Still Water, Green Pastures

By Bailey K. Toates, republished courtesy of Georgia Cattleman, April 2017.

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Psalm 23:1-3 reads

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Terry and Deborah Chandler were married in 1983. The two both agreed that they wanted to raise their family on a farm. They both believed it would teach their children the value of hard work and the life lessons that came along with it. The couple prayed and patiently waited as God directed them to the right place for them to start a family and pursue the dream of having a farm.

It was a real blessing to raise our family on the farm,” Terry reminisces. “We all helped get the farm to where it is today. When we bought it in 1987 we saw that it had potential, but potential was all it had.”

The blessings of this special farm continued on. The Chandlers’ initial adventure into agriculture was finishing hogs.

We finished 1,500 head of hogs per year for 16 years,” Terry says. “By 1988 we decided to build the pullet houses, where we grew replacement heavy breeder hens and males. This has been a blessing financially as well as a benefit for the land. The manure is great for soil health. The pullet houses allowed Deborah to be at home with the kids.”

As the family worked to improve and create pastures, the cattle herd grew. Today the family runs about 100 head of commercial cattle that are Simmental- and Angus-based, with a little flair of Gelbvieh left from years past.

About 12 years ago we started infusing the herd with more SimAngusTM genetics,” Chandler explains. “We originally saw the benefits that SimAngus genetics offered when we were growing bulls for the Bull Power program. When the bulls were being ultrasounded, we saw the intramuscular fat and ribeye size and were very impressed. This is what we were looking for to improve our herd. These bulls also offered the ability to correct some of our structural shortcomings. The difference that the SimAngus bulls have made in our herd is tremendous. Over time, our genetic improvements have even allowed us to sell some replacement heifers. The Simmental influence gave us the power and performance we needed, particularly with our yearling size. We like pretty, productive females, and that is what the Simmental breed has given us.”

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Terry allows his cows a 60-day calving season and tries to calve his heifers in a 45-day window. A lot of effort goes into keeping that tight of a calving window.

We will have 85 percent of our calves born in a 30-day window,” Terry says.

The strenuous health program they have in place helps with keeping the cattle in good health so they are able to rebreed quickly.

The family does a little bit of everything. They even grow embryo calves for customers such as Bridges Angus Farm.

We time everything so they are able to pick their calves up in May after their sale,” Terry explains. “We wean and precondition the calves for 60 days. These calves are treated as if they are our own.”

They also offer bull and heifer development for customers.

The Chandlers developed the bulls for the Bull Power program for seven years until they transitioned it over to the Verners. This past year, the bulls returned back to familiar pastures at Still Water Farm.

We have been thankful for the opportunity to develop these bulls,” Terry says with a smile. “It’s been a good opportunity to meet super folks with some outstanding cattle. I’ve truly enjoyed watching the genetic improvement the consignors have made to meet the customer’s needs.”

Terry says that his favorite part about the Simmental and SimAngus industry is the family atmosphere and how everyone is willing to help each other.

When Kim was showing, one of the first families to help her were Randy and Beth Daniel. Her success in the show ring started to catch the attention of others, and the support grew from there.”

One thing of the many things that is unique about Still Water Farm is their grazing program. Terry has worked very closely with Dr. Dennis Hancock of the University of Georgia and Phillip Brown of NRCS to develop a grazing program that would allow him to maximize his forage.

Intensive rotational grazing has really changed our program,” Terry explains. “We are typically able to start feeding hay 30 days later than most, and we are able to stop feeding hay 30 days earlier than most. The cattle have become easier to handle and the soil quality has improved. We have seen a huge improvement in the forage quality and quantity. The expert advice that we have received has allowed us to come up with different winter grazing combinations. We are continuing to work on improving the program, with hopes to reduce parasite pressure and improve soil water retention, and continue to shorten winter feeding days. Between the rotational grazing and utilizing our chicken litter as fertilizer, we have seen RFQ values in the high 280s and soil organic matter as high as 7.5 percent.”

The hard work and improvements that the Chandlers have done on their farm have not gone unnoticed. In 2009, they were awarded the Governor’s Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Award for the improvements they have made on the farm to help with runoff and other environmental issues. Six years later, they were honored by the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and given the Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award. But the most meaningful award they received was Georgia Simmental and Simbrah Association’s Commercial Cattleman of the Year Award in 2014.

The Chandler family is a living version of Psalm 23:1-3. They trust in the Lord to lead them in everything they do – no matter whether it is a decision regarding the family or farm. After all, He led them to the still waters at Still Water Farm.