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Edgard cattle farm teaches hard work, dedication to young people

STACEY PLAISANCE / L’Observateur / October 2, 1998

EDGARD – The Perret family of Edgard combines family tradition and new- age advancements in the cattle industry so younger generations can maximize their farm life experiences and apply them in modern society.

Having been in the cattle business since the early 1950s, Alvin Perret has instilled farm-life values and responsibilities in his grandchildren, which they have applied to their lives as cattle show competitors, students and active members of the community. Alvin said his grandchildren havereceived the most benefit from his cattle farm, and they completely manage his approximately 70-head cattle operation.

“It’s a business, but the money isn’t everything,” Alvin said. “The benefitsof the cattle farm are to the grandchildren. They learn to work, that theyhave obligations, and they are competitive.” Cindy Perret, 21, and her teen-age brother Jonathan utilized the farm lifestyle in which they were raised in choosing their future career goals.

Currently a senior majoring in dairy science at LSU, Cindy is minoring in both advertising and agri-business. She is employed by the LSU livestockshow office, and she represents several local, state and national cattle associations.

Jonathan is a senior at St. Martin Episcopal School and plans to attend LSUupon graduation to study engineering. He said the farm has provided forhim the opportunity to build various structures needed for the cattle operation and apply his engineering abilities. He said this will assist himin his career choice.

“Since I’ve come from a farm I know what farmers need, and I can probably help them more than someone studying engineering who came from the city and doesn’t know how to help the farmers or the farm.” Jonathan said.Jonathan has been a member of the St. John Parish 4-H Club for nine years,and he is a member of the West St. John Volunteer Fire Department. Cindy was named this year’s queen of the Lafourche Parish Cattlemen’s Association. She has carried several other titles, including Queen of theAngus Association and Queen of the Louisiana Junior Polled Hereford Association, and she is currently president of the Louisiana Junior Polled Hereford Association. She place second in last year’s National JuniorAngus Association showmanship competition.

“I won the titles because of what I know about cattle, the cattle industry, and all my experiences have come from here,” she said. “Living on a farmrequires more responsibility, and it gives you a whole new outlook on things. Growing up out here and going to school in the city has given methe best of both worlds.”The family has participated in numerous competitions nationwide as a team showing the best cattle from the farm. While Alvin often attends thecompetitions, he leaves the work up to his grandchildren. Cindy said thishas been one of the advantages she and Jonathan have had over other show cattle competitors their age.

“They’ve never had a grandfather like him,” Cindy said, motioning in the direction of her grandfather with a genuine grin. “He’s always there, butPaw-paw lets you figure things out. We do all the work, and he wouldn’tsee it any other way.

“If we couldn’t pull the weight, he wouldn’t let us do it,” she said. “Andthat has helped us a lot because with a lot of other kids out there competing, their parents do all the work, and the kids really don’t see or know anything until they walk in the show ring.”Alvin said his grandchildren tend to everything from raking and bailing hay on the farm to preparing the cattle for shows and competitions. Not onlydoes this keep them out of trouble, but it teaches them character and how to win and lose, Alvin explained.

In order to keep the farm up-to-date with modern breeding methods for competitive edge, the Perrets have implemented new scientific advancements in breeding of their show cattle. Alvin said they havealready utilized selective breeding where top bull semen is bought and artificially inseminated into the female. Embryo transplanting issomething they are currently looking into, he said.

“It’s a faster way of improving the herd,” Alvin said. “You flush the topcows and get their eggs to implant in other cows. Right now we’re lookingat prices, and we’re trying to find the best cow we can find.”Alvin said the most difficult aspect of being in the cattle business is keeping up with the highs and lows, and advanced breeding methods make a difference in the value of the herd. The Perret’s cattle have been shown instate competitions in Iowa, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas, and they will be shown in Oklahoma next summer.

Cindy said they frequently attend state competitions, and from August through October they attend competitions almost every weekend. Theseshows are held in cities including Baton Rouge, Covington, Shreveport and Lake Charles.

Jonathan said he is often the early-bird who feeds the cattle at 5 a.m.Before getting ready for school, and after school he immediately resumes his farm chores. From time to time Jonathan said he is called home earlyfrom school due to complications on the farm. For example, when a cowwas experiencing difficulty giving birth, Jonathan said he left school to attend to the farm’s needs. But his farm duties do not interfere with hisstudies, he said.

“I’ve just had to manage my time, and sometimes I stay up really late to finish my homework,” he said. “I think it’s fun being from the country. Iwear my boots to school, and nobody else wears boots. A lot of people callme cowboy, and I get a kick out of it.

“Most of them think it’s neat that I show cows, and they ask me a lot of questions because they don’t know a whole lot about it,” he said.

Jonathan said this will be his last year showing cattle, but he and Cindy said they will be around to assist the next generation of family show cattle competitors. Their younger cousins Ashley, 8, and Jeffery, 5, havealready expressed great interest in showing cattle.

“They can’t wait to start, but they still have a little time,” Alvin said.