After several years in local politics, Claiborne County resident Charles Shorts decided it was time for something new.
A little over 20 years ago, Shorts and his wife wanted to try their hand at agriculture, so they purchased some land and began raising beef cattle.
“I was a county commissioner for some time,” Shorts says. “I used to come in close contact with the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and dealt with lots of agricultural policies. Cattle was something I loved as a boy, so it was an easy choice when I decided to start farming.”
Shorts Farm, run by Charles and his family, has now been in operation for 20 years. Shorts sells his beef to market in Brookhaven as well as other locations in Louisiana.
Shorts’ efforts contribute to the state’s hefty beef cattle industry. With 15,980 beef cattle operations and 900,000 head of beef cattle, it’s no wonder that beef cattle play such a significant role in Mississippi’s agriculture industry. As of 2019, the total value of beef cattle production was estimated to be $268 million, putting it in the state’s top 10 agricultural commodities. Mississippi is prime territory for this thriving industry, as the state’s mild climate allows farmers to grow lots of grass, then effectively raise cattle on that grass.
See more: How Mississippi Farmers Care For Cattle
Shorts says animal welfare is extremely important to him as a farmer, since the cows are his lifeline.
“I keep them warm, vaccinated and make sure I rotate them out of one pasture to another – they can get stagnant when they stay in one place too long,” he says. “I have my fences cut out so we can easily rotate them, and we have enough land where we can keep the cows in three different areas.”
Shorts also grows his own hay and fertilizes it to ensure the cows are getting all the nutrients they need.
Other measures Shorts and beef cattle farmers take to keep the animals comfortable include providing ample shade, controlling flies, testing stored forage for quality and prepping for the state’s hurricane season. Farmers are also responsible for monitoring their cattle during calving season and making sure conditions are ideal for calving.
Shorts believes in the importance of being active within the agricultural community, which he does by teaching people about agriculture and influencing policy for farmers. While he’s no longer a county commissioner, Shorts holds a seat as a Claiborne County Farm Bureau board member and notes the gravity of making sure the next generation is educated about agriculture, including his own children and family.
“Agriculture should play a big role in everyone’s social life and gatherings,” Shorts says. “A lot of young people don’t take that much interest right now, but I think that’s because they haven’t been able to come out and see what’s happening.”
He praises organizations, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, that offer programs to help educate young people and agricultural entrepreneurs. Other impactful programs include MFBF’s Ag in the Classroom and Young Farmers & Ranchers, as well as 4-H and FFA. Shorts is hopeful that more young people will find careers in the industry, especially with a focus on local food and the environment.
“It’s a good thing because after a while, I’m going to be gone – I’m 60 years old,” Shorts says. “We need to be paving the way for those young people to come and be better stewards of the land. I thank God that my family and I take an interest in agriculture and don’t take things for granted.”