Better in Black
The view from the Patterson house looks out onto a nicely clipped pasture with 29 registered Simmental cows and their calves. Not far from the house, retired Circuit Judge John Patterson has another pen of young bulls to be sold next year. He runs a total of five herds of Registered Black Simmental and commercial cattle on around 1,000 rented and owned acres in Clarksville, Ark. “I chose Simmental because they are gentle and they grow big calves. I started out in 1983 with traditional, then in the mid 1980's, when I found out they came in black, I switched. I still have a few reds but they are non-diluters. If I cross them with a homozygous black bull, I will still get a black calf,” he said.
“Simmentals have a real good disposition and a good end product. The carcass quality of the Simmental plus the marbling of the British breeds make the ideal calf. I try to use good bulls that have good maternal and carcass traits. I usually get 80 percent choice and 80 percent yield grade 1 and 2,” he explained.
“I like to raise bulls. I can sell bulls. I never have much trouble getting rid of them. I have bull buyers in Northwest Arkansas and Beebe and from all over. I've been raising my own replacement heifers and some of my own replacement bulls,” John said.
“I use bulk feeders so we go through the feed. For the bulls, I use a corn base plus a limiter so that they don’t get overly fat, but they grow off better. It’s a 14 percent protein base that we mix with the corn. I creep feed the calves from December until the grass is growing good. Then, they pretty much have to make it on grass,” John stated.
He doesn't just feed his cattle. “Since we don't have any acorns this year, because of the freeze, I've been trying to keep out corn for the deer and turkeys,” he said.
“We spray and litter the pastures every year. In March we work cattle. We deworm, vaccinate and cut the commercial steers. To control flies I keep medicated salt mix out and keep the pastures clipped. We wean in July. Sometimes it can be hard on calves to wean in the hottest part of the year. But, it has worked out pretty well for me. I bring in the bulk feeders with medicated receiving feed. I also give them Bermuda grass hay and city water. I have my pen fixed so they can't walk much. And they have a lot of shade. When it gets real hot the calves go look for the shade instead of walking the fence. They don't lose hardly any weight," John said.
By the fall all the haying is finished and the calves have been taken to Oklahoma City. “October is kind of a break time so I'm up in a tree stand,” he laughed.
John's traditional farming style and his single calving season allow him to enjoy his favorite past time, bow hunting. “Bow hunting is my true passion. That's what I really enjoy,” he said, motioning to the elk and caribou mounts over the fire place.
As for the future John says that he is happy where he is right now concerning numbers. “I'm pretty well limited out numberwise; these are about as much as I can handle by myself. There aren't enough places to rent. I am where I want to be with the registered cattle numbers and where I want to be haywise. Besides, if I had more cattle I wouldn't have much time to hunt,” he smiled.