Olivia Foster educates producers through Extension and maintains her own herd
Olivia Foster of Green Forest, Ark., demonstrates characteristics common to many of today’s cattle women.
She is an agricultural professional working as a staff chair for the Carroll County Extension, and raises her own cattle. She rents 100 acres of pasture used for her commercial herd and stockers, as well as another 150 acres for hay.
“I always knew I was going to go to college and had a love of ag education and helping people. I was in high school when I figured out full-time farming was more expensive than I could handle. Extension and having my own cattle herd blend beautifully,” said Olivia.
Olivia’s position working with Extension has numerous responsibilities. Part of her position is being the office manager of what is typically a five person staff. Her position requires routine procedures such as proofreading time sheets and managing office finances. In addition, she is the ag and natural resources agent, works with 4-H and helps with community development. Olivia’s work as the agricultural and natural resources agent involves animal science, horticulture, wildlife and forages. This position often requires traveling to farms and homes for individuals or producers who need assistance in areas such as plant diagnosis, soil testing, weed identification and selecting breeding stock. She also educates on chute-side assistance with vaccinations and growth implants to ensure proper injection location, presenting informational programs such as recent ones over the GoGreen preconditioned calf program. She conducts numerous producer meetings each year, ranging in topics from feral hog control, beef cattle nutrition, small ruminants, beekeeping, gardening and many more.
Recently Olivia took youngsters aged 9 to 13 to the state livestock judging contest.
“They were all dressed up in their blazers and khakis and chattered excitedly on the way there,” Olivia said with a laugh. “However, they slept the whole way back.”
When Olivia was 14, she and her father took an AI course because she was determined to be self-sufficient in handling her own herd. At the time, she had show stock and wanted to AI her animals, as well as to help her father with his AI program.
Olivia’s parents were perfect role models. Her father worked full-time at Tysons and then in banking while her mother worked full-time on the farm until Olivia was in college. Then Barbara began working in insurance. Olivia’s parents proved professional and agricultural pathways were more than compatible but that the balance took planning, flexibility and constant tweaking.
“My dad not only taught me everything I needed to know about raising my herd, he also taught me I could do anything. What I appreciate is that I believed him totally and have never known boundaries where opportunities and my ability to fill them were concerned,” Olivia explained.
Olivia’s commercial herd is made up of 28 mommas, mostly SimAngus, which is a recent change from the breeding stock she used to run and switched because of money and time. Now that she is finishing school, she is considering returning to raising breeding stock, this time with an additional set of 13 registered Angus already purchased as a joint operation with her father. This year all were bred by AI to registered Angus bulls. The end goal is to raise seedstock and show stock and to use AI for expanding into SimAngus and Maine Angus to provide a flexibility of offerings which will include 4-H perspectives as well as breeding stock. The Angus breed is strong maternally, the Simmental and Maine breeds compliment that with their terminal traits.
When selecting bulls, whether for AI or for cleanup, Olivia considers calving ease and temperament because she is a one woman operation with a full-time job. When buying heifers, she selects from a reliable breeder and will go to the farm selecting based on her livestock judging criteria. When she looks to purchase cattle she looks at their functionality. She wants them to be sound structurally and big bodied. She wants to add cattle that will experience longevity within her herd.
She uses a 14 percent protein ration which is given to the cows in winter and to stockers until sale. She also tests hay for nutritional content and adjusts accordingly. Finally, she supplies loose mineral and cobalt salt blocks.
“Those cobalt salt blocks provide an extra boost of B-12,” explained Olivia.
Olivia is a firm believer in using resources available to farmers. These include the OSU calculator for ration balance, the cow calculator from the University of Arkansas Extension which provides ration balance information for specific cows and cow/calf pairs, and using assistance from agencies such as the extension service, Farm Service Agency and NRCS.
Olivia is proud to be a female in the ag industry but never realized the careers she was interested in were not necessarily geared toward women. She loves getting up in the morning and having the opportunity to interact with people of all ages while helping them improve their knowledge and best practices. Then she’s just as happy to get home at night and drive through her cattle.