Cattlemen find fellowship in association

Mar. 16, 2014 @ 09:47 AM

Philip Wike was raised in farming cattle. His father and his grandfather before him raised cattle, and today the family owns and rents farms in Caldwell County, raising cattle, chickens, corn and more.

“I used to work at UPS for seven years, my only job besides farming,” Wike said, dropping a pile of feed for his cows at a farm he rents on Wilkesboro Boulevard.

But a job like that, he said, where the same routine repeats itself day after day, is excruciating.

With farming, each day is a new experience, and he gets to work outdoors. But, he said, the most rewarding is getting to see things grow up, seeing the fruits of his labor, working for himself and being his own person.

For Wike, the newly elected president of the Caldwell County Cattlemen’s Association, there’s no other way to live.

Some people may don't know there is a cattlemen's association in Caldwell County -- or even cattlemen. Caldwell is not known as a large cattle-producing county. It ranks 50th among the state's 100 counties for total cattle production, with 4,500 head of cattle produced in the county in 2012.

The Caldwell County Cattlemen’s Association provides a place for the county's cattle farmers to meet with others who share their passion for cattle farming, providing a place for them to network, share resources and learn as much as they can about cattle farming and the industry. The association meets quarterly, updating members on the latest information about the industry, current legislation that affects cattle farmers, and hosting speakers on everything from farm taxes and loans to feed and medications.

At the group’s March meeting, Noel Torres of Zoetis, a global animal medicine and vaccine producer, informed members about the company’s products and proper practices when administering vaccines and medicines. Fred McCurry, a longtime member of the association, said he keeps coming back for presentations like that.

“I learn something new every time,” he said.

The group also reaches out into the community, helping to sponsor a number of programs for youth in the county, holding fundraisers at events like the Happy Valley Fiddlers Convention, donating to scholarship funds and helping with initiatives at the Caldwell County Cooperative Extension Service, keeping up with the work of N.C. State University and more.

The cattlemen’s association also provides support for local youth to compete at larger shows as well, like the North Carolina Junior Beef Round-up, held each June in Raleigh, where youth from around the state show prize cattle.

But the association is also a social gathering, not the least of the positives for Ronnie Holman, who has been farming cattle for more than 20 years on a farm that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather all worked before him, a farm that’s been in the family for nearly a century. Holman, the group's vice president, said the opportunity to interact with people with the same interest is a big drawing point for the association.

“It’s kind of a tool -- a communications tool -- to learn from other folks and sometimes help others with your own past experience,” he said.