South Poll cattle were developed by Teddy Gentry at Bent Tree Farms near Fort Payne, Alabama in 1989. Some readers may recognize Teddy from his other career as a member of the country music group, ‘Alabama.’ Mr. Gentry combined Red Angus, Hereford, Barzona, and Senepol cattle to form the South Poll composite breed. Red Angus and Hereford were chosen for their maternal ability. Individuals used within the Red Angus and Herefordbreeds were selected on the basis of being adapted to hot summer climates and being able to produce in a grass based system. The Barzona breed was developed by the Bard family in the mountainous high desert country of Arizona back in the 1940’s. They are considered to be very tough and hardy. Senepol is a very slick-haired, heat tolerant breed from the Virgin Islands. Senepol cattle are also noted as being very disease and insect resistant.
The resulting four-way cross is touted as the “southern mama cow breed.” South Polls are red (or red and white), slick-haired, and smaller than what is popular in the cattle industry today, weighing around 1,000 – 1,200 pounds. Selection efforts have produced an animal that is adapted to fescue, heat-tolerant, gentle, long-living, and fertile. Although these cattle are very moderate in terms of frame size, they still have adequate milking ability and produce calves with sufficient growth rate. South Poll cows are very deep, thick, and have tremendous stomach capacity. Considerable pressure has also been placed on tenderness, since many of the offspring end up in grass finishing programs. Teddy Gentry stated at a recent breeders meeting that “The further we go into this, the more convinced I am that the small, highly productive, low maintenance, grass-fed cow is the secret to the cow-calf industry.”
We were lucky to get started with South Poll’s by purchasing a small herd from Alabama. We have bought other cows and bulls since then and expanded internally when possible. In 2014, we bought half of the Holiday Ranch herd we had been managing in Missouri for the last several years. This ended a partnership with a great couple from Florida, but allowed Sassafras Valley Ranch to own more of our own cows. We currently have a unique partnership with Hope Hill Farms, Nashville, TN. They have an excellent set of cattle at our ranch that is completely built around a foundation herd that was born in 2001 and remain productive today. We have built our collective herd to about 250 breeding females and are very pleased with how the cattle are performing in our rugged Ozark environment. In fact, there are more South Poll’s in Missouri than any other state. They can be found in the deep south, east and west to the coastline, and to my knowledge at least as far north as Iowa. We have even successfully shipped cows with baby calves to Missouri from Alabama in the middle of winter with absolutely no trouble. Clearly, they are very adaptable to a wide range of conditions.
We would welcome visitors at anytime to view South Poll cattle and further discuss our operation. Bruce currently serves on the board of directors. For more information contact:
South Poll Grass Cattle Association
Fort Payne, AL