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A Tribe’s Cattle-Raising Tradition

Some can link the Seminole Tribe’s start in the cattle business back to 1521 (before it was called the “Seminole” tribe), when they first met Ponce de Leon. Today the tribe’s ranchland spreads over five counties in Central and South Florida, stretching all the way down to the Everglades. Conditions are hot, humid and wet, but the cattle thrive.

The cattle operation has grown across every segment; it is completely vertically integrated. “We have a seedstock operation, Salacoa Valley farms, with 1,000-plus registered Brangus cattle in Georgia,” says Alex Johns, natural resource director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc. “We have a cow–calf operation with 10,000-plus cows in Central and South Florida on five different ranches. We have a grow yard in south Florida for starting and growing weaned calves; we have a finishing partner in North Florida and two slaughter partners in North Florida and Georgia.”

With every calf, Johns and his employees follow Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and humane-handling protocols. “We also follow the Merck Animal Health PrimeVAC protocols, which is like a VAC-30 plus protocol, and then when they get to the backgrounding yard, we ‘rebooster’ them,” Johns says. “We control the whole process, so if we have to purchase a cow or a calf, the ranch is already following our protocol. All of our animals are completely traceable. Any animal that goes into our program, whether he has originated from one of our ranches or a neighbor’s ranch, we know exactly where he was born and where the calves come from, through the production system.”
 
The Seminole Tribe’s branded beef program, Seminole Pride Beef, is the latest development in its centuries-old cattle-raising tradition. The inspiration? They realized their beef was that good. “We started utilizing better genetics and getting carcass and performance data back, and we started realizing that we were doing a pretty good job with our cattle,” Johns says. “They were doing as well as anybody’s cattle in the Midwest, so why couldn’t we start feeding them in Florida and producing our own beef, instead of shipping them 24 hours one way and having to ship them 24 hours back in the box? We would reduce our carbon footprint. Lots of people said we couldn’t do it for obvious reasons — the heat, humidity and rain — but being hard-headed, we decided to try it anyway.”

Click here to read more about the Seminole Tribe of Florida.