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Family First | September 2022

by Cheryl Kepes

Photos courtesy Mark Davis Family Angus

Mark Davis Family Angus breeds national champions on its small family farm.

A photo captures a moment in time, but occasionally it portrays much more than a casual glimpse at life. One such picture is of 18-year-old Allison Davis as she sits in a stately, tufted chair. Her legs clad in crisp, clean jeans casually draped over one side. Parked behind her - a cattle trailer covered top to bottom and side to side with rows of champion banners.

Though the backdrop of banners speaks volumes, it’s Allison’s smile that truly tells the teenager’s story. It is a genuine, confident smile. One that comes from knowledge of a job well done. Of success earned through hard work, struggle, and sacrifice.

Family of Three

Allison is the daughter of Mark and Loretta Davis. Together the trio tackles every aspect of running their registered Angus seedstock operation in Shelbyville, Tenn. The operation, Mark Davis Family Angus, has garnered much success raising and exhibiting champion Angus cattle.

Their national champions are the product of many years of developing cow families, teamwork and hard work. Mark, Loretta, and Allison do it all. It’s just the three of them – succeeding against ranches with deep pocketbooks, herdsmen and fitters, large donor pens, and fields full of ET (embryo transplant) calves.

Mark Davis Family Angus operates with around 45 momma cows, on 45 owned acres and 170 rented acres. All their calves are AI sired. The family raises a few ET calves a year and utilizes only a small amount of ET work.

Mark, Loretta, and Allison manage the herd together. From feeding on hot days, cold mornings, or in the middle of downpours, one or all three of them, are up for the task. If a cow is calving in the middle of the night and needs assistance the trio is at the ready.

Allison primarily handles the care and maintenance of the show cattle. She dedicates her summers to working with her animals in the show barn and taking them on the road to competitions.

Mark and Loretta appreciate the life lessons Allison has learned growing up on a cattle operation. “This business has taught Allison time management and how to handle high pressure situations,” Mark Davis shared.

Cow Families

Family is everything to Mark, Loretta, and Allison and that extends to their cattle operation. Mark Davis Family Angus focuses on developing cow families. “We believe in cow families,” Mark explained. “We have about three cow families we mainly breed around and have multiple generations of all those families.”

The Davis family has been involved in the cattle business “all their lives.” In 2009, while managing Eastfield Farm in Shelbyville, Tenn., the Davis family purchased an Angus cow in hopes of developing a herd for Allison. Two years later, they bought a set of Angus cows, and the operation has grown from that point forward.

Mark Davis Family Angus concentrates on breeding sound, functional cattle that will go into the real world and have a calf every year. “We want cattle that are attractive and can show, but also be productive cows after they show,” Mark said.

When selecting herd genetics, the Davis family looks for animals with depth of body and added muscle. They analyze an animal’s EPDs, but it is not their sole focus. “We select animals that are easy-fleshing, sound in structure, and have a maternal look with some spring of rib,” Mark explained.

Show Ring Success

Relying on the quality and longevity of their cow families has proven to be a successful strategy for the Davis family. All the Angus females Allison has shown through the years have been bred and owned, except for her first two heifers. “We are amazed by the success we have had,” Mark shared. Through the years the Davis family has exhibited nine division champions or reserve division champions, as well as three grand or reserve champions at the National Junior Angus Show (NJAS).

At this year’s NJAS in Kansas City, Mo., Allison won grand champion bred and owned heifer with AED Rita 037H (aka Harley). Harley is the product of three generations of breeding at Mark Davis Family Angus. In addition, Allison’s cow/calf pair, AED Rita 821F, who is a maternal sister to Harley, won reserve grand champion bred and owned cow/calf pair. To make the 2022 junior national show even better for the Davis family, Allison was named premier junior breeder.

Sticking to the Basics

The Davis family has found sticking to the basics benefits their cattle operation. They consistently retain and breed for sound moving and complete females that are easy keeping. They refuse to waver from traits and phenotypes that work for their operation. “We have never single trait bred our females or followed any fads. We keep an eye on EPDs, but do not go to extremes,” Mark explained.

When it comes down to it, the Davises simply breed cows they like to look at. “When it is cold and there is ice, it easier to go out to feed if you have good cows to look at,” Mark said.

Feeding Program

The Davises pay close attention to the nutritional requirements of their herd. Making sure their herd has good nutrition pays off in areas such as calf vigor and calving intervals. Mark Davis Family Angus utilizes a forage-based program. The cattle get hay in the winter and graze on grass during the summer.

Due to the operation calving most of its cattle in the fall, the Davises supplement pairs with a couple pounds of grain a day during the winter months. When calves reach 2 to 3 months old, the Davises start them on creep feed. Additionally, cattle are offered a complete mineral year around.

Marketing Cattle

The Davises enjoy seeing the genetics from their herd go on to bring success to other producers and families. The Davises love watching the heifers they have sold to other families win in the show ring and produce in the pasture.

All the Davises’ heifer calves are sold by private treaty. A few years ago, they started selling heifers in February with a bid-off via social media and their website. Currently, they are planning a private treaty bid-off sale for February 5, 2023. Bull calves born at Mark Davis Family Angus are usually sold in a group to be raised and sold to producers out West.

Angus Family

The Davises appreciate the banners and champion titles they have earned through the years. But what they cherish most about their business and the cattle industry is the lifelong friendships they have made showing cattle. They count those relationships as blessings.

When the Davis trio looks to the future, they plan to continue to raise quality Angus females for juniors to exhibit and turn into cows. “One thing that we feel is important is that we feel as cattle breeders we strive to make the next generation of cattle better than the last,” Mark stated.

The future holds a significant change for Mark Davis Family Angus. A third of the trio is off to college. Allison started attending Kansas State University in August. “She will be greatly missed around the farm!” Mark said.

Allison will be back in the summers ready to work show calves. She has two more years of eligibility to show at Angus junior competitions. And better yet, she has a lifetime to utilize the lessons she’s learned on the farm to make her future endeavors a success.

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