For Kyle Gillooly and other cattlemen like him, work isn’t something you do nine-to-five just to pay the bills. It’s part of who you are and what you stand for. It’s a lifestyle, a blessing and a responsibility.
As the manager of Smith Angus Farm and CES Polled Herefords in Wadley and the current Georgia Cattlemen’s Association president, he is never really off the clock. If it isn’t the nearly 1,500 head of both purebred and commercial cattle that are demanding he change his boots and get into the pasture, then there is a cattle show that needs a judge or a piece of legislation needing review so he can be sure the state’s farmers and ranchers are being protected.
Yes, the business is demanding, but two lessons working daily with 1,200 pound hard-headed animals will teach are determination and patience.
A native of Indiana, Gillooly grew up in a farming family that had its own seed corn business and raised the same breeds of cattle he manages in Wadley today.
“I started showing cattle when I was 5,” he said. “That’s where it all started. Later I went into animal science in college (at Purdue University). I just wanted to be involved in the cow business.”
In 1999, at cow show in Michigan, he met Jennifer Oglesby, a Jefferson County, Georgia native who had been showing cows herself since she was age 3.
“We got engaged while I was still in Indiana and we were making the plans on what the next step was going to be and her granddad, Mr. Charles (Smith), was in the need of someone to come in and help manage their cattle operation. It was just kind of the good Lord’s plan on how it worked out.”
He moved to Wadley in the fall of 2005 and started raising Jennifer’s family’s cattle. They were married the next spring.
Gillooly soon became active in the Jefferson County Cattlemen’s Association and eventually served a term as its president. Then, in 2012, he was asked to join the Executive Committee for the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association as a Presidential appointee.
Over the next few weeks he will be finishing up his term as the 2016-17 President of the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association.
“It’s a pretty unique honor to serve as President for this organization. Especially being an out-of-state transplant to Georgia and to have the support and encouragement from Georgia cattlemen and industry leaders has been very gratifying,” he said.
A big part of his job with the association is representing farmers and ranchers across the state who are members of his organization, keeping abreast of the issues that affect their lives and livelihoods whether or not there is anything he can do about them.
“There was the drought in the fall last year,” Gillooly said. “And then two years ago our cow market was at an all time high with record numbers for cattle. The fall of 2015 those started to decline. Last year was pretty rough, not the lowest we’ve seen, but certainly a lot lower than what was projected two and three years ago.”
A lot of factors impact that market, he said. In addition to the weather there is trade, issues with supply and demand, international policies and regulations, the availability of quality supplemental feeds.
“We are at the mercy of the trade world and the markets,” Gillooly said. “When a farmer has to sell cattle he has to sell, he can’t hold on to them and wait for the market to come back.”
During his presidency the association had to be a support system and try to get federal and state funding to help its members. The Georgia Farm Bureau helped the state set up a program that farmers could sign up for and get some hay to feed their cattle.
And then, right in the middle of his term, the nation elected a new president.
“We were a little bit disappointed that President Trump was against the Trans Pacific Partnership,” Gillooly said. “That was one of the hardest issues because agriculturally it was to our benefit to be able to get into that trade system with those countries.”
The trade deal would have lowered tariffs on the American beef trade into Asian markets, creating a more level playing field where now Australia has a clear advantage.
But, there have been some bright spots, such as Trump’s recent move regarding the Clean Water Act.
“This is a big issue for the cattle industry and the agricultural community,” Gillooly said. “We want protections and we need laws, but those over-regulations are what we try to fight against.”
He is also very optimistic about the Federal Agriculture Committee Trump is putting together, particularly with former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue being tapped as the Agriculture Secretary.
“He was a veterinarian. He grew up on a farm. He raised livestock. He has an understanding. He’s not just in office fighting for something because he’s getting paid to. ”
A major focal point for the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association the last few years has been on membership and starting a young cattlemen’s council designed to offer something in the gap between the junior association for kids in high school and the adult association.
“We found that once kids went off to college they were losing that connection,” Gillooly said. “The 18 to 40 group, that’s a group that we are really trying to prepare as the next generation that is going to take over what grandma and grandpa may have started and mom and dad are currently doing. We want to help get them ready for that next step if they so desire to take over the farm.”