Not many people would give up a trip to “paradise,” but when Dixie and David Setzer had to choose between buying the Senepol cow of their dreams or a trip to Hawaii to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, they chose Senepol.
“We went to Tennessee to look at some Senepol cattle,” Dixie remembers. “We had read about them, and wanted to see them for ourselves. When I saw ‘Ginger,' she was perfect and I knew we had to have her.”
For the Setzers, “Ginger” became the foundation for their Senepol herd ten years ago. Today at Dixieland Farms in Killen, Ala. the herd has grown and so has their reputation. In Senepol circles the Setzers are well-known for their integrity and the quality of their cattle.
Neither Dixie nor David are natives to Alabama, but both have farming and ranching roots. Dixie grew up in Clovis, N.M. on a 600-acre Hereford Farm. She learned to love cattle, following closely in the footsteps of her father.
“Cattle have always been in my blood,” Dixie says. “The cattle business is how my Daddy made his living. I learned a lot from him…that's where my love for the cattle came from.”
David was raised across the country on a small farm in North Carolina. While he was in the Air Force stationed in New Mexico, he met his bride. They moved back to North Carolina where he went to work for Champion Paper.
Northwest Alabama became their permanent home and it was there that they chose to raise their family. They have two children, their daughter, Gerie Biffle, is a computer programmer for Chrysler, and she has two sons, Kendrick, who is three, and Jordan, who is 7-months-old. The Setzer's son, Jason, is currently attending the University of Alabama in Huntsville, majoring in Electrical Engineering.
When David was transferred to Alabama, the Setzers purchased a small piece of property (5-acres) that they have added acreage to through the years, as the land and money came available. Today, the 100-acre farm is home to Dixie and David, and an impressive herd of Senepol cattle.
When the Setzers first purchased their land in Alabama, they were running a few commercial cows. A few years later, they started building a Beefmaster herd. But when Dixie read about Senepol cattle, she was interested and wanted to see the cattle for herself.
“I had read a lot about Senepol, and I was curious,” she says. “when I saw them I was hooked.”
“When I first saw the Senepol cattle, they just had the correct look,” she continues. “They are also fertile, good milkers, they raise a good calf, they are well muscled and good natured. I knew when I saw them that they were what we needed at our place and I haven't changed my mind.”
For the past ten years, the Setzers have been working to put together a herd of the highest quality. They have emphasized fertility, maternal traits and carcass traits. According to Dixie, their efforts have paid off and they have been rewarded with a set of cows they are extremely proud of.
“We are excited about this group of females…we are finally to the point where we are ready to market the cattle we have been aiming for since we started.”
Coming from a ranching background, Dixie understands the cattle business and what it takes to be successful.
“Our philosophy around here is that a cow should make you money,” she says. “She should put a calf on the ground every year. We want our calves to have a little extra meat and growth, because the bottom line is carcass quality…in the end that's what we are selling and that is where we will make our profit. Senepol cattle fit right into our philosophy.”
For the Setzers, the cattle business is no hobby. As a matter of fact, as Dixie puts it, “it is a way of life.”
David is responsible for the upkeep of the farm. He takes care of the pastures, fertilizes and cuts the hay. He also handles the nutrition and mixes and grinds all of the cattle's feed. Dixie does their A.I. work (she boasts a 75-80% conception rate), makes all of the mating decisions, watches for heat, and monitors the calving. She also keeps up with all of the records on the cattle.
“For us, the cows and the farm are basically our lives,” she laughs. “ Our vacations end up being trips to conventions or sales or delivering cattle to customers.”
Those trips have taken them all across the South and they have sold their cattle to breeders in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The Setzers primarily market their cattle through private treaty sales, but they also make it a priority to consign cattle to the Senepol Cattle Breeders Association (SCBA) National Sale, which this year will be held in Perry, Ga., June 12. The Setzers have consigned nine lots to this year's sale, which includes several daughters of the 9108 donor cow, who the Setzers sold ½ interest in for $7,600 to Mike Smith of Covington, Ga. They also always participate in the Alabama Senepol Association sponsored sales.
Another priority for the Setzers is to buy at least one trait leader daughter each year at the National Sale, which in turn they A.I. to trait leader bulls.
“We have put an emphasis on buying trait leader daughters,” she explains. “They are proven…it takes a little bit of the guess out of our mating decisions.”
Through the years, the Setzers involvement in the cattle business has in turn led to leadership roles in the industry. David has served on the Alabama Senepol Assoc. Board of Directors for several years, and now Dixie serves on that board. In 1998 the association honored Dixie and David for their work and support by naming them Breeders of the Year.
They are also active in the SCBA, the Alabama Cattlemen's Assoc., Alabama BCIA and the Lauderdale County Cattlemen's Assoc.
For the Setzers, the decision 10-years-ago to buy a Senepol cow for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, turned into a lifestyle. David will retire from Champion in four years, and they fully intend to become full-time ranchers.
“We plan to retire with our cows,” Dixie laughs. “It has become a lifestyle with us….We have been in the Senepol business for 10 years and I guess that's where we will stay, as long as we are able.
“David said I had to choose between buying Ginger, or our trip to Hawaii…well, I still haven't been to Hawaii, but I know we made the right decision."