There were 41 NACAA members and guests that participated in the NACAA Animal Science Pre-Conference Tour on Friday, July 16th, and Saturday, July 17th.  The group met in West Palm Beach on Thursday night for dinner, and traveled across South Florida on a tour bus together.  NACAA members toured four beef cattle ranches, a dairy, a livestock market, and a sugar mill where molasses for livestock feeds are produced.  The tour ended by driving across the Everglades on the famous Tamiami Trail for an airboat tour in the Everglades National Park.  The following are some of the highlights from the two-day tour.


Stop #1 – Kempfer Cattle Company

Kempfer Cattle Co Tour

Henry Kempfer (right), is part of the the 5th generation of ranchers to mange the family farm. He provided a tour of Kempfer Cattle Company for NACAA members. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Kempfer Brahman Herd

Registered Brahman breeding herd at Kempfer Cattle Company. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Kempfer Cattle Company is a family owned cow calf operation in Deer Park, Florida. Henry Kempfer, who is one of the 5th generation of the family, lead the ranch tour.  The following is a brief summary of their operation provided on their website:

  1. Kempfer Beef Cattle Company is a 25,000 acre family owned and operated ranch located in Deer Park, Florida. In the ranching business since 1898, the 6th generation is now growing up and helping to work the ranch. While purebred Brahmans and commercial cattle are the primary focus, the family has diversified into several different ventures including a sod company specializing in Bahia and Floratam, and a sawmill with Cypress and Pine timber operations.  The Kempfer family has raised commercial cattle for over 100 years and purebred Brahmans since 1978. They feel that our Brahman herd is unique in comparison to other Brahman herds, due to their strict culling criteria. Their cattle are selected for fertility, fleshing ability on low quality forage, capacity, excellent udder quality, and gentle disposition with strong emphasis on carcass traits.  Kempfer Cattle Company website

The highlight of the tour was that the entire tour group loaded up on five swamp buggies and traveled through part of the ranch.

Commercial cattle herd at Kempfer Cattle Company. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

swamp buggy tour

From the swamp buggies, Henry Kempfer shared how their family manages their commercial cattle herd. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Stop #2 – Okeechobee Livestock Market

cheesburger lunch

The staff at the Okeechobee Livestock Market Cafe served the group a cheeseburger lunch. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Tour Group weight

The entire tour group stood in the sale ring and weighed in at 7,685 pounds. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

The next stop on the tour was the Okeechobee Livestock Market, which is one of the markets with the highest volume of cattle sold east of the Mississippi.  They fed the group a cheeseburger lunch before touring the group through the facilities and explaining how they keep track of thousands of head each week.  One highlight from the tour was that the entire tour group was weighed on the floor of the sale ring, weighing in at 7,685 pounds, so the group (41 plus 2 tour guides) averaged 179 lbs./head.  The following is some information about the market from their website:

The Okeechobee Livestock Market was built in the 1930s by The Dixie Cattlemen, conveniently located next to railroad tracks so various freight and livestock could be transported to their respective destinations.  In August of 1948, the building was sold, repaired, and modernized; opening exclusively for business on September 17, 1948, as a cattle market.  From 1989 to the present day, there have been many technological advances at the Okeechobee Livestock Market, from website development, where live auctions can be viewed online, to e-mail marketing and herd health programs. One stand-out improvement was a partnership forged in the 1990s with Producers Cattle Auction (PCA), where cattle could be sold online through video sales. In 2017, 110,007 head were sold through the sale barn and 9,706 head were sold online through PCA.


Okeechobee Livestock Market Tour

NACAA members toured the Okeechobee Livestock Market. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Stop #3 – Larson Dairy Farm

Larson Dairy

Larson Dairy. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Larson Dairy is a family farm in Okeechobee Florida. Four generations of the Larson family have been involved in operations.  Larson Dairy is the 1st dairy in South Florida to install a methane digester that will turn manure into natural gas.

Larson Dairy Milk Parlor

Larson Dairy Milk Parlor. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Stop #4 – Diamond C Ranch

Diamond C Ranch and agritourism venue. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Diamond C Ranch is a diverse operation.  They have a 200-head commercial cattle herd, a small breeding white-tailed deer herd, and also an agritourism venue with an annual fall festival, Country Christmas weekend,  and weddings.  There also have a contract to sell caprock (surface limestone) used for landscaping structures in the region. On top of these activities, Will Croncich, the owner/operator, is a world renowned equine dentist.  These folks stay very busy keeping their mulit-generational ranch in operation.

Diamnond C Ranch Wagon Ride

NACAA members toured Diamond C Ranch on a hay wagon. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Alex Johns

Alex Johns, Executive Director of Agriculture for the Seminole Tribe of Florida..

Stop 5 Dinner at the Brighton Seminole Reservation Community Center

The group then traveled to the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation to utilize their community center for dinner.  While on site, Executive Director of Agriculture for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, shared about their tribal history, and their cooperative commercial cow-calf operation.  About 4,400 Seminoles own the Brighton Reservation that has 10,000 brood cows that graze on 2.75 acres of improved pasture per cow.  The cattle cooperative allows members to purchase in bulk and sell jointly through satellite auctions.

Stop #6 – Roland Martin Marina & Resort

Clewiston Lock on Lake Okeechobee

Clewiston Lock on Lake Okeechobee at the Roland Martin Marina & Resort. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

Even the place the tour group spent the night was very interesting.  Roland Martin was a professional bass fisherman, made famous through his fishing TV show.  His resort in Clewiston, Florida provides reasonable lodging with canal access to the lock entering Lake Okeechobee.  Lake Okeechobee covers 730 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake in Florida, and the 10th largest in the US.

Evening Libations

NACAA members enjoyed evening libations at the Roland Martin Marina.


Stop #1 – United State Sugar Corporation

U.S. Sugar Corporation is one of the largest sugar processors in the world.  Sugarcane is grown on over 400,000 in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).  One of the neat things NACAA members got to do is ride in the bus into one of the huge warehouses where raw sugar is stored in a “Sugar Mountain” before further processing into food grade sugar.  One of the key byproducts of the sugar industry is the molasses or the juice from the sugar cane that is used for cattle feeding.

US Sugar Mountain

Stop #2 – JB Ranch

JB Ranch, near Immokalee, Florida, is a privately owned cattle ranch that borders the Big Cypress National Preserve.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is the last private land before entering the Everglades.  In addition to the 700 head cow-calf herd, the ranch earns income from an oil well, palm tree and palm frond harvest, limerock and road fill mining, and fee-based guided hunts.  They have very diverse wildlife on the ranch including 15 endangered Florida Panthers on the 10,000 acre ranch.  While on the tour, participants saw whitetailed deer and a black bear.

JB Ranch Oil Well

Oil well at JB Ranch where sulfur gas is burned off continuously. This is where the Olympic flame is kept between games.

Stop #3 – Gator Park

Airboat Ride

Airboat Ride through Everglades National Park. Credit: Doug Mayo, UF/IFAS

For the final leg of the tour, the bus drove across the famous “Tamiami Trail” (Tampa to Miami) which is US Highway 41 that is the original paved road that provided limited access to the Everglades.  Gator Park provided NACAA members a guided airboat ride through the Everglades National Park.  While on the tour, participants got an up-close look at momma gators guarding their nests.

Momma Gator

A mother alligator guarding her nest in the Everglades National Park.

Special thanks to FACAA members Lindsy Wiggins, Joe Walters, and Doug Mayo for hosting the tour and providing a great experience for NACAA members to get a glimpse of the unique agriculture in South Florida.


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