"People and Programs of the Noble Foundation; and Agricultural Enterprises and Industries of Mid-Southern Oklahoma"
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Scribe: John Leonard
After another month having past we we’re all excited and glad to see each other on our next seminar in Ardmore and its surrounding area. Dr. Joe picked up several of us at our usual rendezvous point, the Oklahoma County Cooperative Extension Service in OKC. Some others rode together in groups in their own vehicles respectively.
We all arrived safely at the Noble Foundation Conference Center & Lodge a little behind schedule but not too late. The Lodge and its rooms were beautiful and displayed the atmosphere of Oklahoma and the southwest. We soon checked in and were on our way to the actual conference hall, the Noble Kruse Auditorium, a few blocks away to meet with our hosts, Adam Calaway and Shan Ingram. Dr. Joe began with how much the Noble Foundation has supported OALP over the years. Charles Rhola was our chairperson during this day.
After introductions, we each took turns delivering our presentations on our respective topics. The various topics we had to choose from all related to concerns & challenges facing the agriculture industry today. We were given the topic choices on our last seminar and had 5
minutes to present along with any follow-up questions class members may have on our presentations. We were also each given a stack of constructive critique sheets to fill out during each presentation. After each of us spoke, the class would pass the critique sheets to the
presenter to offer any advice, praise, and constructive criticism that may be of help to hone our own delivery for future presentations.
We had no particular order, so we simply began with those who wanted to start first:
Michael Marlow: A Major Challenge in Oklahoma Wheat Production, the Hessian Fly
Although few and far between in the past, the Hessian Fly is becoming a growing problem in wheat production. The Hessian Fly will burrow its eggs in wheat stalk, when the larvae emerge they will move up the stalk and weaken it, causing enormous problems. It began to reemerge in a greater scale very recently in 2004 and 2005. A lot of farmer’s called it “straw breaker disease” at the time when in fact it was a Hessian Fly infestation. It would normally overwinter in the South from the crop residue left in the field. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s the fly would be wiped out after a few generations and you wouldn’t see the problem for years because they plow the ground after each season. Farmers would time it in the past for the prime opportunity to plow in order to achieve a “fly free date.”
As important as it is to practice conservation and leave some residue in the field, it provides a bridge for future generations. Insecticides and herbicides were effective but only in large quantities and still left the cycle of infestation. However, crop rotation seemed by far the most effective in addition to integrated pest management. Furthermore, “Duster,” a wheat variety developed by OSU has many added benefits that reduce the problems associated with Hessian Fly including a thicker stem. Educating farmers on this multitude of issues will be of great help for future control of this problem.
Brent Thompson: The Extinction of the Full Time Farmer & Rancher
So many people are moving away from agriculture as their sole source of income. Only 6 of our class of 28, rely completely on the income our farms make for their living. A great deal of high input costs keep farmers from continuing and/or keep possible new farmers from beginning in the industry. A number of reasons are enormous increases in land prices, fuel, fertilizer, seed, machinery, equipment, and labor. Of course, Mother Nature can always affect a crop and its condition relating to its price.
Possibilities for changing these trends lie within education. Be active in your local school system, farm bureau, and other originations that pertain to your particular line(s) of agriculture. Also, diversifying our present farms with organic crops, agritourism, and finding more efficient methods of multiple crop plantings may add that extra income and interest in agriculture.
Daniel Skipper: Fertilizer Costs: Effects & Alternatives
Higher fertilizer costs have contributed to greater risks in the family farm budget. Many farmers are opting out of applying necessary amounts for their crops needs thus producing a lower quality and quantity of their yield and forage. Especially in forage, the effects for livestock quality are reduced due to the poorer nutrition in the forage. Daniel gave an example regarding a goat & sheep producer who had next to no success in birthing rates for his flock due to poor nutrition in forage because he didn’t fertilize.
Precision GPS systems on their tractors help with more exact applications. Soil sampling will give a precise definition of what is necessary. Crop rotation with legumes and local applications of poultry litter can give a great deal of nutrients. At $138.00 per ton poultry litter is much lees expensive compared to urea. However, their release will be more gradual in time with 50% for the first year, 15% the 2nd year and 5-6% the third year. It must be applied by a certified spreader and the ability to obtain a spreader as well as the fertilizer it is difficult even though many poultry producers can’t wait to get rid of it. There are tax credits for its use.
