Just outside Canton stands a testament to the will and try of several generations of cattlemen. Sedgewood Plantation, owned by Bill and Nancy Howard, has developed over the years from a commercial operation to the premier operation that exists today. Howard, a sixth generation Mississippi farmer, has incorporated advanced cattle practices with tried and true values to produce quality Angus cattle.
The Sedgewood legacy began with Howard's grandparents who moved to Sedgewood in 1901 to begin farming and raising cattle. The tradition continued with Howard's father who followed raising both row crops and cattle. Howard's father began to see the importance of Angus cattle in the 1930's and started using Angus bulls in his commercial herd. After his father's death in 1965 Howard took over the family's cattle operations while still in high school. He began experimenting with other breeds. He tried Charolais, Brangus, Hereford and Santa Gertrudis to see if his weaning weights and profits would improve. But Howard came to realize that his father's beliefs in Angus were right on the money. Howard went back to the roots of the family's cattle operation and started rebreeding the commercial cows with Angus bulls. "I realized Daddy was right," Howard said. The present day commercial herd descends from the Angus cattle that Howard's father bought in the 1930's and the influences that Howard introduced to the herd.
After high school Howard went on to college at Mississippi State, where he majored in Chemical Engineering because of his love of science. This would go on to play an important role in his future cattle operation. Once he obtained his degree, he felt that engineering was not as satisfying as he thought it would be, so he turned his interest to medicine and went to medical school. During this time he met his partner in the cattle business and in life, his wife Nancy.
In the 1970's Howard realized the importance of keeping accurate herd records for his commercial cattle. His love of science found its way into the cattle operation where Howard retained records going back many generations. Because of Howard's successful record keeping for his commercial herd, he decided to use the same system to develop a purebred herd. "We were already keeping detailed records for the commercial cattle, why not start a registered herd," Howard said.
In 1994 he purchased five head of Registered Angus cows to start his purebred herd. Over the next two years he greatly enlarged the purebred herd with foundation females from Duck Hill Ranch's dispersal and Shady Brook Angus in Tennessee.
Howard now runs about 140 head of commercial cattle and 110 registered Angus on 1000 acres. Most of his commercial and purebred heifers run together throughout the year. His registered cattle are on limited grazing on ryegrass through the winter. He feeds all his cattle hay and whole cottonseed, top dressed corn and mineral.
At Sedgewood you won't find many herd bulls because all of Howard's registered cattle and many of his commercial cattle are artificially inseminated. He does keep a few herd bulls to use in his commercial herd. With the number of cattle that Howard has to AI, he uses the Heat Watch Radio Transmitter heat detection system. This allows him to see via his computer what cows are in heat and how long they have been in heat so he will know what time they are due to be bred. When Howard began to A.I. his cattle in 1994 he had to rely on a few local cattlemen to be the A.I. techs. But after a problem with some of his cattle not getting bred, he and Nancy decided to learn themselves. Now both he and his wife, Nancy are qualified A.I. technicians.
"The reason I am using 100% artificial insemination and embryo transfer is to achieve rapid genetic progress," Howard said. "Each year I study the top Angus A.I. sires to select not only for great numbers for birth weight, growth, and milk, but also the carcass traits needed to improve the end product, calves my commercial customers are going to send to the feedlot and ultimately the consumer's plate."
This year Howard will put 10 bulls in the Tylertown Bull Test and 10 at the Hinds Bull test. The first year that Howard's bulls were at Hinds one of them sold as the second highest selling Angus bull. Last year Sedgewood had the only Angus bull on the test to gain over 5 lbs. per day. Both years Sedgewood's offering has had the highest average daily gain overall for Angus.
Most of the work that is done at Sedgewood is done by either Howard, Nancy, or Nancy's sister Judy Moyers. Judy maintains all of the miles of electrical fence and does many of the other chores that need attention. The other employee at Sedgewood is Jerry Wright, who is the third generation of his family to work at Sedgewood.
In January 2001, Sedgewood Plantation will be eligible for the Department of Agriculture's Mississippi Centennial Farm recognition. Howard along with Nancy and their three children have worked hard to carry on the traditions that were started by the Howard family many years ago. They also have brought new ways of management that have brought the traditions of the past into the 21st century.
"A Rich Tradition of Quality"
by LeAnne Peters