Being Good Stewards of the Land
When it comes to cattle and hay farming for Brian Davis and his wife Lee, time management is a major challenge.
Both work off the farm; Brian is principal of the Mammoth Springs High School in Mammoth Springs, Ark., and Lee is a certified rural health clinic billing and coding specialist. Fortunately for the Davis family, their two daughters have always shown an interest in farm and have stepped in to help any way they can.
Oldest daughter Trisha is a sophomore at Arkansas State University (majoring in ag business with a minor in finance), and Rachel is a freshman at Mammoth Springs High School.
“With our off farm jobs we really have a busy lifestyle,” Brian said. “Trying to time manage those with our 400-acre cattle and hay farm is really a challenge. But our daughters have been a great help. They are capable in handling every aspect of the farm operation.”
The Davises own 280 acres and rent 120 acres. Their cattle herd consists of 50 commercial beef cows and 15 registered Angus and Saler/Optimizer cows. The commercial cattle are sold through the two local livestock sale barns, and the registered cattle are all sold by private treaty and production sales with the Northeast Arkansas Angus Association.
To help with the farm’s cash flow the Davises do custom farm work and sell their surplus hay.
Cattle farming is an institution in the Davis family. Brian is a sixth-generation cattle producer and has been raising cattle since he was 5 years old. “When I was 5, my grandfather gave every family member a heifer,” Brian said. “If it had a steer, we could trade the steer for another heifer. Many of our commercial cows can be traced to those original animals.”
Show cattle also provide some extra cash flow to the farm.
Both Trisha and Rachel have been active in showing cattle at the Fulton County (Ark.) Fair for the last several years. Several of their show cattle have been auctioned for top dollar at the fair, which help to pay the expense of raising the cattle and other funds go back into the farm operation.
The girls have also had success in showing poultry. Trisha’s prize project currently is a 17-month old, 1,600-pound registered Angus bull named Duncan. Duncan has one more county fair showing then will be auctioned off.
“Duncan is really just a big pet,” Lee said. “Trisha has really done a great job with him. We hate to auction him off, but its time. We are confident he will bring top dollar.’
Reducing the farm’s environmental footprint is a major priority for Brian and Lee. Food plots are planted each year and some fence lines are allowed to grow naturally for small game habitat.
No-till drills are used to improve hillside pastures and reduce erosion. The family is also particular to leave buffer strips close to water sheds when spraying or fertilizing, and they feed hay in various location to distribute manure which improves the soil. Trucks have been replaced by UTVs which have much smaller environmental footprints and are more efficient. Future plans include expanding the registered herd, planting more warm season grasses, concentrate on spraying pastures to improve grasses and improve the efficiency of soil nutrients.
Cross-fencing and rotational grazing are two elements that have paid good dividends for the Davises. They are continuing to improve the quality of their beef through AI and utilizing better EPD selection. Working with the NRCS, plans are being made to install freshwater tanks,
Community activities are important to the Davis family. Brian serves on the Fulton County Tax Equalization Board, the Fulton County Fair Board, he is a member of the Thayer/Mammoth Springs Rotary, and serves as a Fulton County Reserve deputy. He is also active in several school associations and Angus cattle associations on the regional and national level.
Lee has taught Sunday School for 16 years and is a member of the Mammoth Springs Chamber of Commerce. Trisha and Rachel have both excelled in school, served as ambassadors on the Fulton County Fair Board, participated in FFA and are members of the Northeast Arkansas Angus Association. Both girls also have off-farm jobs in addition to their farm jobs.
A sixth-generation farmer, core family values, good stewards of natural resources, and giving back to the community, just a few of the traits that earned Brian, Lee, Trisha, and Rachel Davis the honor as Fulton County’s 2017 Farm Family of the Year.