Feeding the Cows: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

I don’t remember when Dad started raising beef cattle. As long as I can remember, we had Polled Hereford cows in the pasture behind the house on Nutter’s Chapel Road. He also kept cows in my Uncle Hulen’s pasture which was just west of our pasture. The cows were relatively maintenance free in the summer, but in the winter, feeding the cows was a daily chore.

For those not familiar with the names of the various breeds of beef cattle, a Polled Hereford cow is a reddish brown cow with a white face. Although there were other breeds like Angus, Charolais, Brahman, and Longhorns being raised around Faulkner County, Dad always thought this breed was the best looking.

At any given time, there were about 30-35 cows in our herd. In the early 1970s, Faulkner County ranked 9th in Arkansas for raising beef cattle. There were over 14,000 head of cattle in the county and the average herd was about 35. My Dad, and most of the others who raised beef cattle, had a number of mother cows who had calves that would be raised to sell at auction.

In the summer, my Dad would cut the grass in the pasture and bale it into hay that would be used to feed the cows in the winter. The hay would be stored in the large barn in my Uncle Hulen’s pasture. The barn would be stacked to the top with square hay bales. As kids we loved climbing up the bales to play.

In addition to hay, Dad also purchased sacks of feed at the Associated Farmers’ Co-Op to feed to the cattle. My brother and I often rode to town with him on Saturday mornings to get the feed. When I was very young, the Co-Op was on the north end of Front Street where Stoby’s corporate offices are now located. Later the Co-Op moved into a new building in the Industrial Park.

The Associated Farmers’ Co-Operative was established as a producers’ cooperative by local farmers who purchased farm supplies in bulk to use on their farms and ranches. Each member owned stock in the Co-Op. The dividend checks were never very big but every year the Co-Op would hold an annual stockholder’s dinner. One of my best memories of this was when Jerry Clower, a stand-up comedian from Yazoo City, Mississippi, came and entertained the crowd.

In the winter of 1971-72, my Dad was supervising the construction of a new sanctuary for Antioch Baptist Church on South Boulevard. Because he was right across the street from our elementary school, Sallie Cone, my brother and I were able to ride home with him after school instead of riding the school bus that year. Before we could go home every day we had to stop by the hay barn and feed the cows.

I usually got out and opened the gate because I was the oldest. We would then drive through the soggy pasture up to the barn. My brother and I would climb around on the hay while my Dad fed the cows a few hay bales and shook out some feed from the feed sacks we bought at the Co-Op. Lots of memories were made going with Dad to feed the cows.

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