The industry analysts
claim the average life of a purebred breeder is around seven years. Chuck and
Norma Sword are not your average purebred breeders. They entered the seedstock
business in 1983 and by expanding their market area, selling only the kind of
cattle they would want in their herd, and being active at all levels, they have
surpassed the average.
Today Char No Farm, located just 50 miles south of Atlanta, at Williamson, is
home to 200 registered Brangus brood cows with a number of females carrying
new genetic bloodlines.
They were both working in the airline industry when they met and would marry.
They moved to Williamson in 1969 and for 14 years raised commercial cattle.
"We had a predominantly black and for the most part Angus commercial cow
herd and we used Santa Gertrudis bulls on these. This cross worked real well
for us and sparked our interest. We decided to switch to the purebred business,
once we quit row cropping in 1981. We began researching breeds and were drawn
to the Brangus as we had liked the commercial black calves with a touch of ear
we had produced," recalls Chuck.
Their initial purchase was two registered Brangus females.Then they added 35
females from fellow Georgia breeder, Mo Turner and over the years they have
selectively added females from several established breeding programs and sales.
They have seen a lot in their 23 years. In 1983, when they entered the business,
tall was good, tall was in demand and the Brangus breed was experiencing phenomenal
growth, interest and record high prices.
"The females from the Turner herd, were strongly influenced with Rocky Joe
1/5 breeding and we felt for sometime that our herd was too moderate in frame
score for most of the breed. But now in retrospect and based on the kind of cattle
that are in demand today, and have proven to be the most efficient, our herd
is the right size and always was," Chuck says adding that Duke and Idaho
Jack genetics are strong in the program, also.
Char No maintains a Spring and Fall calving herd of 60 days each and about 20
percent of the calves are AI sired. Currently AI sires: New Direction, John
Wayne, Lead On and Nimitz are being utilized.
CNF Hulk 77H, was a bull they used heavily and who is now deceased. He is one
they produced and he's a second generation bull that traces back to Lovana
Farms breeding. His influence will continue in the herd through daughters and
They also have a lot of daughters of CNF Southern Pine, a bull they raised and
promoted. He was sired by Pine Log, who was by Idaho Jack. This was the first
bull in the Brangus breed to win all four major shows in 1993 1994.
"We try to breed balanced bulls that will work towards the middle of our
herd. We use AI bulls with proven accuracies. We take the business of selecting
bulls seriously. We visit with lots of breeders about the bulls, we find out
what kinds of calves they are producing and the types of cows these bulls work
best on when making selections." describes Chuck.
The Swords also experiment with a bull on a small population of their cowherd
the first time they use him and always breed for balanced traits across the
They have sold their bulls, primarily through private treaty marketing and select
consignments to Brangus and All Breed Bull Sales throughout the Southeast.
Then eight years ago, they entered into a joint sale with Hardee Farms in Florida.
They also have marketed their bulls at the Salacoa Valley Bull Sale held in
"At weaning, our bulls are placed on a growing ration designed to provide
a three pounds per day gain, as we want to highlight their growth traits. Then
at a year of age, we take ultrasound and all required measurements as well as
weights, and cull for disposition and soundness. The Fall born bulls are then
sent out to grazing in November and the Spring borns in February. Then in March,
all the bulls were sent to Hardee Farms in the past and they were sent at the
same time to Salacoa Valley last year," explains Norma adding that this
allows for the bulls to be managed and acclimated in like conditions.
For the most part they have retained their females and built their numbers in
this manner, while culling the bottom end and selling commercially. Again through
the years, they did select females to consign to select sales. Then in 2004,
they hosted their first production sale and will do so again this year on September
30 at the farm where they will host their Fall Classic Production Sale.
"We were very pleased with the acceptance our cattle received in our production
sale and the interest by our fellow breeders was overwhelming. We had buyers
from eight states and that was very gratifying," says Norma.
The Swords are committed to selling only quality individuals that they would
want to keep in their herd. With their numbers, they have decided a sale every
other year will allow them to maintain the quality in their herd as well as
provide buyers with the same quality.
The Swords have no limits on their marketing boundaries. Initially cattle were
sold close to home, but that is not the case these days.
They have sold cattle across the Southeast, with a majority in Florida, as well
as the Mid South states of Kentucky and Tennessee. In addition, they have cattle
in herds in South America and they really expanded their boundaries when they
sold a bull through Hardee's sale into Cuba.
Their longevity in the business can also be attributed to a strong repeat customer
"I think Brangus are very efficient cattle. We have made a lot of changes
in our breed in general. In addition to the efficiency, we have cleaned up the
sheaths, and concentrated on improving the carcass merit. Breeding cows is like
balancing a ball on a stick and you've always got to be alert and ready to move.
It's challenging to meet market demands and do it profitability," he describes.
Their location, just 50 miles south of Atlanta, has been ideal for marketing
and allowed them to raise cattle and hold down jobs in the beginning. Today
land values are escalating and the city is growing closer, but the Swords say
they'll raise Brangus here as long as they can.
They are not just content to be on the farm and breed cattle. They realize the
beef industry is a dynamic entity and make a point to be involved.
Chuck has served two terms on IBBA Board of Directors, as well as being secretary
treasurer, chairman of the breed improvement committee and a member of executive
committee. He has also been an active member and has served on various committees
and held offices in the Southeastern Brangus Breeders Association. In addition,
he served as president of the Georgia Cattlemen's Association in 2000.
Norma served as secretary of the International BrangusAuxiliary for seven years,
treasurer of the Georgia Cattlewomen's organization for six years and is currently
on the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency Board for
They both see a bright future for the Brangus breed.
"We can't rely on what we accomplished in the past. History and tradition
are wonderful, but we need to stay focused and adapt to change. The cattle are
versatile enough to meet lots of specifications," says Chuck.
The Swords in their words, "eat, sleep and work their cattle." Norma
left the airline industry in 1986 and Chuck in 1994 to give their total efforts
to the Char No Brangus operation. Today they are joined in the work by their
manager, Andrew Conley.
"We obviously enjoy the cattle. It's our life and we've made so many friends
through Brangus. We enjoy traveling to sales and events as not only do we see
good cattle but we see our friends and you can't put a value on that aspect of
the purebred business," they say.
(Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2005 Brangus Journal Herd Reference