LEESVILLE, Ohio – City businessman-turned-farmer Tom Bauer says you can call him most anything – willful, conservation-minded, unconventional – maybe even a little crazy.
But don’t laugh at his retirement plan, and don’t mess with his cows.
With little farming background, he’s built a sizable herd of commercial cows and a freezer beef business that stretches from rural Carroll County to Akron and beyond.
Always learning. He and his wife, Nancy, raised five children and several 4-H steers over the years in Portage County, Ohio. The kids took steers because the parents wanted to be sure they learned responsibility, work and dedication.
Now, those lessons have been turned around, and it’s Tom and Nancy who are reaping the rewards of all those years learning about cattle.
The couple, who operated a family heating and cooling firm in Akron for years, bought a cottage at Leesville Lake in the early 1980s.
In 1993, they splurged and bought a farm at auction near the cottage, a place where they and their children could hunt and roam open spaces.
Before he knew it, Tom Bauer had taken an early retirement, owned 300 acres and started farming. It gave him a reason to get out of bed, he says.
By 1997, he and Nancy moved to their cottage and were farming full-time.
Geography. Though they initially considered buffalo, it looked easier and safer to become cattle farmers, they say.
Aside from their careers as 4-H club parents, they had no background in farming. They knew a little about cattle but were sure their property’s hills and valleys could support livestock more easily than acres and acres of row crops.
They started with three cows and two calves, all registered Herefords, and have built a commercial black baldy herd topped out at 125 head.
Learning. Every day is an education for the Bauers, who admit they do a lot of listening and reading to learn more about farming crops and cattle.
They attend field days and Extension events to hear speakers who recommend ways to be more efficient and productive.
Rather than be on technology’s cutting edge, they decided they’d go for something tried and true: rotational grazing.
“Grass farming is easy. That way I don’t have to know the name of every chemical going down the pike for crops. I can just watch the grass grow,” Bauer said.
One of their best investments, the Bauers say, is miles of high tensile fence, both permanent and temporary, that allows them to use management intensive grazing for the herd.
They’ve lost track of how many paddocks they’ve built – Tom guesses around 50 or so – but say the number fluctuates depending on where temporary fence is stretched.
Extra help. The couple rely heavily on a hired hand to help with daily chores, including planting and harvesting barley for the herd’s feed ration, and soybeans to sell outright, plus baling hay.
One of the biggest tasks is moving cattle, and there’s no science behind it, Bauer says. It depends on the day, the cow or calf, the weather, and what yesterday was like, he says.
“We keep them moving, and every year the pastures get nicer and the grass gets greener,” Tom Bauer said.
Even though it takes work, the cows always have fresh grass in the summer, and the Bauers find themselves feeding – and making –
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