In case you missed our cover story in the annual beef supplement of Country World
it is reproduced below. We were quite flattered by the coverage.
September 17, 2007
By KARI KRAMER
Visitors to Greer Farm in Morris County might be confused by the site of the red and white cattle that scatter the property’s fields.
The cattle, which resemble beefed-up Shorthorns, are one of the most popular breeds in Europe: The Maine-Anjou.
While most people have grown accustomed to picturing the cattle as a black breed, owner Sid Greer, 58, notes that the fullblood Maines are red and white. In addition, as their looks would indicate, they are closely related to the Shorthorn.
Maine-Anjou cattle originated in France after English Durham cattle (also used to develop the Shorthorn breed) were crossed with French Mancelle cattle. These cattle retained their red and white characteristics. Because of their similar foundations, fullblood Maine-Anjou cattle can be registered with Shorthorn associations (but not vice versa).
Black Maine-Anjou are not fullblood, Greer noted. Instead, they are a blend of fullblood Maine-Anjou and Angus bloodlines. Still, said Greer, the success of black herds is not dependent on the Angus genetics, but on the Maine-Anjou influence.
“The most successful breeding programs of black Maines still use the fullblood influence,” he explained.
Maine-Anjou cattle are known for their muscling, their easy attitude, their maternal instincts, and their ability to gain well on grass. Greer said Maine-Anjou carcasses are usually double-muscled. Previous problems with calving (the calves were too large for some breeds) have since been addressed and now the breed makes a great F1 cross, according to Greer.
The cattle first came to the United States by way of Canada during the 1960s and ‘70s. After moving to the United States from London in 1998, Greer purchased his first Maine-Anjou as a show project for his daughter in 1999.
“We went and looked at every single breed in Texas that you could buy,” he recalled. “There was just something about the eye appeal of the red-and white fullbloods. We just kind of fell in love with the breed.”
Nearly a decade later, Greer has grown to appreciate the breed even more. His family enjoyed the showing environment so much that they continue to show, even though their daughter has since moved away. In addition, they work with other exhibitors and teams. For the last two years, they have provided show cattle to the Stephen F. Austin University Show Team. The team is loaned the cattle for the duration of the show season. During that time it is their responsibility to care for, feed, and groom the cattle. Greer also works to provide the same experience to local exhibitors.
“We’ve also furnished cattle to local kids who can’t really afford to purchase one,” he added.
The response to Greer’s red and white fullbloods has been overwhelming. In 2005 at one major show alone, he showed two grand champions, won the open championship, reserve open championship, and two championship pen-of-three awards.
His cattle have become so popular that he will be providing an exhibit heifer, representative of the breed, to this year’s State Fair of Texas. The heifer will remain on display the duration of the fair.
Greer said some people don’t want black show cattle and the unique red and white markings of the fullblood Maine-Anjou stand out. In fact, he said, at many shows, his cattle are placed in top classes against black cattle and still win. What’s better, he said, is seeing families come through the show barn and stop to take pictures with his cattle.
“I get a big kick out of that,” he said. “Our cattle stand out over and above the rest.”
While Greer has seen much success in the exhibition rings, his most recent success has come from raising and selling cattle in the grass-fed market.
Maine-Anjou are known for their natural ability to thrive when grass fed. With that in consideration, Greer, in 2005, converted his herd to grass.
“I decided grain was too expensive,” he explained. “It destroyed the economy of our cattle program.”
In addition, he noted, grass-fed Maines offer healthier meat and even, he believes, healthier cattle. Greer said he is familiar with one study that noted Maine-Anjou cattle were genetically predisposed to offer the healthiest meat on a grass-fed program.
Before making the conversion to grass, Greer said his herd was often affected by respiratory problems and bloat. Since changing to grass, the problems have remedied themselves.
“We have had zero problems since 2005,” he said. “We’ve never had any more of those problems.”
To make a grass-fed program work, Greer re-worked his grass and calving plans.
“With the drought that year, I started looked at our grass cycle,” he recalled.
He switched to a fall calving program, which he said, better matches the grass cycle of his area in Northeast Texas. “By December, when the calf starts eating, the pasture is ready,” Greer said. “It has really worked well.”
Greer grows a variety of grasses (including Bahia, Bermuda, and Common Bermuda) on his property. In addition, he also grows Crimson and Ball clover.
“We allow that clover to completely go through its life cycle in order to capture the nitrogen,” he said.
Because the grasses are so thick, especially after recent rains, Greer said he has been able to cease herbicide use because the grass roots have crowded the weed roots.
Greer credits his bountiful grass stand to the use of a mineral program from Kinsey Ag Services in Missouri. He said the group did specific soil testing to determine the amount of minerals needed on his property. Using a sulfur, potassium, and magnesium product, as well as some trace minerals, Greer said his farm was able to produce plenty of grass, even during droughts.
“Nobody else had grass and I still had grass to cut,” Greer recalled of the past years’ droughts.
Greer sells meat animals from his Daingerfield ranch. The cattle are sold live and sent away to be processed according to the purchaser’s specifications. Also, there is a niche market for show heifers and breeders wanting to start or expand a fullblood herd.
In the last decade, Greer has been able to find success with a fullblood breed most people are not familiar with. While he has enjoyed it, he admits that in some ways, it was challenging.
“It’s been a challenge because it’s not a known breed and commercial cattlemen are wary about it,” he explained. “But people that have bought from me come back and I think if commercial cattlemen start raising (Maines) they will learn to appreciate the extra weight gain and the handling ease.”
Though unfamiliar to others, Greer has grown to appreciate the fullblood Maine-Anjou cattle and has no reservations about expanding his red and white herd. He would like to have between 75 and 100 cows for his operation (that would mean nearly doubling in size).
“Bigger is not always better, I think,” said Greer. “I think the fullbloods will always be a niche breed, but there will be enough demand to make them profitable.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Greer said he has found something in the cattle that he truly enjoys.
“Because the fullblood Maine-Anjou are such a docile breed, the cows come up to me and nudge me and want me to rub their heads. They’re just like friends,” he said. “I just really like being around these cattle. They’re a pleasure to be around and look at, and, they’ve been profitable.”
More information about Maine-Anjou is available at www.mainetraditionalist.org or www.txmaines.org. Greer Farm is located off Highway 11 outside of Daingerfield. The Farm is also home to a plant nursery, goat herd, and several types of fruit (blackberry and blueberry). For more about the family and farm, visit www.greerfarm.com