Ralph Gilbert Lovelady was a true pioneer in Alabama cattle production. By paying close attention to genetics, forage production and keeping meticulous records, he developed one of the state’s top commercial cattle herds in the rolling hills of Chilton County.
Born and raised on a two-mule, 80-acre farm on the west edge of Chilton County on Feb. 21. 1921, Lovelady—who served in the United States Air Force—started his cattle operation in 1949 with eight Angus-Holstein cows and a Hereford bull. In the 1950s, cattle, hay and row crops provided income, but since the mid-1960s, cattle were and continue to be the sole source of revenue for the farm.
Lovelady hosted numerous tours of cattle producers from throughout the Southeast to his farm, eagerly sharing how he achieved top performance. He also received numerous awards for top-producing cows, and his farming operation has been profiled in numerous farming magazines and newspaper articles.
Lovelady farmed on the southern part of the Upper Coastal Plains on soils that ran the gamut from sand and gravel to heavy clay, usually suitable only for forages and trees. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, his two sons left for college and entered business, leaving him and his wife Myrtle as the sole labor force running a 200-brood cow operation. When Lovelady experienced health issues in 1988, his son Butch returned to the farm and helped to expand it.
Lovelady Farms focused on producing and marketing “predictable beef cattle,” meaning that the main goal of the breeding program was to produce a potential brood cow. The heifer was expected to calve as a 2-year-old and have the potential to wean a 700-pound calf each year. Steer calves were a by-product of the breeding program, but they had to meet the industry needs to bring top prices at sale time. The nutritional program was built around forage, with bermuda, bahia and dallis grass in the summer, overseeded in the fall with arrowleaf and clover. Lovelady began keeping individual performance records through the BCIA in 1981.
He was a tireless worker for Alabama’s cattle industry, becoming a charter member of the Bibb County Cattlemen’s Association in 1954 and later becoming its president. He also served as president and director of the Chilton County Cattlemen’s Association, regional vice president of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association and president of the Alabama Beef Cattle Improvement Association.
Lovelady was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher at Randolph Baptist Church. He died on Oct. 1, 1998. He and his late wife Myrtle are survived by two sons, Butch and Milton, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.