profit Tips contest, earned runner-up recognition and $250.
Now that he’s retired, Hale takes care of his own herd, which presently numbers 27 cows. “Just enough cows to make folks think I’m busy,” he says.
Hale calves his Angus cows in the fall and weans calves in the spring. He then grazes the calves on summer pasture where they gain an additional 200 to 250 pounds. The calves are preconditioned with vaccinations for IBR, BVD and Pasturella. He sells his yearling calves through a local auction market in nearby Clark County.
“I know the number of calves I have to sell is small, but I believe the calves bring more when they are preconditioned,” he says.
Hale says he wasn’t raised on a farm, but that he has worked with livestock and around cattle since completing high school. “I really enjoyed my work at the center. They say you should find a job that you like and it won’t seem like work. That’s the way I felt about working with the cows at the center.”