Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame
Kay Richardson is the president and general manager of Richardson Brothers, Inc., one of the top-performing cow-calf operations in Florida. He is known for the advances he has made in cattle production and for his marketing innovations. He is a strong supporter of cattle research at the University of Florida and has held many volunteer leadership positions in the agriculture industry.
Richardson was born in 1938 in Evinston, Florida. He grew up on his family’s farm, Richardson Brothers, Inc., which produced vegetables, field crops, and citrus. In 1960 he earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Florida. After completing his service in the Marines in 1964, he became an active partner in Richardson Brothers, which was in the process of shifting production to beef cattle and citrus.
Richardson became CEO of Richardson Brothers in the 1970s and quickly moved to improve cattle production in his operation. After the devastating freezes of 1985, Richardson Brothers sold off its citrus groves and made beef cattle its sole focus.
Over the years Richardson earned a reputation as a particularly innovative beef cattle manager. He has always used the most current available tools and programs to maintain a high-quality herd. An early member of the Florida Beef Cattle Improvement Association, he pioneered the use of production records to improve the productivity of his herd and improve the quality and weaning weights of his calves. Years of collecting birth and weaning weights and utilizing carcass evaluation records have resulted in the production of top-quality beef for the consumer. Richardson was instrumental in promoting the use of ultrasound for evaluation of carcass traits in breeding cattle. He supported the purchase of ultrasound equipment by the Florida Beef Cattle Improvement Association so that Florida producers would have access to this technology. Richardson Brothers continues to keep individual cow records and matches calves to their dam. While this practice has become commonplace in the purebred industry, Richardson Brothers is one of an elite group of commercial cattle producers using it.
Kay Richardson proved there are alternatives to selling cows at the auction barn at weaning. One such practice is retained ownership through the feeding phase. Richardson has sent his calves to various branded programs, including a natural program, B3R Meats, in which prices are paid on the basis of carcass merit. He was one of the first Florida producers to participate in the Decatur County Feedyard Program, which markets cattle individually as they reach their most desired finish point.
Richardson is always eager to share his knowledge with other producers. He generously offers up his ranch for use by the University of Florida so students can conduct research projects and professors can offer tours and hands-on short courses and classes. Professors of advanced beef cattle management courses often invite him to come to campus and discuss his management approach. When an agriculture group visits Florida, Richardson Brothers is a must-see. This is not because it is fancy or picturesque but because it is a state-of-the-art, productive operation. Richardson has been a helpful mentor to young people in the cattle business. He supports the Florida State Fair Steer Futurity Program and has provided cattle for many 4-H and FFA projects.
Richardson is a member of the Florida Farm Bureau, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Kansas Livestock Association, and the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He has served as president of the Marion County Farm Bureau, the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Florida Beef Cattle Improvement Association, and Cattle Fax, a non-profit cattle-marketing information organization. In 2000 he was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board.
Richardson’s leadership in the cattle industry has earned him many honors. In 1969 he was named Outstanding Young Farmer by the Marion County/Ocala Jaycees. The Florida Bankers’ Association recognized him for Outstanding Beef Production in 1992, and Gamma Sigma Delta presented him with the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 1997.
Kay Richardson and his wife, Rhoda, live in Evinston. They have two grown sons, Adam and Cary.