Howard County Farm Changing Business Plans for Operation

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

By: Samantha Dixon, HCEDA Agriculture Intern

When turning into a farm located in western Howard County, I was first introduced to a sign that read ‘Bowling Green Farm’. When I continued traveling down the long gravel-road driveway, I passed various current and passed family-owned houses, barns for equipment and livestock, as well as antique tractors set up on concrete slabs. As I finally made it to the Jones house at the very end of the driveway, I was greeted with an open hay field off to my right, and a herd of black angus beef cattle in a fenced in field to my left.

Bowling Green Farm has been owned and operated by the Jones family since 1743 and is a 10th generation farm. The Jones family owns around 400 acres for farming crops and raising livestock on pasture. Tim Jones, the owner and full-time operator of Bowling Green farm, and his wife Mitzi discuss the different types of business they have conducted on the land and what the hopes are for the future of their operation.

Jones talks about his grandfather starting the dairy operation around the 1930’s through 2019, but how it has been a struggle to maintain running it. Bowling Green was one of the very few dairy operations in Howard County. “It has been really great over the years, but it unfortunately has been harder to maintain it financially over the last ten years,” he said. “Everything needed to get larger, and you don’t have many opportunities for direct marketing. It just didn’t appeal to me.”

Along with the dairy business, the Jones family began their own cheese business called Bowling Green Farm Cheese from 2010 to 2019. With the milk from their Holstein cow herd, they have been able to make different types of cheeses from numerous flavors of Cheddars, Colby’s, Swiss, Gouda, and even butter. The family sold this delicious cheese at farmers markets, stores, festivals, and even the annual Howard County fair. “It gave us a route to increase our profit margin and income,” he said. “It started out really well, the issue with the cheese was we couldn’t keep a cheese maker. Every time that we found one that we really liked, they would go out of business.”

Since running the Dairy and Cheese business, the Jones family has spent so much of their time, dedication, and money to continue to run the dairy side of the operation. Consequently, due to the changing and health benefits, the family decided to stop the production of dairy products and have moved on to grass fed beef.

The family’s new business beginning in 2019, Bowling Green Beef, sells 100% grass fed beef to private customers through Roving Radish. The family owns a 55 head herd of black angus cattle purchased from Clark’s Elioak Farm. Their herd consists of many bulls, cows, heifers, and steers. On the farm, the Jones used to grow corn and soybeans in the past, but currently grows and bales 130 acres their own hay, solely for the beef herd. “It has been a lot easier on me since we don’t have to milk everyday now,” he said. “But it has changed my mindset and [the beef cattle] are my main focus now.”

With beef cattle that are grass fed, it takes more time to grow them to be market ready with quality meat as compared to grain fed beef cattle. Yet, Bowling Green has done a fantastic job with rotating the herd to different pastures to ensure they are grazing the most nutritional grass. When a herd grazes, they normally will stay around the same area. With the Jones family rotating the herd to grass that is much fresher and has grown back, it is higher in its nutritional value and allowing the cattle to eat the best grass they can get.

All around the country, people have been eating grain fed beef their whole lives. With 100% grass fed beef, it is a leaner option with more health benefits. Jones expresses how he still thinks grass fed beef is still super flavorful. “We only really eat our grass-fed beef now,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised on how lean it is and has a wonderful flavorful.”

After the farm converted from milking dairy cattle to raising beef cattle was such a big change for the Jones family. Jones wife Mitzi explains how different it is with handling beef cattle compared to dairy cattle, but also some of the adjustments they have struggled with. “It has been a major problem with finding butchers,” she said. “Not only that, but we now have to invest new portable waters and making the fencing much sturdier and safer.”

As the family farm has been very successful with the grass-fed beef, they have also helped with embryo transfers. For 2 years now, Bowling Green farm and Full-Day Enterprises have partnered together to attempt and find how to grow show cattle quicker.

Jones explains that FDE flushes a few of their angus cow’s embryos and inserts them into one of Bowling Greens dairy cows. This then allows the dairy cow to give birth to a pure-bred angus calf and will raise it with plenty of milk to drink. Since dairy cattle have over two times more milk than a beef cow, this allows the calf to consume more protein, and allows faster growing cattle. When the calf is old enough, it is weaned from the dairy cow and trailered back to FDE. “For embryo transfers, it has been harder in terms of conception rates,” said Jones. “But we have learned about the process and have been able to double the amount of transfers this past year.”

For the future of Bowling Green Farm, Jones explains all the help that his two children have been, even when they were younger. His daughter, Shannon, is currently a first year ALS teacher at Lisbon Elementary School. She showed dairy cattle off her family’s farm throughout her 4-H career and still helps on the farm to this day. Jones’s son, Jacob, is a recent graduate of Auburn University in Business Ag and Economics and is currently looking to pursue a career where he can still work on the farm. “He has been tremendous help and will take over some day,” Jones said.

After visiting with the Jones family, these hard working and determined people have such a large passion for agriculture and will continue to farm and raise livestock generations down the road.

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