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Hometown: Dardanelle, Ark.

Family: Wife Julie, son Chip and his wife Lori, daughter Abbey and her fiancé Tanner Hess, grandson Colt and granddaughter Caroline.

In Town: Keith Stokes is the agriculture projects manager for U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a position he has held for about seven, almost eight, years. 

“I handle all of the in-state ag issues for the senator,” Keith explained. “He wants to stay informed and up-to-date on agriculture issues in the state, and my job is to let him know what’s going on in Arkansas agriculture.”

In the Country: Keith has always had a passion for agriculture. 

“I was raised on a poultry and cattle farm not too far from here,” Keith said. “I have been around agriculture my whole life.”

Keith has a commercial cow/calf operation with Brangus-influenced females. He has about 35 momma cows but hopes to scale back to about 25. He said his busy schedule and a lack of available hay ground are contributing factors. 

His family operated 350-sow farrow-to-feeder operation at their Dardanelle, Ark., farm for about 20 years in addition to the cattle operation.  

 In 1996, Keith was president of the Arkansas Pork Producers and was contacted to help find a Razorback to be the live mascot of the University of Arkansas. Keith located a breeder in Greenbrier, Ark., and the Tusk line began with two Russian boars.

The pigs were housed at the St. Louis Zoo for a few years, then moved to the university’s research farm. Eventually, the Tusk line came to live at the Stokes’ farm.  

“We modified the barns and he’s been with us for the last 20 years,” Keith said. 

The Tusk lineage began with Tusk I. Tusk II and Tusk III were both sons of Tusk I. Tusk IV and Tusk V were sons of Tusk II, and Tusk VI is a litter mate of Tusk V. 

To keep the line going, Keith selects gilts that are brought to Tusk for breeding. After the next generation of Tusks are selected, the sows and all other pigs return to the farm from which the sows originated. Keith picks a maximum of three boars to remain on the farm and become future mascots. Keith expects to breed Tusk VI this fall. 

The Stokes family follows the university’s sports teams with Tusk, who travels in his own custom trailer. From birth, the future mascots are handled by the Stokes family, and prepared for their future as Tusk. 

“We want a young, calm sow that will tolerate you handling her babies, and a radio is playing in the barn,” Keith said. “When they get old enough, we will load them on the trailer and take them for rides. We just keep working with them. Even in the off-season, I feed them once a week on the trailer.”

Keith said he plans on continuing the tradition for many years to come, and being the caregiver for Tusk.

“If you love sports and animals, it’s a great mix,” he said. “This is also unique to our state.”


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