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August 28, 2009   Email to Friend 

OYFF Beef Division Winner Loves Buying, Selling But 'Mini Moo' Here To Stay
By Darryal Ray

Kennamer, shown with his mascot bull "Mini Moo," says, "I like buying calves and straightening them out, weaning them and getting them healthy, growing 'em up and getting rid of them and getting some more."
Sponsored each year by the Alabama Farmers Federation, the Outstanding Young Farm Family Awards Program recognizes young farmers between the ages of 17 and 35 who do an outstanding job in farm, home and community activities. Division winners representing 11 commodities were selected in February. Of those, six finalists will compete for the title of overall Outstanding Young Farm Family for 2009. The winner, who will be named at the Federation's 88th Annual Meeting in December, will receive a John Deere Gator, courtesy of the Federal Land Bank of Alabama, $500 cash from Dodge, the use of a new vehicle and other prizes and will go on to compete at the national level for a new Dodge Ram 3500.

Mini Moo is not a lot of bull, but Clay Kennamer likes having him around just the same.

"He's not good for anything except being a pet," Kennamer says of his miniature Angus bull. "He just walks around and snorts. I don't know if he was just a runt, a midget, a genetic flaw or what. But nobody else around here has one. I just bought him because he's different."

Mini Moo is definitely different. At just over 3 feet tall and 820 pounds, he's an oddity in black cowhide -- a walkin', bellowin', snortin' conversation piece that Kennamer snatched up from a fellow cattleman who rescued Mini Moo from a hamburger bun for $43.

Kennamer isn't sure why he wanted Mini Moo, but it probably has a lot to do with the 32-year-old's love of cattle, a passion that's quite clear to anyone who knows the Beef Division winner in the Alabama Farmers Federation's annual Outstanding Young Farm Family contest.

"I guess the favorite part of my job is working cattle," Kennamer says. "I've got a squeeze chute and, generally, I do all the work myself -- the vaccinating and stuff. That's what I like -- that and buying cattle. I like buying cattle. Buying cattle is about the only thing that gets me excited and keeps me moving."

It's been that way since November 2006 when Kennamer, a licensed trainer of Tennessee walking horses, decided he'd had enough of the horse business and wanted to concentrate on buying and selling stocker cattle, sending many to feedlots in Kansas and Iowa or to Texas grasslands. He initially began sending his cattle to feedlots in Kansas, but his profits began to fall as the price of distiller's grain rose along with the popularity of ethanol. So, he began shipping to Iowa feedlots where lower corn prices made feeding a little more profitable.

"I don't have any cattle in Iowa now, but if it would've been profitable, I'd have sent some up there in the spring," he says. "The winters are too bad in Iowa to send cattle up there. In my opinion, you need to send them up there in March or April, and get them out of there by October. Right now, I'm not sending anything to the feed yard that doesn't go out to Texas to go on grass or wheat first."

In mid-June, Clay Kennamer Livestock had more than 170 head grazing in Texas, around 330 at his in farm in Jackson County and was about to custom wean another 200 head for another producer.

"I've got every kind of calf in the world," Kennamer says. "In the last two or three years, I've started buying fancier-type cattle. Used to, I bought mismanaged No. 3 or lower-type cattle until the cost of corn and the cost of grain got so high. The performance on the better cattle would pay more than the more expensive gain on the cheaper cattle. I thought it did anyway."

Lately, however, Kennamer hasn't been buying much of anything. He says the market has been bad for 18 months with bad corn prices and even worse cattle prices, sometimes dropping as much as $140 to $250 a head as they stood in the feedlot.

"You just suck it up and try to figure out how to pay your bills one more month and hope it gets better," he says. "You don't adapt to it -- you just try to survive it." Normally, he'd have between 400 to 600 calves being weaned in his 12 paddocks at this time of year. "I just haven't run across anything that I thought needed buying," he says. "I've got some room, some grass and some money to buy right now, but I just haven't seen anything that I thought would work, and I'm tired of working for nothing."

He isn't tired, however, of "foolin' with cattle" as he calls it. "It's not something you can explain. I just like it," he says. "I like buying calves and straightening them out, weaning them and getting them healthy, growing 'em up and getting rid of them and getting some more." But Mini Moo is here to stay.

"He wants to bellow and act like he's mad," Kennamer says with a grin as he begins to tell how Mini Moo's bellowing caused an old herd bull to tear through a fence to go after him.

"I've had people try to buy him, and I've turned down pretty good money for him, but he's not for sale. I guess you could say Mini Moo's my mascot."



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