Five Acres at a Time
Herla and Flora Bell Mullins took a 240-acre pine forrest and converted it into a cattle operation
In 1927, Herla Mullin’s father Clero purchased a 160-acre cattle farm in Patterson Springs, Ark. However, son Herla wanted a place of his own.
Consequently, in 1959, Herla and his wife Flora Bell bought 240 acres 12 miles away in Ozone, Ark.
The land was mostly flat and located on top of an Ozarks Mountain with a small home. However, one small problem existed – the land was totally covered with trees, mostly pine.
Now 86, Herla fondly remembers he and Flora Bell tackling the huge issue of clearing the land 5 acres at a time using and old John Deere tractor and a log chain. The process involved bending a pine tree over and attaching it to the tractor with the chain then driving around and around slowly until the tree leaned and popped out of the ground.
Smiling warmly, Herla related the time that Flora Bell was driving the tractor around a tree when a favorite dog distracted her and the tree popped up.
“It was really foggy and she got lost in the fog trying to come back to the house though she finally made it,” he recalled.
Chickens and cows always go together. Herla built two chicken houses which allowed a more even flow of income in addition to annual calf sales and added efficiency by using the litter as fertilizer. However, an ice storm made the houses unusable and not worth refurbishing for chickens.
Another income source for Herla was raising a very large vegetable garden with potatoes going to Little Rock and Fort Smith for distribution while tomatoes went to Alabama. Nowadays, Flora Bell still enjoys planting flowers.
Drought conditions existed during the 1950s, and “stuff didn’t grow.”
Herla discovered money was to be made by logging in Wyoming and Colorado, so he, Flora Bell and their young son Junior went to Colorado. In 1954, Herla bought the sawmill returning to Arkansas in 1959 when he bought the farm while doing custom millwork until 1962.
After returning to Arkansas, Herla heard about Charolais in Texas and bought two registered bulls in addition to a polled Hereford bull he already owned. Though the Hereford calves did well, they were not as heavy as the Charolais calves so Herla began the process of switching to commercial Charolais because he made more money.
“I like Charolais because unlike most cattle they are pretty and white,” Flora Bell said with a laugh.
Herla learned about cattle from his father. The best piece of advice he received was not to “marry” a cow because if a cow didn’t make money, she needed to be replaced.
Junior retired from Tyson in 2012 as a supervisor of maintenance in the protein plant and began running the farm due to Herla’s health issues. When Junior was young, Herla raised hogs and corn. Junior hated hoeing the corn and baling hay when he had to stick a wire into the bales and tie it around each bale. Not surprisingly, he took more of an interest in equipment which is why he went into maintenance though watching Junior today feeding cattle by hand and rubbing on their backs shows just how much he loves the animals.
Herla and Junior each own their own cattle. Junior began his herd when he retired although they then combined herds for efficiency. Junior hasn’t had to worry about culling yet because his cows are young.
“Pops can tell each of his cows by just looking at them and he knows the age and production history of each and every one,” Junior said. “I, on the other hand, tag mine and keep careful records in order to keep it all straight.”
The herd now consists of 60 cows and three bulls, one registered with the other two being results of their breeding program. While most of the operation is located in Ozone, Junior keeps a few cows in Patterson Springs, Ark., and hays there twice a year to help maintain the smaller farm, but hays the larger spread only once per year for a total production of 450 round bales.
“Because we sell beef cattle, registering is unnecessary. It costs more money and the operation is complicated enough without about worrying about papers,” Junior explained.
Junior’s goal is to keep the operation as simple as possible. He takes the bulls off the cows in March, April and May to avoid having calves in the heart of winter. Bulls are changed every three years to prevent inbreeding and calves are sold at weaning in September with a few born late sold in the spring. The herd is grass fed with free choice mineral, though the bulls receive grain when they’re put up for three months. Cubes are used when checking the cows to help keep them tame and approachable, something very important to Junior. Junior has learned to keep the occasional crippled calf to raise for personal consumption since any attempt at selling loses money.
Because of the herd’s isolation on the mountaintop, health protocols are fairly simple with vaccinations mostly unnecessary except for calves in spring. Pour-on is used for worms and flies in the fall and spring, with Junior doing most of the vet work such as pulling calves, and treating pinkeye and fescue foot if either pops up.
Pastures, containing fescue and clover are fertilized with poultry litter. No broadcast spraying is done, though spot spraying is used for thistle and lately for purple mint which has become a problem.
A final part of the equation is Sharon, Junior’s wife. Last spring she began a small eggs/meat chicken flock with a variety of heritage breeds but has yet to harvest her first meat birds. She also helps by keeping everyone well supplied with good meals featuring homemade cakes and breads.
“I retired as an occupational therapist at Johnson Regional Hospital after 25 years and am thoroughly enjoying this part of my life,” she said.
The Mullins farm is a gathering place for children and grandchildren, aged 9 months to 18. Favorite activities are riding a four-wheeler and fishing with one of the ponds on the farm supplying minnows for fishing in the Arkansas River while other ponds have perch, catfish and bass.http://www.ozarksfn.com/2018/08/29/five-acres-at-a-time/http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Mullins-1024x655.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Mullins-150x150.jpgArkansas NeighborsNeighborsArkansas,Cattle,Charolais,Flora Bell Mullins,Herla Mullins,Mullins,Ozone,Patterson SpringsHerla and Flora Bell Mullins took a 240-acre pine forrest and converted it into a cattle operation In 1927, Herla Mullin’s father Clero purchased a 160-acre cattle farm in Patterson Springs, Ark. However, son Herla wanted a place of his own. Consequently, in 1959, Herla and his wife Flora Bell...Terry RoppTerry Roppterrymerrill@hotmail.comAuthorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper