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Class XIII Curriculum

"Northwestern Oklahoma Agriculture and Industry"

 Seminar IX


August 15, 2007
Scribe: Dale Lemmond
Hennessey and Enid, OK

We started the seminar meeting as a group in Hennessey, OK and going to our first stop at Miller Game Farm. Don Miller is the owner of Miller Game Farm and has been raising game birds for over 20 years. Mr. Miller told us that he got started in the business by raising quail that he would use in the training of his birddogs. Word got out and neighbors wanted to buy quail to also train their dogs. That was over 20 years ago and now he sells between 250,000 and 500,000 chicks per year.

Mr. Miller told us that he has 6,000 laying hens and that he has 44,000 eggs in each of 2 incubators for 21 days. After that he moves the eggs to a hatchery where they spend 2 to 3 days. Once the eggs hatch Mr. Miller will either sell the chicks or use them to grow adult birds.

All of the adult birds are in a confinement that has a net that covers the area that they live in. The birds will consume approximately 15,000 pounds of feed per week.

Mr. Miller told us that he hauls birds to hunting clubs from Texas to Minnesota. Current value for quail is $3.00 to $3.50 per bird, chucker’s $5.50 to $7.00 per bird and $8.00 per bird for pheasants.

Our second stop was at Advance Foods in Enid, OK. We were met by Kandi Nelson, who has over 14 years of service with Advance. Our tour was conducted by Pat Martin who has been with Advance for 17 years. Mr. Martin shared the following facts with us:

  • The plant we were in was an old bicycle plant that we out of business. The city of Enid bought the plant and sold it to Advance.

  • The plant has 150,000 square feet of production area.

  • 450 employees.

  • 6 total production lines, 4 of which are cooked products.

  • Advance produces 1,500,000 pounds per week.

The company was founded in 1973 by Paul Allen and David McLaughlin when they started selling hamburger patties and breaded beef to local grocery stores and restaurants. Today Advance Foods has 9 production facilities and sell product all over the world.

Advance Foods current lines are:

After the tour we were treated to a lunch of Advance Foods products consisting of chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken.

Our next stop was at the Woodward Livestock Auction. We were met there with refreshments provided by Farm Credit.

The owner of the Woodard Livestock Auction is Jerry Nine. Mr. Nine meet with us and shared the following information:

  • When Mr. Nine’s team took over the auction was selling 89,000 to 95,000 head per year, with the top year being 122,000 head.

  • Last year Woodward Livestock Auction sold 351,000 head making them the 2nd or 3rd largest livestock auction in America.

  • Mr. Nine attributes the increased movement to putting a value on the animals as soon as they enter the sale ring; this allows them to move more animals faster.

  • They sell 700 head per hour on average and top out about 800 head per hour.

  • Their record is 12,315 head in one day.

  • Woodward Livestock Auction sells cows on Tuesday and feeder cattle on Fridays.

  • Currently they charge $5.87 per head compared to some auction houses that charging 2 to 3 % or up to $9.00 per head.

  • Mr. Nine felt that one of the reasons they were able to grow so rapidly is that they treated everybody honestly and that was the only way they do business.

After telling us about the sale barn Mr. Nine entertained us with some of his cowboy poetry and it was enjoyed by all.

Scribe: Joey Meibergen
August 15, 2007
Guymon, OK

Upon arrival to Guymon and checking into the Townsman Motel we received a nice welcome form the Guymon Chamber of Commerce and the Guymon Ambassadors. Following the welcome we had a nice pizza dinner courtesy of Mike Ray and the Nutrition Physiology Corp. After supper Dr. Sara Richter of Oklahoma Panhandle State University gave a us a very detailed presentation on the history of the Oklahoma Panhandle or AKA “NO MANS LAND”. She described the panhandle and told us that it sat unwanted for a number of years and was finally settled under the land give away of the 1890’s. After Dr. Richter’s presentation State Sen. Owen Laughlin and State Rep. Gus Blackwell discussed their role in the Oklahoma State Government and some of the issues related to their districts. The legislators discussed the need for conservation as a keystone for this particular area and how water rights are more important now than ever before. They also talked about the Hog Wars of the mid 1990’s and how that economic boost has affected the Guymon area with concerns on housing and labor.

