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CHAR-NO FARMS -- STILL GOING STRONG AFTER 23 YEARS OF BREEDING BRANGUS

by: Martha Hollida Garrett

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 select sons.

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 board.

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 December.

"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 base.

"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 their district.

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 Issue.)

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