As a younger man, Danny Martin, of Florence, Mississippi, located just south of Jackson, made his living as a construction worker.
After spending a majority of his time traveling and away from the family, Martin transitioned into farming and ranching full-time. “When I got tired of being on the road, working construction, I came home to the cattle and custom haying,” he further explains. “I’ve had cattle all my life,” Martin says. He grew up on a dairy operation but exhibited beef cattle in 4-H and FFA. After earning a degree in animal science from Mississippi State University (MSU), Martin transitioned his portion of the family business into a cow-calf operation. “Transitioning from dairy to beef wasn’t hard for me — I raised beef cattle along with the dairy all my life.” Today, the operation has grown to 600 acres and 150 head of red and black SimAngus™ cross cattle. Martin and his family run the cattle operation and maintain a custom hay operation on the side.
Operating under the name of M&M Farm, Martin has steadily built a quality herd of Simmental-influenced females. Martin laughs as he shares his transition to his current breed base, “You might say I experimented with everything out there before settling on Simmental, Angus, and Gelbvieh. I started out as most people do, following the trend, but I started watching how the Simmental breed was performing and dove into a SimAngus-cross.”
Initially, the operation was based on Holstein and Angus. The cows from the dairy operation that weren’t milking well enough for the dairy side were retired into raising beef calves sold at a local sale.
Martin explains that, at the time he was entering the cattle business in 1972 and buying the family’s beef herd, the industry was primarily focused on large-framed cattle. But, after being introduced to Ken Stewart, Marianna, Florida, who at the time just worked down the road, Martin began buying SimAngus bulls when he saw how the calves were performing. He shares, “One thing I learned at MSU was if you don’t stay ahead, you are going to get passed. You must focus on progress and that is how I started breeding Simmental.”
Martin estimates that today the majority of his cow herd is SimAngus-influenced and he is on his way to a full-SimAngus herd. “My younger herd is one-quarter Gelbvieh and three-quarters SimAngus, and I am trying to get to a point where my entire herd is SimAngus. I have been liking this cross because it blends Gelbvieh’s mothering ability, Angus’s moderate, mature cow size, and Simmental’s growth,” he adds
The transition to SimAngus was natural for M&M Farm because stayability within the herd increased. Martin commends the SimAngus-cross for the condition that the cows maintain all-year-round without any additional help. “One thing I really like about SimAngus is the fleshing ability. After the heifers calve, they still flesh good. When you have your cattle out there in the pasture, they hold good condition; you can’t go wrong.”
Martin takes the time to develop strong replacement females but insists that all cows have to be able to make it on their own. He says, “I try to take good care of my heifers, but to stay around, a cow needs to be able to do a lot on her own. I shouldn’t have to feed her year-round to keep a good condition on her.”
Mississippi, characterized by summers with high heat and humidity, influences many operations’ breeding decisions, but for Martin, he has found that he doesn’t have to have any Bos indicus-based breeds to be a successful cow-calf operator. “In my area, a quarter Brahman cow is well liked for handling the heat,” he says, “but I don’t have any problems with my SimAngus cross cows.”
Martin’s cow herd runs on five locations within a 25-mile radius. “Average acreage per cow is different for each place. If we can rotate pastures, we can get two or three acres to a cow-calf pair. If we can’t rotate, it’s four acres per pair.”
The cattle graze on ryegrass throughout the winter and Bermuda grass in the spring. Martin comments,
In 2009, his herd hit 325 cows, a number that has since been downsized to 150. “I reduced my herd size, I am approaching 70 years old, so that slows me down — but not a lot!” he explains.
Martin plans to remain in the cattle and hay business as long as possible. “ My wife, Linda, asked me what I was going to do when I retire. But what does that mean ‘retire’? I am one of those highly motivated guys who likes to get up early in the morning and go. It doesn’t matter where as long as I have something to do.”
In addition to cutting and baling his own 400 acres of hay, Martin also runs a custom haying business. “When I came back to the farm, I came back to haying. I have no idea why I always went back to haying.” He laughs about the hard work running a custom haying business can be and how a successful year is very weather-dependent. “In a year, I will bale at least 500 acres in addition to the two to four cuttings of my hay per year. It can be a lot.”
A majority of Martin’s time away from the cattle operation is dedicated to helping the local 4-H clubs, cattle associations, and Hinds County Extension activities. In addition, Martin served as president of the Mississippi Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA) from 2016-2018, where he previously served as vice president and as a member of the board of directors. He commends the members of the association. “BCIA members are progressive, they keep records, and strive to improve with each calf crop.”
Martin and Linda, who met for the first time in high school, have been married 24 years. They reconnected at a livestock show where their children were showing. Most of the day-to-day work around the farm is completed by Martin, but he also receives help from his family and an old college friend, Mitch Dooley. All of their children and grandchildren help any chance they can between full-time jobs and school. Their children are: Tammy and her husband, Barry; Joe, Nick and his wife, Amber; Mark; and grandchildren, Orry, 24, Ty, 14, JT, 12, and Addison, 9.
“In the end, Simmental really adds growth to the equation,” Martin concludes. “The SimAngus breed produces 600 to 700-pound calves and a moderately sized female that is easy to run in our area.”