Dairy, Beef Producers of the Year announced for 2016
Two cattle operations have broken from the herd this year.
The Eugene Anderson family of Green Forest was named the Dairy Producer of the Year for 2016, and the Hunnicutt/Cone family of Berryville was named Beef Producer of the Year for 2016.
Scott Fancher, executive director of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for Carroll and Madison Counties, said the selection committee for the awards is made up of the county’s agriculture extension agent. Olivia Foster, and representatives from the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the FSA, Farm Bureau and other organizations.
“We’ve been giving out the Dairy and Beef Producer awards for about as long as the Farm Family of the Year has been going on,” Fancher said. “This year when our committee got together, we decided the families deserved some sort of special recognition other than us saying ‘You’re the dairy producer of the year,’ so we decided as a group that we would take the additional step of making it a plaque award.”
Fancher presented the plaques to the Anderson and Hunnicutt/Cone families last Thursday.
He said the committee tries to pick producers who are recognized among the larger and more successful producers in the county.
“First and foremost, we pick someone who can remain in business,” Fancher said. “We’ve been losing dairy producers like flies over the last few years. Of all types of farming, it is probably the most demanding.”
He continued, “We just want to recognize them because we think this is an important part of Carroll County’s rural economy. My hat is off to these families.”
Anderson said he has about 240 acres of farmland and runs about 100 head of cattle.
“I have 50 acres here by my home, but we have two other farms with about 80 acres each,” he said. “That’s about 210 acres in total, and I rent another 30 acres.”
He continued, “I’m milking about 52 cows right now. I’ve got 100, and we like to milk around 50 to 60. The milk cows are on the farm where the dairy barn is. Then I’ve got my dry cows and young heifers here. On the other farm, I’ve got the bigger heifers that have been put with the bull.”
Anderson said he got started with dairy farming when he was a kid.
“I was about 7 or 8 when I got started,” he said. “I’ve been in the dairy business for about 50 years or longer. I quit for a while when I first got married and built chicken houses, but I didn’t like that as much.”
He said dairy farming runs in the family.
“My folks have been in the dairy business forever, and my grandma and grandpa came here from Oklahoma in the late 1930s and brought milk cows with them,” he said.
Through his long career in dairy farming, Anderson said he has learned that there are not any set rules for milking as long as farmers take care of their cows.
“Old dairy farmers have told me all my life that you have to milk early in the morning and early in the afternoon, about 12 hours apart,” he said. “I can tell you right now they are full of bull because I don’t have to do any such thing. I milk at 6 a.m. every morning, and I milk at 3 p.m. in the afternoon. And I’m the only one still going.”
He said dairy farming is a 24/7 job. He said his wife, Judi Anderson, works on the farm as well, raising calves and helping with the milking.
“My favorite part of the job is that I get to stay home all the time,” he said. “If I’ve got something else to do, those milk cows will wait an hour or two if they have to. It’s just something I’ve done all my life and something I like to do. If you don’t like milking cows, you better not do it because you’ll be starving to death.”
Alan Hunnicutt and Tina Cone said they were surprised to hear they had been named the 2016 Beef Producer of the Year.
“It was a surprise, but it is a good feeling,” Cone said. “We’ve raised cattle since the early 1980s, I guess. Since we sold our veterinary practice in 2004, we have expanded quite a bit.”
She said their sons, Matt and Kyle Hunnicutt, run the cattle with them.
“Matt came back from college and has his own herd of cattle,” Cone said. “We have some that we keep together. It’s all kind of mixed up. We work together yet separate.”
Matt Hunnicutt said the family has about 1700 acres of pasture between him and his parents. He said they run a cow-calf operation and a stocker operation.
“I’ve got about 275 cattle and about 400 stockers,” he said. “I always helped on the farm when I was younger, and, when I got out of college with my degree in agri business, I bought out a local guy’s cow herd and started renting his place.”
Alan Hunnicutt said their operation is a little different from most.
“We give our cows new grass every day, and we’re moving cows and building fence every day,” he said.
Cone said the method is called management-intensive grazing.
“It’s an intensive rotational grazing,” she said. “We have several different bunches of cattle. The biggest one is about 180 pairs, so that’s 180 cows and 180 calves. They move to a new patch of ground every day.”
As far as inclement weather goes, she said the family just has to plan ahead.
“We knew that the creek in one of our pastures would rise, and we watched the weather and moved the cattle across to higher ground before the big rains came,” Cone said. “You just plan for it. If the winter is really bad, we try to keep them a little closer where we can feed them hay if we have to, but they generally just eat grass.”
Kyle Hunnicutt said he is a certified arborist who runs Hunnicutt Tree Care. His role on the farm, he said, is to lend a helping hand whenever it is needed.
“If they ever need a hand for working cattle or are overwhelmed with any other work, I’ve got a flexible schedule with my job,” he said, “so I can usually come in and help.”
Cone said she believes her family’s success with beef production comes from their shared passion for animals and the outdoors.
“Alan is a distance runner and runs ultra marathons, and I’m a kayaker,” she said. “Matt does team roping. Kyle has a tree service and also has a knife-making business. I think we are all outdoorsy.”
Cone said her favorite part about running cattle is being able to work outside with the animals.
“I enjoy working outside. After about 30 years of working in a vet clinic with all that stress, I enjoy the peacefulness, the solitude and the hard physical work,” she said.
“Well, the cows do most of the work,” Alan Hunnicutt said, making the family laugh.