Tom Howard's first work in production agriculture began in seventh grade when he began working on a turkey farm south of Carthage, Mo.
But more than an hourly job, Tom said, “instead of getting a pay check, I kept track of my hours throughout the summer and at the end of the year when my boss weaned calves, I took a couple of heifers as my pay.” This is exactly how Tom began his cattle operation that is still in full production today. Before entering high school, he had accumulated three cows and four heifers.  “I worked six days a week in the summer time, all the way up to my senior year,” he said.
At the start of his senior year of high school, Tom tried his hand at a row-crop operation where he worked through his freshman year of college at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Mo. He transferred to Missouri State University (then SMSU) and got a degree in agriculture education. “All through my summers in college, I came home to work on the farm,” added Tom.
While student teaching in Chillicothe, Mo., Tom got engaged to Stephanie Legan and soon after took his first teaching job in Nevada, Mo., in the summer of 1999. He married Stephanie the following summer, while still maintaining a cattle operation on his dad’s land back home.  “It started where dad owned the land and I owned the cows,” said Tom, and still today, "dad owns the land and machinery and I own the cows. It’s a partnership. We split everything 50-50.”
Tom taught in Nevada for four years, then taught three years at Carl Junction.
Today, he's back home in Carthage as an agriculture education teacher for the Carthage Technical Center where he teaches agriculture to high school students.
Between Tom and his dad they have about 360 acres in Jasper county. “One hundred and sixty acres are at our farm,” said Tom, “and the rest of it is at mom and dad’s place.”
Currently, Tom owns about 70 cow-calf pairs. He added, “We  buy our registered Brangus bulls off the farm and we’re getting more purebred Brangus. Throughout high school and college I bought whatever I could buy to get the herd going, but more and more now we’re selling through Joplin Regional Stockyards, private treaties and trying to get to a pure Brangus breed.”  Tom enjoys the Brangus breed and said, “having Brangus never hurt us. They sell in the spring just as well as any other, because there are those farmers who come to sales from Oklahoma and Kansas who also enjoy the Brangus animals.”  Tom buys the bulls from registered sales or individual owners. “We have a spring and fall herd. We keep some replacement heifers, and we normally run about three bulls at a time, and we’re actually looking for a few more bulls right now,” he added.
Tom’s operation sells between 50 to 60 calves a year and they keep anywhere from eight to ten replacement heifers from the herd. “We also use a rotational grazing system, and this has really helped cut back on having to worm our cattle as much. We can also stockpile more hay going into the winter this way,” said Tom, “and we feed hay along with loose mineral in the winter months.”  In all of the operation’s paddocks and fields, there’s access to automatic waterers.
“In the future, we’re probably not going to increase our land amount, but we want to move, of course, to an all registered herd, and I’d also like to utilize the 160 acres at my place for our cattle, not the row crops I have there currently,” concluded Tom.
Tom Howard began his involvement in production agriculture in Jasper County, Mo., and from hard work through the years he has grown that first ‘three heifer paycheck’ into a successful and growing cattle operation back in the same place he started.


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