Jerry and Jean Hall have built a successful farm over the past 50 year
Just a short distance off Highway 65, near Damascus, Ark., you will find J Hall Farms, a rolling 1,003-acre farm owned by third generation farmer, Jerry Hall and wife, Jean. He was raised on the original farm, just a short distance from where their home is today. Both grew up in Damascus, graduated from South Side High School and went on to college. Jerry attended Arkansas Tech University, Russellville, Ark., for two years and transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., where he graduated in 1956 with a degree in animal husbandry. After graduation he worked at two short-term jobs, then went into the military where they had a special enlistment for six months, and then reserves for seven-and-a-half years. It didn’t take him long to realize he was not a military career man.
Jerry said he and Jean got married, April 1958, during the ‘Eisenhower’s depression ‘ and told Jean they either had to go to Little Rock, Ark., to work or stay in Damascus and start a farm at the old home place. Jean said, “I told Jerry I could help on the farm,” where she would rather work. So farming it was – they started with 10 head of grade Holstein dairy cattle. Jerry said, “I started artificial insemination early on, when it came in dry ice and alcohol.”
In 1961, Jerry started buying land and purchased his parent’s house and moved the center part of it on the 106 acre farm he and Jean would make their home. Jerry and Jean built onto the house, adding bedrooms. He and Jean lived there with their four children for over 13 years, and then moved into their new home which they are still living in, just a short distance from where their old home is. By this time they had 25 head of grade Holstein cows. He later built a milk barn which was finished in September 1967. In 1968 Jerry started switching to registered Holstein cattle and had a dairy farm until 2002, when he sold the dairy herd. He and Jean thought they would like to do a little traveling but he found himself wanting to get back into cattle.
In 2003 Jerry and Jean started a new venture in the commercial beef cattle business. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, beef cattle was quite a bit different than dairy cattle. One of the experiences Jerry had was with 50 heifers; he found they just wouldn’t herd up like the Holsteins did. Jean said, “We would get calls from people to come and get our cows,” they would be in people’s yards and around town.
After all the unforeseen experiences with the grade cattle, Jerry saw an ad in a publication for registered Angus cattle for sale. He decided that might be a better route to take so he went to 19 different sales in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Missouri, where he purchased about 100 cows and heifers and “made it work,” Jerry said. With AI his cows produced, he kept the heifers and sold bulls to 100 buyers. His knowledge is vast when it comes to cattle. In 2011 Jerry was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Jerry has a plan that has always been fail proof for improving his herd, and said it will work for anyone starting out.
1. Start by culling the herd – get rid of the ones with a bad disposition (if a cow kicks Jerry more than twice he gets rid of it), – keep the ones with good utters, good strong feet and legs (wear feet evenly for longevity), a good wide muzzle, clear eyes (a sign of good health), ears that stand up (drooping ears are a sign they are not feeling well).
2. Accurate record keeping is the most valuable tool in determining the age of cattle and calving dates. Good records will show the calving interval, and have all the cattle identified (i.e. tattooed, tagged or branded). The records will allow recognition of the cows that are not calving, and to be culled.
3. Management is very important, it determines how well the cattle are taken care of – disease and worm control, good clean drinking water, minerals (salt primarily), how well the cows are taken care of nutritionally and how much protein. One piece of advice from Jerry is to always find out the ratio of ingredients when selecting feed for cattle. Also, they should be getting fiber from foraging, such as hay or pasture.
Jerry and Jean will keep farming as long as they are able but Jerry concluded, “I am concerned after the last two years of drought and the grasshoppers from last year.” He had to haul water to his cattle during the drought two years ago and last year lost some of his grass to grasshoppers. He, Jean and a helper, Jerry Glover, keep the farm going. Jerry said there’s a lot of work to do; the damage from the 2008 tornado is still visible on many of the acres.