Holiday Ranch
Breeder of South Poll Grass Cattle

Keys to Grass-fed Success

Kay and Cliff White of Holiday Ranch in the Florida Panhandle traveled to Kissimmee, Florida in order to participate in the Florida Grazing Lands Coalition’s Grazing Workshop held Saturday April 10, 2010. 

 The purpose of the trip was to host a display booth to promote the South Poll Grass Cattle Field Day being held May 8, 2010 at McGrady Ranch in Montgomery, Texas and to promote the South Poll cattle as the ideal breed to work in a grazing operation in the South.

The of previously scheduled presenters could not attend.  Kay previously spoke in 2009 at the Florida Grazing Lands Coalition’s annual meeting and, knowing she planned to be in attendance, she was asked to fill in.  The Whites considered it quite an honor to be included with some of the nation’s largest cattle producers such as Deseret Ranches (290,000 acres with 44,000 mama cows, 1,300 bulls on 12 ranches) and Babcock Ranch (94,000 acres with thousands of head of cattle).

The Whites own and operate Holiday Ranch, an all-natural grass-based cattle ranch in Washington County, Florida.  They breed South Poll cattle and finish grass-fed steers.  South Polls are a slick, red-hided, gentle, maternal breed developed to be heat-tolerant and thrive on grass only and still produce tender and tasty beef.  Holiday Ranch has partnered with Dr. Bruce Shanks, Sassafras Valley Ranch, Belle, Missouri.  Three-quarters of their South Poll herd is in Missouri.

The subject of Kay’s presentation was the practices she and Cliff use successfully on Holiday Ranch.  Kay detailed those practices which include:

  • planting Red River Crabgrass, Perennial Peanut, Clovers and legumes into the Bahiagrass pastures, overseeded with winter annuals.  Their goal is to have a year-round forage chain.
  • Utilizing rotational grazing on their paddocks.  The movement and feeding of the cows is carefully monitored to ensure enough grass remains for quick regrowth of the forages.  The height of the grazed grass is mirrored below the ground in the form of roots.  Adequate forage must remain to keep a healthy root structure.   The nutrition of the cattle is also monitored with the first grazing going to developing heifers and cows with calves, followed by dry cows.

    Never allow pastures to be grazed so closely they resemble a golf course

  • Spread water troughs, mineral feeders and shade around paddocks to prevent “nutrient loading” in certain areas.  The goal is to spread fertilizer (manure and urine) equally around your pastures.
  • Trampling action of the cow’s feet on the forage when confined to a smaller paddock is a good thing.  This action helps build organic matter and the forages are quick to recover from this “abuse”.
  • Refrain from using Ivermectin wormers to create a dung beetle friendly habitat.  Once the Whites started using Cydectin brand pour-on, the dung beetles appeared by the thousands, possibly millions.  Dung beetles bury a cow patty in just a few days.  This action aerates the soil, the buried manure is free fertilizer (dung beetles are estimated to bury one ton of manure per day per acre), and their tunnels hold rain water and  prevents run-off, plus, you get more grazing as cows will not eat the lush growth that grows in their manure pats when they remain on your pastures.
  • Commercial fertilizers are not used.  These fertilizers are expensive and not sustainable.  The Whites believe these fertilizers are harsh and kill the soil’s microbial life.  They do use alternative fertilizers such as fish emulsion and sea minerals.
  • Pesticides are not used on the pastures.  Biological controls are used when pests present a real problem such as mole crickets.
  • Be willing to listen and learn from other producers.  Most people are willing to share their knowledge.

The White’s consider themselves “grass farmers”, using cattle to harvest their grass crop.  The right kind of cattle are needed to efficiently convert forage to pounds of tender beef.  The South Poll breed is what works at Holiday Ranch. 

South Polls are a relatively new breed of cattle, developed by Teddy Gentry of Fort Payne, Alabama.  The breed is ¼ Red Angus and ¼ Hereford, ¼ Senepol, and ¼ Barzona.  The Red Angus and Hereford bring good mothering ability and great carcass qualities to the breed.  The Senepol are the most heat-tolerant breed, according to the University of Florida and the Barzona bring hardiness to the breed.  The foundation cattle were the very best cattle in their individual breeds.  The South Polls were bred for high fertility, longevity, heat-tolerance, gentle disposition, slick hair, and moderate frame size.  They are also noted for their hardiness, adaptability, tender carcass and ability to marble on grass. 

South Polls on a fresh paddock rotation

The Whites do not direct-market their beef.  Instead, they provide grass-started and grass-finished steers to grass-fed beef companies who in turn market the beef directly to consumers and retail outlets.  In 2009, 22 steers were sold to a USDA inspected abattoir.  The owner, upon seeing the steers, told the Whites, “this is the best set of steers that have ever come through here, and if not the best, then among the very best”.  The plant manager later confirmed the great appearance of the cattle was mirrored in the quality of the carcass. 

Holiday Ranch  provides registered replacement heifers and bulls to ranchers who want to take advantage of the South Poll’s ability to perform magnificently on grass and simply explode in the feedyard, breaking the feeder’s previous daily gain records at 4.89 pounds per day and grading 96% choice and prime.

Please visit Holiday Ranch and the Whites on the web at www.holidayranchsouthpolls.com or email at holidayranch@gmail.com to learn more about South Poll grass cattle.

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2 Responses to “Keys to Grass-fed Success”

  1. I’m in Gainesville and there’s controversy about a new cattle ranch near Ocala, particularly its water use permit. I’m debating with environmentalists about actual vs permitted use for a grass-fed cattle ranch and slaughterhouse.
    I’ve searched online but can’t find out how much actual water is needed per head of cattle and processed carcass, per day. Including maintaining the grass.
    If you have ballpark answers it would help fight the scare tactics.
    Thank you.

    • Jeff, I have no data on water usage on a per head basis. University of Florida would surely have this information. I seem to remember a cow would drink 25 gallons per day, but I could be mistaken. As far as maintaining grass, I would assume the amount of water would be negligible because the Ocala area gets plenty of rain in a normal year. Water costs money to pump and is not a sustainable practice that would be used in a normal weather pattern. I suggest you check with one of the Midwest universities where the large slaughter facilities are located. They might have an idea on per carcass water usage. I cannot imagine a grass-fed operation being a large consumer of water.


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