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Class XIII Curriculum

"People and Programs of the Noble Foundation: Agricultural Enterprises and Industries of Mid-Southern Oklahoma"

 Seminar XI

 

November 14, 2007
Scribe: Brenda Neufeld

Class members assembled at the Noble Foundation’s Administration Training Room and received a warm welcome from Mr. Michael Cawley, President and CEO of the Noble Foundation. He shared with us a little of Mr. Lloyd Noble’s vision that agriculture is not only an economic driver, but it is also a way of life. It became part of Mr. Noble’s passion to assist farmers and ranchers achieve their goals and carry on this way of life.

The rest of the morning and early afternoon were filled with class members giving oral presentations to the class.

  • Patricia Regier – She spoke on problems facing young people when trying to enter agriculture. Low income, young people not being attracted in the first place and then not staying in agriculture were the concerns she addressed.

  • Thad Doye – He spoke on the importance of joining agricultural organizations. He pointed out the importance of working together, how these organizations can help solve agricultural problems and reminded us that these organizations are key in promoting agriculture from Ag-in-the-Classroom to involvement in legislative action.

  • Francie Tolle – She gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “The Biggest Threat to US Agriculture” and focused on an uninformed public and media when it comes to understanding how cheap and safe American food is.

  • Brent Conrady – He spoke on the problems young people face entering agriculture. He addressed the issues of high land costs, high input & equipment costs and the challenges of receiving a pay check when crops are sold compared to a monthly pay check.

  • Tammi Didlot – She gave a PowerPoint presentation on substance abuse in rural America. It’s a problem in rural America that we don’t talk about and we need to be involved to be aware of what substances are being abused and how to get help for those in need.

  • Bill Farris – He also addressed problems with attracting young people to agriculture. He took a little different approach and compared a poll of what youth are looking for and how that compares with a typical horticulturalist lifestyle. Rich, famous and the benefit packages of working for big corporations don’t make production agriculture look very attractive in comparison.

  • Dale Lemmond – He presented a PowerPoint presentation on the Farm Bill Amendment that prohibits packers from owning livestock more than 14 days and explained some of the ramifications of that to producers and those selling cattle on the grid.

  • Rob Bauter – He spoke on some of the ethical issues being faced in Agriculture today. Issues about animal welfare, the safe sale of chemicals and seed laws are just a few of the issues facing not only producers, but those who supply producers as well.

  • J.D. Elwood – He gave a PowerPoint presentation on Direct and Counter-cyclical payments in the Farm Program. He explained the calculation process and then related how that translates to producers under various conditions.

  • Brenda Neufeld – She spoke on the challenges of young people entering production agriculture from the perspective of her own son. Education costs, debt loads, weather variables and land availability are all challenges, but we have to count the positives too when we factor the whole equation out.

  • Mary Chris Barth – She spoke on the challenges of producers and self-employed people in finding and keeping affordable health insurance coverage. Check out insureok.org for more details on possible solutions to this problem.

  • Cody White – He spoke on farm value trends and their effect on the economy. Land values are still on the rise in OK and compared to the rest of the US, land here is still a bargain. Currently land values are doubling every 7 years in some areas.

  • Doug Ritter – He gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “A Growing Environmental Threat” addressing issues surrounding the propagation of red cedar trees in OK. He spoke about wildlife reductions, draining water resources, reduced forage production and resulting erosion due to red cedar trees. In conclusion he presented ideas for controlling them and an actual plan that has been implemented on his property to reduce their populations.

  • Hope Pjesky – She gave an abbreviated version of a PowerPoint presentation “Addressing Misconceptions About Agriculture”. As our population is changing from rural to urban people no longer realize where their food comes from or how it is produced. Misconceptions promoted by environmental groups are being believed as facts by consumers. She presented a couple as examples and challenged us to be informed and to share what we know to combat these public misconceptions.