Allen Entz: Young People in Agriculture
Farmers were 2% of the national labor force and 2.9 million in number in 1990; an enormous decrease from being 31% of the labor force of 32 million in the 1930’s. An average farm in 1998 was around 215 acres. Given a modest land price and equipment a farm can spend on start up over $500,000. There are a huge amount of stressful factors involving agriculture that keep new people from getting into farming. Long schedules, high stress, labor, long time before return, limited potential, rising prices for seed & fertilizer, and weather just to name a few.
In rural communities, health care is a factor. Older farmers are reluctant to share equipment since many plan to sell it as well as their land to help with their retirement. So why do we do what we do? Simply put, we take pride in our industry which you can’t put a price on.
Dana Bessinger: Young People in Agriculture
Dana’s occupation is Ag in the Classroom Coordinator. Her job is to bring agriculture literacy through the core curriculum to teachers and students from pre-kindergarten to the 8th grade. Ag in the Classroom is a joint effort by the OK. Dept. of Education, ODAFF, and the OK. Cooperative Extension Service. Basically, “sneaking” agriculture into the curriculum via various courses such as math, science, social studies, physical education and the arts.
With a great deal of support from various agriculture organizations, Ag in the Classroom had the resources to produce colorful , interesting, and fact filled pamphlets, guides, coloring books, calendars and more. Tulsa teachers took a large field trip throughout the region learning a great deal about agriculture. This allowed for so many to pass first hand experience to their classes.
Brandon Winters: Crop Rotation in Wheat Production
Oklahoma wheat producers are suffering from some economic disadvantages. Weed problems, disease problems, and insect problems. On a 5 year average from 1983 to 1987 the average harvest was 31.4 bushels per acre. Twenty years later that same yield was 31.6 bushels per acre. Oklahoma wheat producers have gained one bushel per acre in the last century. European growers have increased their 5 year average wheat yield 23.5%.
The key is to educate producers in crop rotation. If mono-cropping is still implemented; yields and quality will diminish. Canola is an
excellent rotation since it can be sown as a fall crop just like wheat.
Burton Harmon: Women in Agriculture
We normally think of the farmer as a man. More important than women in agriculture being on committees of various originations respectively is women actually working, sometimes as the leading figure, on their own farms. Burton as well as many of the married men in the class would choose to spend an hour working with their wives on the farm over an hour long massage. Only 2 of our class are women who are the lead farmers in their family.
Burton went on to illustrate how much women have played a role in his life and farming. From his grandmother calling heifers, his mom charging up a hill against all odds, to his wife knowing one of their heifers was calving. Wives involve your husbands and husbands involve your wives. It keeps your relationship and the farm happy and healthy.
Annette Riherd: Country of Origin Law
COOL took effect on Sept. 30th of 2008. The hope was that consumers would choose American grown food over food produced overseas. It was introduced in the 2002 Farm Bill. Some feared it would hurt all industries if an outbreak occurred. However if it was in place during our latest e. coli outbreak in spinach & tomatoes, only a few would have been affected saving the entire spinach industry a fortune in lost sales for those that were not responsible.
Tracking down food health problems ASAP would help the industry enormously by benefiting consumer awareness. Prices will be affected slightly but over the long term. The biggest impact of all will be on hamburger since it can be a mix of various sources of beef even internationally. How much more comforting to see a label stating the burger was produced in the U.S. On a smaller scale would you choose strawberries grown in California or Oklahoma? Hopefully with this knowledge people will choose to buy locally.
After Annette’s presentation Charles introduced Adam Calaway of the Noble Foundation. Mr. Calaway spoke about the legacy of his grandmother on his experiences of her and her farm. He then expressed to us the enormous legacy of Lloyd Noble. He grew up in southern Oklahoma and had a family hardware store business in Ardmore. By watching cotton growers come and grow through the store over the years, he saw the relationship with agriculture and its community impact.
Lloyd Noble’s mother cosigned a loan with him at age 24. He brought the best and brightest to his oil company and later added aviation. Seeing as a younger man the effects of poor farming practices and consequently, the Dust Bowl, he started the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation (after his father) in 1945 with 1 million dollars for research on improving methods in agriculture. He began first with a Soils Department (now the Agriculture Division). In 1950 he began the Biomedical Group. Today this department does cancer research and is the primary contributor to research regarding leukemia in the world. In 1988 they start the Plant Biology Group which focus is on specific plant health and relating factors.
