At the end of a long, winding road is happiness and fulfillment. At least for Dr. Dale and Diane Kunkel, owners of Kunkel Farms and a healthy herd of 200 mostly Red Angus momma cows in Newton County, Mo., it is.
“I had the opportunity for an extreme makeover in life, and decided to go back to what I grew up doing. I was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. My family raised row crops and did cattle on the side,” he said.
“Since July 1984, I’ve been a practicing dentist in Southwest Missouri, and after 20 or 30 years, I decided it was time to get back to my roots.”
He credits a mentor, David Stark, of rural Miami, Okla., as pointing him in the direction of Red Angus. “At the time, David had Black Angus on over 2,500 acres. He became my advisor, and through him I met Mark Pieper, a Red Angus breeder in Nebraska. I just really got to like the breed. He helped me get set up.” Today the Kunkel Farm is 228 acres, and they lease another 885 acres.
Dale and his wife, Diane, take different roles in the operation of the farm. While Dale actively manages the cow side, Diane focuses more on the business end. And they not only share farm space, but office space in Neosho, Mo., as well. “My wife is a psychologist and has Four-States Counseling, and my dental office is in the same building.”  
Dale spends about 50 hours a week in dentistry and 25 to 30 on the farm. "Sometimes it gets hectic,” Dale admitted. But he added, “I feel extremely lucky to have married into this situation. We have this after six to seven years of hard work by a lot of people. I couldn’t have done any of this without them,” as he referred to his wife and extended family.  
“And we run all our businesses – cattle, dentistry and psychology – on biblical principles.”
The goal they’ve set for Kunkel Farms is to be a commercial and small registered seedstock provider, raising a small herd of AI-bred Red Angus heifers. Dale sees a holistic approach as the way to get there. “We have a three-pronged management approach to the farm. First, we want to manage our grasslands effectively and efficiently. Secondly, we’ll continuously improve our herd through AI and high quality genetics bulls, and thirdly, we’ll make certain our herd’s health is good, with a vaccination program, make certain they have no parasites and take other preventive measures.”
And the Kunkels recognize that good nutrition is the first step. The younger weaned stock, from about 6 to 18 months, get grass supplemented with grain, and DDGS, to be sure they grow and develop to their fullest extent on a forage base. The mature cows get mainly grass and mineral supplements.
Implementing management-intensive rotational grazing, growing fescue and legumes, keeps the cows in good quality grass. Dale is also renovating one of his pastures, killing all the Kentucky 31 fescue, and  planting novel Endophyte fescue. Next spring he’ll overseed with clover. He’s also working on going “green," and through the federal government’s EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) has put in a system of water lines and drinking stations for the herd. The drinking stations are made out of old tires, yet another way to recycle. The water comes from the farm’s well.
To date, the Kunkels hard work has paid off. Dale sold his first five heifers recently in the Show-Me-Select Bred Heifer Sale at the Joplin Sale Barn Nov. 21. “It’s invitation only consignment. The heifers have to pass a pre-breeding exam, and be on a strict vaccination and de-worming program and much more to qualify.”
The Kunkels are excited to get the message out about Red Angus. “We’re looking several years down the road and realizing that more and more protein will be needed as the world gains in population. The beef cattle industy, long term, will be very beneficial, and we feel the Red Angus breed will have a significant impact on that.”


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