Established in 1944 when WWI US Calvary farrier and dairyman Jim Collins and his son James moved their families from Montgomery, Alabama, to Cusseta, Collins Farms has a long history in Alabama’s cattle industry.
The original farm was purchased from the Haralson family who had established it in the early 1830’s. One of the key selection criteria was the location and the fact that all the running water on the farm begins on the farm and flows downstream. At the time of purchase, the farm was predominantly a row crop farm with diversified livestock.
In its earliest years, focus was on commercial cattle and raising small grains, clover and custom hay production. The late Fifties brought in the next phase of the operation when James and his son Jimmy bought the first registered Angus cows to add to the existing commercial herd. The registered herd would grow over the coming decades, focusing on performance in the early days of Angus Herd Improvement Records and becoming a charter member of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association. During these years they had an on farm performance testing program for their bulls and sold seed stock in Alabama and the surrounding states. James and Jimmy each served terms as President of the Alabama Angus Association.
The early 1980’s brought the decision to phase out the registered herd and convert it to a commercial herd, along with beginning the preconditioning and winter grazing of the calves that were produced. During this time additional stocker calves were also purchased and contract grazed in South Alabama. These calves were marketed with other producers in “board sales” through the late eighties. The Dairy buyout and changes in cropping practices created pressure on the availability of stocker grazing lands. By the late 1980s, home raised calves were preconditioned and marketed private treaty in truckloads lots from the farm. In 1994, the Piedmont Cattle Marketing Association was established to help producers market home raised, preconditioned feeder cattle. Jimmy served as its first President and was active in helping other producers and cultivating markets for these cattle across the feeding sector. The steer calves produced by Collins Farms are marketed through the PCMA sale.
Since 1992, through retained ownership programs in Georgia and Alabama, select groups of cattle have been fed in Kansas or Iowa to benchmark carcass data. Additionally, we have periodically purchased carcass data when available to help keep focus on feedlot performance and carcass merit.
In the early 1990’s through the use of computerized BCIA production records, additional focus was made on measuring many of the reproductive efficiencies in our females. In 1992, the first commercial females were marketed through BCIA sponsored replacement heifer sales. The farm was actively involved in the growth of these sales and marketed commercial females through two of these sales until their end in 1997. Jimmy’s son, Jim, served as President of this heifer development group and sale from 1995-96.
Since 1997, the farm has developed groups of home raised bred heifers for sale in consignment sales and private treaty at the farm. These heifers are developed using an extensive lifetime animal health program and have been developed on forages and blended co-product feeds. We follow Pfizer’s Heifer Vac Health program. Replacement quality heifers are selected from the herd shortly after preconditioning. All females are calfhood vaccinated for Brucellosis to assure they can be marketed into any state.
For the past several decades we have focused on selecting bulls that are very close genetically and have used many sets of flush mates and ¾ brothers on our cowherd. This practice allows us to produce herds of females that are basically half siblings, which makes it easier to select outcross matings while staying within the Angus breed.
While having used some AI in the past, in recent years groups of calving easy bulls that are closely related have been selected from breeders across the Southeast and developed together. Managed in this fashion they are easier to use in groups breeding the 180 to 200 heifers we breed each year. We try to select these bulls with a focus on calving ease thickness, volume, fleshing ability and structural correctness. We begin our breeding season on our heifers in mid-December and begin breeding our cows around the first of January.
Since the late 1990’s we have used Dr. Andy Meadows to ultrasound for pregnancy and sex embryos. This allows us and our customers to have a much more accurate calving date selection window and select females with heifer embryos from particular herds. For our customers that want to extend the use of their current bull, many will select heifers with heifer embryos. Others customers may want a cash flow as soon as possible and select heifers with Bull embryos.
Since its beginning in 1999, we have cosigned heifers to the University of Georgia’s Heifer Evaluation and Reproductive Development Program. The data provided from this program gives us and our customers a good benchmark on a host of traits. Over the years we have consigned over 200 head to this program.
Each year we group these heifers and make them available for viewing here at the farm and on the internet. We have been blessed to have these functional females go to work in herds in the following states: NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, LA, TN, KY and Iowa.