“Herds and Heritage: The History of Georgia’s Cattle Industry,” is a book about bovines and how centuries of Georgians have depended on them for sustenance, leather and more. The book makes clear that while people rely on cattle, these animals and cattle-related businesses depend on people, too. It also traces cattle breeds, their growth and adaptation to Georgia.
The book began with John Callaway, chairman of the Georgia Beef Commission. Callaway pushed for it after seeing similar cattle histories published in other states. He pulled together a group of Georgia cattle leaders to decide whether to pursue doing a book. Once they agreed to the project, Callaway planned the book and raised money to publish it. He recruited Jackie Kennedy, editor of the Newnan-Coweta Magazine, to write it. Once finished, Callaway sat with her at the 2022 Georgia Cattlemen’s Convention, manning the book’s sales booth while Kennedy autographed copies.
“I knew the longer we waited, the fewer people would be around to share their knowledge of our history,” Callaway said.
The 336-page book covers five centuries of cattle in Georgia starting with Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon to Georgians raising cattle today.
It’s beautifully illustrated with hundreds of photographs, details about various breeds, cattle marketing and Georgia’s dairy sector.
At the Georgia Cattlemen’s Industry Luncheon on Feb. 17, Callaway unveiled the cover art – a photo of Jimmy Johnson with his Angus herd in Jackson County - and introduced Kennedy, who grew up on a dairy farm in Troup County.
“John Callaway’s heart for the cattle industry and his passion for this project is why you have this book,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy sifted through records, collected anecdotes and photos from more than 140 cattle producers to generate a narrative taking readers back to the 1500s, when Europeans came to the New World with Andalusian cattle from Spain.
“I started out early in this project asking people what their favorite part of the cattle industry was. I was expecting them to say the cattle, the land, being outside, or being their own boss,” said Kennedy. “Nobody said that. Every single person I interviewed said, ‘It’s the people, just being with other people in the beef industry.’ This is an industry with people who have common interests, common goals, and it’s a grand heritage that we all share.”
Now, that heritage is documented, and Georgia cattle producers seem delighted with the result.
“I’ve seen the books from other states, and every one I’ve seen, I’d put ours up against. Jackie did a tremendous job,” Callaway said.
Herds and Heritage: The History of Georgia’s Cattle Industry is available to GCA members through the organization’s online store at www.gabeef.org under the “shop” tab using their member login. Nonmembers can place orders via mail by sending a check for $65 to the Georgia Cattlemen’s Foundation, P.O. Box 27990, Macon, GA 31221.