LIFE on the Farm: A Beef Producer's Family Business
Meet Rick. Rick is a genuine, American-made, hard-working, tell-it-to-you-straight kind of guy. He’s a father; he’s a son; and he’s a true family man. Rick gets up early and he stays up late, working long hours to provide for his family and to make the world a better place. Driven by a passion for doing what he loves, Rick is a dreamer and a go-getter who gets things done. Rick is a Missouri beef producer.
Rick is dedicated to his family, his herd, his community and his country, and he’s committed to providing a high-quality, great-tasting, protein-rich, healthy food source.
Rick Ayers, of Sullivan County, Missouri owns and operates Ayers Farms. Since 1967, Ayers Farms has raised quality Angus beef to feed families in Missouri and across the country. From Missouri farms and ranches to dinner tables in homes, restaurants and schools, Rick and the Ayers Farm’s story is one of many that truly represent the spirit, grit and commitment of Missouri beef producers.
Life on the Farm
Rick’s daily routine managing his ranch and caring for his herd vary by the season. In late spring and early summer, Rick and his family stay busy cutting and bailing hay for the cows to eat during the winter months, when the grass doesn’t grow. In the winter months, he feeds hay and ensures his animals have a good, clean and unfrozen water supply.
Rick takes pride in his efforts to make his ranch sustainable. He unrolls his hay bales for his cattle to consume and strategically feeds them in different areas of his pastures. This spreads out the organic matter from manure and provides important nutrients to the soil where needed. In turn, this helps Ayers Farm produce a high-quality forage to provide the best nutrition possible for his herd.
Throughout calving season, a couple months of late spring and early fall, Rick checks his herd several times a day to monitor the pregnant cows. He ensures there are no issues during the birthing process, monitors the health of new baby calves and documents genetic statistics for the new Ayers Farm’s herd members.
Birthweights are documented for each new calf and used along with other statistics to measure and evaluate the performance of bulls in the herd. Ayers Farms continuously works to optimize the genetic performance of their bulls, with the goal of achieving a low birthweight in their offspring. Low birthweights make the birthing process easier for cows and calves. This is just one example of the detail that goes into Ayers Farms’ and other Missouri beef producers’ farm and ranch management, offering the best care possible to their animals.
Some of Rick’s other day-to-day work includes fixing fence when needed and feeding supplemental protein sources to his herd. Ayers Farms uses a mix of corn and soybean meal. Another chore is making sure mineral supplements are available. Most ranchers utilize free-choice mineral feeders, meaning the mineral is always readily available so when an animal needs it, they can access and consume it.
In addition to that, Rick maintains his pastures and hayfields by controlling invasive weeds and applying seed and fertilizer when required, along with a laundry list of other chores and jobs, all to make sure his animals have everything they need to be comfortable.
For many years, Rick was an Agriculture teacher at Green City High School. A lot of his responsibilities and chores on his farm had to be completed around the schedule of his off-the-farm career. Many of the demands of his farm had to be met outside of “normal business hours”, often leading into the dark of night, or beginning in the early hours of morning.
Farmers and ranchers that work around the clock juggling an off-farm career and their farm are often referred to as “flashlight” farmers (since a lot of their work is done without daylight). Rick was considered a “flashlight” farmer for many years. However, his recent retirement from teaching has allowed him to enjoy a more normal work schedule with more flexibility and time to work on growing and improving his farm. Flashlight or no flashlight, superior animal care at Ayers Farms has always been, and will continue to be, the highest priority.
A Family Business
Ayers Farms was started as a family business by Rick’s Father, William, and has stayed a family business since the beginning. Rick and his mother, Norma, are currently co-owners of the ranch. Rick’s wife Jonna, and two children, Natalie and Zachary, also play an important role on the farm. Whether it’s lending a hand tending to the animals, doing chores, or helping manage the farm’s website and social media pages, the entire family contributes to the success of the farm and helps make it all work.
Natalie and Zachary are currently attending the University of Missouri but they both come home to Green City, Missouri to help out on the farm every chance they get. Like Rick, Natalie and Zachary have grown up on the farm and are passionate about its success.
As a retired agriculture instructor, Rick understands the value of education and the important role it plays in shaping the lives of younger generations. One of his main priorities in the classroom and at home has been to educate his students and children about where their food comes from. “Look at the great things this country has been able to accomplish,” said Rick in a brief interview. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if we were hungry and had to worry about what we were going to have to eat every day.”
Rick’s brother-in-law, Larry, is a veterinarian and helps Rick and his family manage the Ayers Farm’s herd health program. Similar to people, cows and calves need professional health care from time to time to be healthy. Veterinary visits include vaccinations and immunizations, to protect animals from common diseases and viruses, and wormer treatment to prevent illness caused from parasites. These measures help ensure good health, comfort and quality of life for their animals, as well as providing a foundation to produce quality and nutritious cuts of beef for consumers.
Animal care and herd health are not taken lightly on the Ayers Farm. Superior animal care starts with good genetics. Each of Ayers Farm’s purebred registered Angus cows have documented and closely managed Angus Herd Improvement Records. These records measure birth, growth, maternal and carcass traits. Bulls are also monitored for marbling, ribeye measurement and fat thickness. Rick and his family use this information to optimize the health of their herd and produce excellent quality beef.
Benefits of Beef
Not surprisingly, the freezer is full of quality beef at the Ayers’s house. That’s one of the perks of being a Missouri beef producer. “I wouldn’t sell any beef that I wouldn’t feed to my family right here at home,” says Rick. He and his family do sell beef direct to consumers. Rick’s customers have the value of knowing exactly where their beef comes from, and they also like the idea of supporting a local business and friend.
Beef is a great, nutrient-rich protein source that can easily be incorporated into your diet. For tips on how to cook and prepare beef, visit www.mobeef.org/in-the-home/how-to-cook-with-beef. There are also many great recipes for preparing beef available at www.mobeef.org/in-the-home/recipes.
Beef is packed with protein and nutrients that provide your body energy to help you be the best you can be. Whether you’re an always-on-the-go mother, a student juggling a part-time job and class schedule or a father working hard to provide for your family – beef can be the key to a healthy and balanced diet. Missouri beef is safe, healthy and it tastes great. Learn more about the health benefits of beef at www.mobeef.org/in-the-home/healthy-active.
Many Missouri beef producers share Rick and the Ayers Farm’s dedication and high standards of management for providing quality beef to consumers. For the Ayers family, producing beef has become a way of life, and it will continue to be a family business for generations to come.