Just a Little Early History...
Gibbs Farms traces back 4 generations when Dewey Gibbs, Wendell’s dad, first started farming part of the land known as Gibbs Farms today. Over the years, Grandpa Dewey provided for his family by row cropping, owning and operating a saw mill, a cotton gin, and ultimately establishing his own feed mill and network of poultry broiler and breeder houses. Wendell grew up heavily involved with his father in his farming operations. During the same time period, Nan grew up on a farm in nearby Bowdon, Georgia. Her family’s farm was named a “Georgia Centennial Farm” in 1999. Owned and operated as a farm by the same family for at least 100 years, Gibbs Farms cattle graze these pastures on the Tallapoosa River today.
Wendell and Nan were married in 1961 and immediately entered the agricultural industry on their own with 5 poultry houses and a handful of Polled Hereford cows. For the next year, Wendell would feed the chickens, haul feed for his dad’s feed mill all day, and catch and haul chickens at night, while Nan helped care for their own poultry houses and small cow herd. A huge change in the Gibbs’ life came late in 1962 when Wendell accepted a position with the Bank of Heflin, where he would ultimately remain for the next 27 years before retiring as Executive Vice-President of Colonial Bank of Heflin in 1989. During those 27 years, much of the farm workload fell on the shoulders of Nan as they continued to build their beef cattle herd and raise a family.
The Gibbs Family...
Wendell and Nan have three children, Doug born in 1963, Lorie born in 1965, and Wendy born in 1972.
Doug and his wife Lucretia, who is the Director of Academic Budgeting, Planning, and Finance to the Provost and Vice President of the University of West Georgia, live on the farm and have three children - Whitney, Toni, and Bradley.
Lorie and her husband, Chad Hargett, are both Auburn trained veterinarians and practice medicine and surgery in Roswell, Georgia, just North of Atlanta. They have four children, Trey, Nancy, Grace, and Ella.
Wendy and her husband, Chad Young (yes, two son-in-laws named Chad), are both in the field of education as administrators, with Chad holding the position of Superintendent of Cleburne County Schools . They live “across the hayfield” from Wendell and Nan with their three children, Clayton, Samuel, and Madison.
While both daughters and their families still have an interest and love for Gibbs Farms, they are not directly involved in the operation. Doug, however, is a different story. In 1999, after feeling the call to his roots, Doug and Lucretia sold their business and Doug went to work solely with Gibbs Farms. Since that time the cattle herd has more than doubled, and Doug fills the position of Operations Manager. Doug handles the day to day operation of the farm, while doing the reproductive work and helping with the genetic decisions for the direction of the program.
Doug’s son, Bradley, has also gone to work as a full-time employee for Gibbs Farms. Bradley manages the role of Herdsman and oversees bull and heifer development. Bradley is involved with the day to day operations and also owns his own herd of approximately 40 head of registered animals that are developed alongside the Gibbs Farms herd. His wife, Kennedy, is a loan officer for Alabama Farm Credit and she assists with farm operations as well.
Gibbs Farms is literally located on the Alabama-Georgia state line, about 10 miles south of I-20, on Stateline Road. While the operation has an Alabama mailing address, there are actually more cattle roaming Georgia pastures than Alabama. Most of the land is rolling hills as it is located just at the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountain Range. The predominant pasture grasses are fescue and common bermudagrass. Encouragements of crabgrass, dallasgrass and other summer grasses, as well as the use of ryegrass in the cool seasons, are methods used to dilute the fescue. All of the hay land is sprigged hybrid bermudagrass and is oftentimes double cropped with ryegrass during the winter for an early spring cutting of hay.
Beef Industry Involvement...
Strong and active involvement in the beef industry prevails at Gibbs Farms. Wendell has served numerous county and local positions within the beef cattle industry as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Simmental Association, the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Executive Committee, President of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association in 1998, and President of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association in 1999. Doug attended the 2008 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Young Cattleman’s Conference as the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association representative. Bradley Gibbs, Wendell and Nan’s grandson who is a full-time employee at Gibbs Farms, has recently began serving on the Alabama Simmental Board of Directors, Cleburne County Farmers Federation, and the Cleburne County Farmers Federation Board of Directors. His wife, Kennedy Gibbs, also serves as the President of the Young Farmers of Cleburne County.
