Father and son Larry and Mark Phifer continue a family tradition in the cattle business
Larry and Mark Phifer are cattle farmers from Baldknob, Ark.
They have their homes out at the farm and play equal roles. They usually start out their day checking on their cattle and feeding, then they get to work on whatever needs to be done on the land or equipment.
Larry retired from the Kohler Co. in Searcy Ark., in 2009 after 32 years when the company moved to Mexico. Larry has been devoted to farming ever since. “It just has to be something you enjoy doing,” he said.
Mark keeps busy as a territory manager for Witcher Auctions in Wynne, Ark. He spends a lot of time handling business on the phone or out on the road, but when he isn’t at work, he is at the farm.
Larry’s wife, Janie, raises Quarter Horses and has done so for 20 years. Janie is very dedicated to the farm, where she spends most of her time. She also has future plans to show miniature horses.
Shelly, Mark’s wife, is in her final semester at the University of Central Arkansas and would like to become a drug and alcohol counselor for the prison system. She is also very involved at the farm and caring for their daughter Adeline.
They mostly run black Angus and Salers cattle, with a few Hereford and Charolais. They tend to keep a few replacement heifers every year. They have three Salers bulls with their cattle and currently raise between 60 and 70 momma cows on 316 acres, in addition to a leased 60 acres that adjoins their farm. They grow hay on 86 acres, keeping what they need for their own herd needs and selling the rest.
“Keeping up with the land is a good deal to take care of but you just have to get after it,” Mark said. “There is more land to clear but we just haven’t gotten that far yet.
“Over the last several years we have cleared more land to establish new pasture and have worked with the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) on pasture improvement, cross fencing and a water pipeline to send fresh water to the tire waterers in the different fields. This has allowed us to set up rotational grazing. We plant cool-season forage to help conserve hay. In the winter we feed hay, and Pro Lix liquid feed, and always keep free choice minerals out.”
They have started the last several years keeping vital records on the cows and calves, this helps them be able to look back and see what cows are performing best over time. They market their calves after they are weaned, at either West Plains, Mo., or Mid-State Stockyards in Damascus, Ark.
Mark is looking at selling beef straight to the consumer from the farm and will hopefully be able to try it later this year after they get the building and the freezers set up, but it’s still in the planning stages.
“All of my great-grandpas had cattle and/or vegetables,” he said. “My grandpa Eugene Phifer worked with a road construction crew and raised cattle. And my dad has had cattle all my life.
“We get a lot of help on everything on the farm from Janie and Shelly, whether it’s working cattle, tagging calves or building fences. We also get a lot of help from my uncle Tommy Phifer, he’s always just a phone call away in hay season or any other time.”
All of Larry and Janie’s grandchildren – Adeline, Mason and baby Dalton, Casey, Carley and Tyler – help out where they can. Adeline is the only child who lives on the farm, but they are all involved and really enjoy helping out at the barn and helping care for the animals.
“One of the best parts of being involved in agriculture is that it gives everyone in the family a chance to work together and you’re able to see the progress in your work,” Mark said. “In the future we want to keep improving the land, the cattle herd, and continue looking for new innovative ways to grow, and maybe expand into some new things and just stay on top of the obstacles that you would face in farming like the weather, market prices and in general just the overall cost of farming.”