Arrow Rock Farm owners Rick and Debbie Sappington say their cattle take care of themselves Just north of Walnut Grove, Mo., in rural Polk County, lies Arrow Rock Farm, owned and operated by Rick and Debbie Sappington. On a hot August afternoon in the heartland, Rick pulls up to his rented pasture east of the farm and about 20 majestic Red Poll cattle encircle the truck, expecting a feed treat. Rick obliges with their favorite bag of feed.
“They’re really tame,” Debbie said. “You can be putting up panels up in the pasture for a pen and before you know it, they’re right in there with you. Our cows aren’t spoiled though,” she smiled.
Arrow Rock Farm is named after a little town near Marshall, Mo., where Rick’s ancestors originally settled when they moved from Tennessee to Missouri in 1819.
Rick’s roots run deep in the Ozarks, going back four generations in Walnut Grove. As a young boy, he spent a lot of time doing chores on his grandparent’s farm.
“My grandparents owned a farm east of Walnut Grove, where they farmed the old-fashioned way, having a small dairy with hogs and chickens,” Rick explained. “My father was an electrician, he didn’t farm, but we lived next to my grandparents and I was always helping them. I also worked at local farms around town during high school.”
Debbie was raised on a farm near Richland, Mo., on the Gasconade River, so farm life was in her DNA.
The couple have two sons, David, who lives in Dadeville, Mo., and runs a commercial cattle operation, and Brian, a Marine who completed a tour in Iraq.
The couple always held full-time jobs off the farm, Debbie at Old Missouri Bank in Walnut Grove and Rick retired in December 2015, after a long career at Associated Wholesale Grocers in Springfield, Mo. In the early years the couple raised bottle calves, and also raised and showed Missouri Foxtrotters, but later decided that they wanted to raise cattle, specifically, a breed that didn’t required a lot of upkeep.
“The Red Poll breed kept coming to mind,” Rick recalled. He had seen photos of the cattle in livestock books from the University of Missouri when he was young and never forgot them.
In 2000, they purchased 10, bred cows from the Curbow Farm in Nixa, Mo.
“We were really worried about paying the money back,” Rick said. “They paid for themselves without any problem whatsoever.”
Working and running a farm can be a juggling act of epic proportion.
“It’s crazy,” Rick said. “We were working full-time. We weren’t out there tending to the cattle all the time. They were pretty much on their own.”
Red Polls have great dispositions, they’re easy to handle, easy to catch, and don’t have a lot of calving issues. They naturally keep themselves in good shape without special feed.
“I think we’ve had to pull two calves over the years, and one was just because the heifer got tired and gave out. When we pulled the baby, it wasn’t a big calf so she just got tired.”
Red Polls are naturally fertile and rebreed quickly after calving. They’re easy calving cows, good mothers and great milk producers with good udders. They are quiet cattle that respond well to good handling practices. They are also great for 4-H projects.
Another plus, in hot summers Red Polls red coloration protects them from the sun.
“Black cattle suffer in the heat, Rick noted. “Red cattle don’t suffer nearly as much.”
Red Polls also work well in crossbreeding.
“Red Polls are a great cross with most any breed because their genetics are so pure. They haven’t been outcrossed with other breeds so you breed very true to type,” Rick explained. “There are several people who have purchased bulls from me over the years that have used them strictly for crossbreeding because the Red Poll genetics can greatly improve a herd. Red Poll cattle give lots of milk so crossbreeding to them will add milk to the heifers that you save for replacement. We have a friend that has a cow that’s almost 18 and she’s still calving.”
One of Rick’s customers purchased several bulls and crossed them with his Beefmaster cattle and when he goes to market, he gets top dollar of the day. Probably, by now most of his cows are Red Poll. Gelbvieh cattle crossed with Red Polls produce a very nice cross as well.
Arrow Rock Farm sells their cattle in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and also at the Springfield Livestock Marketing Center. Sales are primarily through word of mouth. Breeding bulls and registered heifers are sold around the country.
The Sappington’s associations include: Western States Red Poll and American Red Poll associations.
The Sappington’s have no plans of retiring from their farm anytime soon. They are possibly planning a youth show at Arrow Rock Farm.
“After 36 years of work I got behind cleaning out fences,” Rick said. “Now I’ve got to catch up on all that. I’ll never get caught up.”


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