10 Country: Al's Super Cow - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

10 Country: Al's Super Cow

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May 27, 2008

Bacon Co. - It's hard to miss Al Dowdy's cattle farm when traveling east on Georgia highway 32 between Douglas and Alma.

Look for the first white, wood fence on the right side of the road, right past a golf course, with cows grazing around a house. Look closely at the cows and you could see a solution to the nation's obesity crisis.

"A double muscle breed of cattle," says Al as he pushes down an electric fence with a stick and steps over into the pasture.

It looks as if the bulls regularly go to a gym and lift weights. Their shoulder and hip muscles bulge, much different from other cattle with streamlined physiques.

"I feel like the inventor of this particular breed of cow," says Al, who named it Charmont, a crossbreed of the French breed, Charloias, and the North Italian breed, Piedmontese with American breeds.

Al says the meat from a Charmont bull is not like anything else grown by a traditional beef cow, and that makes his breed quite special. His timing couldn't be better because of heightened concerns about obesity, especially the amount of fat in the human diet that comes from beef.

"It produces 99% lean meat with about 1% fat verses a traditional breed that produces about 80% lean beef and 20% fat," says Al as he walks in one pasture looking at "Nature Boy," his first double-muscled bull produced on his farm.

To make such a huge, healthy difference in leanness took Al 41 years of patience.

"I became interested early in life in just producing good food," says Al who has an advanced degree in entomology.

He spent years studying bugs and killing destructive ones, but his heart always yearned to experiment with cattle. Al used the scientific method of problem solving learned as a graduate student and applied the proven strategy to his cattle research.

Along the way, Al ran into a huge problem.

A mama cow rarely delivered a live Charmont calf because its baby was so big and muscular that it got trapped inside the birth canal.  In particular, the calf's hips were too big to get past its mother hips during delivery.  Essentially, it became stuck. Either the calf, which weighed at least 80 pounds or its mother died during the birthing process, sometimes both.

He never gave up.

Eventually, over the years, he found a breeding combination that worked.

"Eliminated the bad traits through crossbreeding," says Al.

Through genetics, he found a way to reduce the birth weight to less than 60 pounds. The mama cows no longer had problems delivering their babies, plus they had the double-muscle quality Al looked for.

Success at last and a dream come true. Along the way he found another benefit.

"The mamas produce superior milk," says Al who believes the milk provides better nutrition for humans than milk bought at the grocery store.

Ultra-low fat beef, expected in grocery stores in about two-and a-half years, coupled with their high quality milk could improve the quality of life for lots of people a bite or a gulp at a time.