|Ray Cattle Co. Gearing Up For New Year Sale|
|Ray Cattle Co. Gearing Up For New Year Sale|
Eleven years after purchasing his first registered Angus cow, Paul Ray is steadily preparing for his fifth yearling bull sale.
The event is held each year on the first Saturday in January, which puts the 2007 sale on Jan. 6.
In January, Ray Cattle Company plans to have around 95 yearling bulls for sale.
Ray believes the sale has a positive impact on northwest Alabama.
"I think I’m offering a service to this part of the state," said Ray, a native of Hackleburg. "Having a local sale like this gives the area a chance to increase the commercial quality of the local herds."
Ray began his career in registered Angus cattle in 1995. He spent several years building his herd.
"We bought cows and raised our own heifers for four years," recalled Ray. "We were trying to increase our number of registered cows."
The company held a herd reduction sale in 2001. Out of a herd of 275 cows, they kept only 75. Then they began purchasing quality donor cows to improve the overall genetics of the herd.
The company acquired its first donor cow in 1998.
Compared to the prices of commercial cattle, donor cows carried quite a sticker shock.
"I paid $7,500 for one of my first donor cows," recalled Ray. "I thought I was in high cotton."
He noted that some proven donor cows can sell for several hundred thousand dollars.
He owns one donor cow that is on record as the parent of 259 offspring.
"We have implanted about 10 more embryos from her since we came up with that figure," said Ray. "I will keep her the rest of her life."
Ray noted that even if the cow only yielded a couple of eggs from future flushings the result would be worth the effort and expense because her offspring are proven to be highly desirable.
Good AI Program is Essential
For those who are not familiar with how the registered donor cow system works, farm manager Kyle Norris offered an explanation.
"We purchase donor cows at sales all over the country," said Norris. "We have our veterinarian come and flush eggs from those cows.
"The eggs are then mixed with sperm from the bull of our choice and the embryos are then implanted into recip cows."
Ray compared the process to that of surrogate mothers in humans.
The benefit of the program is that desired genetic traits from the donor cows and the bulls can be used to strengthen an entire herd.
"Last year we had a 68 percent success rate with our embryo program," said Norris, who has been with the Ray Cattle Company since April 2001.
Norris noted that after three or four flushings, donor cows will be allowed to conceive a calf naturally.
"It helps the process if they’re allowed to have their own calf every few years," he said. "The cows just seem to do better."
The cattle company uses Clay Burnley of Southern Embryo Service of Athens, Ga., for its artificial insemination program.
Even though the herd is where they want it numbers-wise, Ray and Norris spend a lot of time traveling to sales across the country.
"We go to 25 or 30 sales a year," said Norris. "We are always looking for good donor stock."
Ray noted that many times the cattle company will partner with someone else to purchase a donor cow.
"It helps us out financially to split the cost with someone else," Ray said. "Some of these desirable cows come with a big price tag."
Ray said that in these partnerships he prefers to take possession of the cow, noting that he likes to see what is going on with an animal he owns.
Ray’s current herd numbers 380 registered cows, 400 commercial recipient cows, 100 registered bulls and 300 registered calves.
To accommodate the nearly 1,200 head of cattle, Ray owns 1,050 acres and rents 800 more.
Ray’s home place includes 175 acres located behind the Wrangler plant.
"For feed, we blend soyhulls, cotton seed, corn gluten and crushed hay," said Norris. "We supplement with VMS minerals from the Co-op."
Ray said they also rely on the Marion County Co-op in Hamilton for some of their animal health needs.
"Steve is good to work with," said Ray, about Marion County Co-op’s general manager Steve Lann.
Lann is the current recipient of the E.P. Garrett Award, which is commonly known as the Manager of the Year.
Pharmacist for 43 Years
Cattle isn’t the only line of work for the Marion County native. Ray has been a pharmacist for four decades.
His schooling and the first couple of years as a pharmacist make up the only time Ray has been away from his home of Hackleburg.
"I went to Howard College, which is now Samford University for my pharmacy degree," said Ray. "I’m in my 43rd year as a pharmacist."
He owns the Ray Pharmacy on Alabama Highway 43 in Hackleburg.
In addition to the upcoming sale in January, the Ray Cattle Company also hosts two other sales annually.
The second Saturday in April is the day for the production sale, during which females are sold.
The last Saturday in October is the day for the two-year-old bull sale.
This past October was the company’s first two-year-old bull sale. Forty bulls were sold. Ray said more would be available for the 2007 sale.
Anyone interested in contacting the Ray Cattle Company can phone (205) 935-3737. The mailing address is P.O. Box C, Hackleburg, AL 35564.
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.