By Ethan Giebel
For more than 50 years, registered Angus cattle have been a presence at Fernvale Angus Farms in Mineral Point.
"My father, Paul, started in the Angus business in 1953," says Gregg May. "I came into the business in 1980 and took over completely in 1997."
Gregg and his wife Angela enjoy taking care of the day-today operations on the farm where approximately 100 registered Angus cows make up the herd. What makes their cattle stand out is quality.
"I don't hesitate to get rid of cattle that carry undesirable characteristics," May explains. "Customers want a high level of quality and that's what they can find here. Our top focus in the herd is to incorporate calving ease traits. Cows that produce calves with early rapid growth, high weaning weights and moderate yearling weights lead to profitability for the producer."
Offspring from their herd are highly sought after by fellow beef producers. About 35 bulls are sold to many regular customers each year. An annual production sale is held during the third weekend in September for people to purchase show, open and bred heifers via private treaty sale.
"Relying exclusively on A.I. and embryo transfer work has allowed us to carefully select for the traits our customers want," May says. Not only are genetics marketed through the sale of live animals, Fernvale offers embryos from select females and they sell semen from bulls on the farm.
May has two adult children. Adam, who works in the advertising business, and Dana who is finishing graduate school at Wayne State in Detroit, Mich.
"When the kids were around, we did a lot of showing and had some success at it," May shares. "I really enjoy raising cattle and watching people have success with them. Not only can that be in the show ring, but also on other levels. Seeing them start a good herd as well as learn the art of feeding and breeding among other things. One of the most rewarding things to see is someone breeding their own champion from seedstock they bought from you."
As a well-recognized judge of cattle, May has continued his association with the show cattle industry. Over the years, he has judged high quality shows in many states. These days, he tries to limit the number of shows he judges to about half a dozen.
May's involvement in the cattle business isn't limited to his herd at Fernvale. Since 1997, May has been a cattle order buyer.
"When I started, we had just held a herd dispersal and I was down to four cows and needed something to do," May says. "I started hitting the road, buying cattle, and made a go of it. I do it by phone and on the road now, it's been a good business." Typically, he buys several hundred head each week for his regular customers.
Working closely with the Kirschbaum family who own Bloomington Livestock Exchange, May was instrumental in starting the first Black Hided Feeder Sale at the market.
"The sale has been very successful," comments May. "When I was getting started in the business of buying cattle for other people, there were all sorts of colored cattle from different breeds at sales. As the industry continued to demand black hided, Angus sired cattle, we saw the need. I worked on putting a sale together to connect buyers and sellers in the right market. Buyers knew they could find the cattle they needed and sellers were rewarded for it."
The first sale they held had about 400 cattle, now the event has turned into two sales late in the year with three to four thousand head at each sale.
As an industry leader, May has been involved in a variety of associations that promote the beef industry and cattle business.