Gibbs Farms Genetic & Marketing Manager, Gordon Hodges, has served many local & state beef cattle appointments, twelve years on the Board of Trustees of the American Simmental Association, including one year as Chairman of the Board, along with chairing the American Simmental Association Breed Improvement Committee for three years, and is currently serving on the Board of the Beef Improvement Federation. Gordon has also judged major cattle events nationally and internationally including the Simmental Bull Pen Show at the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the National Beef Shows in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Each of the Gibbs children, Doug, Lorie, and Wendy, were all active in 4-H and FFA while growing up and showed many steers and heifers in local, regional, and state competitions. This tradition continues today as the Gibbs grandkids can be found in show rings in both Alabama and Georgia. Participation in other competitions such as livestock judging, public speaking, sales talk presentations, and herdsmen quiz, are honing the skills of the up and coming members of the family.
Our Cow Herd...
Simmental was introduced at Gibbs Farms in 1972 and the transition from Polled Hereford to Simmental began. By the early 1990’s the cow herd at Gibbs Farms was predominantly traditional colored Purebred Simmental. As the demand for black hided cattle began to accelerate, the decision was made to put Angus bulls to work at Gibbs Farms in 1992. At that time, Wendell & Nan began producing their first SimAngus hybrids with the full intent of marketing them as commercial feeder calves. It didn’t take them long to realize they had tapped into a genetic combination that was true magic. This complimentary cross, using the maternal, marbling, and fleshing ability of the Angus, with the muscle, yield grade and maternal of the Simmental, not to mention gaining the benefit of hybrid vigor, was a perfect match. Those half-blood SimAngus calves were so impressive that they started getting requests for half-blood SimAngus bulls. In very short order, as customers saw the SimAngus females at work, requests for groups of half-blood SimAngus bred heifers began as well. Wendell and Nan had the foresight to see the future for these hybrid animals as seedstock and decided it was the direction they wanted to go with their operation. Throughout the 1990’s they continued to A.I. their Simmental cows to the best Angus bulls available, and they began an all-out search for the top registered Angus cows they could find to add to the cow herd. The demand for their half-blood SimAngus genetics continued to explode as they were marketing 50-60 bulls and 100-150 bred heifers annually by private treaty. In August 2005, they decided to accelerate their genetic base to a new level as they made the decision to purchase the entire Simmental and Angus breeding herd from the well know Optimal Beef Genetics cow herd at Bell Farms & Pineview Farms. The cow herd was now in place to establish Gibbs Farms as the, “Industry Source for SimAngus HyBreds”.
Today Gibbs Farms calves approximately 800 cows each fall in a very tight 60 day calving season. All the cattle are enrolled in the THE program & registered with the American Simmental Association. Computer programs at the farm contain complete performance information for the cow herd for the past three decades including extensive carcass data collection for close to 20 years. Each year most of the cow herd is either artificially bred or receives an embryo. Clean-up bulls used are generally either a sire that is currently being marketed for semen sales, or either a young candidate that is in the process of being proven, in hopes that he might have that same opportunity down the road. These bulls have been meticulously chosen from bulls raised here at Gibbs Farms or from new genetics that we have chosen from the top herds in the nation.
Marketing, The Past, The Present, The Future...
Wendell and Nan realized many years ago the importance of marketing their product rather than merely selling it. They assisted in bringing groups of commercial breeders together to establish Board Sales where they could market their calves in large groups for a premium. As those calves worked well for the feedlot owners, they returned willing to pay premiums for the Gibbs Farms calves. Eventually, Gibbs Farms decided to put their calves to the true profitability test by retaining ownership. Since that time they have never looked back and have retained ownership in the bottom end of their calves for the past 15+ years. The valuable carcass data received from these age and source verified cattle after harvest, is used to increase the value of our product, as well as that of our customers. Through complete herd performance data collection, carcass data, and now the complete herd genomic testing data, we are confident that we are providing our customer with the best genetic prediction in the industry.
Gordon Hodges was hired January 1, 2006, as the full time Genetic & Marketing Manager at Gibbs Farms. Gordon is known nationally and internationally as an outstanding judge of cattle. However, his first task was to assist Doug in designing and building the new Gibbs Farms Sale & Working Facility, a facility that is considered by many as the most unique cattle handling facility in the southeast. Grading for the facility began in March 2006 and Gibbs Farms 1st Annual Bull & Heifer Sale was held in it November 11, 2006. That sale and the one following the next year were both tremendous successes, especially considering the magnitude of the project, and doing it while establishing a new sale.
Currently, Gibbs Farms markets approximately 125 yearling bulls, 100 bred young females, and 100 yearling heifers through an annual sale the second Saturday in November in addition to approximately 50 – 60 yearling bulls marketed private treaty each year.