Drew and Charlotte Montague run a commercial cow/calf herd that grew from 16 cows
Drew and Charlotte Montague both grew up in different parts of Missouri but have always shared an interest in agriculture.
Charlotte grew up on a dairy farm close to Macon, Mo., where her parents milked Holsteins and she showed cattle. In her teenage years, her parents sold the farm, but Charlotte continued to pursue her interest in agriculture through 4-H and FFA, then attending the University of Missouri-Columbia where she majored in agricultural education with a minor in agricultural economics.
Drew and Charlotte’s paths crossed at Mizzou, where he studied animal science, judged livestock and worked at the University of Missouri’s Beef Research and Teaching farm. Drew is two generations removed from farming, but growing up his family showed a handful of market hogs and a few sows. He was around cattle when he was younger and always knew that was what he wanted to do. Drew joined FFA in high school, was involved in ag mechanics and worked for a welder.
When they got married, they both knew they wanted to operate a cow/calf operation and raise their family on a farm. After college, Drew and Charlotte both landed jobs around Nevada, Mo. Drew became a consulting nutritionist and salesman for Jericho Animal Nutrition, and Charlotte took a job as a grain merchandiser for ADM. They began searching for a farm and found one they liked for sale in El Dorado Springs, Mo. It was ironic that while looking, they had separately been drawn to this same farm, not knowing that the other one had been looking at it online as well.
“God opened that door for us, and we were able to purchase our first farm,” Charlotte said.
Drew and Charlotte started small with 16 cows and once they paid for those, they bought some more.
“When we started, we didn’t have anything,” Charlotte recalled fondly. “We didn’t even own a pitchfork or a shovel. It’s so funny looking back because I remember those times thinking, we literally don’t have a shovel.”
In 2014, Charlotte’s role changed at ADM and they sold their farm in El Dorado Springs, relocating a little farther south to the Carthage, Mo., area, where they bought a home with some acreage. They continued to grow their cattle operation by adding more cattle and small acres of land near their home, growing strategically, and working hard to manage each step of growth to the best of their ability.
Drew and Charlotte also have two children Jolee (4) and Wade (1) which they love raising on their first-generation cattle farm. They try to take the kids out with them as much as possible to feed the cows and ride in the tractor.
“Once the kids grow up, and if they decide they want to farm, maybe they won’t have to work quite as hard as we did to get a start and make a living,” Drew said.
Drew and Charlotte currently run 150 commercial cow/calf pairs that are Angus influenced. They have four bulls that are Simmental/Angus and Angus.
“They need to have good feet, everything is Angus influenced so birth weight is a non-issue almost but should be within reason, lots of rib in middle and something that will eventually make good females,” Drew said of his bull selection criteria.
For now, everything is naturally serviced, but Drew said they plan to start using artificial insemination once they get more working facilities.
Their calves are weaned at the end of March when they are 6 1/2 to 7 months old to keep as much grass on hand as possible for their mature cows. Most of their calves are born in fall, with a small spring herd. In the summer, the fall calving cows are intensively grazed on Bermuda and crabgrass pastures after the fescue goes dormant. The Montagues mow in the fall to let the fescue come back. Their goal is to graze 365 days. They feed hay and are also set up to feed silage, along with commodities whenever the weather gets bad.
Drew and Charlotte have worked hard to grow and expand their operation, while continuing to improve genetics slowly over time.
“We don’t retain any heifers at this time; it’s cheaper to buy replacements when you do the long math,” Drew said.
However, in the future they plan to retain half of their females and will continue to look at different ways to manage their cattle business, focusing on the financial implications of day to day decisions that impact their bottom line and profitability. They currently sell at Fredonia, Joplin and Exeter.
“We do a little bit of trade options to set a floor but leave the top end open,” Drew explained.
Since they are still in the beginning stages of farming, they hire their hay work out. They own a tractor and bushhog, and plan to add more machinery with time.
“Things like the time we were able to pay off our first tractor are really some of the exciting things in life. It seems like such a small thing, but for us to have done it together, from nothing, has been really fun,” Charlotte said. “It also gives us a really good appreciation for what we have.”
Drew and Charlotte attribute their success with the cattle operation to lots of hard work and discipline, living within their means and focusing on the future. Their dedication and commitment to their farm and their family has gotten them where they are today.
“We are very blessed that God led us the direction he did and you can tell in so many parts of our lives if it wasn’t for God playing into it, it would have never worked out,” Drew said.