Jott McGill's enthusiasm is evident when he tells you he could talk to you all day about his interest in breeding Brahman cattle.
The 26-year-old Williamsburg County native is shutting back and forth between his home in Spartanburg, where he once worked a 700-acre farm, and his land on Warsaw Highway, near Midway Presbyterian Church.
What has sparked McGill's interest is the breeding of what, at first glance, appears to be a peculiar, almost menacing-looking bull?
The proud breeder assures visitors that any reputation the Brahman may have for meanness is due mainly to the use of half-bred, ill-treated "Brahman" bulls in rodeos, which choose and raise the bulls for the purpose of instilling hostility in them. Regarding those animals' dispositions as typical of the Brahman breed would be like judging all horses by the temperament of a mistreated rodeo outlaws.
Though the Brahman bull is large, even as bulls go (mature bulls weigh from 1,600 to 2,200 lbs., and cows from 1,000 to 1,400 lbs.) their disposition, if properly bred and treated, is gentle. They are intelligent, McGill maintains, and are shy and inquisitive when handed properly.
Brahmans can't be herded like other cattle, McGill said, but will respond when called, a fact attested to when he stands at one end of a cut-over corn field and summons his herd of about half a dozen Brahman cattle. Immediately, they come lumbering across the field, apparently not expecting food, for none is offered, but simply standing patiently while McGill describes their virtues to visitors.
Brahmans are unusually hardy and can forage on nearly any vegetation, which is the reason McGill has pastured his herd in the corn field-the leftover corn is readily consumed by the herd. If nothing else is available, McGill says, he has seen one cow knock over a gum tree for the entire herd to feed on.
No other breed, in fact, responds as well to poor pasture conditions or drought as Brahmans. They show a greater tendency to subsist on shrubs, leaves of trees, vines and other coarse vegetation than any other breed. According to information from the Brahman breeders association, Brahmans prefer to graze in the sun and will range greater distances than most other breeds.
Indian cattle has a long history in South Carolina. The first to be seen in the United States were imported in 1849 by Dr. James Bolton Davis of Fairfield County. However, the breed was lost during the Civil War.
Today, American Brahmans have spread to every state in the continental United States, and to every province of Canada, as well as 58 other countries. The goal of pioneer Brahman breeders was to produce a cow to survive scorching sun and winter rains. The resulting breed lives longer than expected and remains fertile throughout most of its life.
Looking to the future, McGill hopes to have 25 registered brood cows in five years. He figures he will need 60 acres of permanent pasture for that herd. By using artificial insemination, and then transferring the embryo to a more common cow, such as a jersey, a single prize Brahman cow can produce as many as 10 calves per year.
Now, McGill plans to enlarge and improve his registered herd. Al offspring that aren't culled from the herd will be saved, and plans include building a barn to house his operation.
The Brahmans may look peculiar to the visitor, but to Jott McGill they are a joy to behold.