by Kelly Gallagher
After only a minute of conversation, it becomes clear that Jim Brown — a beef cattle farmer who works a 95-acre plot of land in Seneca Falls, NY with his wife, Elsie — loves his herd. For Brown, caring for his Charolais cattle goes far beyond providing them with essentials like food and medical attention. He makes it a point to get to know each of his 30 cows individually, and he works hands-on with them as much as possible. The result? Thirty happy cows, and a farmer who truly enjoys what he does.
Brown insists that he has no favorite breed of cattle. When asked why he currently keeps Charolais, he has a ready response. “When the neighbor calls up at 3 a.m. to tell me, ‘Your cows are in my corn!’, the Charolais are easy to see in the dark!” he jokes, referring to the Charolais’ white coat.
Brown is also reticient to name a specific favorite from his herd. “They’re all my favorite,” he said.
Brown has been farming since 1960. After only a few years on the job, he learned to how to safely and effectively administer A.I. without having to call in a veterinarian. He uses semen from GenEx, and stresses the importance of knowing a cow’s ovulation cycles when using A.I. “You need to know which cows ovulate late, and which ones are early,” he said.
Brown breeds his cows with their temperament in mind, and always aims to produce a calm, quiet disposition in the resulting calves. He also considers a strong maternal instinct to be a vital trait. “She’s got to be a good mother, and take care of that calf,” he said.
Although he’s won some blue ribbons at both the New York State Fair and the Seneca County Fair, Brown is not one to brag about accomplishments, and only mentions them if asked directly. He is more interested in discussing the daily operation of his farm — an effort that, to Brown, is truly its own reward. When asked about the highlights of operating his farm, Brown knows the answer. “Calving is my favorite part,” he said. He then happily recollects a set of identical twins born earlier this year. “Their mom did great,” he said.
That’s not the only instance of multiple births Brown has seen over the years. He’s also witnessed and aided in the birth of two sets of triplets. Brown times it so his calves are born in April or May, when the weather is warmer, in order to help protect the calves’ health.
Brown’s experience with animals isn’t limited to raising beef cattle. Before he started farming, he was heavily involved in the rodeo scene, traveling all over the United States and Canada to compete. He was involved in a number of events, including calf roping and steer wrestling.
“I’ve been on a few bulls. Of course, I’ve been off of them more than on!” he said with a dash of his signature good humor. “I got beat up quite a bit! But I also got to go to a lot of great places and meet lots of nice people.”
He remembers that the rodeo announcers, when they introduced him to the crowd before he entered the ring for his turn to compete, never mentioned his real place of origin — New York State. He explains that the typical audience didn’t expect anyone from New York to be a part of the rodeo scene. Even after he left the rodeo circuit in the early 1960s, he noticed that people got the wrong idea about the Empire State. “People are sometimes surprised at how much beef cattle are raised here,” he said.
With so many years of working with cattle under his belt, Brown is a great source of advice young people whose days in the field are just beginning. “Don’t go overboard. Don’t ever have more cattle than you can handle, and get yourself the best land you can afford,” he said. “But above all, he said, it’s most important to “love what you do.”
From the rodeo ring to the pasture
by Kelly Gallagher