Braveheart Cattle Co., bucks the cow/calf tradition for heifer development

You might say Jonathan Wallace knows his way around heat.
Jonathan and his father, Bill, bought their 137-acre Faulkner County, Ark., ranch in 2005.
Their principal enterprise, the Braveheart Cattle Co., markets bred commercial heifers; they use artificial insemination in addition to clean-up bulls.
“My breeding season for AI is generally in April or the first two weeks of May,” Jonathan told Ozark Farm & Neighbor. “That’s labor intensive for me because I’m out checking for heat twice a day, and usually breeding something every day during that period.”
And when he’s not minding the herd, Jonathan is often on the road as a fire investigator for Arkansas Farm Bureau.
“It’s interesting,” he said. “I get to travel the state, and see and meet all kinds of different people.”
Jonathan, 49, says he and his 83-year-old father searched for years before finding the farm they wanted.
“I grew up on ranches; my dad managed ranches, and he grew up ranching as a young kid,” he explained. “When I got out of college, I went to work for Farm Bureau and was always looking for a place, because my dad and I just wanted to get back in the cattle business.”
Most of the farm is pasture, and they also raise some hay.
The bred herd peaks at 90 head in the summer, which are mostly sold off in the fall.
They also maintain a herd of about 23 cows that will calve this spring, and Wallace thinks they’ll be moving more in that direction in the future. This past year’s price crash, he said, really hit home.
“The heifers we sold were bringing $500 to $600 less than what they did last year,” Jonathan said. “The previous year was so good that we were blessed and we did really well, so you just have to manage your resources and know that the cycle is going to go up and down.”
With the price still depressed, he’s hoping they’ll be back to normal margins – buy cheap, sell cheap.
“This year was different because we bought on the high end of the market and sold at the low end. That’s never a good thing, but you’ve just got to manage for that,” Jonathan said.
The bred heifer operation, though, works better with his job.
“A cow/calf (operation) is 365 days out of the year; I can turn the bred heifers in a six- to nine-month period.”
And when the time comes to work the cattle in the spring and fall, it’s a family affair.
“My brother Tim comes down, and his daughter Bailey, and my son Cody and daughter Courtney, and then we might have some friends that come by and help us in the spring and fall, and just kind of make it a fun event,” Wallace said.
The togetherness earned the Wallaces the 2014 Faulkner County Farm Family of the Year award, and Jonathan gives much of the credit to his father.
“I’m just blessed to have him, and the things I’ve learned,” he said. “I’ve been around cattle all my life, but these last 10 years to actually run an operation myself, when I could pick up the phone and call him or him coming out here and helping me – it’s something new that I’ve learned every year.”
He’s done his own AI for the last seven or eight years. Jonathan said he wasn’t getting good bred percentages when he hired it out and used estrus synchronization.
“So I went to school and started it, and my first two years I was getting those same percentages,” he laughed.
Since he went to natural heat detection, his percentages have risen from 40 percent to about 85.
With Bill Wallace’s advanced age, Jonathan now finds himself running the operation.
“He and I have worked cattle together since I was 4 years old and we can work a lot of cattle together, hardly saying a word to each other, because we know what each other is doing,” he said. “I’ve got the facilities where I can work 50 to 60 heifers by myself. I’ve got three holding pens to sort out of; I run them down a lane.”
Not that it’s easy.
“It’s a long day,” Jonathan conceded. “I’m not scared of work; I usually get up at 5 in the morning, and my days are usually 12, 13, 14-hour days. But that’s what I enjoy doing; I’ve got a great family that supports that. I love spending time with my family, and I get to incorporate them out here, too. So, it all works.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here