By Brittni Drennan, IBBA Communications Coordinator
Anyone who is an expert in marketing will tell you the key to a successful marketing plan is to know your audience. When you know who your audience is, you can better serve them and market a product that fits their needs. Don Atkinson may not claim to be an expert in marketing, but he knows exactly who his customers are and what kind of product will fit the needs of their operation.
“I want my customers to be successful in their endeavors,” Atkinson said. “I know my product and offer customers one type of cow that can thrive in their environment.”
A fourth generation cattleman, Atkinson knew at an early age what his calling was in life. Running cattle has always been a staple and a way of life in his family. Atkinson partnered with his father until his passing in 2001, and Atkinson took full ownership of the business and began ranching full time. His ultimate goal is to be remembered for creating a mother cow that thrives in her environment and maintains longevity.
Together, Atkinson and his wife of almost five years, Sherry, run 240 commercial Brangus cows and some registered Brangus cattle in Mullins, S.C. Atkinson switched to breeding Brangus when he bought his first bull in 1990 from Graham DuBose and John Spitzer. After breeding his commercial herd to the Brangus bull, he realized the advantages Brangus genetics had to offer, especially for the environment he was surrounded by near the east coast.
“People need to take advantage of crossbreeding to take advantage of all the opportunities hybrid vigor provides,” Atkinson said. “Crossbreeding allows producers to incorporate all the benefits of improved weaning weights, milk, [intramuscular fat] IMF and others.”
Shortly after buying his first bull and being pleased with his results, Atkinson went to Cow Creek’s Brangus sale in Mocksville, N.C., where he was introduced to Joe Reznicek’s breeding program. Atkinson has now been using genetics from Cow Creek for the last 21 years by utilizing artificial insemination (AI) techniques.
In 2010, Atkinson began breeding his Brangus cows to a registered Angus bull to create Ultrablack calves, following Reznicek’s model. According to Atkinson, his customers in Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama want purebred Brangus to perform better in a harsher climate. However, Ultrablack cattle enable him to market his Brangus genetics to his customers farther north of the Gulf Coast states.
“If I’m selling to a breeder in Florida, they need to be Brangus to withstand the heat and humidity,” Atkinson said. “Here, not as many people take advantage of the heat tolerance that Brangus provide. They want Ultrablack bulls with a little less percentage Brahman blood. Registered Ultrablacks allow us to introduce Brangus genetics to those who are skeptical.”