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Unicoi family farm joins American Angus Association

Contributed Photo • Angus cattle graze in a pasture owned by Team Mackey Livestock.

By Bryan Stevens

Team Mackey Livestock in Unicoi County is a new member of the American Angus Association, according to Mark McCully, CEO of the national breed organization headquartered in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

Team Mackey Livestock is owned and operated by Chris Mackey, who serves as the University of Tennessee Unicoi County Extension director in addition to his duties as the UT Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent. 

“As a second generation cattle farmer, I have always been around livestock,” Mackey said. 

“My father started Mackey Farms in the mid ’80s,” he added. “He had a herd of both commercial and purebred Gelbvieh cattle in addition to burley tobacco. Neither of my parents grew up showing cattle and I am still not sure how we became involved in the livestock show industry, but my two siblings and myself were heavily involved in exhibiting cattle, sheep and hogs at local, state and national shows.”

Mackey said that as he started to get more heavily involved in the livestock and beef industry, he was always drawn to purebred Simmental and Angus cattle. 

“In 2014, I decided to branch from the family operation and start my own brand, Team Mackey Livestock,” he said.

“I currently run a small herd of 15 Angus, Simmental and Sim-Angus cattle,” Mackey said. “I also have a flock of 40 black face and white face cross sheep.”

According to Mackey, the operation goal with both the cattle and sheep is to produce a high caliber product that is focused on making both functional livestock that will also compete at livestock shows. 

“Not every animal born is worthy to be taken into a show ring, but at the end of the day, they need to be able to make it in the real world and do their job, maintain and produce a quality protein source for the American consumer,” he explained.

Not even the business of raising and showing cattle has been immune to unforeseen consequences of the ongoing pandemic.

“The pandemic has had a major impact on everyone’s operation,” Mackey pointed out. “Not only are the prices of everything going up and up, but there have also been supply shortages on many commodities and farming assets.

“Who would have ever thought that it would take over a year to get a new tractor?” Mackey said. “But that’s the current situation we are dealing with. Fertilizer prices have quadrupled, and the price of grain and feed stuffs have also put a huge strain on everyone’s bottom line.”

Mackey has allowed himself some optimism.

“It has been a promising spring with decent weather and our first cutting of hay turned out better than we anticipated,” Mackey said. “But who knows what the remainder of summer and fall will bring?”

The American Angus Association, with more than 25,000 active adult and junior members, is the largest beef breed association in the world. Its computerized records include detailed information on over 19 million registered Angus. 

For more information about Angus cattle and the American Angus Association, visit www.angus.org.