Written by Jordan Haymes, OFN Contributor"I’ll never forget it,” said Ron O’Neal. “My grandpa and I were sitting on the tailgate of a truck, I was eating an apple, and he said to me, ‘This would be a great place to build a house.’ And years later, that’s just what I did.”
Ron O’Neal now lives in the house he built on the very spot his grandpa suggested. Ron is the third generation of farmers on his land, just west of Republic, Mo. His grandpa raised Hereford cattle. Ron lived on another part of the farm, half a mile down the road, where his dad had dairy cattle, hogs and steers. “I grew up working on the farm, and just like anyone who was raised on the farm, I helped with all of it.” Ron was mostly involved with the hogs. He was very successful in showing hogs around the region. “I never showed cattle, but I was always interested in it,” said Ron.
After high school Ron worked at a hospital as a technician, where he met Paula. They were married, and when the couple decided to have kids, they knew they wanted to have cattle for their children to show. Ron, who had always had a commercial cattle herd on the side, started an insulation business, which he still runs today alongside his farm. When determining which breed to begin investing in, Ron remembered that his grandpa had a Santa Gertrudis bull when Ron was growing up on the farm. “I always loved the calves that came from that bull,” he recalled. So he and Paula decided to begin building a registered Santa Gertrudis herd. They invested in two heifers in 2000, when their first son, Hunter, was five, and his little brother, Brady, was two.
They soon bought a registered bull and the herd grew from there. Today, you can find 45-50 registered Santa Gertrudis cows on the O’Neal farm. Ron's two sons take care of the chores many evenings if he has to work late. They represent the fourth O’Neal generation to have a hand in production agriculture on the farm.
Ron’s love of the show ring from his youth compelled him to want his sons to have a similar experience. Since beginning to show, the boys have won numerous awards including Reserve National Champion for a bull they call ‘Skid’. Both of the boys have won the Junior Nationals Showmanship award. Proving the genetics from their herd, the O'Neals cattle have sold well to breeders across the region.
The family has about 115 acres on their farm. They raise half of their own hay on their fescue-based pastures. Their herd has been particularly influenced by a breeder out of Kansas who’s become like a grandpa to Hunter and Brady. “Gene Kilgore has done all of the work,” said Ron, “his genetics are amazing. He’s been doing this for many years.” Mr. Kilgore has sold Ron a bull and other animals, and has never missed a show that the boys were involved in. “His wife brings all the Santa Gertrudis kids a goody bag with cookies and candy. They’re really involved with the youth,” added Paula.
Some goals for the family farm, which is home to other livestock as well, are to implement all automatic waterers, and build up the herd to pay for the boys’ college. Ron concluded, “We want to pass the farm onto the boys, and keep it in the family for future generations.”
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