Home Farm Hempstead farm family of the year has unique operation

Hempstead farm family of the year has unique operation

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A different sort of cattle operation is the center of the farming life for the Womack family on their spread in southern Hempstead County, and part of the reason they have been named as this year’s Farm Family of the Year for Hempstead County.
Russell Womack explained that his cow-calf operation, which right now numbers about 80 heifers, is propagated entirely by artificial insemination – no bull. Womack, who has a degree in agriculture education from Southern Arkansas University, handles the fertilizing of his cattle himself.
“We do AI, and our focus is to improve our genetics,” Womack said in a recent interview.
He noted that the cost of high quality bull semen, which is sold in straws of a single dose, runs about $20 per straw, and that he can fertilize his entire herd for less cost than the price of even a low quality bull. His process of acquiring improved genetics through semen has allowed him to steadily boost the quality of his herd year on year, Womack stated.
The process of artificial insemination for his cattle also cuts out risks of injury to the bull or the cows during the breeding process, though Womack did admit that sometimes the risk is to him, saying, “I’ve been kicked a few times.”
The semen samples are stored in a very small flask of liquid nitrogen there at his family’s farm, and a distributor comes by periodically to fill it will little samples of bull semen, he disclosed. He described the actual insertion of the semen as relatively simple, adding that his daughter Addie, who is in high school at Spring Hill, assists sometimes. Though not difficult, he said that biology dictates about a 70 percent success rate for each insemination.
Womack said that the size of his herd varies, but that he keeps it to manageable numbers, and also does not make forays into other areas of agriculture in order to keep homed in on the goal of continuous improvement for the herd.
“It takes focus,” he said, explaining that the family doesn’t even keep a small vegetable plot because of that focus: “We tried… that garden – you’ve got to be at it every day. I’ve got neighbors that garden, and I’d whole lot rather trade with them,” he noted.
Though his life is currently focused on a herd of cattle running over 960 acres, Womack has experience running a herd of students through the classrooms he taught in as an educator with Hope schools for eight years. But the practice of agriculture gripped him more than the theory, and he found that he needed to follow his vocation as a rancher.
“This isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle,” he said.
The lifestyle suits Womack and his family, and looks to do so for a long time. His goal for the future is simple: more of the same. He summed his intention clearly, “I’d like to see if what we’ve done will last.”