10/26/2013 7:00 AM
By Chris Torres Regional Editor
STREET, Md. — When Dotty Macy started her Charolais herd several years ago, she wanted to build a small herd with good genetics from some of the best Charolais breeders in the country.
Not only has she met her goal, but producers are now looking to her for good genetics.
“My point of getting involved was I didn’t have to have thousands of animals to do a good job with the genetics. And that was my whole point,” Macy said.
Earlier this month, Macy was awarded the 2013 Seedstock Producer of the Year Award from the American-International Charolais Association.
It’s proof that even though she’s small, she can hang with the big boys.
The 75 acres she calls home is tucked within the rolling hills of northern Harford County, Md.
She keeps 98 cattle at the farm, a number she admits is a little much considering the limited acreage she has to grow hay; she purchases three times the amount of hay her farm produces.
“I have more cattle than I have land, but I’m not willing to give up a lot of them,” she said.
The “seeds” of the farm were laid eight years ago when she purchased three purebred Charolais cattle from a breeder in Maryland, with an additional three females from a ranch in Georgia. WDZ Luscious Lady, a show heifer Macy purchased in Minnesota, along with Lady’s sister, WDZ Mega Doll, were also key purchases.
The initial herd sires were all from AI (artificial insemination), but she now uses mostly bulls from her herd for breeding, while AI is used more sparingly.
Macy also purchased cows from Camp Cooley, a 10,000-acre ranch in Texas that sold for $28.5 million in 2011, as well as animals from large national sales in Louisville, Ky., Kansas City, Mo., and Denver.
“I wanted good stuff. I wanted good animals and to get them, you got to get to the breeders that are well known and are breeding good stuff,” she said.
Buying animals at these national sales isn’t cheap though. Macy said it cost from $7,000 to $10,000 an animal, if not more. So she’s partnered with other producers in purchasing some of her animals.
“The stipulation has been you manage it, you’ve got the bigger herd and expertise. I just put money into it so I could afford something good and we can figure out how to divide it up later,” she said.
Of the 98 cattle on the farm, 35 are mature Charolais cows, while there is only one herd bull. Macy also keeps seven “recipient” cows, mostly Angus and Herefords, for embryo transfer. She purchases embryos for between $400 and $600 at various sales and transfers the embryos to their respective recipients in December. Calves are usually born the following fall.
With a good genetic foundation in place, Macy has set out to find a name for herself in the business through breeding and selling animals at major national sales, as well as private sales with other producers and setting up 4-H and FFA students with animals for showing.
“There are just so few young people around here and there is so few farmers left that are interested in beef cattle, the ones who are, all they can think about is black hides,” she said.
While she would never sell a calf for less than $2,000, Macy partners with several youth, allowing them to take a calf for a year for showing. When the heifer is ready to be bred, Macy selects a bull for breeding and gets the original animal back. The new calf goes to the 4-H or FFA student and the genetics from Macy’s farm ends up somewhere else.
“They take it home for a year. They feed it, spend $700 or $800 in feed, show it, have fun, it’s theirs,” she said. “It’s not a commercial calf. They are getting a good calf eligible for registration. It’s a win-win for them.”
The growth of her herd has led to changes on the farm. She recently built a brand new barn for housing the animals and set-up a rotational grazing system on 45 acres.
Weaned heifers are also kept at a farm in West Virginia and additional cattle are boarded at a farm in Pennsylvania.
At 78 and retired from a lifelong career in teaching, farming is Macy’s full-time job now. But with no room to grow and the fact that she spends more money bringing in hay than she’s able to produce, the business isn’t a money maker. Add to that the lack of demand for Charolais cattle in the East, meaning she sometimes spends more money having to travel to sales in the Midwest and West than she gets back for her animals.
“They got to have another source of income,” she said of prospective producers. “There are a lot of people like that. They have small herds but they have day jobs. And they enjoy the cattle on a small basis.”
Still, the recognition from other producers as well as the satisfaction of knowing her own farm’s genetics have become seeds on other farms is enough to keep her going.
“I started out with three purebreds and now I’ve got a whole bunch and nobody knew who I was and I didn’t know anybody in the business. Now I’m pretty well recognized by everybody in the Charolais breed and I like that,” she said.