by Cheryl Kepes
Photos courtesy Mead Farms
Mead Farms raises four breeds of registered cattle, leading the nation in multiple aspects of performance.
Located in the heart of the “Show-Me” state, Mead Farms operates a beef cattle operation with a “show-me” philosophy. The cattle at Mead Farms must prove themselves in production and progeny to remain in the operation. Built on proof of performance, the diversified farm, owned by Alan Mead and his two daughters, includes 2,500 head of cattle and 7,000 acres in Missouri.
Mead Farms manages four breeds: Angus, Hereford, Charolais, and Red Angus. The bar is set high for the registered seedstock at Mead Farms. Alan has spent decades focused on establishing herds stacked with outstanding performance, phenotype, and production. In fact, Mead Farms is the nation’s top Angus Pathfinder herd, and it routinely raises numerous Dams of Distinction in its Hereford and Charolais herds.
The Mead family is in its 81st year in the cattle business. In 1942, Alan’s grandfather purchased the family’s first Angus cattle. The affinity for the Angus breed continued with Alan through his involvement in 4-H and FFA as an adolescent.
As an adult, Alan started his own Angus herd on rented property with about 15 head he had acquired through his 4-H and FFA projects. His objective when he first started remains the same goal to this day. “I wanted to raise high-quality cattle, so I just tried to do things right and gradually grew it over time,” Alan Mead shared. “It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over 40-plus years.”
The love for the cattle industry endures with Alan’s daughters; 20-year-old, Juliette, and 15-year-old, Annaliese. “Both are active in showing and also help out on the farm a lot too,” Alan added. “They enjoy it, and we have a good time.” Juliette spent many years in FFA and received her American FFA Degree in 2021. Annaliese is currently an active FFA member.
Managing Multiple Breeds
Though the roots of Mead Farms run deep in the Angus breed, the operation diversified its program to include three other breeds. Mead Farms launched its Charolais herd 20 years ago, Red Angus 15 years ago, and Hereford 10 years ago. Alan chose to expand the operation to better serve his customers. “Our customers were wanting to still do business with us and some years they would use a black bull, another year a Hereford bull, or another year a Charolais,” Alan explained. “I have several customers who rotate different breeds, so it was a way to keep that customer.”
Managing four breeds can be complicated at times. Additional challenges arise while working to simultaneously market, register, and raise multiple breeds of cattle. Despite the obstacles, Mead Farms navigates the more difficult path to best serve its customers. “We really appreciate our customers and when a customer has success that is what it is all about. The best news I can get is when a customer is profitable and does well with our cattle,” Alan shared.
Mead Farms operates its herd at three locations with managers overseeing production at each farm. “It’s a team effort and we all work together, and everyone has their own area of expertise and responsibilities,” Alan said. The fall calving Angus and Red Angus cattle reside at a farm in Milan, Mo. Mead Farms manages its fall calving Hereford and Charolais herds at a farm in Versailles, Mo. The operation develops all its bulls at the Versailles location as well. Additionally, Mead Farms keeps heifers, spring calving cows, donors, and recips at the farm headquarters in Barnett, Mo.
Angus cattle remain the cornerstone of Mead Farms; 70 percent of the operation consists of Angus cattle. Charolais, Red Angus, and Hereford makeup the rest of the herd with an even distribution across the three breeds. “We try to produce a product that will go out and work for our customers and we are customer driven,” Alan added.
Mead Farms Philosophy
Cattle at Mead Farms must thrive in their environment. The herds graze on fescue pastures and endure hot, humid weather in the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. “We don’t supplement our cattle a lot. They have to be fertile, sound, and good-uddered and they have to do it on the environment and forage they have, or they don’t stay here,” Alan explained.
Through the years, a disciplined approach to culling has produced a herd full of cattle with real world performance. The thought at Mead Farms is – if cattle are productive in the difficult environment in Missouri, then they will be successful most anywhere. “That’s why we do things the way we do here because our cattle typically go to a better environment,” Alan stated. “When cattle go to a better environment they usually excel.”
As much as Alan emphasizes proven production in the pastures, he places equal importance on genomic and phenotypic data. The expectation at Mead Farms is for cattle to possess outstanding pedigrees, EPDs, phenotype, and performance. “We try to have the entire package,” Alan said.
Mead Farms utilizes data to track performance. Herd managers collect birth weight, weaning weight, yearling weight, scrotal measurements, as well as fertility measurements, ultrasound, and genomic data on all calves. Mead Farms holds the honor of the nation’s No. 1 Angus Pathfinder herd, with 66 Pathfinder dams in 2022. The American Angus Association (AAA) started the Pathfinder program in 1978 with the goal of identifying superior cows based on performance records.
According to the AAA, to qualify for the Pathfinder program, a female must produce her first calf near the herd’s average age for first calving. Additionally, to initially qualify, the female’s first three calves must post a minimum average progeny weaning weight ratio of 105. The Pathfinder program also requires a minimum of three calves from a cow to determine her consistency of calving and ability to produce superior calves for weaning weight year after year. All calves must be sired by a registered Angus bull. The requirements for the Pathfinder program align with the long-established goals of Mead Farms and many of its customers.
Donor Dam Criteria
The females that make it to the donor pens carry a history of proven performance. The only females considered donor material are cows that have shown they will produce and raise high-quality calves. “We feel that before a cow deserves to be flushed, she has to prove herself and it doesn’t matter if it is a Hereford, Angus, Red Angus, or a Charolais – that cow has to prove herself worthy of being flushed,” Alan explained.
At Mead Farms the proof is in the progeny. Most donor cows will have raised at least two, many times three calves, before they are flushed. “After two we usually feel comfortable, because by the time she has had her third calf we have collected data on two of her animals clear through yearling,” Alan stated. Mead Farms raises around 70 embryo calves a year.
Bulls in the operation undergo just as rigorous scrutiny as the females. All of Mead Farms’ registered bulls receive genomic testing and undergo breeding soundness exams prior to sale. Alan hopes the combination of established pedigrees, EPDs, genomic data, and a first season breeding guarantee gives buyers assurance in Mead Farms’ genetics. “We are trying to provide more accuracy,” Alan said. “So, when customers come and buy these bulls, they can buy them with more confidence that they will go out and perform for them.”
Similar to the females in the operation, bulls must perform well in their environment to make it at Mead Farms. The bulls are hand-fed a high-roughage diet for development, but they are not pushed too hard or overfed. This equips the bulls to hold up against excessive shrinkage when they go to work in other herds.
Mead Farms’ decades of cultivating performance-based cattle has created depth and uniformity throughout its herds. The operation hosts three sales each year; a fall production sale held the fourth Saturday in October featuring bulls and females, a bull sale held the first Saturday in March, and a spring production sale held the second Saturday in May offering bulls and females. “It seems like we are always either getting ready for a sale, having a sale, or delivering cattle after a sale,” Alan chuckled. “There is really never a down time.” Through its three annual sales Mead Farms sells 700 females and 700 bulls.
Relationships Key to Success
From its small beginnings, through years of growth, to its success today, Mead Farms remains steadfast in its goal of raising high-quality cattle. Alan attributes the operation’s success to the breed associations, veterinarians, businesses, employees, and customers who have all contributed to the accomplishments of Mead Farms. “I think that is what has helped us the most along the way is all of those relationships. We couldn’t do it without that for sure. I sure couldn’t have done it by myself,” Alan concluded.
learn more at meadangus.com