An honest-to-goodness, modern day Abe Lincoln with the subtle business traits of a Sam Walton. That best describes 76 year old J.E. "Ed" Horton Jr., co-owner of Farms, Madison, Ala.
The Angus herd at Macedon Farms was started in 1925 by Ed's father, J.E. Horton, Sr. Today, under the management of Ed and son-in-law Gregg Blythe, it's the oldest continuous Angus herd in Alabama and probably the Southeast. Macedon will host its 75th anniversary sale in May, a feat few Angus farms in this country can match.
What has kept this herd in business ten times longer than the average Angus herd?
It's simple. Horton has developed a herd of cows which perform for purebred and commercial cattle producers as well as for youth seeking Club calf projects. At the top of his breeding program goal list is performance.
Horton is a master of developing cattle and working with people. He is known across the country for his efforts in promoting and selling Angus cattle. He has gained a reputation for standing behind his product.
"Ed pays attention to changes in the industry and adopts breeding and management changes accordingly," says Richard Dyar, American Angus Association regional manager from Alabama.. "He's a master at dealing with people and cattle producers like to do business with him."
Jay Watson, Lincoln, Ala., is one satisfied customer of Macedon Farms. "I like buying bulls from Mr. Ed,” Watson says. He finds out what you need, then he spends three or four hours showing you cattle and talking with you. He doesn't try to apply one bit of pressure for you to buy."
Horton has devoted his life to the Angus business and the American Angus Association. He is a charter member of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association (BCIA) and an early participant in the Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR) program. He served as president of the Association in 1979, and two terms on the Board of Directors prior to that. He was on the original Certified Angus Beef Program committee and provided leadership when the Association purchased the Angus Journal in 1979.
All of these accomplishments and more earned him a coveted place in the Angus Heritage Foundation in November 1995 at the Association banquet in Louisville, Ky. He has also been inducted into Auburn University's Alabama Agriculture Hall of Honor.
Hayden Thorton, Jr., Brownsville, Tenn., a former Angus breeder and now a professional photographer, calls Horton "one of the South's three great leaders of the Angus breed." Rounding out that leadership team in Thorton's book are Dave Pingrey of Mississippi and Reeves Hughes of Tennessee.
What many fellow breeders may not know is that Horton served as a state senator back in the 1970s and could have run for governor of Alabama if he'd wanted to pursue it.
"Ed decided that politics wasn't for him; the beef business was," Thorton says.
Bob McGuire, retired Extension animal scientist from Auburn University who now breeds Angus cattle, also holds Horton in high regard. "He has integrity. We began buying animals from him in 1975. Offspring of those animals are still in our herd and doing a good job us," McGuire says.
The Early Years
Ed's father began raising beef cattle around 1900. Judge J.E. Horton, Sr. "piddled" with commercial cows until 1925, when he bought his first registered Angus cattle. "We've been registering Angus ever since," Ed says.
In the late 1930's the judge's wife, Anna, named the farm after their three sons: Mac, Ed and Don.
In 1935 Judge Horton hauled 15 steer calves to Nashville, Tenn., sold them for three cents it pound, took the $225 and bought three registered Angus heifers from the Ames Plantation, Grand Junction, Tenn. These animals, sired by Ames Plantation Pal, a Chicago International grand champion bull, became the foundation for Macedon Farms.
One of the three original heifers lived to be 21 years old. She produced 19 calves and more than 100 descendants in the Macedon herd at the time of her death in 1954.
Ed and partner Gregg Blythe keep complete records on their cow herd -- both BCIA and AHIR. With these records they know the production of each animal and their entire herd. And with this information, they know the type of bulls they must use each breeding season to constantly improve their herd.
For all these decades they have done just what Judge Horton did in 1935: buy the best bulls to improve the herd.
Back in 1941, Ed and his father traveled to Cleveland, Tenn., and paid $800 for a bull from Tolan Farms in Illinois. In 1952 they flew to Long Island, N.Y., and paid $3,500 for a top bull named Whitney Eric 12. Two years later they bought a show bull named 195 Whitney Envious 9th from the same place. In 1956 they paid $7,000 for another Tolan bloodline bull, Eileenmere 1485.
By the 1970s, Briarhill Farms at Union Springs, Ala., had developed a top herd of Angus cattle from the Wye Plantation in Maryland. At first, Macedon Farms bought an interest in Micks of Y from Briarhill. Later, they bought a semen interest in three more Wye bulls, which were used in an artificial insemination program for several years.
Macedon's top herd sire in recent years was Homestead Sledge Hammer 512. This bull was purchased for $7,600 at the Auburn University Bull Test Sale. Of the 50,000 registered Angus bulls in the United States, Sledge Hammer rated fifth in milk EPD. He died in 1995 but left many daughters with strong maternal traits.
Today the Macedon herd numbers over 225 breeding age females. Ninety-five percent of those females are bred, born and raised on the farm. In May, Angus enthusiasts will gather at Macedon Farms to witness 75 years of breeding, and will be able to add these proven genetics to their herds.
Sale manager Jarvene Shackelford, who has worked with Macedon Farms for seventeen years says customer service has been the key to Macedon's success.
“The thing that has made Macedon a success is the people,” Shackelford explains. “Ed Horton is a statesman and his father was before him. They have a love for the land, the cattle and agriculture as a livelihood. The philosophy at Macedon has never changed–to produce the best product you can, stand behind that product, and treat your customers like they were family. This philosophy has worked. No other firm in the Southeast sells over 100 bulls a year at private treaty and most to repeat customers within two hundred miles of the farm. Without question, Macedon Farms has been a positive influence for Angus cattle in the Southeast.”
(Reprinted with permission from the June/July 1996 Angus Journal.)