Erin Thompson and her family have a busy farm life, as well as other business ventures
MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO. – Erin Thompson and her husband, Toby, of Mountain Grove, Mo., assessed their roles as parents to three children. They agreed that even though they had ventured away from their own childhoods, from farming into the business world, they couldn’t think of a better way to instill values in their children than teaching them to raise animals on a farm.
“The main reason we got back into cattle was for our kids. We wanted them to be able to have the same experiences that we grew up with, have that same opportunity to learn,” Erin said.
“I grew up on a dairy farm with Holsteins,” she said of her early years in Norwood. She milked the cows and raised bottle calves.
Toby’s family runs the Wright County Livestock Auction in Mountain Grove.
“He grew up with his dad, Skip Thompson, raising cows and having the sale barn, so we both just decided that we wanted our kids to have that opportunity too. We just feel like it teaches them a lot of life lessons: responsibility, cycle of life and how to care for an animal,” Erin said.
“My Grandma, Virginia Housley, she’s who I milked with and she taught me how to be around cattle, how to work with them, how to have patience and understand them and pay attention to their needs,” said Erin. “This winter, I was the one who went and fed them everyday, so when we went to work them up, my husband said ‘you’re going to have them up with your sweet voice.’”
When Erin and Toby were first married, they lived in town, then bought a house outside of Mountain Grove. They only had a few goats to start as they were busy. They had three children and were running multiple businesses.
“Toby bought us a couple horses for Christmas and surprised us,” Erin said of getting the family started with animals when they moved to their present farm.
Little by little they acquired more land, 240 acres of which they currently farm, raising 76 head of cattle, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, hogs, zebu and they also grow hay. The primary breed the Thompsons raise is Angus, which they chose for having the best market value.
“They are known for good flavored meat and good marbling,” Erin said. They are bred with a bull that is rotated between the two herds, one exclusively of Angus and the other is mixed with Longhorns.
“They’re really pretty and they’re good mommas,” Erin said of the Longhorns.
They are in their third year of raising cattle. They keep the heifers and add them to their herd. Bull are castrated and sold at 400 to 600 pounds, at 6 to 9 months of age.
The cattle eat range cubes, get mineral lick tubs, mineral and salt blocks.
“We put them in a smaller pen and we finish them out with a higher protein grain: 12 percent Cattle Plus,” Erin said. The cattle are presently grazing on the open fields, but they use pasture rotation as certain areas get grazed down.
“Our local vet, Dr. Logan Williams of Mountain Grove, he comes and helps us vaccinate all of our cows.”
In the winter months, cattle are fed hay grown on the farm.
Even though the children, Tory (18), Kassy (15) and Skip (12), didn’t always have animals, when they were introduced to farming life, they took to it quickly.
“It’s hard work, but they love it. They love getting to work the cows when we decide to castrate the bulls and give the cows their vaccines,” Erin said. “They all have a job that they’re better at, but we’ve noticed that they all go back to their same job that they had before because they got comfortable with it and they got good at it. Our son Skip showed a hog and a sheep this year and our daughter Kassy showed a chicken.”
In addition to the farm, the husband and wife entrepreneurs have had a garden center, turned antique mall; two scrapyards, and they built commercial and residential rentals. More recently, they ventured into the hotel business. They bought back and remodeled a motel that Toby’s family built in the 1990s, slated to open in July, called Cactus Inn and Suites. And they are building a three-story Comfort Inn and Suites that will open by year’s end.
She said people may think she doesn’t go to work early, but they may not realize that she’s also running a farm before work.
“Feeding my family and feeding our animals on our farm is a priority and that gets done first. I don’t let anything go hungry. If it takes an hour or if it takes three hours, I just make sure everything’s fed. I can’t stand going to work and knowing something’s hungry, so everything gets fed before I go to town,” Erin said.
In addition to their cattle, the family gets eggs from their Barred Rock and Sussex hens, and they garden Erin also has a mini greenhouse on the farm. Their farm animals create fertilizer for them to use.
“Kassy’d rather cook dinner and clean. I’d rather go weedeat than do dishes. I’ll choose outside work anytime,” Erin said. “It’s a good balance and everybody is stronger in certain areas of work, so it makes our family flow.”
Whether the children choose to follow in their parents’ farming footsteps or not, Erin said, “At least I know I’ve done my part and taught them everything I want them to know for life lessons. I grew up, and Toby did too, learning how to take care of animals. We started our businesses, got that going, our family was growing and we wanted our kids to be able to know this stuff too. You have to go out and do chores before you go to school. Your animals aren’t going to be hungry while you’re at school. It teaches them selflessness.”