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Seminole Brand Beefs up Florida

August 31, 2014
By: Wyatt Bechtel, Dairy Today google + 
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The Seminole Pride Beef brand puts the pride back in raising Florida cattle

The Florida beef industry has received a bad reputation over the years as not having cattle that will meet the quality demands of today’s grid marketing system. But the Seminole Tribe of Florida is aiming to change those perceptions through a branded beef program called Seminole Pride Beef.

Each year 800,000 head of cattle leave the Sunshine State and head west to feedlots where they often lose their identity. Rather than being seen as Florida cattle, these fed steers and heifers are just viewed as any other commodity type cattle.

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 Alex Johns

Alex Johns, natural resource director for the Seminole Tribe, says critics claim the infrastructure is just not in Florida to feed cattle. "We’re trying to prove them wrong, and at the same time we’re not growing a commodity product," he says.

Built on heritage. Seminole Pride Beef started in June 2013 as a program to help market some of the calves born from the nearly 14,000 cows tribe members own. It took more than nine years to put together the program.

"We launched it, and it went over like hot cakes," Johns says. The tribe couldn’t meet the demand with just their own cattle, so it was opened up to local ranchers whose cattle met the company quality specifications.

"We want this to be a Florida program," Johns adds.

This branded beef initiative is nearly a necessity for Florida cattlemen because of the prospect of being squeezed out of the state by environmental concerns, Johns adds. Florida’s tourism industry attracts people because of the sandy beaches and condominiums, but many of those travelers and residents think cattle have contaminated the water. 

Seminole Pride Beef helps tell a different story to potential consumers. For instance, the Seminole Tribe has been caring for cattle since 1521 when the Conquistadors brought livestock from Spain. Natives maintained those herds that later developed into the Florida Cracker breed, which shares a similar heritage as the Texas Longhorn. 

Seminoles continued raising cattle despite wars with the U.S. that would have pushed them to reservations in Oklahoma. Later, as the Dust Bowl hit, a herd of Hereford cattle from a droughted-out Oklahoma reservation became the foundation for the modern tribal herds. Today the majority of the Seminole herd is Brangus-influenced.

"It is going to take all Florida cattle producers participating in this to get that story told," Johns says.

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Don Quincey

Infrastructure grows. Besides finding cow-calf producers to participate in Seminole Pride, there also had to be a feeding operation within the state. A partnership was formed with Quincey Cattle Co. in Chiefland, Fla., where there were 3,000 head marketed last year. This year Don Quincey expects to feed 8,000 head for Seminole Pride and is optimistic that he will be feeding 15,000 cattle next year.

A few years ago Quincey wouldn’t have dreamed of seeing those kinds of numbers going through his former backgrounding operation. "I’d have said absolutely not," he adds.

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FEATURED IN: Beef Today - September 2014
RELATED TOPICS: Beef, Beef Today, Cattle

 
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