Scribe: Hope Pjesky
August 16, 2007
Guymon, OK and Liberal, KS

We began our day by boarding the “Guymon Tigers” bus and heading to Seaboard Farms Swine Processing Plant. At the facility in Guymon, Seaboard processes approximately 4.5 million hogs annually, and receives most of its hogs from their live production facilities. This plant operates at double shift capacity and processes about 16,000 hogs each day. The facility has been operating for twelve years. We were greeted by Jimbo Portman, Plant Superintendent who provided an initial overview and answered questions before and after tour. Shani Gooden, Quality Assurance Manager served as one of the tour guides and gave brief remarks. She instructed us on how to put on our hair nets, ear plugs, hard hats and smocks. The plant is currently operating 5 days a week but they sometimes work 6 days a week. They export a lot of the value cuts to Japan, South Korea and Mexico. Their products go out mainly by container freight on trucks with some rail and air freight. The main ports that they ship from are Los Angeles, Seattle, Florida and Houston. Their traceability is increasing in response to the international demand. The Japanese are very picky about their standards, especially about bones and foreign material. They were very upset about one piece of tenderloin with a small piece of fat. Seaboard reacts quickly to complaints. They do custom cuts for customers when requested. They also do some injecting of fat trim to help the flavor and marinade some cuts. The day we were there they were using onion and garlic marinade but they also have several other marinade flavors. The industry is moving away from the super lean hogs back to hogs with more fat for flavor. They prefer to slaughter 280 lb hogs but when we were there they were receiving some 260 lb hogs. The plant uses 3 million gallons of water a day and their waste water is used to irrigate farm land.

Finding enough labor is an issue at the plant. They are currently short of the employees necessary to run a maximum capacity. Many of their employees are originally from Mexico, Guatemala, and other Central American countries. Seaboard screens their documentation when they are hired to make sure they are legal. It is a union plant. They are currently offer incentives for employees to recruit new employees. They also started the Quick Start Program where a new employee can start at a better wage but if they miss a day of work the wage goes back down. Wages vary with loin and ham bone pullers being the hardest jobs and garnering the best wage. The employee retention rate is projected to be 47% this year. One of the tour guide was the Safety Manager and he reminded several employees to follow proper safety guidelines as the group toured the plant. The safety manager took pride in stating that the plant has a 2.13 incident rate when the industry average is a 12 incident rate.

When the hogs arrive, they rest for 4 hours before being killed. Seaboard has recently started using CO2 to kill the hogs. This as a much more humane method of killing the hogs and results in better meat quality. The hogs are loaded in a carousel and as it rotates down the CO2 puts the hogs to sleep. As it rotates back up they are dumped on to a conveyor belt and then hung up by the back legs. They heart is still beating, so their throats are slit and they are bled. Next they are scalded in hot water to help remove the hair and then singed in fire jets. From there the head is removed and the internals are removed and processed. Next the carcass is broken down into primary cuts. Lasers are used to help line up the cuts and automation helps to lessen the demand for labor. It takes less than an hour from stun to chill of the final cuts. They probe the loin for lean, fat and bone content and have an on-site lab to monitor food safety.

Our next stop was the Texas County Jail. Sheriff Arnold Peoples and his staff showed us around the facilities. Sheriff Peoples started by telling us that he is not politically correct. He has been sheriff for about 20 years. He worked to convince the voters to extend an expiring sales tax in order to build a new jail to replace the old jail that had an overcrowding problem. They moved into the new jail in February 1997. The Sheriff and an architect friend of his designed the jail to be labor friendly and cost effective. It cost $3 million when constructed. The jail has a 100 inmate capacity and usually holds 80-85 inmates. When we visited there were only 60 inmates. Texas County has 10 deputies and 33 detention officers. The jail has no TVs or weight room. Coffee can be bought from the commissary. Phones are available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for collect or calling card calls. Inmates pay $25 per day to help cover the expenses. Inmates can earn the privilege of becoming a trustee. Trustees work in the garden that produces a large quantity of the food the jail uses each year. They also can work on community projects such as the fairgrounds, parks and rodeo grounds. Inmates normally receive credit for one additional day for every four days served. They receive two days credit for every day worked. The jail offers drug and alcohol counseling and a GED program. They have an In-house DOC program where the state pays them to keep inmates that have been sentenced to prison. Recently a meeting was held about Seaboard recruiting non-violent offenders who are being released from the prison system. The sheriff said he prefers that they still be on probation, so they have to check in with their probation officer.

