Jay Wells and his family raise cattle on a 1300-acre farm in Marion County, Georgia, located just five miles from where their family first settled in 1829. The farm, known as Brantley Ridge Farm, is situated in Georgia’s sand hills on a ridge diving the Chattahoochee River and Flint River drainage areas. Here, the Wells family manages a large herd of Pineywood cattle, and Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW), Certified Grassfed by AGW Pineywood products from the farm are marketed under the Georgia Native Cattle Company brand.
In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the cattle herd at Georgia Native Cattle Company is Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range. The Pineywood breed is an endangered cattle breed, descending from animals first brought to the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama in the early 1500s by the Spanish. The breed was predominately used as oxen in the southeast timber industry until European cattle largely replaced it in the 1800s.
The Pineywood breed is one of the oldest cattle breeds in the U.S and is recognized for its ability to thrive on marginal brush and vegetation. Pineywood cattle are known to have excellent disease resistance, heat tolerance, good mothering traits and longevity. These traits make them ideally suited for the management of Georgia Native Cattle Company, where the cattle graze freely through the forage like native grasses, forbs and legumes. “Every animal we process was born and pasture-raised on a forage diet and never treated with hormones or antibiotics,” says Jay. “Our cattle and wildlife coexist just like their ancestors did for centuries. Not only do they coexist, the Pineywood’s ability to eat and forage on plants other cattle breeds would ignore underbrushes the forest. Coupled with prescribed burns, this enhances the terrain for endangered gopher tortoise colonies that populate the farm. Large populations of deer, turkey, quail and bird species—and hawks, owls and woodpeckers are also found here.”
The Wells family chose to pursue AGW certification as a mode of verifying their sustainable, high-welfare management practices for future customers. “The Pineywood breed is a great old breed, but they don’t really fit the slaughterhouse model,” says Jay. “We are focusing on ways to make them commercially viable, so that we can raise and, in doing so, preserve the breed. Georgia Native Cattle Company product supports biodiversity, independent farms raising an endangered and regional breed with the highest animal welfare at the center of the operation. Our AGW certifications help us tell the story of our farm.”