May 23, 2012
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 New Center for Beef Excellence board member Phil McMahon is living his agricultural dream as the livestock manager of the famous Erdenheim Farm in historic Montgomery County, Pa. Erdenheim translates to earthly home in German.

McMahon’s interest in beef cattle began in childhood as a 4-H member who raised club calves and market lambs. After high school, he attended Delaware Valley College to further his education in the animal sciences and from there went to work at a biological research company.

Ultimately, he was presented with the opportunity to become the herdsman at Erdenheim Farm, a 400- acre estate with roots tracing to the William Penn era. Since his initial hire 24 years ago, McMahon has taken the helm of all livestock operations, which include 100 head of Angus cattle, 150 Cheviot sheep, 150 laying hens and, most recently, 11 Morgan horses.

McMahon markets the Erdenheim cattle in a number of ways. He direct-markets hamburger patties and other cuts at a farm stand two evenings a week. The market also features the farm’s eggs and produce.

From those connections, he takes custom orders for freezer beef and has raised specialty beef, such as grass-fed for special orders. Seed stock is also sold directly to producers looking to use Erdenheim genetics, although he has consigned the cattle at breed sales.

McMahon looks forward to serving the industry through the Center for Beef Excellence and offers some advice. As the center focuses on an age and source identification program, new export markets will be open to Pennsylvania beef producers.

When asked if he has suggestions for best management practices to share with readers, he suggested selecting for birth weights. He says that after making low birth weight a primary selection criterion, he has not had to pull one calf this season.

You can follow his efforts at

History will repeat itself this fall as McMahon’s son, who already owns a small herd of cattle, will begin his freshman year at Delaware Valley College. He has his father’s passion for raising cattle and will major in animal science. You can find the McMahons exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.