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Class XII Curriculum

The Noble Foundation


A Look at Mid-Southern Oklahoma Agricultural Enterprises

 Seminar III


Monday, November 15, 2004 - Mike Schulte, Scribe

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On Monday November 15, Class XII started our third seminar with individual presentations at the Noble Foundation.

  • Jamie Allen began the presentations with a talk about the role Women Play in Agriculture on a national and state level. In her data she showed that women are taking a greater role in production agriculture businesses.

  • Stephen Clay discussed the effects of the 2002 peanut quota system and talked about the changes this legislation had on the Oklahoma Peanut Producer. 

  • Burke Covey talked about Agri-tourism and how this could help small towns in rural Oklahoma with economic development. He discussed how people in many places are willing to pay money for having Western Oklahoma agricultural experiences. 

  • Kirk Darnell discussed the importance of life insurance and how it can be detrimental for the next generation of farmers to have when it comes to keeping the family farm in the family. 

  • Scott Eisenhauer talked about the major challenges facing rural Oklahoma wheat farmers and how larger equipment and technology will play a major role in keeping these producers on the farm. 

  • Scott Engelbrecht discussed the importance of labor issues in agriculture business and ways to help with employee retention in larger farming operations. 

  • Matt Gard talked about agriculture statistics with his discussion on the role of the American farmer and how each agriculture producer is responsible for feeding 137 people each year. 

  • Barbara Gilbertson talked about marketing strategies for future agricultural producers in Oklahoma. In her discussion she talked about her work as the Vice Chair for the American Native Beef Steering Committee in southeastern Oklahoma. Barbara talked about the importance of finding investors for value added agribusiness ventures while working in cooperation with USDA and State Departments for cooperative loan agreements.

  • Tex Hall talked about the importance of keeping young people involved in agriculture and how important this will be to keeping our rural values and agricultural lifestyles.

  • Lanie Hanes talked about the importance of educating the public about the role agriculturalists play in society’s everyday life in her talk titled “Planting Seeds of Hope.” Lanie stressed the importance of education in order to show the world the good things that agriculture producers do. By education we can influence people in the daily decisions they make. This is extremely important when it comes to election times.

  • Harlan Hentges talked about the importance of strategic planning for farmers and ranchers. In his talked he discussed how standardization and consolidation removed variability from farming operations. By doing this we reduced the need for the consumer process when establishing uniformity of products. This has resulted in the elimination in the farming way of life. Harlan discussed the importance of people finding direct markets for their ag products and the importance of educating the pubic about where their food comes from.

  • Mark Holder gave a talk on the challenges of repaying people in production agriculture and how an ag producer will not be able to survive if he/she is paying interest on all assets.

After morning presentations were finished we broke for lunch and were welcomed by the President of the Noble Foundation Mike Cawley. Mr. Cawley gave a brief overview and history of the Noble Foundation and why Lloyd Noble thought it was important to give back to Oklahoma after his success in the oil business. Mr. Noble set up the research station in Ardmore because he saw the importance of preserving good agricultural land by educating the public about the newest and best farming practices possible. In starting the Noble Foundation, an ag division was formed to help Oklahoma ag producers with production agriculture aspects. Research and technology, along with science, became important to the Noble Foundation as well.

Our oral presentations resumed.

  • Lee Horton discussed the challenges that lie ahead in attracting young people back to rural America. In the future it will be important to stay alert and watch the technology that will continue to bring change to the family farm. 

  • Julia Laughlin gave a discussion on the importance of the Integrated Pest Management (?) with the extension service and USDA. Julia discussed the importance of looking at things from a scientific approach when eradicating unwanted pests from crops in management systems. She talked about the biological controls that will come in the future and how changes will continue to benefit producers in the next 20 years.

  • Curtis Liles discussed the importance of creating alliances and how, in the future, it will be important for producers and agribusiness people to form cooperatives when marketing our Oklahoma commodity products. He talked about new cooperatives that have been established in Oklahoma and the potential effects they will have on our economy. Curtis talked about VAP, OKFUSE, and American Native Beef. 

  • Leslie McCuiston gave a talk on the reasons why people choose to stay in agriculture business when take home salary from small farming operations continues to decline. In her presentation she talked about the building of assets and how many choose to work for lower income so they can call themselves independent. 

  • Jake Nelson talked about the issues of Country of Origin Labeling and how it would be harmful to certain American agricultural producers because the written policy has product bias. Jake also discussed the unfair rules it would have to those wanting to start direct markets. 

  • Brett Porter gave a discussion on minimum tillage farming practices and talked about the importance of keeping input cost down in production agriculture crops. By keeping input cost down and maintaining the same agricultural yields with a few minor changes in production practices, he believes he has found a better way for ag producers to be able to stay on the farm. 

