Cattle major agricultural commodity in Chilton County

Published 11:17 am Friday, May 4, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Beef cattle is one of the top three agricultural commodities in Chilton County. The other two being timber and, of course, produce.

In 2017, there were 12,700 head of cattle or calves in the county.

Cattle raised here will be transported to feed lots in the Midwestern United States.

“We are considered a cow/calf state, so our cattle are shipped, primarily after about 700 pounds,” Josh Elmore, Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional extension agent,


ACES provides information and assistance “advising farmers and ranchers in science-based, research-proven data.”

This could include recommendations on eliminating weeds though herbicide or other means, bull selection, varieties of grasses to feed cattle, soil fertility, facility design for the cattle area etc.

Central Alabama is a good cow/calf area because of the quantity of and long growing season for grass.

“We have the ability to grow and graze cattle up to 300 days a year in this environment, but it is a matter of management,” Elmore said.

Vaccinations and nutrition are two main focuses for cattle while they are in Chilton County.

From here, the cattle are taken to feed lots in the Midwest where they continue to grow to the desired size before being slaughtered at a packing plant.

“The beef is shipped back in big trucks, and that’s what we get at Winn-Dixie,” Elmore said. “The dynamic is that the feed stuffs are primarily in the Midwest.”

This system for raising beef cattle was adopted in the ’60s and ’70s when corn was selected as the primary feed for cattle because it is rich in energy, according to Elmore.

These facilities are also larger and many can meet the needs of 45,000 head of cattle.

“They feed them a diet that has everything they need, and they have the amount of room that they need to stand, loaf, drink water (and) eat feed,” Elmore said.

The cattle will reach about 1,500 pounds before being slaughtered for food.

Elmore said Chilton County does have a custom processing center, but it is a small operation.

“It is a great asset to have in the county,” Elmore said.

Technology has changed the way that many farmers and ranchers contact the Extension office.

Elmore said many times he will receive an email or a text with a photo of something they have a question about.

“I’ll get a text message with a picture of a weed and a question, ‘What is it and how do I kill it?'” Elmore said.

However, the regional agent still does on site visits for farmers and ranchers with more complex questions.

All of these services are offered for free.

“We do a lot of work with the research at E.V. Smith Research Center (in Shorter) because it is centered in my region,” Elmore said.

The Extension also provides guidance of the finance and marketing aspects of owning a cattle business.

“There is a lot of the economics and stuff that we tie in,” Elmore said.

In-person classes and webinars are also offered.