The jail houses inmates charged with every crime on the books but the majority are DUI, drug related offences and domestic violence. Cocaine is the drug of choice in Texas County. There is not sufficient funding available for a drug court. Guymon is 65% Hispanic. An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) check is done on everyone who is brought into the jail. Those who are not legally in the United States are put on ICE hold, but it is hard to get ICE to pick them up. The jail also has an OSBI Fingerprint Machine which makes it faster to check for outstanding warrants on prisoners. The cultural differences in Mexico sometimes cause problems for recent immigrants. The sheriff said that in Mexico if you are big and tough enough to take something from someone else it is yours and domestic violence is more accepted. Sometimes immigrants don’t realize that our justice system is different. The increase in offenders has been proportionate to the increase in population that Texas County has seen over the years. Texas County has several drug transport routes that run through it, most notably Highway 54. They get quite a bit of income from seizing drug money. One of the deputies has almost a million dollars in drug money seizures in less than a year.

After our tour of the jail we got back on the bus and went to Liberal, Kansas. Our first stop in Liberal was Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA). We were greeted by Dick Cooper, Director of Business Development and a member of OALP Class I and Jim Pittman, Liberal Warehouse/Plant Manager. PCCA sponsored lunch and gave us a brief tour and comments. We enjoyed the sandwiches, vegetables, fruit and cookies they provided for lunch. This facility is the largest single-shed cotton warehouse in the United States. Its design provides for the best in bale receiving and shipping efficiency. It receives cotton ginned at Bi-State Cotton Producers in Blackwell, OK, High Tech Gin in Pratt, KS, Northwest Cotton Growers in Moscow, KS and Southern Kansas Cotton Growers in Winfield and Anthony, KS. PCCA has invested $6 million in the warehouse and $30 million in the gins. Cotton from this area is exported to Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, China and Vietnam.

Our next stop was National Beef Processing Plant. Terry Gilbert, Operations Controller, welcomed us and provided remarks before and after our tours. Once again we suited up in ear plugs, hairnets, hard hats, smocks and optional shoe covers. The ear plugs at this stop were superior to the ones at Seaboard and it was hard to hear anything during the tour. National Beef is the only rancher-owned fully integrated U.S. beef processor. National Beef’s majority owner is U.S. Premium Beef. Producers’ paid to join and are paid for their cattle on a grid system. The better the cattle quality and yield grade the more they get paid. National Beef has started the Biologic System to improve Food Safety which includes applying a Sanova antimicrobial solution and incorporating a second pasteurization cabinet. They also provide an extensive line of fresh-chilled variety meats backed by their unique chilling process. National Beef has several branded products including, Nature Source Natural Angus Beef which has never had antibiotics, hormones or steroids, Nature Well Natural Beef which hasn’t had antibiotics, hormones or steroids for 120 days prior to slaughter, Black Canyon Cattle Company Angus Beef, Certified Hereford Beef, Certified Angus Beef, Black Canyon Premium Reserve, Certified Premium Beef and Vintage Natural Beef. Our tour guide said he preferred the Certified Premium Beef which is non-breed specific low prime. They have an on-site lab to monitor food safety and use an imager to verify USDA grades by scanning the rib eye. National Beef is the fourth largest beef processor in the world. They have had a 200% increase in sales in 13 years. This plant can process 4 million pounds of ground beef per week. The plant employs 3,000 workers with an average salary of $11.75 - $12.00 per hour and contributes $66 million per year to the local economy. There is obviously much more hand work to be done in a beef plant than in a pork plant and therefore they need a larger work force.

Scribe: Jean Williams
August 16, 2007
Guymon, OK

We toured Hitch Enterprises with Jason Hitch (OALP Class IX) and his son Tyler. We observed their swine, feed mill and farm operation.

The Hitch Family came to the area in 1884 after visiting the area approximately 10 years earlier. They were initially stocker operators and moved cattle to Kansas to feed for 30 years then started farming and acquired most of their land in the “dirty 30s” - trading land for guns, mules, buckboards, etc. The ranch operation totals 15,000 acres and the farming operation is another 6000 acres. Hitch Enterprises have two feed yards one in Guymon and one near Garden City, Kansas. The oldest Hitch feed yard started in 1951-1952 went commercial in 1975 and expanded in 1992-1993 to 51,000 head capacity. They feed their own cattle as well as customer owned cattle. The silage haulers are from South Africa.

A Pork division was added in 1994 - about the time Seaboard entered the picture. We visited with their vet, Dr. Shawn Blood and the Vice President of the pork division Mike Brandherm. They have six 2,500 sow farms which produce 1,000 head a week. Hatch Enterprises currently has 30 employees in the pork division.

We toured the Hitch feed mill and met with Carey Winterrowd, Manager of the feed mill. The feed mill is computer controlled and is operated from the feed mill office. Hitch Enterprises also operates a feed mill for cattle. They can make and store 8 days of feed.

