Leaving a Legacy:
Cattle Farming for Nearly 100 Years of Life
by Charles Hord, Executive Vice President of TCA
November 2019 Tennessee Cattle Business
Just outside of growing Clarksville, Tennessee, surrounded by new subdivisions, sits Allendale Farm, established in 1796 by Abraham Allen. Allen moved from Orange County, North Carolina in search of opportunity in the west. At that time, there were no established trails for covered wagons. Most of the early settlers walked or rode horseback driving their stock with them and only covering five to ten miles per day. W.B Allen, the current owner of Allendale, along with his children Bailey and Amelia, tells the story of his early ancestors and the challenges they faced settling the new lands. I was able to visit with W.B. and his children in the original homestead that dated back to 1796. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. At 97 years old, W.B. can tell his own stories of growing up using mules to plant the crops. He remembers buying his first tractor, which was a John Deere B, in the 1940s. He shared that back then, the farm had four sources of income to survive on. They sold their tobacco crop in the winter and sold lambs to a broker in Nashville that sent them up to New York City in the spring. In the summer, they thrashed and sold their wheat crop and in the fall they sold their calf crop.
Horned Hereford cattle came to Allendale early on and over the years the farm developed a reputation for raising quality cattle. W.B. began a record-keeping program in 1956 so he could identify his best genetics and he was a charter member of the Tennessee Beef Cattle Improvement Program. He won the first-ever Tennessee Feeder Calf Show and Sale which was held at the Dickson Livestock Center in 1974. Allendale won both the pen of 5 and pen of 15 steer competition at the sale that was held to promote the Tennessee Feeder Calf Industry. These steers averaged 531 pounds and sold for $42 per hundred-weight.
About that same time, in 1974, Montgomery County got a new extension agent named Rodger Pile. Pile shared he didn’t know much about performance testing cattle until he came to Montgomery County and met W.B. Pile shared that for several years he and W.B. would travel to Indian Mound, Illinois to purchase Hereford bulls. They would then test the offspring and record information related to the dam including any problems, and weights. W.B. participated in a program with the University of Tennessee to share his data and he would then get back 205 day adjusted weights, adjusted average daily gain and weight ratios for each calf. With this information and using visual appraisals, W.B. was able to identify his best mama cows and the best heifers to keep in his herd. Allen was quoted as saying he believes he gets .10 to .15 cents more per pound for his stock due to the availability of his performance records.
W.B. credits another former Montgomery County extension agent, John Bartee, with convincing him to incorporate Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics into his herd. Bartee was a longtime proponent of Gelbvieh cattle including serving as President of the American Gelbvieh Association in 2000. W.B. saw the benefits of the hybrid vigor in his herd and now has Gelbvieh and Balancer crosses. He shared data from the USDA testing station, which showed Gelbvieh to be the most feed efficient breed of cattle as well as having great carcass quality. A Gelbvieh from Allendale Farm has been recognized as the carcass quality winner from the Clarksville Better Beef Show.
In a previous feature article on Allen’s operation, W.B. had this to say about the importance of record-keeping; “Records can be a valuable part of any cattle breeding business, purebred or commercial. If you are going to serve as judge and jury when keeping or culling, it is best to have all the evidence before you. You’ll be the one living with the verdict.”