Breeding for Champions
Ali Underwood began raising sheep at a young age and continues to show and breed Southdowns and Montadales
On a warm fall day, when the dog days of summer merge with the cooler, first hint of fall, and the golden leaves of the walnut trees float delicately on the breeze, a trip to the Underwood Farm was on the agenda.
Ali Underwood loves living on her family’s farm. Farming has been in the Underwood family for at least four generations, and is located in rural Walnut Grove, Mo., just over the Polk County line, and consists of 850-acres; just shy of a section.
Ali’s love of the outdoors began early in life and is a heritage she firmly believes in today. Her love of tranquility and beautiful views, along with her British White Park Cattle, and Southdown and Montadale sheep keeps her firmly rooted in country life, but she also likes to meet with friends on the weekend for some dancing and excitement in town.
Ali also enjoys showing her sheep and farming the land. She’s a dedicated animal lover, and has several animals as pets, like her Coturnix quail, a Japanese breed that she originally raised as part of a game bird management class at college.
Ali graduated from Missouri State University in 2010 with a degree in general agriculture, a minor in wildlife conservation and an associate’s of applied science degree in turf and landscape management. She works for the Missouri Department of Conservation at the Andy Dalton Shooting Range in Bois D’ Arc, Mo., as an outdoor education center specialist. She teaches a hunter’s education course at local schools and the Wolf School sponsored by Bass Pro, which focuses on firearm safety and various outdoor skill sets.
Ali got her first sheep when she was a 5-year-old kindergartner.
“We went to the Eudora 4-H Club and they encouraged us to start Ali with sheep when she was eligible to join Clover Kids,” mom Fonda reflected. “Having sheep at an early age was an excellent way for kids to transition to cattle.”
Currently, Ali raises and shows Southdown and Montadale sheep. Her ram was reserve champion at the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Mo., in 2017.
“It was phenomenal,” Fonda explained.
“He was a second-place animal that they pulled up to the championship drive,” Ali noted. “There were three, split-classes of spring bucks, and I was in second-class, second-place. First and second place animals participate in the championship drive. The judge picked the first-place buck in my class as grand champion, and pulled my second-place buck up to fill that spot and he was ultimately chosen reserve champion. It was so exciting and happened so fast.
“I knew what was happening, and the lady that was helping me show said ‘Get up here! Get up here! You’ve really got a shot if he’s pulling you up.’”
Southdown sheep are not considered a “showy” animal due to their slick-shearing, however, they are extremely lovable and they have consistently been the largest breed at the Missouri State Fair for several years.
A judge recently called one of Ali’s rams a “beast” because he was so tall and long. He didn’t win any championships, but the people who bought him, took him to Massachusetts where he placed third in his class at The Eastern States Exposition, New England’s Great State Fair, the largest agricultural event on the eastern seaboard.
Ali also raised a Montadale ewe that was reserve champion at the North American International Livestock Show (NAILE).
“I want to keep raising championship quality sheep,” Ali said.
Ali became interested in British White Park Cattle in FFA, and later in a beef cattle production class when her advisor and mentor, Dr. Tommy Perkins, suggested that British White Parks would be an excellent mix with her father’s Charolais cattle.
“The White Park bulls help with the calving ease in the Charolais first-time heifers,” Ali explained. “They’re just an all-around great breed; very docile, great mothers that calve easily and give lots of milk. Another great trait, they’re immediately identifiable in the field because of their black noses, ears, legs and feet. They also break easily and make great pets.”
The Underwood’s grow 125 acres of brome, lespedeza and grass mixed hay, along with several additional acres of fescue. The sheep are exclusively fed brome. They prefer it over alfalfa; which can easily lead to overfeeding. They’re also fed a 16-percent alfalfa-based pellet, which is high in minerals. The babies are fed sweet feed that is high in nutrients while they’re growing them out and showing them.
“Our focus over the years has been to show what we raise, and continue being competitive. In order to achieve this, you’ve got to find ways to stay on top of your game, and that means changing out your bucks frequently,” Fonda explained. “What judges want in the showring changes so frequently, such as, length of loin and thickness of the muscle and top. The saying used to be you can’t get them long enough or tall enough. Now, they want more thickness and muscle to them.”
Dale Underwood is a fourth-plus generation farmer in Southwest Missouri. Dale and Fonda live on the farm that Dale was raised on and they live lives just a stone’s throw away from Fonda’s family home; Carl and Alice Buckner’s farm.
“My dad custom farmed just about every inch of Willard farmland, long before the housing divisions were built,” Fonda said.
Dale stays busy with his Charolais cattle operation.
“The cattle pay the bills,” Fonda said. She works as a medical coordinator and registered medical assistant at Mercy Plastic Surgery with Dr. Meystrik for 22 years. The entire family stays very busy.
Ali is Dale and Fonda’s only child; however, Ali has two half-brothers, Derrick Underwood and his wife Shannan of Springfield, Mo., and Kevin Underwood and his wife Lisa Underwood of St. Louis.
Ali’s goal for the future is to build a home and settle on the family farm.http://www.ozarksfn.com/2017/10/11/breeding-for-champions-2/http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Underwood-1024x649.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Underwood-150x150.jpgMissouri NeighborsNeighborsAli Underwood,Missouri,Montadales,sheep,Southdowns,Underwood Farm,Walnut GroveAli Underwood began raising sheep at a young age and continues to show and breed Southdowns and Montadales On a warm fall day, when the dog days of summer merge with the cooler, first hint of fall, and the golden leaves of the walnut trees float delicately on the...Jayne Kinnie-HoutJayne Kinnie-Houtaugusta2010@yahoo.comAuthorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper