National Geographic : 1952 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine cated, is a region of small Midwest farms. It has served as a national model for farm im provement because of the Balanced Farming Plan, sponsored by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, in effect since July 1, 1944. The underlying idea has been to help farm ers get the most out of their land, and a plan of private bank financing for soil improve ment has been worked out successfully. We visited the Duncan Ray ridge farm of about 230 acres to see his improved pastures which enable him to maintain a purebred Hereford cow herd and to raise and fatten some 250 hogs a year. A modern water sys tem distributes water to all feed lots and fields from five good ponds. Main crops are corn, oats, red clover, alfalfa, and tobacco. Beef Cattle in the Old Dominion Interest in purebred beef cattle in Virginia has never been stronger. Driving through the Old Dominion on another trip, to the South and Southwest, I noticed scores of signs along the roadside identifying breeding farms, principally Hereford and Aberdeen-Angus. Typical of one of the newer installations is Birdwood Farms, across from Charlottesville's Farmington Country Club. Here Cornelius W. Middleton and his son Richard estab lished their herd in 1940 and have seen it grow to 400 head of purebred Herefords.* At North Carolina State College of Agri culture and Engineering, in Raleigh, I dis covered just how rapidly the beef-breeding business is growing in the Tarheel State. Reports from Robeson County, where tobacco, cotton, and sweet potatoes have long held sway, tell of farmers purchasing 232 heifers and feeder steers in the fall of 1950 and adding another hundred early last year. Rockingham County farmers bought 65 choice beef heifers in a few weeks. These examples reflect the results of the North Carolina long-time farm program drawn up several years ago by farm leaders to diver sify the State's agriculture. At North Carolina State, Dr. H. A. Stewart, professor of animal husbandry, is trying to develop crossbred cattle which will thrive in the swampy coastal plain section of the State. Dr. Stewart studied beef cattle in Colombia, South America, and became interested in the Romo-Sinuano breed developed by the Co lombian Government in a hot, humid, insect ridden area. Colombia forbids exportation of this breed, but by artificial insemination Dr. Stewart pro duced a Romo-Sinuano cross with about 40 Herefords at Raleigh (page 68). Now he is studying the performance of the young heifers in a swamp environment where British breeds of beef cattle do not thrive. In the meantime, the Riegel Paper Corpora tion maintains a herd of Brahman and Brah man-crossed cattle in the swampland areas of the southeastern part of the State, on a vast piny grazing range which is still the haunt of bears and alligators. My first experience with the enthusiastic raisers of Brahman cattle came, fittingly enough, in Charleston, South Carolina, where Brahmans first were imported into the United States. That first shipment of a cow and a bull, in 1849, for a South Carolina planter, is merely an interesting historical fact. The animals were used as beasts of burden, and they and their progeny, if any, finally dis appeared. Much more important is the Brahman ranch of Mr. and Mrs. G. Philip Higdon, on Route 4 near Charleston, on the way to the famed Magnolia Gardens. About 25 years ago Hig don came to Charleston from Texas and be came a superintendent at Magnolia Gardens. He was there for 17 years, but during that time he always had cattle in the back of his mind as his Texas heritage. Eventually he and Mrs. Higdon went into the nursery business themselves and finally branched out into the purebred Brahman busi ness-pioneers in South Carolina. Theoreti cally, Mrs. Higdon is in charge of the nursery and Mr. Higdon looks after the cattle. Actu ally, their interests and enthusiasms are inter mingled, so that when I arrived in Higdon's absence I found a stalwart representative of the Brahman cause in his wife. "We call our interests the 'bush-and-bull business,' " Mrs. Higdon announced. Then she drove me over the 1,300-acre ranch to see the cattle. We stopped at a fence and saw a herd of cows in the distance. She called to them, and obediently they trotted up to the fence and gave me a close inspection. "Some people say Brahmans are wild," Mrs. Higdon remarked. "Go on up and stroke one, and see what happens." Nothing did, except that the animal showed disappointment when I stopped. Camel-like Hump Identifies Brahmans Then, for the next few hours, I was indoc trinated in Brahmans. These Indian cattle, also known as zebus, are characterized by a fleshy hump above the shoulders, an extreme development of loose skin along the entire underside of the neck, and a similar pendent condition of skin about the navel. They have also a short, steep rump and comparatively long legs. The head is long and narrow, the ears are very long, and the horns differ widely accord * See "Mr. Jefferson's Charlottesville," by Anne Revis, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, May, 1950.