The Howard family offers not only raw milk, but farm-raised beef, pork, produce and more
ELKINS, ARK. – Change is constant, even in multi-generational farms. An example is the Howard farm in Elkins, Ark., where three generations are living and working together.
Family matriarch Mary Lou Howard, her son Dean and his wife Jennifer as well as their son Isaiah and his fiancée Hannah all live at the farm. Dean and Jennifer are currently running the 100-acre farm. Dean’s father Loyd ran a commercial beef operation in addition to logging both his land and others’ properties.
“When I came into the family, Loyd was still using a mule to log, which I found amazing and interesting,” Jennifer said.
After completing high school, Dean worked for 22 years at the University of Arkansas heating plant. Jennifer helped on the farm, but took over when Loyd passed. By that time, Loyd’s herd had been sold and Dean and Jennifer were building their own commercial herd.
The dairy herd began accidentally in 2014 when Dean and Jennifer went to a sale barn and saw a young 400-pound Jersey heifer that Jennifer thought was just too cute to be turned in to meat.
The couple brought the heifer home and were amazed when she had a calf only two months later, giving birth to their dairy, as well a heifer. calf.
The Howard dairy herd consists of four cows and three Jersey heifers. Because Arkansas law dictates raw milk must be sold off the farm rather than through farmers market, Jerseys are a logical breed with a higher fat content that appeals to consumers.
The Howard cows produce 14 gallons per day, most of which is sold during the week as milk or cream, although the Howard hogs receiving some as an important part of their diet. The three Jersey heifers will soon be calving and increase milk production and, hopefully, their raw milk market so the herd can expand again. Consequently, when the heifers are bred, they will be bred by the commercial herd’s registered Limousin bull. The process will produce commercial calves for the meat sales. When ready to expand the dairy again, the Howards will use AI and Jersey semen implanted by Huntsville veterinarian Chris France.
“Love fills a generational farm. we not only love all our different ventures and the unique way each developed but also hope to add another generation living on the land in the future.”
– Jennifer howard
Dairy cattle receive 20-percent protein dairy feed purchased from the Elkins Co-op. The feed is used during milking which is currently done at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. When only two cows were milked, the Howard’s milk by hand, with three being the tipping point for pulling out the milking machine, which will become increasingly important as the heifers start producing milk.
After working in a daycare facility, Isaiah’s fiancé Hannah decided she would rather be part of the farm. Isaiah works as a pipefitter on commercial ceiling sprinklers for Freedom Fire Protection.
Hannah and Isaiah have two Nubian dairy does and a buck. Like Jersey cattle, Nubians are known for higher fat content, in addition to high production. While currently only milking one of the Nubians who produces half a gallon per day, Hannah hopes begin selling milk sometime this year. In the meantime, she is making goat milk soap in a variety of scents such as lavender, gardenia and watermelon. The soaps are sold in pairs at the Elkins market in small, metal containers.
The Howard commercial cattle herd is a main portion of the farm’s income and are Beefmaster influenced. Although the Howards first sold calves at a sale barn, they switched to the farmers market when a friend pointed out that grass- and hay-fed beef has a more profitable market there.
The herd is comprised of 30 breeding females bred by a Limousin bull from Green Forest and raised on mixed grass pastures and hay. While some hay is produced on the farm and custom baled by neighbor Ron Kuntz, most is purchased from him because the Howard’s know the quality will be as good as hay from their pastures, an important consideration in grass fed beef. The cattle also receive supplementary minerals changed according to season to maintain herd health.
“I like the Beefmaster influence and recently purchased Beefmaster heifers because of the breed’s high quality and abundant milk production,” Dean explained. “On the other hand, I like a Limousin bull because the market prefers black and because those bulls have always been as docile as our mommas.”
“The cute French name of the bull didn’t hurt,” Jennifer added.
The Howards purchase four Yorkshire/Berkshire piglets twice a year from milk customer Cody Perkins and raise the pigs to 300 pounds. They are fed milk, farm-gathered walnuts, pecans and acorns, as well as other volunteer produce, such as persimmons. Like all Howard meat, the pigs are butchered and packaged at USD- inspected B & R Meat Processing in Winslow, Ark.
The farm is also beginning to produce lamb, part of Hannah and Isaiah’s contribution to the farm’s development. The sheep operation began with a Katahdin ram.
After researching, Isaiah found the breed to be hardy, even-tempered and somewhat parasite resistant. The couple then went to BOQ Farm and Hatchery where they purchased two orphaned ewe lambs. The couple began this venture only three months ago and now have eight breeding Katahdin ewes and a red Katahdin ram. They plan to sell lamb at the farmers market at the end of July. Hannah is also raising chickens for eggs, though hawks have been a significant issue in the past.
The farm’s diversity is additionally enhanced by duck eggs, produce, honey and jellies. The Howards devote one half acre to a container garden and plot where they raise tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow crookneck squash, zucchini, patty pan squash, green beans, sugar baby watermelons and a large variety of peppers including green peppers and cow horns.
Jennifer repurposed three bee swarms, with one coming from a tire wheel well and the other two from trees. The bees are a new venture and may or may not produce enough honey this year for sale. Jellies, on the other hand, are made from steeped blossoms coming from volunteer plants on the farm and feature all natural and sometimes vibrant colors. The gourmet flavors are as diverse as they are delicious and include lilac, redbud, honey locust and magnolia. A final contribution to the farm’s offerings is a hickory bark syrup developed by Isaiah from the bark rather than from tree sap as is maple syrup. One year the unique syrup won grand champion at the county fair.