Brandon’s Quality Calves: Girl Scouts get annual merit badge with help from student-entrepreneur
Story by Kathryn McBroom
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono and contributed
A lot has changed in the past year at Brandon’s Quality Calves. There are new housing hutches, a new pasture, a weaning pen—oh, and a gaggle of little girls.
On a recent sunny Saturday in April, Girl Scout Troop 60541, of Monticello, toured Brandon Towe’s heifer replacement business. They were there to earn their animal merit badge, which they gain by leaning how to care and feed for animals.
Under Brandon’s watchful eye, the girls, between the ages of 7 and 9, bottle fed baby calves. The girls also watched Brandon administer medicine to some of the calves.
Troop leader Andrea Pascale said bottle feeding the cows was the highlight of the girls’ trip.
“They talked about it all the way home,” said Pascale.
Brandon, a junior at Morgan County High School, echoed Pascale’s statement.
“Some of them were a little nervous about it. I made sure, between me, my mom, and my dad, there was someone in there with each girl,” said Brandon.
But Brandon had to look out for his calves too. He made sure any germs or diseases the girls might be carrying from their household pets wouldn’t hurt his calves.
“I had a little bucket with disinfectant in it, and I had them step into it and clean their shoes before they came into the pasture,” said Brandon.
Pascale contacted Brandon after one of the Girl Scout’s mothers suggested it. The girl’s mother worked with Rhonda Towe, Brandon’s mother, who had told her about her son’s booming business.
The girls of Troop 60541 were the first official tourists of Brandon’s Quality Calves, but Brandon hopes they’re not the last. It’s his wish that more people will visit his farm and learn about heifer replacement and animals in general.
“I would definitely like to try to educate more people. A lot of those people, it could be the first and last time they see a baby calf, especially getting to feed one,” said Brandon.
Pascale certainly has a bright outlook for the future of Brandon’s Quality Calves.
“I think he does an excellent job as young as he is. He does really well with what he’s got,” said Pascale.
In its third year of operation, Brandon’s Quality Calves began as Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project, something he needed for his Agriculture Education classes at Morgan County High School.
Since then it has evolved into a thriving, and money-making, business for Brandon.
The essence of Brandon’s project is heifer replacement work. A local dairy farmer turns his calves over to Brandon at birth, and for the next eight weeks he will raise them.
The point, says Brandon, is that this “frees up” the dairy farmer to concentrate on milk production.
Brandon is constantly studying up and trying to improve the way the business is run. He’s converted an old show cow pasture into a normal grazing pasture and weaning pen.
Fifteen more hutches have also been added, meaning Brandon can now house up to 30 calves at a time, something he did this past winter.
He’s even figured out how to use the hutches to lower the amount of sickness among the calves.
“My biggest struggle during the winter was trying to control sickness and death rates. It was so cold and rainy. That’s why I’ve turned the hutches sideways, it keeps the water from running into the hutch,” said Brandon.
To call Brandon a renaissance man would be an understatement.
At the farm alone, he acts as caretaker, bookkeeper, doctor, and businessman.
At the corner of his pasture, Brandon has a work shed which serves as an office and storage facility. There he has a detailed board with each calf’s date of arrival, their medical history, and anything else Brandon feels he should monitor.
In the small refrigerator, Brandon keeps the calves’ medicine, the notching samples he sends to the University of Georgia to test for various diseases, and the Gammulin he adds to their food for extra protein.The organization and attention to detail makes it feel as though you’ve wandered into a doctor’s office and not a small work shed.
Brandon has also computerized everything about his business. Gary, Brandon’s dad, says you can often look outside and see Brandon “sitting under a tree” updating his files on his miniature laptop.
This past year Brandon has also started a part-time job at Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Madison.
Although right now he only works there on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other weekend, this summer he hopes to be working there, “five to seven days a week.”
For all of his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, Brandon is beginning to reap the benefits of his labor.
At the urging of Tim Savelle, MCHS’ FFA advisor, Brandon filled out a Proficiency application for his SAE; he would go onto win at the local level.
On Saturday, April 22, he won first place at FFA state convention for his proficiency application.
This summer he will finish his application for one of FFA’s National Agricultural Proficiency Awards. If chosen as a finalist Brandon will travel to FFA’s National Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., where he will receive a plaque and monetary award.
If he places, Brandon is most excited about walking across the stage at national convention and being among the other winners.
Beyond that Brandon is planning for college. Wouldn’t you know it, those plans include animals.
“I want to go to UGA and get into vet school. I’d probably major in large animals, but I’d like to do both. I’d like to have my own office.”