Moores keep tradition going strong in Red Oak community
The gently rolling pasture land near the White Oak Creek mouth has sustained four generations of the Moore family.
Alonzo Moore staked the family’s claim in the late 19th century, long before the formation of Lake Hamilton encroached on the property.
He and his descendants have been busy ever since, first as dairy farmers and now as the proprietors of Oak Hill Hay Farm. The care his progeny has shown in sustaining his legacy is reflected in the hay farm, which takes pains to provide the best product possible.
“Most animals, you get what you put into them,” said Donny Moore, the principal of the hay concern and patriarch of the 2017 Garland County Farm Family of the Year. “If you feed them right, and if you feed them well, they’ll perform better and do better.”
The supply chain the Moores relied on to produce grade-A milk from their dairy cows is now the lifeblood of a hay operation that beds and feeds the elite thoroughbreds that sojourn to Oaklawn Racing and Gaming every winter for the live race meet.
“We’ve always been in the dairy business and producing milk,” Donny said. “You have
to feed your cows high-quality feed. We always fed the premium alfalfa to our dairy cows.
“There’s lots of horses around Hot Springs. People would ask us about selling horse hay, because we were feeding it to our cows to produce the milk. We had people asking us for years. That’s how it evolved, and it’s just grown every year.”
Alonzo, Donny’s grandfather, began dairying on the property in the 1930s, using White Oak Creek to cool the milk-laden concrete vats that held the family’s livelihood.
Donny’s daughter, Mandy Jackson, and her husband, Morgan, live on the site were Alonzo built his log cabin.
When the house he later built was lost to a tornado, he rebuilt it. When the new house suffered the same fate, he built the concrete home on Farrs Landing Road where he lived until he died.
“He said that wasn’t going to happen again,” Donny sad. “That house is all concrete block except for the roof. We used to spend holidays there.”
In the 1960s, Alvin, Donny’s father, took over the dairy. He and his wife, Maria, were recognized as the county’s farm family of the year in 1970.
Alvin built the towering blue silos that command the White Oak Creek basin and Red Oak community. The road where Donny and his wife, Gina, live is named after him.
Donny partnered with his dad until they cashed out in the late 1990s as one of the last holdouts among the string of family dairy farms that once dotted southeastern Garland County.
The property is now home to the hay farm, which also supports about 80 black-and-red Angus beef cows.
Bermuda grass is grown there and at other properties the Moores lease, but the nutrient-rich alfalfa and Timothy-grass that powers Oaklawn’s thoroughbreds are sourced from the supply chain the Moores developed as dairy farmers.
“We buy it out West, because you can’t grow good alfalfa in Arkansas,” Donny said. “We grow some Bermuda on site, but we buy lots of it too. We just don’t have enough acreage to grow everything we need to sell.
“Most of our customers are thoroughbred racehorse people. They’re real particular. Their race horses are their hobby, and people get particular about their hobbies.”
Sourcing and distribution are vertically integrated. Donny is the president of DMT 2 Inc., the family owned trucking business that connects the hay farm to its out-of-state suppliers.
“If you can control your trucking and hauling it makes it a lot easier than depending on someone else to haul it,” Donny said.
Donny’s son, Kevin, delivers 300-bale loads to Oaklawn during racing season. The payload includes round rolls, threestring bales and big squares — the 900-pound behemoths bundled into dense 3-by-3-by-8 bales.
In addition to high-performance forage, the Moores also provide wheat straw from Kansas and Nebraska for horse bedding.
“The horse people want long stalks,” Donny said. “It fluffs up and makes a prettier bed.”
Moving bales has become so ingrained for Kevin that he incorporated it into his marriage proposal.
The elaborate set piece he had arranged required his fiance, Allyson Dunbar, to ascend one of the blue silos, as the bales configured to form the words that asked for her hand could only be appreciated from a bird’s-eye perspective.
They plan to wed in October.
McMansions and tony gated neighborhoods are now part of the scenery near the creek mouth, which has transitioned from sleepy pasture lands to sought after residential lake property.
But the monuments to modernity haven’t punctured the bucolic bubble that envelops the Moores’ world, which has retained the rustic allure that drew Alonzo to it more than a century ago.
A FAMILY AFFAIR: From left, Allyson Dunbar, Gina Moore, Donny Moore and Kevin Moore are the 2017 Garland County Farm Family of the Year.
HAY FARM: From left, Allyson Dunbar, Gina Moore, Donny Moore and Kevin Moore are part of the Oak Hill Hay Farm that supplies forage and bedding for thoroughbreds that compete at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming.
CATTLE CALL: Some of the farm’s red-and-black Angus herd mosey down the pasture.
MACHINE OF BURDEN: A tractor sits idle waiting to move hay bales.
HAY APLENTY: Bales await delivery inside one of the Moore family farm’s barns.