“A program with a purpose,” that is the phrase that David Vaughan, owner of Salacoa Valley Farms, uses to describe his Brangus operation.
It quickly becomes apparent that Vaughan can easily describe that purpose.
“We want to produce top-notch females,” he explains. “Our goal is to develop one of the top herds of Brangus females in the country.”
In order to meet that goal, Salacoa Valley Farms utilizes 12 cow families, or “The Dynamic Dozen,” as they have been appropriately named.
“By using a small number of cow families, we are able to put emphasis on uniformity in our females,” he continues. “We use these few cow families and multiply the uniform genetics with our embryo program.”
Vaughan estimates that over one half of the Salacoa Valley calf crop will come from embryo transfer.
“Using a small number of cows in our embryo program gives us a bunch of full sibs, concentrating our cow families,” Vaughan explains.
The emphasis that is placed on the maternal side is also a consideration for bull selection in the breeding program. Two of the herd sires in the Salacoa Valley bull battery, Mainline and Special Addition, ranked third and fourth respectively for Total Maternal EPD's in the recent Brangus sire summary.
“If our purpose is to produce the best female,” Vaughan says, “then we have to look at the dam of the bulls that we are using.”
According to sale manager John Maurer, Salacoa Valley's successful record can be attributed to a well thought out plan.
“From the very beginning, Salacoa Valley Farm has emphasized how important the influence of the female will be,” Maurer says. “David truly believes that his success and the success of his customers will depend on propagating the most maternally efficient cow families to the most proven bulls within the breed.”
Salacoa Valley Farms is located in the foothills of the Pine Log Mountains (the last major mountains in the Appalachian Chain) near Fairmount, Ga., and has been in the Vaughan family for over 80 years. Initially, the family operated a thriving mule business, but in the 1950's they turned to row crops, cotton and cattle.
In 1960 Vaughan took over the operation of the farm from his father, and continued to breed Angus and commercial cattle. Through the late ‘60's, ‘70's and early ‘80's Vaughan began using “exotics” and put together a purebred herd that he terms “too big to feed and breed.” In 1985, he made the decision to disperse his purebred herd, and entered into a joint venture with Willow Springs Ranch in Texas, “the herd that wrote the book” in the Brangus breed.
Just one year later, in 1986, Willow Springs dispersed their entire operation, and Vaughan saw this as an opportunity to start his own Brangus herd, using Willow Springs cattle and genetics as the foundation.
“Once we started dealing with the Brangus cows, we really fell in love with them,” he remembers. “We wanted our own Brangus herd…they work really well for our area.”
Sixteen years later, the Salacoa Valley herd is one of the largest and most respected purebred Brangus programs in the country, and home to over 400 mamma cows (including recipients).
At about the same time that Vaughan started building his Brangus herd, Rigo Orozco began working at Salacoa Valley Farms. He is now the ranch manager, a position he has held for the last eight years, and according to Vaughan, does an excellent job managing the cattle operation. Maurer gives high praise to both owner and manager.
“Salacoa Valley Farms consists of one of the premier owner/manager tandems in the cattle business with David Vaughan as owner and Rigo Orozco and ranch manager,” Maurer says.
This fall, Vaughan and Orozco are planning to host Salacoa Valley's first bull sale on December 7th at the nearby Calhoun Auction Market in Calhoun, Ga. They will be selling 70-80 service aged bulls, raised on the farm and ready to go to work.
“These bull aren't going to be fat,” Vaughan says. “They are going to be ready to go to work, ready for breeding.”
Salacoa Valley will also provide potential buyers with ultrasound data, and all bulls will be tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis, as well as Johne's Disease.
“With the Florida market we have, we started testing for Johne's Disease,” Vaughan explains. “We had some inquiries about it and one of our customers won't buy bulls that aren't tested, so we started testing all of our cattle about three years ago.”
In the past, Salacoa Valley has consigned a large number of bulls to an annual bull sale in Lake City, Fla., but this year Vaughan and Orozco made the decision to hold their own sale closer to home to develop their own bull market. As an added incentive, they are offering free delivery to buyers within 100 miles of the farm, and free delivery to anywhere in the United States if the buyer purchases three or more bulls.
Customers will also benefit from a program they are introducing this year to help market their calves. Buyers will have the opportunity to bring back their heifer calves, sired by Salacoa Valley bulls purchased in the bull sale, to a special commercial female sale that will be held in conjunction with the annual bull sale.
“We have made a commitment to give our customers an outlet to market their females,” Vaughan says.
It is that commitment to customer satisfaction that has made Salacoa Valley's annual production sale a huge success. Their “Plenty of Class” sale is held annually on the third Saturday in June. This year marked the third year for the event, which was held in their new sale facility on the farm. Salacoa Valley's reputation for producing quality females paid off, as buyers came from nine different states to make purchases and 73 female lots averaged $2,412.
Without question, the success of the Salacoa Valley program can be attributed to many factors. By defining a purpose and directing all of their decisions on marketing and management toward that purpose, they have put Salacoa Valley genetics at the forefront of the Brangus breed and the cattle industry.