Gary and Nancy Jackson spent most of their lives around small cattle farms. Like many of us, right after high school they went on to pursue college degrees, careers, and start a family. Both pursued careers in the agricultural field. This led Gary on his path to becoming becoming the Director of Mississippi State University Extension Service in Starkville, MS while leading Nancy to become a veterinarian specializing in food animal medicine. Driven by a desire to return to their roots, Gary and Nancy Jackson started the Southern Cross Farm in 2005. Starting with just 20 pregnant heifers and 270 acres of land they grew the operation to 706 acres with 175 female cows with their future set on eventually reaching 250 mature cattle.
Nancy has spent years developing the cow herd to reach an optimum mature body weight to flourish in the Mississippi environment, while still producing a calf capable of becoming high quality USDA Choice or Prime Beef. Each heifer calf is blood sampled to compare its genes to high performing Angus cattle in the national database, and only the best heifers that fit the long- term goals of the farm are kept for replacement heifers. Bulls are chosen for their longevity, docility, and the ability to transmit characteristics for their calves to perform well once they reach the feedlot phase of their life.
The Jacksons strive to be good stewards of the environment with their cow herd, while also increasing the local wildlife populations and diversity of species. A few of the environmental stewardship practices that are utilized on the Southern Cross Farm are rotational grazing, having a defined and short calving season, utilizing solar energy for water pumping and delivery, and using only home-grown forages to provide the feed for the cow herd. Another management practice used on the Southern Cross Farm is the inclusion of clover plants in the fields. It provides a high-quality protein for the cows, and when the plants die, they increase soil fertility.
Last year, Nancy’s ongoing efforts in agriculture and contributions have been recognized by the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association. In fact, she became the first female President of the association!
The Jackson’s focus on high performing, healthy cattle that will produce a tasty, enjoyable beef-eating experience. This is why they make the decision to partner with IMI Global, a division of Where Food Comes From. The Jacksons chose to enroll their herd in the Source & Age and Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) verification programs. Individual identification of every calf with its birth date and dam records were already being kept, so it was not hard to add the radio frequency identification tags to each animal before it was sold. This program made the calves produced by Southern Cross Farm eligible for export to countries that require NHTC cattle, as well as brands withinthe U.S. that promote NHTC beef. The 2018 calf crop was sold utilizing a video auction broadcast over satellite television, which allowed the cattle to stay on the farm where they were raised until the day they were shipped to the feedlot. IMI Global provided the documentation of the NHTC status of the calves and this information followed the animals all the way to harvest. The Jacksons will continue expand their relationship with IMI Global in 2019 through enrolling their entire calf crop into the Source & Age and NHTC verification programs.
The Jacksons raise cattle for many reasons, but they truly love seeing the animals grow and transform on the farm into a nutritious beef product. They take great pride in knowing that they are part of the United States population that raises our food. They love to educate consumers about their ranch and the “farm to fork” process of producing a safe, nutritious beef product.