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Annual summary reveals details of cattle program

BRIGHTON — Cattle owners convened at the annual cattle summary meeting in Brighton on Nov. 1 to get an update on how the Tribal cattle program fared over the last year. Natural Resources Director Alex Johns led the meeting and summarized the year with an abundance of facts and figures.

The Tribe’s cattle program is a cow/calf operation and the bulk of the profit comes from the sale of calves every year. Johns reported on the expense of caring for the cows, calves and bulls and even had a five year amortization rate for the bulls. It takes one bull per 25 cows to ensure full “coverage” of a herd.

To raise and assure the animals thrive and remain healthy, owners must supply food and supplements and keep the pastures in good shape by mowing and fertilizing. Cutting costs in these areas can be detrimental to the bottom line.

“Cutting costs isn’t always good for business because it affects production,” Johns said. “Look at your cows as a piggy bank; you have to keep putting into your bank. The equity in your cow is the fat she carries on her back.”

The cattle summary has been a fixture of the program for 14 years. It’s where owners get the full picture of the past year and can plan for the future. Details of raising cattle were broken down and results discussed.

Average age of cows in the herds was once 9 years, now it is closer to 7 years. However, if a cow is still producing good calves, age doesn’t matter. Johns urged owners to supplement grass consumption with feed and supplement-rich molasses, which affects fertility and body condition.

“Universal research says body condition is the single most important indicator of a cow’s ability to reproduce,” said Aaron Stam, University of Florida/Seminole Tribe of Florida Livestock and 4-H extension agent. “These are quantifiable numbers.”

Other important numbers Johns examined were the average pounds of beef raised per acre, the average cost per cow, percentage of calf loss and pregnancy rate. The numbers painted a picture of the cattle program and Johns summed up a few salient points.

“More calves are always better than heavier calves,” he said. “Pounds produced are what counts.”

Johns detailed some key performance indicators. The numbers over the last five years show a steady increase in the number of cows and an increased pregnancy rate. However, the numbers also show the producers who cut costs by using less of the molasses supplement and mowing and fertilizing less frequently earned less per acre.

Calf loss to predators and mycotoxin-caused infertility issues is about 17 percent, but Johns believes that number can be reduced to 11 percent. Mycotoxins in the grass cause pregnancy rates to fall but since 2015, the molasses supplements have included Biofix to combat the risk.

The scientific data on Biofix in the molasses isn’t complete yet but over the last two years, Johns has seen a significant difference. After two years on Biofix, the pregnancy rate in the test herd increased by 21 percent, animals were 28.7 pounds heavier, bred up at 10 percent better and had a half point better body condition score.

“The cows need to have it every day,” Johns said.

Johns presented pregnancy rate comparisons based on fertilizer use, mowing frequency, weather conditions and molasses use. The results were clear; spending money on those things increases the pregnancy percentages. Cutting expenses affects the outcome adversely.

“You’re in a production business and it takes money to make money,” Johns said. “You can save money but be careful of what you cut. It’s a fine line and it can hurt you in the long run. We want to show you how to get the most bang for your buck. If something isn’t working, we’ll get rid of it.”

The meeting ended with annual awards for cattle owners.

Goal achievement-

Brighton- Beulah Gopher, Patty Waldron, Addie Osceola

Big Cypress- Joe Benjy Osceola, Michael Henry

Most pounds of beef raised per acre-

Brighton- Andrew J. Bowers, Jr.

Big Cypress- Michael Henry

Most profit per acre-

Brighton- Diane Smith

Big Cypress- Clarissa Bowers

Most improved cattle producer-

Brighton- Patty Waldron, Beulah Gopher

Big Cypress- Clarissa Bowers, Joe Frank

Cattle man/woman of the year-

Brighton- Diane Smith

Big Cypress- Clarissa Bowers

“Congratulations to everyone and the success of the cattle program,” said Brighton Board Rep. Larry Howard. “Ranches on the outside wish they had this kind of data. My hat goes off to Alex and his team.”

Big Cypress Board Rep. Joe Frank, an award winner as most improved cattle producer, also appreciates the cattle program.

“We’ve long been recognized as leader in Indian Country with our cattle program,” Rep. Frank said. “We want to be the premier cattle program in the country, whether it’s on or off reservations.”


Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at

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