Meet Paul & Bette Slayton -- Seventh Generation Farmers
Paul and Bette Slayton, of Slayton’s Beardance, currently own 50 purebred Hereford and Angus cows on their 320 acre farm, located in Bedford, PA. Both are seventh generation farmers and certainly have farming in their blood, as Paul was raised on a farm in Illinois and Bette in Wisconsin. The couple moved to Bedford County after Paul was offered the opportunity to manage Falklands Farm in Schellsburg, PA. They fell in love with the country side and decided to stay, abandoning their dreams to raise cattle in Montana. The couple first owned cattle while leasing Falklands Farm in 1989. When managing that farm, the Slayton’s bred purebred and commercial Gelbviehs, as well as Angus and Hereford cattle. A standout Gelbvieh was sold to Select Sires and is still available for calving ease, black and polled stud.
Paul and Bette moved to Beardance in 1995, and started to fix up the rundown, 265 acre property. They bought an additional 55 acres of grassland in 2005, which adjoined the farm. While Paul manages most of the day-to-day farm tasks, Bette and her mother, Isabel, are both keenly interested in the farm and cattle. Isabel visits the Bedford farm often, but continues to raise cattle herself, on their family farm in Wisconsin. The Slayton’s choose to farm because they love the lifestyle. While Paul states “the most rewarding part of the job is calving season,” he also mentions that calving season can be the most stressful time as well. His overall passion is for the cattle and describes himself as a “nature addict.” Paul feels very blessed to live on a farm and often finds himself humbled by Mother Nature’s force.
Beardance is mainly a seedstock operation, but have expanded their retail market over the last five years to include a small number of cattle sold for freezer beef. The Slayton’s have sold halves and quarters to customers from the Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. areas. They enjoy getting to know their customers personally, hearing their feedback on their product and giving them the opportunity to tour the farm.
The Slayton’s strive to ensure their cattle are healthy and comfortable with access to clean water, nutritious feed and sufficient protection from harsh weather. Beardance believes that following a strict vaccination schedule for early and timely treatment of health issues is very important. Managing their forages with sufficient fertilizer and rotational grazing is also important to the livelihood of the farm. Their eighteen 10-20 acre pastures have an abundant water supply from the spring fed streams that run through them. For this reason, Paul has worked hard to fence off the streams that run through the pastures and plant enough trees and bushes along the stream banks. This keeps cattle out of the majority of the stream and ensures wildlife is plentiful on the farm, to maintain a balanced ecosystem.
Along with caring for his own operation, the Beef Quality Assurance Program (BQA) is very near and dear to Paul’s heart, after the time he had spent overseeing the program as the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Beef Council. He also firmly believes in implementing these practices on his own operation. During his time with the beef council, Paul established various programs and efforts to improve the existence of BQA in Pennsylvania. One large feat includes orchestrating the Dairy Animal Care Quality Assurance Program and believes it is important to “raise the bar on how dairy cattle are handled and treated.” Paul received an award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in 2011, for his work with the PA BQA Program, the Dairy Quality Assurance Program and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance. Aside from his work with the beef council, the Slayton’s have also been honored with numerous awards for their efforts on these fronts, including winning the most recent 2013 PA BQA award for their best management practices on his farm.
Paul feels very optimistic about the future of Beardance, and comments, “it is so rewarding that we are in the food business, and people love beef, so that is our bliss!” He mentions, opportunity continually presents itself with ways to improve sustainability and efficiencies, at the same time. Paul realizes, however, that each day they are faced with challenges in the form of federal regulations and restrictions. The Slayton’s operate as if “the cameras are always on us and the door is always open.” They want consumers to know there are no secrets and would feel honored to host visitors to tour their operation and talk about their production methods.
Along with Paul’s passion for farming, he is currently the President of the Pennsylvania Hereford Association and recently helped to host the Jr. National Hereford Expo in Harrisburg, PA, July 5-12. Within his community, Paul also serves on the BQA Commission, the Pennsylvania Animal Health Diagnostic Commission and is an active member in the Bedford Presbyterian Church. Paul has been on a few mission trips with his church to Haiti, where he was introduced to TeachHaiti, a School of Hope. He believes strongly in their mission to provide annual educational scholarships to some of Haiti’s neediest children who would not otherwise be able to attend school. Paul also feels the Ag in the Classroom program is very important to the next generation of consumers. His commitments to the beef industry don’t stop there, as he is also currently employed with Cargill, the largest privately owned family company in America. Paul’s role at Cargill is to contract feeder cattle out of Pennsylvania and Ohio. The slaughter facility in Wyalusing, PA acknowledges the opportunity to capitalize on the Holstein Steer market and is looking to expand if they can contract the number of head they need to make the necessary adjustments at the plant.