We toured Hitch Farms and met with Curtis Raines, Farm Manager. They were the first in the area to do no-til farming but later switched to strip till. Mr. Raines builds specialized equipment as needed for their operation. Our classmate Galynn Beer helps with the fertility, soil samples, etc. They pointed out that with no-til wheat - the soil has mellowed and takes up water better.

Rodd Schemm, Henry C. Hitch Feedlot manager, gave us a tour and overview of the Hitch feedlot. We also saw a silage pit and observed silage being harvested.

After a brief motel break we moved on to the Jimmy Draper Farm Headquarters. While waiting for our classmate, Joe Locke to put the finishing touches on dinner, the class explored the Draper’s barn and saw antiques, old records, phonographs, and more antique items. We all enjoyed this time very much. We then enjoyed Joe Locke’s cooking. He prepared stuffed pork loin, mushrooms and potatoes with cherry and peach cobbler for desert.

After dinner we listened to Dr. Brett Gardner discuss the process of making ethanol. He also discussed the potential use of ethanol by products in the livestock rations.

Jason Hitch followed Dr. Gardner’s presentation by stating major concerns/problems with using ethanol by products in the cattle rations.

Henry Ford originated Ethanol and designed the Model T to operate on ethanol. Milo or Corn combined with water are used to make ethanol. Distillers grain is the by-product of making ethanol and produces a feed containing 12-15% protein for cattle. A cattle producer can produce more beef per acre feeding distiller’s grains.

Scribe: Pat Reiger
August 17, 2007
Goodwell and Cimarron County

Friday morning, August 17, 2007, we loaded the bus at 7:00 am for our final day in the Panhandle of Oklahoma. Rick Kochenhower, OSU Area Agronomist and member of OALP Class XI along with Raylon Earls, an area Ag producer and member of OALP Class VII, were our hosts for the day. Rick narrated during our trip and first gave us an overview of agriculture in the Panhandle. Texas County had $1Billion in total ag receipts for the past year, more than any other quadrant of the State. Prior to Seaboard coming into Guymon, they were in the top 20 Ag production counties in the Nation, and now they rank fifth.

Rick gave us a history of the OSU Research Station. The station was created in the 1930’s and has grown from 40 acres to 550 acres through an agreement with Panhandle State University (PSU), located at Goodwell. They study wheat, corn, grain, sweet sorghum, sunflowers, soybeans and cotton, along with the animal studies they conduct. One of the most recent accomplishments is the release of the “Goodwell” Bermuda grass which is for haying, not grazing. Discussion was held regarding the pros and cons of no-till, strip-till, drip irrigation, and center pivot irrigation.

At the Experiment Station, we met with Dr. Britt Hicks, OSU Area Animal Science Specialist. He showed us the study he is doing regarding distillers’ grain and feed rations. This is a joint project with OSU, PSU, and Hitch Farms. A unique part of this study is that they are buying back loin sections for meat science studies to study how the introduction of distillers’ grain affects what the consumer gets in the end product. Dr. Hicks shared with us the positive aspects of feeding distillers grains along with the challenges it brings which include the difficulties in handling, the short shelf life as it dries out quickly, and the shipping costs. The cattle won’t eat it if it is in clumps or dried out. Currently the dried distillers’ grain from ADM has 30% protein and 12% fat and is selling at 80% of the price of corn. Dr. Hicks stated that at this price, it will not work economically. It will need to drop to 70% of the corn price.

We then boarded the bus and took a quick tour of Goodwell and Panhandle State University before making the trip to Cimarron County. Rick shared statistics with us regarding the CRP benchmark in Cimarron County, the census changes from 1990 to 2000 regarding the number of Hispanics that came to the area, the social issues surrounding this influx, the progressive farming culture in the Panhandle, the supply of water through the Ogallala Aquifer, the fact that 34% of Beaver County is owned by the State because of the school land, and it is the only County in Oklahoma that doesn’t have an Extension Office.

The class arrived at Hopkins Ag Supply and were greeted by J.B. Stewart and his son, Jarrod Stewart who was in OALP Class VIII. Jarrod is a Fifth Generation Farmer. The Stewarts shared with us the history of buying their grain handling facility as a way to store their own grain, and then expanded it to purchase grain from the neighboring farmers. They also started purchasing bulk chemical for their own farm and ran their own spray operation as a way to go no-till on their farm, then expanded to providing chemical and custom spraying for other farmers. Jarrod shared their philosophy that diversification was important to their operation to mitigate risk and be successful. He also has the AIM Insurance Agency. Two years ago they purchased a liquor store in Boise City, Oklahoma. Jarrod stated that they could carry over things learned between their businesses.

