Gayle Schleif is now a full-time cattle producer, despite her plans to never live on a farm again
ELKINS, ARK. – The ability to supply a quality product to the consumer is the passion behind Hillside Beef in Elkins, Ark., and Gayle Schleif and her fiancé Jeff Muldrew are committed to that goal.
“When someone is buying our product, we want them to get exactly what they pay for,” Gayle said.
Gayle returned to the farming lifestyle after a long hiatus. She grew up on a dairy farm in Minnesota and swore she would never be on a farm again. Life has a funny way of changing things.
“The most rewarding thing to me now is just being back on the farm,” she said.
Gayle met Jeff 10 and a half years ago, and because of Jeff’s ties to the state, they decided to move to northwest Arkansas. When they moved, Gayle worked a corporate job, and Jeff owns a painting and sandblasting business. They decided to buy some cattle upon moving to Arkansas, which eventually became a custom growing, butchering and retail sales operation. Over time, Gayle has transitioned from her corporate life to being a full-time beef producer.
Currently, the farm operates on 224 acres, and they run 50 head of Angus-crossed cows with a Hereford bull. They are also looking at diversifying their operation, and they have recently acquired three bred Wagyu cows and a 600-pound steer. The steer will be fed out, butchered, and sold locally. They have incorporated this specialty niche market into their operation with the goal to provide the higher fat content Wagyu beef to area restaurants.
Gayle said she “enjoys the mild southern winters because it is conducive to year-round calving.” The breeding program at Hillside Beef consists of natural cover for the conventional herd. The Wagyu cows will be bred using AI.
“IT IS SAD PEOPLE DON’T REALIZE WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM. MOST PEOPLE THINK THEY CAN GO TO A STORE AND THAT IS WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM.”
— GAYLE SCHLEIF
The overall health of the animals is tended to as the needs arise. Health protocols include scheduled worming and routine vaccinations in the spring and fall. All Hillside Beef products are antibiotic and hormone-free.
Cattle are pasture-fed and those selected for butchering are grain-fed for a minimum of 100 days. Wagyu cattle selected for butchering are fed a custom ration that includes a higher fat grain to produce the finished product. Animals selected to be butchered are either sold on the hoof or sent to a USDA-approved cattle processing facility located in Arkansas.
Hillside Beef provides various bundled beef packages for consumers. They process two animals per month, and the beef can be bought as a half or a whole. Custom packages can be created according to what the consumer wants or needs. Purchase of individual products is also available.
Gayle believes educating the public about where their food comes from is very important.
“It is sad people don’t realize where their food comes from,” she said. “Most people think they can go to A store and that is where their food comes from.”
Therefore, to help educate the public about farm-raised food, Gayle has applied for a grant that could potentially allow her to supply her beef to public schools in Arkansas.
Local farmers markets, Facebook and word of mouth are instrumental to Hillside Beef’s marketing strategy. Gayle attends local farmers markets in the area weekly where she can sell the products to the public. Gayle credits the small-town atmosphere of the area.“It provides small businesses plenty of opportunities,” she said.
Gayle also owns and operates a custom bakery called Cakes With A Kick, she makes 21 different cakes that she markets to adults only because they contain alcohol. She also makes many different types of cookies suitable for all ages.
Hillside Beef is located in between Elkins and Goshen, Ark., and operates an on-farm store, which is open to the public at various times on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday.