It was once said that “Life without passion is not living, it’s merely existing.”

Cattle farmers David and Kelli Russell do not just exist, but passionately live to promote agriculture in all facets of their lives. The Russells farm on a small cow-calf commercial operation in conjunction with a larger family operation.

“We have roughly 220 head of mama cows,” Kelli says. “David and I’s portion of the herd is smaller, but we collectively work the herd together with our family.”

Calving season for the couple’s herd falls between Thanksgiving and the middle of January, in order to better market to their order buyers.

“We market to order buyers primarily in the Midwest, and so a lot of our calf crop gets shipped to those big Midwestern feed lots in early fall,” David says.

Land management serves as one farming practice the Russells pay particular attention to each year since David serves as a plant and soil sciences extension associate for Mississippi State University’s Extension Service.

“In my role, I help farmers with weed, forage and pasture management,” David says. “I answer the questions farmers have about weed control in and how to best manage their forage for their livestock. I am lucky to take the knowledge from my full-time job and be able to apply it to our own operation.”

In addition to land management, the couple strives to improve their herd through other practices.

“We’re really passionate about having a good overall quality cow operation,” Kelli says. “We try to keep the best and the brightest of replacement heifers, and really pay attention to developing a herd over time. We try to stay up-to-date on the best marketing and sales practices for our cattle. In doing that, we are looking at options to one-day sell directly to the consumer.”

Kelli ties her passion for farming and agriculture into her work as a graduate student at Mississippi State University.

“My focus is on rural communities, rural issues and rural problems,” Kelli says. “My interest in this topic was sparked when I worked for Congressman Allen Nunlee. While working in one of his Mississippi offices, I spent a ton of time meeting with constituents about the issues they faced in rural Mississippi and their potential solutions to those problems. People, whether it be members of the public, business leaders, members of congress or members of the media, need information about rural communities’ needs and the resources they use to solve those, and there’s not a lot out there. I want to assist in gathering that information.”