By Justin Young, TCA intern
Joe McKay, and his wife Kim, along with their daughters, Lettie and Briley, hail from Beech Hill, Tennessee, a small community in eastern Giles County. Joe and Kim were both teachers in the Limestone County, Alabama school district, while also farming on the side. Since then, they have both retired and farm full time. Joe, the head of the operation, taught Agriculture at Ardmore High School for 23 years, and was also an FFA advisor. Joe is a multi-generational cattle farmer, who is a prime example of what a quality producer looks like. Joe is always willing to learn, adapt, and grow with the industry, as advancements and innovation propel the industry forward. Here’s a Q&A session I had with Joe…
Q: How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
A: My family beef operation began in 1968 after my dad purchased some random breed cattle after being out of farming for a few years. I have continued the family operation since then, and have progressed to a 150 head commercial Angus operation that I hope to pass on someday.
Q: Tell us about your farm today (breed of cattle, what are you proud of, etc.)
A: I run a 385-acre cow-calf operation, raising cattle to sell with the Farm Bureau Tennessee Beef Alliance. Currently, I raise black Angus cross cattle. Previously, I have used Beefmaster, Santa Gertrudis, Brahman crossbreeds. In addition to the cow-calf operation, I raise my own hay on my farm and other leases. I am most proud of my progressive improvements to the farm and my herd. I’m proud to create a top-quality animal for the market and enjoy being a contributor to the industry.
Q: What was your favorite part about growing up on the farm?
A: Just being outdoors with Gods creation, and being with my family. Seeing all the different seasons and enjoying the various aspects of those seasons is one of my favorite things.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of raising beef cattle?
A: I enjoy watching my product grow from the ground up. My favorite aspect is seeing full-scale, how my choice in genetics and the environment that I provide, turns into my final product.
Q: What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome while farming?
A: Bangs disease (brucellosis) wiped out our entire cow-calf herd in the mid-70’s. My father and I got back into raising dairy/beef steers after that, and eventually got back to a cow-calf operation in the late 70’s, and have kept going since then.
Q: What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
A: I wished more people knew how many good opportunities there are on the farm for raising a family and making a living; the quality of life is near unbeatable. The conveniences of city living are overrated, such as ordering pizza delivery, or anything like that. The kids learn discipline, stewardship, and the value of life. In my opinion, there is no better place to raise a family.
Q: What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family, and/or at home every day?
A: Being able to work at home and with your family creates a great bond and closeness. Sitting at the table with your family, you will realize that you all work for a common goal, and it makes you feel how important and great this lifestyle is. Recently, the family unit has been downplayed, but on the farm, it is in full swing and I advocate it endlessly.
Q: Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producers about the business?
A: Pursue your dream because it is attainable here in America. If you want to be successful, gain as much knowledge and education as you can, and apply it to your dreams. Anything is possible if you are willing to work for it in this nation. There will be hard times, but there will also always be a need for food. Keep an optimistic outlook and attitude.
Q: What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while raising cattle?
A: Back in the early 80’s, someone came onto the farm and slaughtered a young Hereford herd bull that my dad and I had purchased. The people were later caught and prosecuted.
Q: What’s your favorite beef dish?
A: Ribeye steak…“Beef. It’s what’s for Dinner”
Fun fact: I haven’t ever bought a cow; everything that I have has been raised internally since the late 70’s from me and my dad’s original herd.