Still Waters in West Fork, Arkansas moves from commercial cattle to registered Beefmasters. Photo by Terry Ropp.
Photo by Terry Ropp

Farm moves from commercial cattle to registered Beefmasters

WEST FORK, ARK. – Most farmers hope their farms will become generational with each generation taking part. Still Waters in West Fork, Ark., fulfilled Ronnie Coker’s dream of setting down roots and overcoming a childhood of moving back and forth between Arkansas and Oklahoma.

In 1969, Ronnie purchased 335 acres along with a mixed herd of cows he bred with Beefmaster bulls. In 1973, he and Kay were married. Through the years the couple tried other bulls such as Santa Gertrudis and Limousin but always return to Beefmaster. 

When their son Randall graduated from high school, his father explained to him the value of establishing credit. Randall promptly got a $5,000 loan to purchase commercial cows. When Randall brought the herd home, his Ronnie asked where he planned on keeping them. Randall requested time to think for a couple days and then offered to buy a bull they could share in exchange for land rent. Unfortunately, Randall ended up selling the herd to repay the loan and believed the Lord was telling him to pick a different career. He is now a captain in the Fayetteville Fire Department. However, when his son Caleb was 10 and wanted a cow, things were different.

The farm transitioned to Beefmaster breeding and show stock in 2002. Ronnie passed in 2013 with the family continuing to grow in the farm. Creating a true family business, several members joined together including Randall and his wife Jenn; daughter Misty and her husband Kevin Garrett, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel; and J.R. Bing, Kay’s second husband. All work together with each having different talents to offer the operation. 

Like Randall, Misty grew up on the farm and continues working and checking the cattle. 

Randall’s two daughters, Madison and Macen, and son Cole also own and work cattle on the farm. Randall and Jenn’s other son, Blake, lives and works in Bentonville, but visits the farm.

The farm transitioned to Beefmaster breeding and show stock in 2002. Ronnie passed in 2013 with the family continuing to grow in the farm. Photo by Terry Ropp.
Photo by Terry Ropp

Kevin and Misty’s sons Caleb and Joshua began going to sales and buying cattle with their grandpa Ronnie before they were 10 years old and have raised several cattle.

The current farm goal is to improve the genetic quality of the herd by decreasing herd size and overhead costs while increasing profits. The herd currently numbers 140 and is raised on the original land plus land in Prairie Grove belonging to Kevin’s mother, Betty Moore. 

Presently, the Beefmaster Association is focusing on genetic traits that increase carcass weights and grades of beef as a way of improving producer profits. This January the farm began its first round of AI through the aid of friend Greg Montgomery, the farm manager at the University of Arkansas Monticello, and his sidekick Jaylin Thomas. UAM is transitioning their cattle program to a fully registered Beefmaster platform, making them one of only four universities in the nation to do so.

The family is eagerly taking advantage of the highest possible Beefmaster genetics available through AI while using their quality bulls for cleanup. Still Waters sells off the farm mostly through word-of-mouth and registered breed sales. Recently, a cow/calf pair was sold to an operation in North Carolina. Other cattle have been sold in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas. Social media provides additional opportunities for sales. Proof of the quality of Still Waters animals is one of their heifers winning the Arkansas/Oklahoma State Fair Grand Champion in her class last year. An earmark of their operation is a strict cow culling criterion that Kevin calls the “3 Os”: open, old or ornery. Bull calves not kept for herd sires are castrated at weaning and sent to market when prices are favorable, along with any heifers that do not meet their standards.

“Some of the best advice I ever got was from Cary Bartholomew who said to ‘sell when it’s time to sell,’” Randall explained.

The family operation works with two breeding cycles: spring and fall, leaving cleanup bulls with the females for 65 to 70 days. Calves are vaccinated at weaning with heifers receiving an extra vaccination at 4 to 12 months to promote healthy live births. Other health protocols include fly tags, cattle rubs and mineral tubs with fly control. The cattle are fed a 12 to 20 percent protein grain ration and are rotated according to weather conditions. 

Still Waters grows its own hay on 120 acres, part in West Fork and part in Prairie Grove.

The fields are comprised of mixed grasses and fertilized with a granular commercial fertilizer as well as poultry litter. Weed control comes from herbicide with broadleaf being the most important target. After experimenting with overseeding using rye, they plan to implement more routine overseeding in the future.

“My dad had a dream to build roots for his family,” Misty said. “We plan on keeping that dream alive for generations to come. When speaking of land, Mark Twain once pointed out ‘they’re not making any more of it’, so we’re going to keep ours.”

“We want Christian and country values, and to work together and grow together,”Kay added.

“That’s the glue, and it takes all of us to make it work,” Randall said. 


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