The Stewarts shared some farm statistics. They use a crop rotation of 1/3 wheat, 1/3 grain sorghum or sunflowers, and 1/3 fallow ground. They have one to two tillage operations a year using a sweep plow, applying ammonia for nitrogen.

They started running a big self-propelled sprayer in 2001 with a 90’ boom. They could run 500 hours/year, at 15 mph, covering 50,000 acres. Last year they met the licensing and insurance requirements to go custom and purchased a new self propelled sprayer with 120’ booms, 300 hp, averaging 17mph and they can now cover 75,000 acres in the same 500 hours. Before custom work, they were on a plan to trade sprayers every two years, now they will trade every three years. This sprayer has replaced three four-wheel drive tractors. It has a GPS guidance system, which prints out a map showing where the spray took place and with which chemical mix. This is used for billing and provided to the customer for their information.

Their chemical trailer was completed this past year and replaced one they built in 2002 that was too short. There is a 3,000-gallon tank, a 500-gallon mix tank and three shuttles. There is a 3” pump that can load the sprayer in 6 minutes. They have a set of valves for this one pump and everything is metered, making it a no touch system to the mix tank. The operator can mix and reload the sprayer and be back in the field in 10 to 15 minutes.

Hopkins Ag Supply is located in Hopkins, Oklahoma, which has one house and the grain elevator. They have 305,000 bu grain capacity of which one-half is cement. They raise hard white wheat. The marketing has been challenging in previous years but they are now shipping to Mexico City. J. B. Stewart shared with us the two-year process of drawing this market. They are currently trucking to Wichita to ship the wheat by rail to Mexico City.

The Stewarts showed us their Stripper Header, which has stainless steel fingers, runs 25% faster than a conventional head and leaves all of the chaff in the field. All of their equipment runs on GPS Auto Steer technology. They can get more acres out of their hours using the GPS. It saves on fuel, labor, oil changes, etc. and eliminates overlapping. To quote J.B. Stewart, “It’s an exciting time to be farming”.

Our next stop was at an irrigated corn field with Tom Stephens. He serves as the Wheat Commissioner for the Panhandle. He raises 4,000 acres of corn, irrigated Milo and wheat. He introduced us to his foreman, Jeff Hill. They explained their center pivot irrigation systems and how they can be controlled by phone or radio. Most of the sprinklers are ¼ mile systems, which cover 120 acres each. Six sprinklers are ½ milers and they each cover 500 acres. Problems associated with pivot systems include gearboxes going out and flat tires. The outside tower dictates how fast the rest of the towers move, using micro switches in each tower.

They discussed a circle they have with Bermuda grass, which requires a lot of water and a lot of fertilizer. They are able to put 300 cow/calf pairs on the circle plus some bulls. On regular pasture in the area, they allow 25 acres per cow/calf pair. Raising the Bermuda keeps their herd in one location and is easier to handle and more cost effective.

We returned to Guymon for lunch at Hunny’s where we dined on a selection of barbequed and smoked meats and all the fixins that go with it. Our luncheon speaker was Mr. Jess Nelson, retired Smoke Jumper, retired school Principal, and retired Mayor of Guymon. He is now in the livestock business, raising honeybees. He has five hives, which have 40,000 to 60,000 bees in each.

Mr. Nelson shared a lot of the history of the area starting with No Man’s Land, the 1890 Organic Act, and the 1920’s introduction of the railroad, making it possible to haul wheat. The Dust Bowl changed farming practices and then the end of 1940 to 1950, with the discovery of water and natural gas, they began raising grain, then feeding cattle, and then the processing plants came in. First they were shipping hanging meat, then the grocery stores wanted boxed meat and the plant was closed. The City and Chamber went on a joint search for a purchaser of the closed Swift Plant. Through the urging and assistance of the Governor, Seaboard was secured for the area. The City put together an Impact Committee that researched nine critical areas. The City started building a new school, expanding health care and the infrastructure. They purchased an old hotel, The Oaks, and refurbished it as a transitional place for people to stay. They were provided with two meals a day if they applied for three jobs a day. After getting a job, they paid $10/day until they got on their own. Housing surveys were done and was determined they would need 1,200 new housing units for mid and low-income families. Outside developers were not interested so they developed the Texas County Housing Authority to meet the needs. Seaboard anticipated they would create 1,200 new jobs and they have now brought in 4,000 jobs.

After thanking our sponsors and hosts, those of us not from the Panhandle started the journey back “down state”, while giving our Guymon classmates a one-time reprieve from long distance travel home from our Seminars.