  • Brent Rendel gave a discussion on genetically modified plants and animals and how this will change production agriculture in the future. He discussed the challenges producers will face when it comes to having special seed varieties for ag business in the future. 

  • Justin Rogers discussed the importance of purebred livestock and talked about the importance of traditional farmers. Justin talked about the challenges traditional producers have when competing against large production corporations. 

  • Jeremy Scherler discussed the importance of keeping 4-H and FFA programs and how we should use the programs to show students why it is important for people to become involved in production agriculture after graduating college. 

  • Mike Schulte gave a talk on the importance of direct marketing and how many producers are taking advantage of the Farmers’ Market programs in the state to sale produce and market specialty items. 

  • Nikki Snyder talked about promoting “The Modern Story of American Agriculture” and how we need to be proactive with our messages. Nikki discussed the challenges the lie ahead when dealing with organizations such as PETA. 

  • Randy Squires gave a presentation on Farm Subsidies and discussed how producers need to be ready for the change that will most likely take place with crop subsidies in 2008. 

  • Dustin Tackett talked about globalization and technology. In his talk he discussed how producers will be getting ready for an animal ID system to ensure a safe quality product and how global positioning will become more important with precision agriculture. 

  • Brian Wiles gave a talk on non-agricultural related truths and discussed the problems that mainstream media has caused through publicity that creates negative perceptions toward rural America.

Shan Ingram Education and Special Projects Coordinator from the Noble Foundation was our first speaker of the day after class presentations. Shan welcomed Class XII to Ardmore and gave a brief overview of the different areas of the Noble Foundation. Shan talked about the soil testing lab, the bio-medical division that currently works at OMRF in cooperation with OU Medical Center and the Agriculture Divisions that have been established to help the greater citizens of Oklahoma.

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Bob Gonzales Administrative Manager from the plant biology division at the Noble Foundation later talked to our class about forage improvements being made with cool season grasses. Mr. Gonzales talked about how the Noble Foundation strives to consult with ag producers to find better ways of production for their individual products.

Dr. Joe Bouton Forage Biotech Group from the Noble Foundation was our last speaker of the day. Dr. Bouton talked about forage improvement and plant breeding. Dr. Bouton stressed how in the future it will be important to continue genetic improvement of varieties for crops with the ever growing population.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004 - Nikki Snider, Scribe

Tuesday morning begin with a great breakfast at the Noble Foundation Conference center. Jeff Ball, member of the NF Agriculture Consultation Services and member of OALP Class XII, led the first session of the day. Jeff explained the Noble Foundation's consultation service area includes 29 Oklahoma counties and 18 Texas counties. Each of the counties is within a 100 mile radius of Ardmore, Okla. Each consultation team is made up of professionals in soils and crops, forage, wildlife and fisheries, livestock, agricultural economics, horticulture, and an administrative assistant. The area farmers NF works with are called cooperators. These cooperators sign a letter of engagement with NF that explains how the process will work. Cooperators are classified as income dependent (all income comes from the farming operation) or income independent (other income sources supplement the farming operation). The income independent cooperators consultation generally consists of phone interviews and limited farm visits. Income independent cooperators usually attend many of the NF educational events. Income dependent cooperators consultation includes more farm visits and will end with a detailed plan for their operation. The NF provides these cooperators with an aerial photo, soil and forage tests, assistance survey, and a goal document.

To end the presentation, Jeff took the class through an example of a cooperators plan. These plans help the cooperator look at their current farming situation, set goals and establish a plan to meet those goals.


Noble Foundation Variety Development and Testing, Dr. Jerry Baker

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Dr. Baker began by explaining the NF forage variety testing program goes back to the 1960's. The purpose of the program is to gather forage production data on available varieties and pass that information on to producers. NF conducts a variety trial, gathers the data, and publishes a report on the trial. The data from the trials is compiled over several years to demonstrate how variability of weather conditions affects the variety. NF has done trials on forages, wheat, rye, barley, trictacale, oats, rye grass, and new experimentals.

Rye grass is the most common cool season forage grass in the area. Rye grass is popular because it works well as a mono-forage or in a mixture. 75 to 80 percent of NF clientele are livestock/forage producers so they do many trials in this area. They are seeing a great deal of interest in seeded Bermuda because of generally low cost of production.

Dr. Baker took the class out to view the trial plots for wheat, oats, barley, rye, and trictacale. They are able to simulate a forage plus grain system using a forage combine in addition to grain harvesting.


Cunningham Ranch - Jack and Jack Jr. Cunningham

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The Cunningham's run stocker cattle northwest of Ardmore. The Cunningham's buy calves at local sale barns at a weight of 300-350 pounds. They sell cattle at a weight of 800-900 pounds. They try to feed little hay and depend on grass and feed. They stock the wheat pasture at a rate of 600 live weight per acre for winter grazing.

