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Anson County farmer starts with Extension to get on award-winning track

Bryan Cash is justifiably proud of his cattle herd in Anson County. When he bought his first cows more than a decade ago, he knew very little about what it took to raise them. But now, the award-winning farmer has a herd of close to 70 healthy cows, plus 42 calves that are thriving.

“Everything that you see out there today, I wanted it, and I did it, but without my Extension agent Richard Melton, (the farm) wouldn’t be where it is today,” says Cash, Anson County’s Outstanding Farmer of the Year in 2008. “He taught me, and I took it in. Everything I learned, I learned from Richard.”

And by everything, Cash means solid practices related to nutrition, record-keeping, reproduction, genetics, health, marketing and more.

Cash began cattle farming in 1999 to supplement the income he earns as an N.C. prison correction officer. He bought seven cows from profits he’d earned through a landscaping business, but soon realized that he needed a deeper understanding of what it takes to raise livestock profitably.

“I didn’t know anything when I first started. I got to the point where I would sell some calves, and they would be a year old but they wouldn’t weigh but about 400 pounds,” Cash says. “I knew that wasn’t right. I didn’t know where to go, but I wanted to get better.”

Other farmers had told Cash that Melton could help him, but it was with some reluctance that Cash finally gave the agent a call. The two made an appointment to meet at Cash’s pasture after 5 p.m. one evening. Though it was after usual work hours, Melton stayed two hours to find out more about Cash’s operation and what the producer hoped to accomplish.

“He wasn’t in a hurry,” Cash recalls. “He stayed with me. I knew then that he was true.”

That first day, Melton listened. And he talked to Cash about nutrition and genetics improvements to address the calves’ weight issue. One thing he did was to encourage him to buy a good bull.

In months and years to come, the agent – now Extension director in nearby Union County – would be there when Cash castrated his first animal and the first time the farmer artificially inseminated a cow.

Today, Cash relies exclusively on artificial insemination for his herd, and fellow Anson County farmers often call him for help with the practice. He estimates he’s artificially inseminated 300 cows in the past year.

Cash makes time every day to look after the herd, and he believes in taking good care of what he calls his momma cows.

“You need to keep her in good shape. If you do, she’s going to work for you,” he says. “If not, she can’t give you but so much.”

From Melton, Cash learned that 30 days before they are expected to deliver their calves, it is important to give cows vitamin E and a vaccine to prevent reproductive and respiratory diseases. He also learned that when each calf is born, they should get vitamin E and their umbilical cords should be sprayed with a solution that prevents infection.

As pleased as Cash is with his herd, Melton is equally pleased with Cash’s success. The agent says he’s seen the farmer blossom into a leader among area cattle producers who’ve joined together to create a marketing alliance, selling their cattle by truckloads. “He also has been active in working with African-American farmers in the area to adopt the practices he’s using,” Melton adds.

“He is one of the reasons I like what I do so much,” the agent says. “I’m really proud of what Bryan has been able to accomplish.”

At the same time, Bryan credits Melton for pushing him toward success.

“I don’t know where else I would have gone to get to where I am today. When I made the phone call to the Extension office, things started shaping up,” Cash says. “Richard’s knowledge pushed me and got me to where I am today.”

-Dee Shore