Where You Are

A woman and man seated in a side-by-side with a cattle field stretching behind them. A woman brushes a Red Angus cow. A man stands among Red Angus cattle. A woman walks beside Red Angus cattle. A Red Angus mama cow standing beside her calf near a fence. A Red Angus Calf standing in a field.
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Taking a New Approach

Cattle producers use Extension assistance to build uniform operation

Story by Leah Barbour • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Cruising into Madison County, you see a cultivated urban landscape full of brick edifices and manicured lawns spring up around you. Your cell phone announces your turnoff, and you comply, turning onto an older road that soon turns to gravel.

The city of Canton fades away, and low, sloping hills of pasture rise around you. A breezy blue sky, dotted with a few wisps of clouds, opens across the horizon. You see a few head of Red Angus cattle resting in the shade, and you realize that town is just minutes away from this pastoral paradise.

On this beautiful stretch of 60 acres, including 45 acres of pasture for just 20 head of Red Angus heifers, Hart and Karen Lyon are living a dream they had for many years. They agreed to start their own cattle operation as a retirement venture, and they decided to focus on genetics and breed a uniform herd.

They both grew up working a smattering of different breeds, never a uniform herd, but the Lyons also grew up knowing about the Mississippi State University Extension Service, which staffs offices in every county in the state. Offering free education and assistance to all Mississippians, Extension agents and specialists provide research-based, reliable information in a range of subject areas, including cattle production.

“One kind of folks that I think need to call the Extension Service—and I’m that kind of person—is the person going in a new direction, just getting started,” Hart reflects. “That person needs to really tap into Extension.”

The Lyons did just that. They bought the land in 2018 and moved into their new house in 2019. The next step for the couple was to gather soil samples as they began the challenge of converting row crop land into land capable of growing sustainable forages for the herd they would someday buy. They reached out to their former Extension agent, Ty Jones, in early 2020.

Even though cattle didn’t arrive on the property for 2 more years, the Lyons built fences and determined the appropriate fertilizer for the pasture. As they began work in earnest to plant and establish bahiagrass for grazing, Jones connected them with Extension forage specialist Dr. Rocky Lemus.

“In four years, with Ty and Rocky’s help, we’ve been able to convert the land for our herd,” Karen says. “They have been such a blessing to us. They are so accessible, so patient. Having their depth of knowledge so easily accessible to us is very important.”

The Lyons continued learning from, and consulting with, Jones and Lemus, and, when the time finally came to secure their cattle, they chose a herd of registered Red Angus. Rapid genetic improvement was important to them as they looked at the future growth of their herd, so Jones suggested they contact R.A. Brown Ranch, a well-known operation producing superior cattle in Throckmorton, Texas.

The Lyons purchased their herd of 10-month-old heifers from a Brown cooperator, and the herd arrived in Mississippi in late fall 2022. Choosing an embryo-transfer breeding plan, the Lyons worked with Jones again to establish a breeding calendar and protocol. The first-time moms delivered in January 2024, and the Lyons hope to sell their first round of young bulls in the fall of 2025.

“Ty has really been just invaluable to us—we wouldn’t be where we are without the wealth of knowledge he’s made accessible to us,” Karen emphasizes. “We’ve never called him and him not get back to us. He always fits us into his schedule; I don’t know how many hours we have sat just talking through our questions.”

Hart affirms, “What we bring to the table in terms of ignorance, Ty forgives for our enthusiasm. Just the little tidbits of knowledge we get from him, from Extension, I guess that’s the thing we find exciting—we’re not bored because there’s so much to learn!”

CLICK HERE to read Extension’s Forage Newsletter.

 

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