  • Tim Bartram – He gave a PowerPoint presentation on Plains Grains Inc. sharing what they have found by testing wheat all across OK and mapping locations of protein and test weight qualities. Consumers want a consistent product and this information helps them to find what they are looking for. They are looking to expand this testing to surrounding states to create an even larger base of information and competition for good quality products.

  • Keeff Felty – He spoke on the Bo weevil Eradication Program. He explained why it was needed, how it works, how it was implemented and concluded with the results that have been achieved through this program.

  • Wendell Custer – He gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Homeownership = Wealth” explaining how the USDA Rural Development program works to help low income rural people own their own homes and then in turn how that benefits rural communities and creates wealth there.

  • Julie Fitzgerald – She gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Challenges Facing Families in Rural Oklahoma”. She addressed some of the challenges rural families face but then focused on strategies to address the problems. Communication and cooperation are key to rural communities working together and facing the problems ahead.

  • Summer Kemp – She gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Concerns & Challenges of the Future of Mushroom Cultivation”. She gave an overview of mushroom production and then addressed some of the challenges of production agriculture in areas that are becoming increasingly urban.

  • Lee Ann Bowman – She spoke on the issues concerning all the specialty labeling that has come into the marketplace. She showed a few examples and when on to share of the many different label types and explained what those labels really represent. Kosher, free farm, free range, pasture fed, hormone free, genetically modified free, fair trade, natural and organic have a wide range of meanings and an even wider range of consumer interpretations of them.

  • Jean Williams – She spoke about future marketing strategies for cow/calf producers. She shared about new technologies like EID tags for calves that can be scanned and verification programs for cattle that will help add value to these animals when they are marketed.

  • Curtis Vap – He brought his “plow” to show us how his spray nozzle has become the plow on his farm operation. He went on to talk about the advantages of making the change from conventional to no-till farming practices.

  • Edmond Bonjour – He gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Accurate Pricing for Marketing Grain”. He shared on overview of how wheat is priced and the qualities that consumers are looking for and then gave a comparison on different moistures of grain and how that affected the price, but not necessarily the quality of the grain being marketed.

In the middle of all these presentation we took a break for lunch and heard a presentation by Joe Bouton, Forage Improvement Division Director of the Noble Foundation. He gave us an overview of the Forage Improvement Division and explained some of the areas that they are focusing on in perennial grasses, lignin development in alfalfa and various switchgrass studies. We also got a tour of their research facility.

After our presentations Shan Ingram, Education and Special Projects Manager for the Agricultural Division of the Noble Foundation gave us some history about Lloyd Noble and some understanding about why an oilman from Ardmore started the Noble foundation because of his concerns about conservation and improvement of the soil around him. He also shared about the governing structure of the Noble Foundation and some of the grant work they do. You can find all the details about the Noble Foundation at www.noble.org.

Wadell Altom with the Agricultural Division spoke to us next about the programs they are involved in. They have a wide range of production research activities going on at their various farm locations around the area. They host many educational events during the year for youth and adults and have four teams of specialists that work together with area producers to help them make the most of their operations.

Dr. Bob Gonzales then gave the class a tour of the Noble Foundation’s research greenhouse complex. The greenhouse is state of the art from it’s recapture of material from it’s potting tables to the computer monitored watering and temperature controls down to it’s monitored security access system.

We then traveled out to a research plot and heard a presentation by Dr. Andy Hopkins who is a plant breeder in fescue development. He explained that their research was trying to develop a perennial cool season grass for the southern plains area. Grazing wheat and other annuals requires planting costs each year, while a perennial grass would have a higher initial cost of planting, but would have a much longer benefit period.

The day concluded with a wonderful dinner hosted by the Noble Foundation!

Scribe: Summer Kemp
November 15, 2007

We started the morning with a great breakfast buffet at the Noble Foundation Conference Center. We also took this time to go over visa applications for China and submit our ideas for our international research papers.

Adam Callaway with the Public Relations department spoke with us shortly after breakfast and gave us an overview of the Noble Foundation, its history and its focus on plant biology. He emphasized that the company is run as though Lloyd Noble were still alive in that all decisions are made with his character in mind. Employing cutting-edge technology was important to Lloyd and remains a priority to the Foundation in all of its research. Here are some Noble Foundation Quick Facts:

Largest private foundation in Oklahoma and 41st in the U.S.
Largest research greenhouse in U.S.
340 full time employees
85 Ph.D. scientists
800 acres campus
5,000 square feet of research space
15,000 acres of research and demonstration land

Adam emphasized that Noble brings in the best post-doc researchers from around the world. Also, easing the public mind with what the Nobel Foundation does has been challenging and well worth the effort. He said it’s easy sometimes for the public to get the wrong idea about what companies do when those companies don’t talk about it. Part of his job has been informing the local community on Noble’s goals and hopes for the future.

Next we jumped in vehicles and drove to Red River Demonstration and Research Project where we listened to Dr. Charles Rohla give us pecan production basics. The pecan grove he showed us was a lovely one planted in the 1940s; the oldest in Oklahoma. A native orchard was to our West. Oklahoma and Texas have the largest native pecan population in the U.S. Georgia is the nations production leader but they are planted. New Mexico also pulls a large amount of U.S. production with 18-20,000 acres of planted pecans. Central U.S. is increasing production this year. Average producer is over 65 years of age. Tulsa County is number 1 in acreage. Oklahoma only harvests 15-20% of its trees.

Trees alternately bare every two years. Tree branches also bare alternately so it makes predicting a yield rather tricky. Squirrels, crows, blue jays, raccoons, turkeys and the pecan weevil are all pests to be reconciled with.

Next we visited Dr. Billy Cook’s Half Sib Cow Project. This is a 3-4 year research project that is trying to increase uniformity of carcass traits. He started with 400 heifers (200 from Montana and 200 from Oklahoma) all of which were born near the same time and came from 11 different producers. Those that are lost will not be replaced. They chose average (or better) quality Black Angus. Half of the herd is bred to Angus bulls and the others are bred to Limousine. They plan to get 5 calf crops out of these 400. This year, the average birth weight was 68.5 lbs with a 6% dystocia rate. They had less trouble with Angus than Limousine, as was expected.

Next, the Switchgrass Research Project was discussed with John Guretzky from Iowa State University. Whether switchgrass would make reliable ethanol is one of the questions this project hopes to answer. The motivation is that soybean and corn will not replace 30% of oil consumption by the time we had hoped so Noble is looking into this as an option. Noble agrees that the answer to decreasing oil consumption isn’t likely to be found in one saving crop; so having lots of options is necessary. The idea here is to use perennial grasses because once they are established, they are there for good. Questions they hope to answer are:

Does it require much phosphorous or potassium?
How much biomass can be harvested?
What’s the life expectancy of the plant?

Noble has 5 sites in S. OK for a 5-year term. Switchgrass is a slow-growing plant to start with. Seed is variable can stay dormant for quite a while.

Next, Dr. Ryan Reuter discussed his Feed Index Study. By-products have been the staple feed in OK over the last 40 years. In this study they are feeding 5 groups of cattle on 5 different feeds: pecans shells, soybean hulls, corn gluten, dried corn distiller’s grain, wheat middlings. Cattle are hand fed daily as a supplement on top of all the hay they want. They are weighed every 14 days for an 84-day trial. Questions asked are:

How much did they gain?
Which makes the most profit?

The study isn’t over but so far, distiller’s grain will spare the most hay consumption.

Scribe: Brent Conrady
November 15, 2007

After we ate a wonderful dinner at Bill’s Fish, we traveled to the Sam Noble Foundation Grass Plot. Frank Mortal talked about native warm season grass plots. He talked about the fertilizing the grass and the different grazing techniques used to test the plots. The different types of grasses in the plot are Alamo switchgrass, flaccid grass, love grass, panic grass, and Johnson grass. The Alamo switchgrass yielded 14500 pounds per acre at 10 percent protein. It is also a contender for a bio-fuel cellulosic fuel. It is a lowland variety of switchgrass that is typically 1 to 3 feet taller than upland switchgrass strains at maturity. It can tolerate a wide range of soil pH.

