Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, November 03, 1984, Image 32

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    A32—Uncasttr Farming, Saturday, Novembw 3,1984
Mountain is wild country. Each
spring, following a long central
Pennsylvania winter, gaunt black
bears emerge from winter sleep to
stretch and blink in the bright new
sun. Sensing the season’s new
strength, timber rattlesnakes
come topside too, basking in the
warmth that floods the steep, rock
strewn slopes.
The deer are there, too.
Threading their way down the
mountain as shadows lengthen,
they tip-toe into the lush meadow.
And along about the same time of
year that their mountain is
awakening, the deer will find that
meadow dappled with a herd of
snow-white cattle. The cattle and
Ray and Susan Bratton review some of their bull test
records. A Bratton-bred bull holds the daily gain record at the
Penn State bull test center.
Bratton’s current herd sire is Mr. Expectation 3298, the
1982 Farm Show grand champion.
Mirroring the puffy clouds overhead, a herd of Charolais cows and calves take
advantage of the lush summer pasture at Bratton Charolais Farm in Mifflin County.
Ray Bratton 9 s only beef is Charolais
the wildlife have been neighbors
here in the Mifflin County
mountains near McVeytown for
two decades now, ever since Ray
Bratton entered the beef business
in 1964 with a small number of
crossbred cattle.
Nowadays, from late April until
the snow flies, the pastures of
Bratton Charolais Farm are alive
with more than a hundred
Charolais cows and half as many
But even though the the breed’s
name has remained the same over
the year’s, Ray finds his farm
populated with beef cattle that are
vastly different than in years past.
It’s in their genetics to be thick
and heavily muscled,” Bratton
says, “but we’ve probably added
six inches in height to our herd
since we got started. The longer
the lower leg bone is, the longer the
upper leg will be, and that’s where
the muscle is,” he explains. “So all
breeders have been pushing for
taller and longer cattle. ”
But as with most trends, the size
pendulum may be swinging back to
favor a more middle-of-the-road
meat animal, observes Bratton.
“I think in the past there’s been
too much emphasis on frame size,”
he says. “The result has been 1500
to 1600-pound steers, and it takes
too much grain too finish them.”
much gram to finish them.”
The ideal steer, says Bratton,
should be mostly a roughage
animal that finishes at 1300 pounds
in 14 to 15 months. “You can’t feed
$4 com to 65-cent steers,” he
Through the years, Ray has
found the Charolais breed capable
of producing the kind of beef
animals that the market demands.
They gain weight efficiently, he
says, and produce plenty of red
meat with comparatively little
waste. Feeding about 25 head each
year for freezer beef, Bratton finds
his animals grade low-choice to
choice and are popular with small
butchers and housewives.
After spending a score of years
producing beef for the American
table, Ray knows exactly what he’s
looking for in his cow herd, as well.
It’s critical that a cow produces a
healthy calf every year, and is
ready to breed back in 60 to 90
days. She should be gaining weight
during the breeding season, and
she ought to be doing it on
roughage, says Ray. Regardless of
what she weighs, a cow ought to be
producing one-half her weight in
calf at 205 days.
Bratton’s emphasis on per
formance was cultivated during
his 25 years in the dairy business, a
chapter is his farming career that
ended a decade ago. An advocate
of performance testing, Ray
currently has an Expectation
grandson enrolled at the PDA’s
Meat Animal Evaluation Center,
and a Bratton-bred bull, Royal
Mischief, still stands as the Cen
ter’s top gainer after posting a 4.76-
pound average daily gain in the
1981 test.
Ray’s current herd sire, Mr.
Expectation 3298, was 1982 Pa.
Farm Show grand champion, and
continues a Bratton tradition of
producing top quality examples of
the breed, including BCF Excell
494, the 1983 Farm Show grand
champion owned by Ray Grimes of
South Mountain Farm.
Promotion of the Charolais
breed as well as the home
operation has always been a
family affair for the Brattons.
While still living at home, the
Bratton’s three daughters, Carol,
Diane and Rhonda were all active
in 4-H and the show circuit.
Eighteen-year-old Scott currently
handles the show responsibilities
A firm believer in the value of performance testing, Bratton
enrolled this Expectation grandson in the Penn State Bull
Test at the Department of Agriculture's Meat Animal
Evaluation Center in State College.
as well as much of the farm work.
In an effort to interest more 4-
H’ers in steer projects, the
Brattons started a Charolais
feeder calf sale in Belleville six
years ago, and this past July,
Bratton Charolais hosted the first
Charolais Field Day to be held by
the Pa. Charolais Association.
Both Ray and his wife, Susan,
are active in their breed’s
organizations, with Ray serving as
a director and Susan filling the
position of executive secretary for
the Colonial Charolais Association,
serving 11 states in the Northeast.
Ray has also served as president of
the Pa. Charolais Association.
Though Ray feels that the
Charolais breed is in step with
consumer demand, he is con
tinually evaluating other beef
breeds with respect to per
formance. “If something comes
along that’s doing the job more
efficiently, that’s what I’ll be
breeding,” he asserts.
But for now, he feels that
Charolais is the winning team.
“We’ve heard a lot of talk the last
few years about eating leaner beef,
and Charolais is the right breed for
producing lean meat, as far as I’m
So on this Mifflin County farm
where meadow meets mountain, a
herd of white cows will likely polka
dot the grassland for many years
to come.