Kris and Jamie (Turnbo) Cooley have more than five generations of farming and ranching in their blood. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

The T Bar C Ranch has a cow/calf operation and offers farm-raised beef

MOUNTAIN HOME, ARK. – Kris and Jamie (Turnbo) Cooley have more than five generations of farming and ranching in their blood. Both grew up on farms and watched the struggles and successes of running large and small ranches.

Yet, even with all that history, when the Cooleys started the T Bar C Ranch in 2009, they quickly found out that ranching and running a business are not always on the same path.

Despite that, the couple, who have been married for 21 years, have built a locally-owned family farm consisting of high-quality, grass-fed, grass and grain-finished Angus-cross cattle that is making a name for itself in Baxter County outside of their family legacy.

“My maiden name is Turnbow and just down the road we live on is the family’s farm. My grandparents settled in this area,” Jaimie said. “There’s a lot of Turnbow history in this area. There’s a little grocery store up the road where my great-grandparents ran it along with the farm. And so it’s a fairly large, fairly large farm that I grew up on.”

Because of how expensive land has become, the Cooley’s have chosen to lease the 120 acres of farmland for their herd.

“I’d say one of the toughest parts was trying to find other places to lease to have enough pasture,” Jaimie said. “We can run a certain amount in conjunction with my parents, but they’ve got most of it. Most of our family land is tied up with their cattle, so finding other places to lease was kind of a challenge.”

However, according to Kris, there are significant benefits to going the leasing route.

“If you can find the right people to lease the land off of and work out a partnership with them, it can work out to be cheaper on you than having to purchase land,” said Kris. “Some of the people around here in our retirement community, they just want the property taken care of, so we just keep the fences up, fertilized, keep it sprayed for weeds, that kind of thing. And then just a little bit of money on top of that versus having to go out and buy land at the prices these days.”

The T Bar C Ranch runs 40 cow/calf pairs. From the time they breed the cow to the time the calf has weaned and then taken can be two and a half years.

“Most of our animals are an Angus or Angus cross,” Kris said. “We did recently get into Registered Angus. We just starting that herd, so we don’t have very many yet, but we’re hoping to get a little bit more involved in the registered side of stuff too. But most of it’s an Angus background. “The black calves sell better at the sale barn or black baldies with a motley face or something. And then “Angus is just known for their meat quality and their marbling and stuff, and we raise butcher beef and stuff. So that was important to us on the quality of the meat. On our butcher beef, we do halves and quarters type of beef, but then we also will have some butchered USDA inspected so that it can be sold by the piece legally sometimes at the farmer’s market. We also partner with a couple of places in town.”

The herd is raised on grass and is grass and grain finished. Kris says that gives their cattle a special flavor that can’t be found in the only grass-fed beef.

The T Bar C Ranch has a cow/calf operation and offers farm-raised beef. Contributed Photo.
Contributed Photo

“At some of those places where we sell our beef at, the other beef that’s in there is grass-fed and ours is grain finished, and to me, it’s just a lot more flavorful meat,” Kris said. “So I think that’s why they keep coming back. And then on top of that, it’s farm-raised, so it doesn’t have any hormones or antibiotics or preservatives or none of that kind of stuff in there that you get from the grocery store.”

However, the Cooleys have found they have to do a little bit more explaining to customers exactly what it means to be grain-finished.

“It’s both grass and grain finished. Yeah, they’re out on pasture. They just feed every day,” Jaime said. “One of the things that I had to explain to a lot of people at the farmer’s market was people had a big negativity towards the grain. Well, you have two major schools of thought on grain versus grass. They are either die-hard grass or people that really love grain-finished beef and some in the middle that just don’t know.”

The Cooleys sell their products on a variety of different platforms. Sale barns and website traffic provide a large chunk of their business. But so does old-school word of mouth at farmer’s markets.

“The farmer’s market was a huge way for us to grow,” Jaime said. “People that we knew and spreading things via word of mouth are usually the best advertiser. We did a lot at the farmer’s market and that helped quite a bit. But now that I’m established at those two places, they keep us pretty busy as well as a little bit of extra on the website.”

The Cooleys have been so busy building up the T Bar C Ranch, that they haven’t yet discussed where they want business to be in the next 10 years. They hope to grow bigger and expand, which will happen as they take over operational control of more of the Turnbull ranch’s herd and land.

While Kris is focused on the genetics side of the business and looking to improve the taste of the products, Jaime is also focused on making the right financial decisions.

“I would hope that at least one of us would be able to quit a career in town and be able to manage the farm,” Jaime said. “Both of us would be great, but I don’t know if that would happen or not. Just realistically. And it’s difficult to know. We’d like to see an increase in our butcher side of things. I would love to be able to feed more people here locally with locally-raised meat and deal with the sustainability of a local food source right now. The cost of the beef at the sale barn when beef prices go up, it’s great. But at the same time, it just makes you question that price point of what people will pay for food.”


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