TCA intern, Samantha Reese, interviewed Traci Middleton of Mill Creek Land & Cattle, located in Northwest Tennessee. It is a family owned, registered Brangus operation that has worked diligently to produce cattle that have the genetics to excel in the pasture and the phenotype to prevail in the show ring.
How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
My parents had commercial cattle before I was born, and I bought my first herd in 1993 at nine years old. It evolved from those original commercial cows to a registered herd. I began to show cattle through 4-H and FFA and it continued to grow after that. I had the opportunity to serve as President of the International Junior Brangus Breeders Association and later on as President of the International Brangus Breeders Association.
Tell us about your farm today (breed of cattle, what are you proud of, etc.)
Our operation consists of my parents (Rick and Teresa), Chris and me. We raise registered Brangus and Ultrablack cattle. We sell show heifers to youth exhibitors, bulls to commercial cattlemen, and market semen and embryos around the world. I most proud for the opportunity to market genetics globally. That is a huge challenge for a small operation. We are pretty proud to have raised and shown the 2016 International Grand Champion Bull at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We also were recently awarded the 2016-17 International Brangus Breeders Association Show Sire of the Year.
What was your favorite part of growing up on the farm?
Now as an adult, I am most thankful for the opportunity to have learned how to work hard. On a farm, there is always work to be done and at our house laziness was not tolerated. No handouts. No freebies. Everyone had to hustle, but I’ll be the first to tell you that hustling pays off!
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
As we transitioned from a 4-H and FFA project to a seedstock producer, I had to develop a market for commercial Brangus bulls in Tennessee. Commercial cattlemen in our area needed cleaner made bulls for our market with the ability to add heterosis and pounds at weaning time. We had the right kind of bulls. We just needed to get people to try them. Establishing a bull market was a challenge at first, but now we sell out each spring and fall.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
It’s pretty simple – we care. We care about our livestock. We care about the safety of the product that we produce. We care about the responsibility and importance of our family feeding yours. Anyone that ever doubts how much we care needs a reality check!
What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
I am sure that the appropriate answer is that we are close knit family and that we appreciate the opportunity to work alongside each other every day. Realistically, it means that some days we just don’t get everything done that was on the agenda! We have another family business as well and sometimes I wish my parents had given me a few siblings to share the workload with!
Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producers about the business?
Find a good mentor and don’t chase fads. I grew up learning the ropes of the beef business under the guidance of one of the best cattlemen I have ever known, Joe Reznicek of Cow Creek Ranch. Of all that I was able to absorb from him, the most important was to never subscribe to the bull of the month club and fads leave as quickly as they come. I have seen it happen many times, especially to young cattlemen. It takes an enormous amount of time and money to correct that type of mistake. Develop a breeding program with purpose and an end goal in mind. A solid, efficient, and profitable cow herd is always “in style”.
What’s your favorite beef dish?
If I have to pick just one, it would be a ribeye!
Is there anything else you can share with us?
Our cattle operation is a family thing for us. It’s pretty cool to look back at where we started and where we are now. My driveway is directly across from parents’ with fields full of good cows in between. It doesn’t get much better than that!