Szarzynskis believe South Poll cattle offer young farmers bright future
FAIRFIELD, Va. — The South Poll cattle breed is the foundation for Becky Szarzynski to become a successful beef cattle producer in Augusta County, she believes.
Mountain Glen Farm, founded by her father Glenn Szarzynski in 1989 and the father-daughter team like this relatively new breed, established about 30 years ago through the efforts of Teddy Gentry, bass player for the county music group Alabama, for the traits he sought as he bred cows from four different breeds.
“The efficiency of the breed is a way young people can make a living farming,” Becky said as she and her father talked about their herd in the barnyard of one of their farms.
Glenn who grew up on a farm in Illinois is retired from the U. S. Forest Service. That career took him to Colorado, Alaska and Idaho.
“Then I came to Virginia in 1984 and never left,” he said. “I fell in love with Virginia. I liked the hardwoods. They are more challenging.”
Farming appears to have been a homecoming of sorts for the pair. Glenn retired after 30 years with the forest service and Becky came back home after attending nearby Bridgewater College.
“I decided I was going to farm,” she said with a grin as she looked across the pastures where her cattle eat in a rotational grazing system.
At that time, the Szarzynskis had more than 20 Angus cattle.
While learning from the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council about rotational grazing, they also discovered the South Poll breed.
They did more research and decided to try both.
Becky who now is raising registered seedstock, noted that the breed’s registry has only been in existence for 11 years.
She added the Mountain Glen approach to raising South Polls was slow. They started with four heifers and now have about 50 head.
“It’s been a slow process,” she said.
The Szarzyznskis sell all their weaned steers to a farmer who finishes them to sell as grass fed beef, she said.
The heifers are either kept as herd replacements or sold as seed stock.
The mission of the South Poll Grass Cattle Association is “to promote gentle South Poll Cattle as the premier heat-tolerant maternal breed for the efficient conversion of grass to tender beef.”
The breed is described as being slick-haired, small-framed cows with a high emphasis on high fertility, longevity and calm disposition by the association.
“South Polls are bred to excel on a grass based grazing system,” according to the association. “Ultrasound and actual carcass data on the South Poll tells us that they are as tender or more tender, than straight bred English cattle.”
The Szarzynski father-daughter team said that Gentry developed the breed by combining the four maternal breeds, Angus, Hereford-English cattle; Senepol from the Caribbean; and Barzona from Arizona. The end result is a cow designed for hot, humid environments making it popular in the South and Midwest.
Becky said the cattle have excellent maternal traits, calving ease with calves that weigh from 50 to 60 pounds when they hit the ground.
The farms are equipped with cross fences of woven wire that enable them to be made into paddocks using stepping posts and electrified polywire for rotational grazing.
The fields are covered with both cool season grasses and native warm-season grasses including Big Blue Stem, Little Blue Stem and Indian grass. Summer annuals are also part of the grazing program.
They include two types of millet, grazing sorghum, turnips, radishes, sunflowers and buckwheat as well as lots of clovers.
This summer, Mountain Glen Farm hosted the 2019 South Poll Grass Cattle Association Field day. Becky reported that 400 people attended the event.
She is a newly appointed association board member.