One Piece at a Time
Rick Horton’s great-great-grandfather, David Horton, homesteaded in 1886 near what is now Marshall, Ark. At one time there were 13 Horton families in the immediate area, with the land almost always being passed down to the children.
Rick and his wife Janice, whom he met in grade school and began dating while both were attending the University of Arkansas, spent many years and raised their two children in southern Arkansas, where David pursued his career in farm management for nurseries and Janice became a secondary math teacher.
The couple stayed in that area for 25 years.
In 1997, as soon as their daughter finished college, Rick and Janice returned to Marshall to farm on land they had begun to purchase from one uncle.
“My goal was to put back together David Horton’s original farm,” Rick said. “Neither of my two uncles had any children, and I inherited another section from my other uncle. I have pursued this goal until I now have all but 120 acres of David’s land.”
The 735-acre farm was created from five separate farms, three of which are contiguous. Although much of that land is wooded, 400 acres is set aside for a commercial cattle operation. Included is an 80-acre hayfield, a compromise between using the land and not fighting the elk.
The nature of the land determined the nature of their cattle herd. Rick was raised on a farm with cattle, hogs and row cropping. Rick’s uncle A.D. gave him eight Hereford heifers as his seedstock. Then his father Ezra wanted to retire from farming and sold his cattle, thereby freeing up more land for Rick to work with.
When the market decided black cattle were best, Rick converted from Hereford to a black Angus/Salers cross. Much of the farm’s terrain is woody and steep, and the Salers are known for being hardy with a substantial carcass well supported by strong legs, which were essential in their original mountain home in France. Other characteristics include handling extreme temperatures, good fertility and excellent milkability. The breed is most popular in the Dakotas though Rick learned of them from a neighbor who brought some back to Arkansas. The current Horton cattle herd consists of 50 momma cows bred by four bulls.
Rick prefers a single, but long, calving season from December through March because the cooler temperatures eliminate fly and heat issues. The practice means calves are of different weights when sold. Nonetheless, calves are weaned in November when all the cattle are lured to pens by using dairy feed. Then the calves are separated and fed a special, personally-designed ration for two to four weeks before being sold at Ozark Regional Stockyards in West Plains, Mo.
Support for this system comes in different forms. First, is in the selection of bulls, usually Salers. Rick selects more by appearance than EPDs and is looking for lengthy but not huge animals with excellent feet who produce calves with a low birth weight but substantial weaning weight.
Another support is that cows are usually culled between 15 and 17 years old because the cross promotes longevity with his best calves coming from cows 10 to 15 years old. In addition, the cattle run both through the woods and in pastures that were almost all fescue when he purchased the place.
Using a government program, he over seeded with native grasses in the hayfield so it is now 50 percent native grass. However, pastures are now only 20 percent native grass, but the land is very fertile and well-balanced, and he has never had any fescue toxicity problems. He does not fertilize or broadcast spray for weeds, though he does brush hog and backpack spray for honey locust. Finally, the cattle receive excellent water from numerous springs.
A true understanding of this farm emerges by looking at what Rick does in his “spare” time.
When Rick and Janice moved back to Marshall, he began working for the Forest Service on controlled burns. Part of his job was to design the protocols used to make the burns effective and efficient. Just outside his house he has a beautiful stand of pines with others scattered throughout the property. He manages his timber and takes advantage of the constantly improving genetics in trees. He has also convinced many of the locals to be aware of good conservation and forest development, helping where he can. The original 31 acres belonging to David Horton are devoted to quail, turkey and other forms of wildlife that Rick and his son love to hunt.
When not working cows or land, Rick is a family historian as well as restoring antique vehicles and equipment. In fact, he put his children through college by restoring antique grist mills.
“My grandfather Ras told me not to buy anything I couldn’t pay for, and I have lived by that all my life,” Rick said. “Restoring those antique grist mills allowed my children to get an education debt free.”http://www.ozarksfn.com/2020/05/20/one-piece-at-a-time/http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/RickHorton-1024x732.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/RickHorton-150x150.jpgArkansas NeighborsNeighborsArkansas,Janice Horton,Marshall,Rick HortonRick Horton’s goal has been to return all of his great-great-grandfather’s land back to the the family. Rick, pictured with his grandson Major, now runs cow/calf pairs on the family farm. Rick Horton’s great-great-grandfather, David Horton, homesteaded in 1886 near what is now Marshall, Ark. At one time there were...Terry RoppTerry Roppterrymerrill@hotmail.comAuthorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper