Par5livestock farm is located in the Appalachian Foothills of North Central Alabama. We are small family farm with approximately 140 acres of rolling grass covered hillsides and steep wooded ravines. My parents bought this farm in 1976 and I grew up here. We raised cattle, occasionally goats and some hogs. I moved back to the farm after college, yet still work full time off farm as well. I have had sheep here continually since I was 15 (1988) and goats off and on since 1998. I have also had a variety of hogs for most of the last ten years. I started raising donkeys a few years ago to help control predators.
My late wife Christy (Cancer 2010) and I have three children and that is where the Par 5 name came from. Since p a r happens to be the first three letters of our last name, there were five of us and Par5 is the best of the best in its context, I thought it would fit well. Our oldest child (Sara) is 24. She works full time since she finished her degree at Mississippi State University and takes care of her own family. She is a hard worker and a very intelligent and capable young lady. Our boys (Will and Tom) are 17 year old identical twins who have done very well academically and get to help with many of the farm chores. They have shown lambs and hogs since they were four and we have traveled far and wide with them and their livestock. Today they have more things to keep them occupied (Varsity Cross Country, Math team, Scholars Bowl etc.) and our showing has been cut short.
2016 brought many changes. I got remarried in February and my wife Yarah has been selling our locally raised products at a few local farmers markets. She has two daughters, Katya and Dasha who are 10 and 7 respectively and I hope we will soon be back to showing some form of livestock locally at least. Yarah had her own farm and as of 9-11-16 we have a new daughter, Anastasia to keep us busy (Not that two farms and the older kids were not enough, LOL). Life has been hectic to say the least and I think that we are all looking forward fall weather and taking a few days to catch our breath and enjoy our growing family.
I also serve on the Alabama's Meat Goat and Sheep Committee and was the state representative to the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) until I was elected to the Executive Board for ASI. I was alsp on the board of directors for a small local marketing Cooperative. Professionally, I am the statewide livestock nutritionist for the Alabama Farmers Cooperative. Needless to say, I stay busy but I enjoy all that I do and all of it revolves around Agriculture and now that you know more about us than you probably wanted to know; on to the other important things.
Sheep: As mentioned above, I have had a flock of sheep since 1988. Flock size has varied over the years from less than twenty ewes to over two hundred. We have gone through a variety of breeds and commercial sheep. I have tried the hair sheep that are so popular in our area but soon made my way back to the wooled breeds. Many think that our environment is much better suited to hair sheep but in all reality it is tough on small ruminants in general and our management practices have to reflect that. In 2004 I decided to try the Horned Dorset and they have been my mainstay ever since. They are a hardy breed with great maternal traits and grow fast enough to out perform most anything else in this part of the world, especially the purebred hairsheep. A couple of years ago we added some Scottish Blackface ewes and a ram. They are an experiment and it will take a year or two before I decide how well they will work. I do love their close flocking nature and they are said to be extremely hardy so I have high expectations for them. I have also added a small flock of registered Hampshire ewes and will soon pick up a ram to compliment them. Breeding season will surely be a juggling act and lambing season should be super fun with the different breeds and types that we have.
Goats: We had goats here on the farm just to help with brush control when I was young. Predators were a constant battle and soon my Dad tired of the fight. I got back into goats during my college years and have had them pretty much ever since. I started with Nubians and milked a few while in college. I did go through a boar/meat goat phase (along with everyone else) in the 90s but soon decided that was not what I needed. I picked up and enjoyed some Saanen does during the early 2000s but decided to sell them out when time was an issue due to my late wife's cancer. I have since added a mixture of milk does back (Saanen, Nubian, Alpine, and Lamancha) and milked nine does for a good part of 2014. Again, time constraints have caused me to revamp my management practices so I dispersed most of the goat herd. I will keep the best of the Nubians (Four our five of my favorites and a young buckling that I just got) and a couple of Saanens and the rest went to other farms. 2016 and the changes we made caused us to rethink our goat herds. We will be keeping most of the goats at Yarah's farm and will maintain a few milkers (Mostly saanens and nubians) and a few boer cross meat type does to produce wethers for the farmers market.
Hogs: Hogs were an integral part of most farms in this area up until the late 1970s. People got away from them and we did too. My first job after college was managing a contract finishing operation in Mississippi and I finished just under 24000 head in the year and a half I was there. After I moved back home, I decided to get a couple of sows and we raised pigs for three of four years. Lack of time and facilities soon got the best of us and we sold out. In 2004 I let a local AgriScience teacher talk me into getting two gilts for the boys to show. After show season, I AI'd one of the gilts and were back In the business. I enjoy the show pigs and we have had fair success with that. Lately I have kept one or two sows to produce show pigs and a wide variety of crossbred pasture type (heritage crosses) to hit other markets. I have a wide range of genetics and can produce pigs that will perform well on pasture or pigs that function in a more intensively managed environment. We have tried a variety of breeds and all of our 2016 pigs were sired by Berkshires. I don't get along well with the Berkshire hogs that we have and that line will be dispersed. The red wattle genetics that we have used widely this year will also be leaving I think. I have recently added two duroc gilts, two Yorkshire gilts and a Hampshire boar that are from some really old, pasture type bloodlines. They have been selected since the 70s and 80s to have a higher quality, better marbling traits that should produce a superior eating experience and their attitudes and disposition fit my personality better. Each of these animals are extremely line bred and when we cross those lines, I expect tremendous results.
Border Collies: I got my first Border Collie when I was sixteen. I have continually had them ever since. I have had some really good dogs and some that were only fair at best, but generally I have found that anytime a dog didn't turn out as good as I thought they should, it was because I didn't spend the time needed to help them get there. They are special animals and I don't intend to do without one. I have made some great friends over the years dealing with the stock dog people and hope to one day go back to attending some of the dog trials.
Equine : We are down to five donkeys and and that may be too many. I will say that predator problems have been at twenty year lows since we got the donkeys.
Cattle: We bought a handful of bull and heifer calves in the fall of 2016. Two or maybe three of the heifers will be kept to raise calves and the rest will find their way to the processor as they grow and finish. In the summer of 2017, we also added two Jersey cows and a Jersey heifer. The two cows calved in September and are currently raising crossbred calves and being milked. Fresh milk and butter will be available. I will breed these Jerseys back to a bull that i have picked out in an effort to raise cattle that will milk and marble and eventually we will have some special steaks with a crossbred steer that will be unique to our farm.