Jason Lawler must consider livestock protection when raising multiple species of small animals

Jason Lawler returned home to Eureka Springs, Ark., in 2006 to help his grandfather Paul Hull on their 320-acre highly diversified farm. Jason said, “I came back after being gone for a short while because it’s all I know and what I love.” For economic reasons, Jason also works for the Carroll County Road Department.
Jason’s earliest farming memory is when he was 5 or 6 and afraid of the sows, but his grandpa told him to take a stick to them which was a big help. At age 7, however, Jason experienced one of those unexpected farm accidents when he led out some cows and ended with the corner of a corral panel sticking out of his head. While has never forgotten the lesson of always being careful around animals, he has also never lost his love for them.
The farm raises and sells commercial cattle, goats, hair sheep and pigs. The cattle side of the operation is the largest and most financially important. They have 43 mommas and two bulls. The mommas are predominately Black Gelbvieh though some are descended from the original registered Hereford herd. The farm has naturally bred spring and fall calves which are sold at 500 to 650 pounds at a local sale barn.
The goat herd is comprised of 60 Boer and Spanish nannies that kid in the spring and then are sold for meat at a Missouri sale barn.
The Dorper-influenced sheep herd is down from 100 to 80 ewes as a result of the drought. Jason said, “The herd was really too large for my time and space, and the drought pushed me into doing what should have been done anyway. We were more fortunate than most, however, because none of our ponds ran dry and we have one undeveloped spring that always runs.”
The final portion of the commercial farming operation is based on two sows and a boar. The sows raise two litters per year with the piglets being sold by word-of-mouth locally for people to raise for meat.
Guarding, especially the smaller animals, on the farm is a challenge. Both coyotes and dogs cause problems. At one point three or four years ago, coyotes became enough of a problem that Jason needed a trapper to eliminate them. Recently a neighbor had to start chaining his dog because the dog was killing some of the animals. One morning not too long ago, Jason spotted a coyote that had split a herd into two bunches and was getting ready to go in for the kill when Jason stopped and the coyote ran off. In order to keep the animals safe, Jason uses dogs, mules and hopefully soon a new llama. Two Great Pyrenees dogs run with the goats. Though Jason has four mules, only one is really good at guarding and stays with the cattle, while neither of his llamas work well. The critical factor seems to be that, like Great Pyrenees dogs, the mules and llamas need to be raised with the herds they’re going to protect. The llama pair has yet to produce any young, and Jason is looking forward to their first birth so a llama can be added to his protection program.
Jason hays 40 acres on the farm and other acreages off the farm, some on shares and some to keep land cleared for someone else. He got 600 round bales in the first cutting last year, most of which is stored in three barns. One way they conserve hay is to build a box out of wood that is slightly larger than the bale and is proportioned so that goat and sheep heads can get between the boards to eat the hay. When the bale is almost consumed, a small portion remains in the center which is then spread around to the edges so the animals can clean up the last of the hay. The advantage of these feeders is that they keep the animals from climbing on top and soiling the bale.
“Coming home and working on the farm is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I love working outdoors and being my own boss. My dream is to be able to do it full-time.”


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