They own 200 acres of land near Sulphur which works well for pre-conditioning cattle. The land is higher in elevation and results in lower humidity and cooler summers. The land is divided into two conditioning traps, a sick trap and larger pastures. The land will run about 300 yearlings.

The Cunningham's typically market their cattle at the OKC West sale barn. They experience minimal shrink by weighing cattle on the farm on Monday and selling on Wednesday. Jack is his own cattle buyer and they use very little outside labor. They encourage a 'do it yourself' attitude to save costs and wear and tear by others not as 'attached' to the farm.

The Cunningham's have worked with the Noble Foundation's consultation Team 4. These consultants helped them put together a plan to purchase the land in Sulphur. They still rely on the NF Team 4 to help with a business plan.


Red River Farm/Ranch Tour - Shan Ingram, Jeff Ball, Jagadiesh Mosali, Ryan Ruter, Kevin Pierce, John Jacobs, Dan Childs, Billy Cook, Claude Crossland

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The tour of Red River Farms began with Jeff Ball and Jagadiesh Mosali talking about the Noble Foundation’s use of the Green Seeker Technology, developed by OSU, to apply nitrogen on wheat at a variable rate. The variable rate technology is able to account for special and temporal (year-to-year) variability in forage. A sprayer equipped with this technology can apply nitrogen at rates of 20 – 120 pounds, in increments of 20 pounds. OSU research has focused on wheat thus far. NF is working to expand technology to bermudagrass. This technology is important because nitrogen use efficiency worldwide is only 33 percent. If NUE could be raise one percent, it would have a $500 million impact.

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Next, Dan Childs, Noble Foundation ag economist, talked to Class XII about the Red River Farms pecan grove. The pecan orchard was established in the 1930s or 40s. Red River Farms was purchased in 1973 and NF has managed the pecans since then. The grove is 520 acres large. The pecan crop has averaged 500 pounds per acre over the years.

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Pecan harvest begins after the first hard freeze. Each pecan tree is shaken at least once to get pecans to fall. A pecan harvester then picks up the pecans off the orchard floor. Pecans are taken to the barn to be automatically cleaned and initially sorted by size. Additional hand sorting is still required. Pecans are placed in a large nylon supersack. The pecans are marketed in the fall. If sold in the shell before the holidays they bring about $1.34 per pound. After the holidays, they sell kernels only. The sheller representative takes samples and grades the pecans. These pecans sell per point based on percent shell out. Some years the NF has marketed the pecans through retained ownership and placing the pecans in cold storage. Oklahoma raises five percent of the nation's pecans.

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The final stop at Red River Farms was at the NF heifer herd. Billy Cook explained a research project investigating the utilization of half-sib cows to increase uniformity of growth and carcass traits. The project involves two sets of black heifers. Each set is phenotypically similar. One set is comprised of 200 half-sib heifers and the other is a set of 200 unrelated heifers. 100 half-sib heifers and 100 unrelated heifers were AI'ed to the same Angus bull and 'cleaned-up' with a full brother. The other heifers were bred to the same Limousin bull and again 'cleaned-up' with a full brother.

The goal of this study is to compare variation in growth and carcass traits of the calves from these different groups of heifers. They will study the variation in the next 5 calf crops from these cows.


Gene Autry Museum, Elvin Sweeten

Wednesday evening ended with a wonderful dinner prepared by several OALP alums from the area and a tour of the Gene Autry Museum, developed and managed by Elvin Sweeten. Elvin has brought together a great collection of Gene Autry and other singing cowboy's memorabilia. The collection is housed in the old Gene Autry, Okla., High School.


Wednesday, November 17 - Justin Rogers, Scribe

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Day three of seminar three of OALP Class XII started with a damp morning near Sulphur at the Sulphur Fish Hatchery. The Sulphur Fish Hatchery is operated by the Wes Hardin family. Wes has operated the farm as the owner for fifteen years. The hatchery was built in the mid 60's by former Oklahoma Governor Roy Turner. The Sulphur Fish Hatchery consists of 58 acres of water that has 42 ponds, and 100 acres of land. The hatchery produces several types of fish. The varieties produced include catfish, bass, minnows, blue gill, sunfish, as well as grass carp. The hatchery started with catfish and has diversified through the years. All fish from the hatchery are sold live to wholesale markets. The fish are generally spawned to two to three ponds and then are marketed. Each pond is prepared to put a new group of fish into. The process of preparing the ponds include draining and cleaning of each pond.

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Feed for the hatchery comes out of Arkansas for the catfish. It is a commercial catfish ration that is 28% protein on the small fish and 42% on the large fish. They feed about 120-140 ton per year of catfish feed. The bass feed is shipped in from Utah. It consists of soybeans, corn and fish mill and is 45% protein. They feed about 5-6 ton per year of the bass feed. These feeds are a floating pellet.