The Alamo switchgrass out-yielded the flaccidgrass by 3000 pounds per acre. This makes the Alamo switchgrass a candidate for the bio-fuels market. In retrospect the flaccid grass yielded 4 percent more TDN than the Alamo switchgrass. This makes the flaccid grass a more palatable grass for cattle.

How the foundation found out what grasses cattle preferred, they had an intern come to work early in the morning and sit on a 5-gallon bucket and count the number of bites cattle took of each grass. The cattle preferred the Alamo grass at 1600 bites per acre. The Johnson grass came in second with 1625 bites per acre. Ermelo weeping love grass only had 3-4 bites per acre. Tammie said “Love grass is a golf ball sucking grass.”

We made a Thad Doye stop at the Clearwater Pond. The Clearwater Pond is a pond where they make a steep entry level that is graveled where cattle can get a drink and return to the pasture for more grazing. This steep level prevents cattle from wading in the pond and polluting the pond water.

After a short drive, we went to Kent Donica’s home. Here he explained how the Sam Noble Foundation has helped him in his calf operation. The Foundation helps him in feed, soil, and economical recommendations pertaining to his operation. He first started buying 200 pound cattle and now he buys 300 pound cattle for his pre-conditioning operation. He said “My operation has changed due to the new ideas that were given to me by the Foundation.” His buying area has changed to more local instead of Louisiana where he used to buy. While we were at his place, we traveled to Southeast Oklahoma, Northwest Oklahoma, New Mexico, Southeast Texas, and Southwest Texas (pen names).

For dinner we went to the Gene Autry Museum located in Gene Autry, Oklahoma. The hosts were Stillwater Milling Company, Gregg (Class X) & Carrie Sweeten and Mr. and Mrs. Elvin Sweeten. We toured the museum and had a wonderful steak dinner provided by Alice Fowler of Stillwater Milling. After dinner we went back to the lodge and enjoyed each other’s company.

STATEHOOD DAY FOR OKLAHOMA!! HAPPY 100 YEARS

Scribe: Doug Ritter
November 16, 2007

Our day started with a very good breakfast at the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Ok. Jie Cai, wife of a plant biologist for the Noble Foundation, spoke to our class about her native country, China. The presentation was very interesting. The talk stirred excitement for our international trip in February of 2008.

Mannsville Ag Center

Our first stop of the day was at Mannsville, Oklahoma visiting Mannsville Ag Center. 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 Martindale 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. Service is their key to success. 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 processes pecan shells. These shells are later sold to the oilfield industry. They are used when a lake of circulation occurs. Also, the shells provide a lubricate for the horizontal drilling process due to their high oil content.

Sulphur Fish Hatchery

The Sulphur Fish Hatchery is operated by the Wes Hardin family. Wes has operated the farm as the owner for seventeen 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 includes draining and cleaning of each pond.

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 fish are sold in 2” increments.

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.

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.

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.

D & H Cattle Company

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, which insures genetic validation. The operation has been so successful that they have been named by the PBR as the stock contractor of the year five out of the last six 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. 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. Hustler, Hot stuff, Bud light, and Little Swinger are several names of the bulls. Two of these bulls have won $200,000 each at the Las Vegas Classic.

OALP Class XIII member, Bill Farris, added to our presentation by discussing his rodeo experiences. The class member was a former bull rider which had qualified for regional IBRA events.

Lunch at Washita Valley Sod Farm

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. Kathleen Maher (OALP Class V), sister of Mary and member of the OALP advisory council, was also in attendance. Appreciation was expressed to Kathleen for planning of the day’s activities. The luncheon served as an excellent activity to end a wonderful and educational three-day OALP seminar

Class Wrap-up Time

After conducting class business and discussions, the class adjourned.