The Hughes family focuses their production on quality Angus genetics and beef

The Hughes family operates their black Angus cattle farm, located in St. James, Mo., with three generations of experience.

“I love to fool with cows. I have all my life,” Don Hughes replied when asked why he started the business in 1972.

Don and Artie Hughes acquired four Angus cows from a friend at church. Initially they crossbred to various breed bulls on their 20-acre farm. Eventually, Don settled on purebred Angus cattle due to the superior carcass production of the breed.

From that endeavor, the farm grew to more than 300 acres, located in Phelps and Maries counties. There are 80 cow/calf pairs, and three bulls living at the farm.

Don and Artie combined their love of farming with outside jobs until they were able to transition to full-time farming.

“I worked my way up,”Artie, who was employees at a local bank said, smiling. Don drove a truck delivering snack foods.

In 1994, Keith and Debbie Hughes joined the business, eventually moving from Jefferson City, Mo., to help run the growing farm.

“The plan in retirement was to come back here,” Keith, Don and Artic’s son, said.

Debbie worked at as middle school teacher and in computers, while Keith is a retirement administrator for public employees of Jefferson City. The couple used income from their jobs to buy some of the land used in their business. Working closely with family has the added benefit of knowing each other’s personality.

“We each work to our strengths,” Debbie said.

Keith believes in making use of technology to help business run smoother.

“I enjoy the data end of the business. I use an excel spread sheet to record data on each animal,” he explained. “I try to bring quality up each and every year.”

The farm turns in weight measurements to the Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR).

“The data info is much more valuable today. Farmers ask questions about the grade of the meat,” Keith added.

The size of each calf and potential for growth is important to farmers looking to improve their own herds.

“People want to know what they will get in the way of weight,” Keith said. “For the first time you want the calves to have a lower birth weight, it’s easier on the heifer.”

The farm sells 20 bulls a year, usually between 14 and 15 months of age.

Heifers are also sold off the farm, and some stock is taken to the sale barn in Cuba, Mo.

Keith enjoys selling their meat to outside customers, who travel from as far away as 100 miles to buy their product.

”The beef business is a long food cycle, taking approximately 27 months from a breeding date to putting that steak on the table, hereby validating the success of that initial breeding decision,” Keith explained. “Eighty percent of our customers are repeat buyers.”

“We use no hormones, and only give the vaccinations needed to keep the cattle healthy,” Debbie added.

Heifers are fed grass, while the bulls are fed grass and given a 14-percent bull ration.

Artificial insemination is used on the farm, as is natural cover.

“We find our natural sires have the same performance as the AI sires,” Keith commented.

A highpoint at Hughes Angus Farm came when their bull, Bubs Plenty Good N47, was named 2004 grand champion bull at the Arkansas State Fair. Currently, Bubs Mr. Right is the senior herd sire. Frozen seaman is available to other cattle producers from the champion bull.

The mission of raising quality beef continued when Aaron and Laura Hughes became the third generation to join the business in 2014.

When asked what changes he saw in the cattle business in the future, Keith didn’t hesitate to bring the focus back to technology.

“More computer use, more technology, how that will be used is yet to be determined,” he said.


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