When an order is placed by the hatchery's customers, the fish are saned from the pond and then sorted into holding vats where they are divided, counted and grouped according to size. Each fish is priced by their size. The larger the fish, the higher the price. The smaller fish are sold by the fish, but the larger fish are later sold by the pound.

Bass are hatched in the ponds. After the bass have been hatched the brood or parent fish are removed, due to danger of them eating the newly hatched fish. There is a percentage of bass lost due to cannibalism from larger to smaller fish. After the brood fish are taken out of the pond the pond is fertilized to maintain a large amount of plant material which insures high oxygen levels in the ponds. They fertilize with a 18-46-0 blend fertilizer which increases ponds' nitrogen and phosphorus levels. Bass have about a 50% survival rate.

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Blue gill live their total life together in the growing ponds. This process often makes it hard to determine the total amount of fish in the pond population. Upon transfer of blue gills to customers, 5 lbs. of salt is added to 300 gallons of water in the trucks holding tanks.

Catfish have a spawning period during the first of June. The eggs are hatched after being gathered in barrels. After the eggs are hatched they are trained to eat and put back into the pond after two weeks. Catfish have about a 80% survival rate. The hatchery feeds about 36 pounds of feed per acre. In catfish a pound of feed usually gives about a 1/2 pound of gain.

Sunfish hatch lay their eggs on the bottom of the ponds.

There is an aeration system used to circulate water. This helps to regulate the oxygen levels of the ponds. Predators to the hatchery are birds. The blue heron and the double crested cormorant are the main predators they face. These predators can eat up to two pounds of fish daily and also can carry eggs away from the pond.

The Hatchery gains a lot of support from a few sources - Langston University and Bob Lusk with Texoma Fish Hatcheries. The two help to give advice and trouble shoot any problems the hatchery may have.

Water quality is very important to this hatchery. There are multiple tests for water quality and it usually sits for ten days to make sure it is safe to put in the nearby Buckhorn creek.

The Sulphur Fish Hatchery hatches about a million fish per year. There hatchery is regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.


H&D Cattle Company

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H&D Cattle company is a unique cattle operation. This Father son team of H.D. and Dillon Page are some of the most successful Professional Rodeo Bull stock contractors in the world. The Page's got their bucking stock genetic start in 1987 with the incorporation of Plummer genetics through the purchase of seven foundation females. The operation also purchased a bull called "Super Dave" from Punk Carter. These genetics are some of the most sought after bucking stock genetics in the world. The operation started working with the PBR nine years ago. H&D Cattle Company is also active members of ABBI(American Bucking Bull Incorporated). This is a bucking stock registry. The ABBI requires DNA to register stock into its association. This insures genetic validation. The operation has been so successful that they have been named by the PBR as the stock contractor of the year for the last four years.

The H&D Cattle Co. runs between 100 to 150 brood cows for bucking stock production. The operation also has an annual production sale at Ardmore. Another marketing strategy that is used by this firm is to sell shares or half interest in bull prospects. This marketing approach has been very successful for them.

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Selection Criteria on a good bull is often difficult till you see them buck with a live person. Visual traits for selection are long legs, small girth and flank, and a bull that stands upright on their toes. To evaluate a bull's performance, a four to six judge panel is used at the PBR events.

The future seems to be very bright for the PBR, ABBI, and most especially the H&D Cattle Company as more people take an interest in producing bucking stock.


Mannsville Ag Center- Aaron Custer Owner/Manager

Providing a nutritional service to farmers and ranchers in the Mannsville area is the primary goal of Aaron Custer owner/manager of the Mannsville Ag Center. Aaron received his education at Oklahoma State University where he received his degree in Ag Economics. Upon graduation he worked for Stillwater Milling. After this Aaron accepted a position with Martendale Feeds in Valley View, TX, and worked as a Dairy Nutritionist.

Aaron came to Mannsville in May of 2003 and purchased the existing facility which used to be a peanut buying point. The main goal of the Mannsville Ag center is to provide a high quality feed for customers. The biggest amount of feed sold is bulk feed, because of the low overhead and low input. The Ag center has also diversified its operation as it also sells liquid fertilizer and dry/bulk fertilizer. Aaron says there is no way to get around a high quality feed program - you basically get what you pay for in terms of animal nutrition. He said the cost of gain is an essential factor in terms of producer profitability and not strictly the initial cost of feed. He also said he is in the process of constructing a feed mill to handle a larger amount of bulk feed orders.


Lunch at Keith and Mary White's Home

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The final seminar activity was at Keith (OALP Class XI) and Mary White home. Keith and Mary hosted the class for lunch. Keith grilled hamburgers for the class during a heavy rain. The luncheon served as an excellent activity to end a wonderful and educational three-day OALP seminar.