Meet Scott Rhoads -- Fifth Generation Beef Producer
Scott Rhoads, a fifth generation farmer, runs a commercial cow-calf herd in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The Rhoads family have been farming for over 250 years, with the current operation covering nearly 1,500 acres. Scott and his father, Allen, not only manage 100 mother cows but also produce grain and hay on the farm. Scott and Allen run most of the day to day operations, while Scott’s wife Kim, and daughters, Olivia and Brooke, also help out where needed. The family usually works together during the summer months to move cows between pastures, keeping them on healthy and productive land at all times.
The Rhoads farm was originally a dairy operation until Scott went away to school at Penn State University and the dairy herd was sold at that time. Allen and Scott purchased their first head of beef cattle soon after, knowing they needed to keep the pastures clean. After graduation, Scott had gotten the offer of a lifetime while working on another individual’s beef farm nearby. After a long and cold Somerset winter, the man Scott was working for had decided he wanted to sell the beef cattle. Scott informed him that beef cattle prices were low and this may not be the best time to sell. Scott explains, “That is when he asked me to buy them; I was stunned. I didn’t have that kind of money. Luckily we created a three year agreement to buy cattle. It worked out well for the both of us.” Since that point, Scott’s farm has grown quite a bit and they operate on additional acres of grass and are looking for more cattle to fill their operation.
The newly acquired acres were the result of old coal strip mines with poor soil quality and rough terrain. After a few years of turning cattle out in these pastures, the ground has improved. With better soil conditions, Scott’s success can be seen from a mother cow with a calf by her side, grazing on lush pastures. This success, along with working outside on a beautiful day with his wife and daughters, is what Scott finds most rewarding about his job. Scott goes on, explaining “taking care of healthy andhappy cows and seeing a better final result, is a true accomplishment.”
Scott and Allen ensure their cattle are healthy and productive by simply letting “the cows be cows,” he states. The Rhoads realize that letting cows live in a way they know best is most efficient, through grazing on grass and living outdoors. Scott knows that if a cow is relaxing and chewing her cud, shortly before lunch, she has plenty to eat.
During the spring calving season, Scott and Allen check on the mother cows numerous times each day. Giving cows the chance to calve naturally benefits not only the mother and calf, but the producer as well. Scott is proud to say, “In the last decade, I have only ever helped calve three cows.” The herd has proven their worth after surviving winters with no health problems and remains profitable with healthy calves and longevity.
The Rhoads not only manage a productive herd, but work hard to be good stewards of the land through best management practices. With cattle spending the majority of their life outside, the farm is set up to rotationally graze these pastures, allowing for adequate regrowth of the grass before cattle are turned back out. This system also gives Scott the ability to work with the cows every 3-5 days. “They become very excited when you give the yell for them to move pastures,” Scott explains, “You would be surprised how far they would follow you when they know the next pasture has something better.”
Throughout the winter months, cattle are fed outside on the old strip mined acres. This concentrated feeding area is constantly moved to keep cows on dry ground. After the cattle spend a few days in one area, the feeder is set on another piece of poor quality ground, to increase their productivity by adding organic matter and nutrients back to the soil, as manure. When spring rolls around the ground is worked and reseeded, creating areas of highly productive ground.
Scott acknowledges his responsibility to continue producing profitable beef in order to stay in business. Some ground the Rhoads have farmed is turning into residential housing and will be taken out of production, encouraging the family to continually do more with less. With greater farms leaving production agriculture each year and the number of people we need to feed is growing, this also leaves some gaps to fill. Luckily, Scott has been able to capitalize on some old farmland to bring into his operation as they continually grow their reach beyond the home farm. With more acres comes more work, leaving the Rhoads looking for additional help to make sure the necessary jobs are done each day.
As farmers, the Rhoads family strives to be ethical and economical in all their business decisions. While Scott enjoys managing the farm’s inputs and assets, he is also in charge of marketing the calves. Some days he even serves as chief lender for the farm’s other endeavors. He hopes consumers know that all this is made possible through their family working together and putting in long days on the farm.
While working on the farm is a full-time job, Scott also serves throughout his community. Currently, Scott is the president of the Pennsylvania Cattlemen’s Association and a member of the Somerset County Beef Producers. He also serves as the President of the Somerset County 4-H Development Fund, board member of the Somerset County Farmer’s Market and member of the Somerset County Farm Bureau, where he sits on the state committee for Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher team. We are also glad to have Scott serve on the Pennsylvania Beef Council’s BQA Commission Board and applaud him for his service to these organizations and the hard work on his farm.