“We use aggressive weed control to produce high quality forage,” he says. His main target weeds are thistle, spiny amaranth and horsenettle.

“I’ve been farming since I could walk,” says Jones. “My first farm job was digging thistle, then hand-spraying thistle.” In high school, he raised feeder pigs and raised hogs as a young adult. He transitioned out of the hogs when pork prices fell to focus on his cattle.

In 2003, he bought an in-line bale wrapper for making haylage, or round bale silage. “This increased our efficiency by lessening the need for hay storage buildings,” says Jones.

“This silage has also improved herd health. We’re able to harvest, bale and wrap in half the time it takes to put up dry hay.”

“We market our cattle through the Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association fall feeder calf sale,” he says. Buckingham County producers receive average premiums of about 10 cents per pound for calves offered in this special sale.

To qualify for this sale, calves undergo a strict vaccination program, exceeding requirements for Virginia’s Quality Assured feeder calves.

“We are also certified in Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and this conveys to buyers that our cattle are handled under optimum conditions,” says Jones. “We have received positive feedback on the benefits of this program. Buyers don’t have to treat these calves for illness while feeding them.”

An unusual aspect of this sale is that more than 20 producers agree to use semen from only two bulls for artificial insemination to breed their cows and heifers. This produces a uniform group of 1,000 to 1,900 feeder calves on sale day.

These bulls are selected for temperament, calving ease and yearling weight expected progeny differences (EPD’s), resulting in calves that produce excellent growth rates.

Each year, Jones and other producers from the Buckingham Cattlemen’s Association visit Pennsylvania feedlots where their calves are finished.

“These trips have shown that our vaccination program consistently produces healthy calves that perform well in feedlots,” he adds.

Jones achieves an overall conception rate of 65 percent using artificial insemination. Breeding begins in December. Calving commences the following September, and all calves are on the ground before cold weather sets in.