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• As a result of his long success as a dairy farmer, Pate has been selected as the 2011 Tennessee winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
Has embraced modern technology
Yet he’s young enough to have embraced modern dairy technology. He started milking three times per day six years ago. He uses embryo transfer for top-producing cows. One of these cows has produced more than 45,000 pounds of milk per year. He has used total mixed rations for his milk cows since 1980. He was also an early adopter of artificial insemination for breeding.
Recently, he evaluated a prototype milking machine, the only one of its type in the U.S., before agreeing with his employees that their existing milking system worked just as well.
He says his farm has been a success because he has hired good employees. Some have worked on the farm for 30 years.
He markets his milk through the Dairy Farmers of America cooperative. He says, “A cooperative is the best way to market milk, and they work hard to get us premium milk prices.”
Pate opens his farm to visiting school children. “Children need to know where food comes from,” he adds.
University of Tennessee veterinary medicine students also make frequent use of his farm. He has also been a frequent visitor to the dairy and equipment exhibits at the Sunbelt Expo farm show.
He started farming in partnership with his father in 1948. When Pate’s dad first owned the farm, it had a large house with seven fireplaces. During the 1800s, the old house served as an inn where stagecoach passengers spent the night after leaving Knoxville on the old road to Atlanta.
Pate asked his dad to convert their beef farm into a dairy. “My father let me do that,” he says, “but he said he would never milk cows. True to his word, my dad never milked cows.”
He has been a Farm Bureau member since 1951. He was named Conservation Farmer of the Year in both 1960 and 1982 by the Blount County Soil Conservation District.
He’s on the Foothills Farmers Co-op board, a member of the Blount County Livestock Association and a 4-H dairy sponsor. He supports veterinary medicine, dairy science and other programs at the University of Tennessee.
Pate has served as a member or board member of many dairy organizations. Some of these include Dairy Herd Improvement Association, Southeast Select Sires, Dairy Farmers of America, Dairymen Incorporated, Southeast United Dairy Industry Association and Mid-America Dairymen.
He’s a member of the Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association and served on the boards of the National Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
His wife Barbara taught school until she retired in 1975. Despite debilitating scoliosis and arthritis, she continues to work as the chief financial officer and in keeping records for the farm. Pate says,
“As a couple, we’ve endured many challenges. Yet Barbara has remained a strong supporter and contributor to the farm. Our farm would not have been successful without Barbara.”
Mac and Barbara had one child, a son Mackie who died in 1992 at age 41. “His death was a deep personal loss,” says Pate. Mackie was a college professor in Washington, D.C., and made a lasting contribution to the farm before he died. “He handled sire selection,” recalls his father.
Besides selecting sires for milk production, he selected some for their recessive genes for color. One cow produced from this process was red in color. “Mackie knew how to breed Holsteins so they would express the red gene,” recalls Pate. “That red Holstein cow was an outstanding producer, and we sold her for $55,000 in 1983.” Today, visitors to the Pate farm can still see red Holsteins, a lasting legacy of their son’s work in genetics and sire selection.