Marion County, Ark., couple trains cattle as family milk cows, nurse cows

The Neptune family of rural Marion County, Ark., lives the way most of us think we would like to live – grow our own food, be away from the hustle and bustle, take care of ourselves, not be dependent on anyone.
It seems idealistic, but it’s lots of work. Alan and Bridgette Neptune and their seven children – Cleo, Roland, Adam, Sophie, Molly, Jude and Ivan (and one more by Christmas) – do it every day, but everyone has a job and it’s a job every day.
The Neptunes have a small dairy herd that needs to be milked twice a day, meat cattle, hogs to be fed, chickens (both meat and egg layers) to be tended, Katahdin sheep, rabbits, three yard dogs, five cats, a miniature pony and a guard donkey.
They sell both milk and cream but Alan said, “With the size of our family, we eat all the eggs the chickens can lay.” They also butcher the hogs primarily for themselves.
They make their living off their 20-acre farm and neither Alan nor Bridgette has a job off the farm. In addition to selling milk and cream, this husband and wife team train dairy animals to halter for individuals who want a family milk cow or nurse cow.
Bridgette says she grew up in Washington state and was around animals all the time and was used to halter-breaking them.
“When we moved out to Arkansas, I started halter breaking our own cows,” Bridgette said. “As I grew older, I realized people didn’t know how to halter-break cows and they were afraid to handle cows. I’m good at it. And Alan’s gotten to be really good at it, too. We found that people aren’t willing to buy a cow they can’t handle and train it themselves, even though they can get one cheaper. They’re willing to pay a little extra for the training.”    
Purchase a cow from the Neptunes and it is halter-broke, easy to handle and gentle around people.
The Neptunes also believe that some cows are good for nursing and some are good for milking.
“Some cows are made to be nurse cows and some cows don’t want anything to do with a calf,” Bridgette said. “So it’s kind of like ‘staffing,’ to where you fit the cow to what she’s actually called to.”
Bridgette then referred to the next cow that was coming up for milking.
“She just loves babies,” she said. “She’ll go in there and she’ll steal babies. She’s a milk cow, too, but her best job is going to be a nurse cow.”
There are several situations where a nurse cow might be needed. For example, if a cow has prolapsed and dies, or won’t take her offspring, then a nurse cow will take the orphaned calf.
The Neptunes recently had a client who was going to buy a nurse cow because he had an embryo transplanted calf and the recipient cow didn’t have any milk.
The Neptune children don’t have any problem being around the menagerie of animals at their farm. They’re used to being around the animals, harvesting and eating them.
They aren’t squeamish about what needs to be done. One of the Neptune boys said his job is taking the heads off the chickens when it’s time to harvest.
The children show their cows and belong to the local 4-H. Their cousins, the Brent and Glenda Rozeboom family, live nearby. With six children themselves, the Rozebooms and the Neptunes can take up quite a lot of space in a county fair barn.
“At the last show, the Rozebooms had a quarter of the barn, we had a quarter of the barn, a quarter was empty and all the other participants took up the other quarter,” Bridgette said. “The other families only have one or two kids.”
It is more than apparent that Alan and Bridgette Neptune are focused on living a good life and teaching basic values to their family. Like Alan said, “This is what we do.”


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