Jared and Tana Byerly, along with their children have a commercial cattle herd. Photo by Eileen J. Manella.
Jared and Tana Byerly, along with their children have a commercial cattle herd. Photo by Eileen J. Manella.

Jared and Tana Byerly wanted their children to grow up in a tight-knit farming community

MOUNTAIN GROVE, MO. – When Jared and Tana Byerly knew one another as neighbors and schoolmates in their childhood, they didn’t know that their lives would come full circle, back home to Mountain Grove in Wright County, Mo., to farming and to each other. 

After five years of living in Highlandville, Mo., and starting a family, Jared and Tana wanted more for their children. They wanted to give them what they had growing up: a close-knit community in farming country. As parents, they liked knowing the teachers and other parents who would be spending time with their children. In 2014, they returned and bought a home with some land and began cattle farming.

“I’d take summers off and come back and help him all summer, in my early 20s,” Jared said of a herd of 200 commercial Angus, belonging to his grandparents, Delmar and Gail Hicks. Jared’s father also raised cattle for a while. “I always enjoyed being around cattle. My friends had big farms and I’d help them out. If you live here, there’s always opportunity to be exposed to that stuff [farming].”

The Byerlys run 40 head of registered and commercial Angus, raising them to sell for seedstock and beef. They have 35 acres at home and rent another 300 acres across town from family. Jared appreciates the support of family. “It takes a lot of land to run cattle,” he said. They began with bottle calves, sold the commercial cattle in 2018 and on advice from an uncle, purchased one pair of registered Angus to start the herd. Since then, they have worked some commercial cattle back into their program.

Tana recalled learning about cattle from her grandparents, Paul and Elsie Dear of Mountain Grove. “My grandparents had cows. I helped feed them, but nothing like what we have now.” The Byerlys practice and encourage local trade by selling their cattle for beef, as well as seedstock. They use Campbell’s butcher shop in Norwood, get eggs from a neighbor and buy Ozarks Mountain Creamery milk.

“His mom lives here, my mom lives here. They help a lot. And we can count on friends to help out,” said Tana. Besides being a mother to Brock (17), Masen (12), Max (8) and Willa (4), Tana is a stylist at Outskirts Salon and is also a dog breeder. She still finds time to help with the cattle from time to time. 

“I like being out with the cows. I’ll go feed with him if he needs help or go check cows,” Tana said.

The Byerlys try to give the cattle as much grass as they can cultivate for them, and have implemented a rotational grazing program. 

“Your building block is the soil. You have to get the soil right first and then you grow good quality grass out of that,” Jared said. “From there, your animals thrive. And then those nutrients that come through the soil, in product.

“I use grass, forage, whatever’s available. It’s a mixture of perennial and annuals that naturally occur here. There’s fescue, orchard grass, clovers and crabgrass among other grasses.”

The cattle at Byerly Farms don’t eat grain. He gives them mineral salt and occasionally feeds them alfalfa hay.

Regarding fertilizer, Jared said, “I’m not too worried about fertilizer. We’re trying to build up organic matter and get the microbial population up in the soil. This is toward a long term goal of building up soil that doesn’t need chemical inputs.

“It takes a life to learn everything that goes with it. I talk to people that have been doing it for 40 years, they’re still learning as they go and adjusting because things change,” said Jared. 

While he will reach out on occasion to a veterinarian for assistance, such as when he’s vaccinating the herd, he does as much as he can on his own. 

The calving season is in the spring, starting in April. Jared’s long term goal is to have a maternal, registered herd. In helping his program to grow, and leaning toward natural methods, Jared takes inspiration from the vast experience of farmers who have more years in than he does. He also draws from many educational resources such as podcasts like “Herd Quitter” and “Working Cows,” and books and schools. 

“I attended Flying Cow Genetics to study fertility and AI,” Jared said, which he does himself. He is a member of Heart of the Ozarks Angus Association purchased his first registered Angus and the association’s annual sale He now consigns animals to the sale and said the Oct. 15 sale offered one of the best heifers he has raised. 

Jared and Tana Byerly with their Commercial Angus herd in Mountain Grove, Missouri. Photo by Eileen J. Manella.
Photo by Eileen J. Manella

Jared acknowledges the difficulties of farming and how there’s not a big profit yet, and it’s humbled him.

“It’s a challenge to support it until it can take off on it’s own,” he said. “It’s like every mistake that could be made, I’ve made it and learned from that mistake.” 

But he thinks it’s worth the effort. 

“I love it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a choice,” he said. “It’s something I’m drawn to. If I wasn’t doing it, I’d be miserable.”

“He’s invested and is interested in this. He buys books on soil fertilizing and reads every night about farming,” Tana said admiringly of her husband’s drive to learn. Farming is just one of his jobs. Jared works full time for Howell Refrigeration, but with a nonstandard schedule that allows him more time to farm than most jobs would. He has an associate degree in Heating, Air and Refrigeration from Ozarks Technical Community College.

Tana runs a poodle breeding business called Oodles of Red Poodles where she breeds standard poodles. She’s a hobby breeder producing two litters a year. “

Of the Byerly children, Willa is the most eager to get involved with animals. 

“She’s always trying to help,” Tana said about her daughter Willa.

“If I’m working cows, she’ll run around and get in front of them and try to get them to move for me,” Jared said.

Tana has enjoyed watching her daughter grow up in the farming life.

“We have one cow that she gets to ride and she likes that. She likes cows and likes to feed them.” They have promised to give Willa a horse when she turns 5.

“We’re busy,” Tana said about parenting, working and farming. Jared joked that one of Tana’s biggest challenges must be, “…listening to me talk about cows.” With a knowing laugh she agreed.

“He just thinks about cows all day long.” As a couple, they laugh easily and often, reflecting on their adventurous life.


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