Robert Herron’s son Patrick has spent the last several years reestablishing Robert’s dream of being a farmer. Submitted Photo.
Robert Herron’s son Patrick has spent the last several years reestablishing Robert’s dream of being a farmer. Submitted Photo.

3 Korners Ranch was leased to other producers for decades, but it’s once again a family operation

BEULAH, MO. – In 1973, Robert Herron accomplished his dream of owning a farm. He purchased a farm along the Big Piney River outside of Licking, Mo., in Beulah, from descendants of the family who originally homesteaded the property. 

Robert and his family managed 125 cow/calf pairs, 200 hogs, and grew corn, sorghum and hay to feed their livestock. Unfortunately, the downturned economy in the 1980s forced the Herrons to liquidate their livestock and forgo their farming operation. They, however, held onto the land.

Other producers leased the 550-acre property for about two decades, but the dream of a family farm remained. A few years ago, Robert’s son Patrick decided it was time to make that dream once again become a reality for his father and future generations.

The reintroduction of family-owned cattle included a new way of doing things at the 3 Korners Ranch, named for the three adjoining counties – Texas, Pulaski and Phelps – on the ranch.

“We implemented rotational grazing as part of our ranching operation to maximize the ground and provide the best quality forage for the cattle and a clean water source. We have 2 1/2 or 3 miles of underground piping to different watering stations. We have utilized the springs here on the property and solar pumps to pump the water into water troughs; it’s fresh mountain spring water.”

Following practices learned through a USDA grazing school, Patrick began eradicating noxious weeds and, making pasture and soil improvements.

“We started doing that four or five years before we reintroduced cattle,” he explained, adding that the land sat idle while reconditioning the forages and soil. “We took our time and methodically worked to improve the land before we brought cattle back to the property.”

Improvements also included extensive soil testing, fertilization and the introduction of new forages.

“We came back with fescue, Timothy, some orchardgrass, the red and white clovers that thrive here, and the natural native grasses,” Patrick explained. “We really amplified and brought to life what was here, as well as introducing a stronger mix into the forage scheme.”

Improvements in forages and soil conditions slow, but through continued management, the Herrons – and their cattle – are reaping the benefits.

“It’s something you have to be patient with; grass doesn’t change overnight. It takes time to get the correct soil balance for those grasses to grow effectively,” Patrick said. “We measure everything down to the ounce when we put on fertilizer. We want to make sure what we’re putting on the ground will benefit and not hinder the growth of anything. It took us years to get up to this point.”

Twelve paddocks are used in the grazing rotation. Cattle are fenced away from ponds, creeks, rivers and wooded areas. The bulk of the herd moves through eight paddocks, while four are for feeder calves.

In addition to quality forages, cattle at 3 Korners Ranch receive a Crescent Feed salt and protein mix. The amount offered depends on the condition of the cattle and the weather conditions.

Improving forages and a managed grazing system are not the only changes from the early days of the Herron operation.

“We put together a brand-new business plan that will help the farm be self-sustaining and add to the bottom line for the longevity of the property,” Patrick explained. “We have a legacy farm here and want to build the business plan so the legacy can continue from generation to generation with just minor adjustments throughout time.”

The current herd is about 48 breeding females and around 22 calves of various ages. While the number may have declined, the Herrons returned to the Angus breed and were very specific about the cattle going into the new herd. The females they acquired to begin their operation were from reputable breeders through private treaty sales to ensure they started with quality stock.

The herd bull, a Rainmaker prodigy, offers a low birthweight and quality carcass scores. The bull and the carefully-selected cowherd are producing the offspring the Herrons desire.

“We want a large, strong momma cow that’s going to come back into the herd and be a good milker. We want a calf that will be 55 to 60 pounds, one that is easy for the momma to birth, and if the momma has that milk we like, then we will have a healthy calf from the start.”

Natural breeding cycles are utilized at the 3 Korners Ranch, and Patrick said the goal is to not have any new calves in January or February.

The Herrons look to the Show-Me-Select Heifer Program’s criteria when retaining heifers, including pelvic measurements. 

For the heifer breeding program, they are exploring the introduction of red Wagyu. 

“We’ve had a strong request for 50-50 Wagyu/Angus, or a 75-25 Angus/Wagyu beef,” he explained. “It’s about feeding the consumer what they want, not me telling them what they want.”

In the current 3 Korners Ranch beef program, customers can order 100 percent Angus. For the last two years, they have offered wholes, halves and quarters to customers.

“They graze until they are about 850 to 1,000 pounds,” Patrick said of the feeder cattle. He added that feeders also receive a custom feed mix containing a base of corn and molasses. “They are on grass 90 percent of the time. They get the mix from the time they are weaned until they are ready for market. We increase the feed as they get closer to market, so it’s not like a big shock to their system by getting grain just in the last 90 days.” 

Patrick went on to say the combination of slow and steady feeding and the Angus genetics produces beef with well-distributed marbling.

Patrick Herron said the combination of slow and steady feeding and the Angus genetics produces beef with well-distributed marbling. Submitted Photo.
Submitted Photo

“We don’t produce a lot of beef, but what we do produce is quality,” he said. “We want consistent, fluid marbling, with just a ribbon of fat around the edge.”  

Twenty-eight to 32 head are processed through the beef program annually. Calves not sold for beef are offered to other producers in the area who also market farm-fresh beef. 

“It helps other farmers in similar programs,” Patrick explained. “If I need one, I will get it from those farmers. We are building a little network.”

Another revenue stream for the ranch is hay sales. Because of the improvements to the forages and soil condition, Patrick said about 1,000 round bales are produced annually, but their cattle herd only requires about 200 bales.

“Because the hay market is so strong, we have stayed stagnant with the number of cattle we have and turned those other pastures into hay-producing fields. The business plan was to move with the times so when the market shifts, it will be easy for us to introduce cattle back into those fields.

“My plans are proportional to what the market needs. If the hay market continues to be strong, I’m going to continue to produce the hay and feed the ground the nutrients it needs. If I want to turn it back into pasture, I can throw up an electric cross fence and do more with the cattle herd.”

Family patriarch Robert lives in St. Louis, but comes to the farm when he can.

“He is 88 years old and is ecstatic about what’s going on,” Patrick said. “He always wanted a farm of his own, and when he had to shut it down in the 1980s because it wasn’t economically viable, that took a toll on him. To see it regenerate and regrow with the new technology, the new information and help from the USDA has really made his day. He likes to go on the side-by-side, go see the calves and see how they are growing. It’s a joy to see him ride around, look at the property and take it all in.”

Patrick had a career in heavy equipment dealership management, but is now a full-time rancher.

“It’s kind of an early retirement, but it’s not; I do a lot of work,” he said. “I have loved the property and have come down here my entire life. We own about a mile of river frontage, so growing up, I fished, floated and hunted. I never pictured I would be doing what I’m doing at age 57 and enjoy doing it.

“I didn’t like the property in the condition it was in. I knew we had to kind of take the bull by the horns, go a different direction and get it in a more sustaining fashion. When we were leasing it out, there was just enough revenue for the taxes and some expenses. Knowing this was going to be a legacy property, it needed to generate some revenue and reserve for the farm. It’s going to take more work, and there’s still challenges ahead, but maintaining that legacy is the ultimate goal.”


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