The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s animal sciences and forages team is proud to highlight livestock and forages producers that have made great contributions to the industry. The team hopes to impart wisdom from seasoned producers to benefit and encourage new producers, as well as established producers.
Circle M Ranch
Circle M Ranch is a cattle operation in West-Central Alabama. Donald Means, a lifelong farmer, has farmed parts of the Circle M property since his childhood. Today, he represents the fourth generation of his family to farm their land in Greene County. He has served as both the Greene County Cattlemen’s Association President and as a regional vice-president with the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association. Means and his family, live on and manage a roughly 250 head commercial cow-calf operation that uses Bahia grass, Tall Fescue, and Bermudagrass as the primary forage base.
What are a few of the main production goals of your farming operation?
Means: Our cow herd is mainly made up of commercial Brangus genetics because of their survivability and performance on fescue. I’ve used Ultrablack® or Chiangus bulls and those crosses have worked well to produce the type of calves I want. We’ve been backgrounding our calves and marketing them in load lots for some years. Some of our main production goals are to be as efficient as possible with conception rates in the cowherd and to maximize our on-farm forage production. Through spraying, fertilizing, and increased pasture management, I’m working to cut back our feeding schedule and have the cattle rely more on forages. In today’s time those management practices are costing a lot on the front end but that’s where we’re trying to go for the long run.
How has the Alabama Extension animal sciences and forage team helped you and your operation move closer to your goals?
Means: Alabama Extension was instrumental in helping me develop a plan for moving our cattle operation forward. Early on we fed a lot of range-cubes as part of our nutrition program. Now, based on what I’ve learned through Alabama Extension resources, I feed byproducts to give me the energy and protein my cattle need. Extension has also helped me with my bull selection. Originally, we mainly used phenotype evaluation to select bulls for the operation. Now, we utilize EPDs a lot more to help select bulls. We’ve also done some work with the pasture to rail program to help learn how we needed to improve our herd on traits like marbling and ribeye area.
What is your favorite part of being involved in livestock and forage production?
Means: I enjoy being outside watching black cattle grazing green grass. That’s what I like. That’s what is picturesque to me.
Do you have any advice for cattle producers getting started in the business?
Means: I would say buy the best cattle you can afford to buy. It takes just as much time to manage and feed lower quality cattle as it does higher quality cattle. When cattle go through the auction ring, the buyers see the difference in the quality of the cattle. You’ll get more bidder competition on higher quality cattle. Buy the best cows and bulls you can afford to buy.