Genetics paired with consistent feed and health protocols help Arkansas family farm meet their goals.
In the rolling hills of central Arkansas, Jay H Farms has been leaving its mark since 2004.
Chris and Nesha Smith established their farm after purchasing Nesha’s grandfather’s property. They kept the family brand and farm name, but they’ve made changes to grow the farm and make it their own.
The Smiths use Braunvieh genetics, a Continental breed originating from Switzerland known for their balance of maternal and terminal traits.
Starting out, the genetics for Jay H Farms were commercial Brangus cows.
“Our first year, I borrowed two Braunvieh bulls from my father-in-law to try them out,” says Chris. “I ended up really liking the calves, so we’ve stuck with Braunvieh cattle.”
The genetic base of the 500-head commercial herd is now primarily Braunvieh.
“Breeding with Braunvieh genetics puts more bone on the cattle, plus they are easy fleshing and have excellent milking ability and fertility,” says Chris. “They are an all-around good package.”
In 2016, the Smith family was recognized as the Commercial Breeder of the Year by the Braunvieh Association of America (BAA).
For the past five years, they’ve been raising a separate registered Braunvieh herd. They develop the best registered bulls to breed the commercial herd. They also retain purebred replacement heifers, growing the herd to its current size of 75 registered females.
“My daughter, Jalyn (14), is also really big into showing cattle, so we’ve advanced the registered herd to support what has become a family pastime,” says Chris.
Starting right for later success
A combination of genetics, health and nutrition helps Chris achieve his herd goals, which are to raise fertile replacement heifers and feeder calves that perform both in the feedlot and packing plant.
For both spring and fall calving herds, calves are weaned at approximately 8 months old. The Smiths use fenceline weaning to reduce stress
on calves. Calves also receive all necessary vaccinations before and at weaning to help with immunity.
For 20 to 28 days, the calves are weaned on Purina® Stress Care® 5 Supplement
with free-choice fescue or Bermudagrass hay and pasture. Calves are also provided Purina® Wind and Rain® Mineral Tubs
4 or Purina® Stress Tub1
They are then transitioned onto a custom ration and held at the farm up to an additional 100 days.
“I’ve weaned several sets of calves on Purina®
5 Supplement over the past few years,” says Chris. “This past year, I fed Purina®
5 Supplement with RX3®
Immune Support Technology with great results.”
Added to Purina’s starter feed line up in 2019, RX3® Immune Support Technology
contains a precise combination of prebiotics, probiotics and plant extracts to support calves during stress and respiratory challenges.
“My calves went to the bunk quickly and stayed strong throughout the weaning process,” says Chris. “I will trust my calves on Purina®
starter feeds for years to come.”
Following weaning, Chris sends commercial steers and non-replacement heifers to a feedlot in western Oklahoma. In the past, commercial calves were sold locally or on video auctions by Jay H Farms. Today, the Smiths retain ownership on their calves
Chris is pleased with the results for his calves both in the yard and on the rail at the packer.
“They outperformed my expectations when we first started sending them to the feedlot, and we’ve continued retaining ownership ever since,” says Chris.
A 60-day calving window is a requirement for the Smith’s herds. It helps with the uniformity of their calf crop and the overall reproductive efficiency of their females.
All the replacement heifers are artificially inseminated (AI), along with the entire registered Braunvieh herd. Commercial cows are bred via natural service.
“Recently, out of 52 first-calf females, we only had four head that didn’t breed back in time, which is really saying something because those are the hardest animals to breed,” says Chris.
A key to achieving the tight calving window is nutrition. All breeding females have access to Purina®
Wind and Rain®
Mineral Tubs with Availa®
4 approximately 60 days prior to breeding. Outside of the breeding season, each herd receives Wind and Rain® Mineral
while grazing fescue and Bermudagrass and have Purina® Accuration® Hi-Fat Blocks
Bulls also have free-choice, year-round access to Wind and Rain®
Mineral Tubs with Availa®
4 and Accuration® Liquid Supplement
, which Chris says keeps them in condition for the two different breeding seasons.
Looking to the future
Since buying the farm, the Smiths doubled their acreage in owned property and leased just as much ground in order to grow the cow herd.
Chris is hopeful his daughter will continue to have an interest in the farm and take on the cattle herd which is becoming an increasing part of the family business. Outside of showing, Jalyn is growing her own herd of Braunvieh cows and is active in youth programs like 4-H and Junior BAA.
“I’m pretty proud of how involved in the farm she is,” says Chris. “Jalyn picks out her own AI sires, selects her own protocols for breeding and has pushed some of my thinking."
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1 Availa® 4 is a registered trademark of Zinpro Performance Minerals.