There are 2.8 million cattle in their operating range of a 100 mile radius of the Noble Foundation. The Plant Biology Division specifically focuses on forages. The Noble Foundation felt it was important to bring the cattle men and the scientists together to work mutually in the Forage Improvement Division.
The Noble Foundation is the largest private foundation in Oklahoma and 41st in the nation. They have 361 full time employees from 29 different countries. Of those most have a master’s degrees or higher and at least 90 PhDs. Over the past 7 years they’ve begun a 100 million dollar expansion. The endowment for the foundation is 1.2 billion dollars!
Shan Ingram was our next speaker and explained what they do in the Agriculture Division. He explained the division of departments and their relation to the president and board of trustees; much like a school system. “The mission of the Agriculture Department is to assist ag. producers and other managers of natural resources to achieve their financial production, stewardship and quality of life goals through consultation, education, research, and demonstration.” They also “measure their success based on the success of the producers they cooperate with.”
There are 4 disciplinary teams of consultation and specialists that include over 6 lines of specialty including forage, livestock, soils & crops, ag-econ., wildlife, and horticulture. They also have a help-line service available to anyone. For on site consultation they service a 100 mile radius from Ardmore which includes 18 counties in Texas and 29 counties in Oklahoma. A special program within the department is the Integrity Beef System which focuses on intensive cattle production.
The Ag. Division publishes, conducts soil testing, an online plant gallery, and Ag. News. They sponsor special events, youth events, deer management, and e-cattle log. Their biggest line of research and development is currently on Switchgrass and its use in bio-fuels. Another recent addition is for graduate student work for masters and doctoral degrees applied from the foundation.
After Mr. Calaway and Mr. Ingram enlightened us on the vast amount of fascinating programs and research the Noble Foundation is conducting, we adjourned for a wonderful lunch with various Agricultural Division Staff.
On our return we continued with our individual presentations:
John Leonard: Reducing Fossil Fuels from our Food Supply and replacing it with Sustainability.
Due to food prices spiking in the 1970’s Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture in the Nixon. Administration pushed for larger farms and enormous yields. Traditional farms with biodiversity gave way to large mono-crop ventures and accelerated our use of chemical inputs. Each of those inputs created a system in which at present over 20% of all the fossil fuel in America is consumed by agriculture. Moreover, the effects of these chemical inputs have caused a large amount of environmental pollution reduced the effectiveness of sustainability. The top 4 fossil fuel inputs include fertilizer/pesticide, diesel, electricity, and gasoline.
If an 8 year rotational crop and livestock plan were used similar to many farms in Argentina, a drastic reduction in chemical inputs would occur. Furthermore, diesel could be reduced on farms with personal home/farm biodiesel kits as well as biodiesel coops. Electricity use is diminished with greater efficiency and of course the possibility of more wind turbine use across the Plains. Gasoline could be reduced with more use of hybrid trucks & pickups. All are very applicable without a complete system overhaul in the agriculture industry.
David McMullen: Hog Production Facts
Three important facts the swine industry has are food, the economic impact, and the by-products of its use. Pork is the most consumed meat worldwide. It’s lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than ever before due to genetics and breeding by pork producers. Today it is even leaner and lower in calories than chicken. The pork industry as whole employs ½ a million people. In 2007 the pork industry had sales of 97 billion dollars. It is the 2nd largest Oklahoma commodity.
“Everything but the oink.” The average hog will produce 72lbs of by-products for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. From heart valves, insulin, burn dressings, to glue, water filters, lubricants, crayons, etc. pork is in them all. David passed out interesting fact sheets by the Oklahoma Pork Counsel after his talk.
Scott Sproul: Legislation of COOL
Impacts have been substantial on beef producers. There are 4 different ways of labeling for beef: a product of the U.S., multiple countries of origin, a product of Mexico or Canada, and an imported product. Paperwork has been substantial for producers; including signed affidavits. More costs rises with labor to keep track of all the cattle and their origins.
On a good note; consumers have more confidence in their product. It also increases the market for low hormone and grass fed beef. A few kinks need to be ironed out but in the long run there should be far more positives than the negatives.
Gary Kafer: Personal Finance in Agriculture
Our financial debt is over 10.5 trillion dollars. Responsible personal financial management is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge. Consumer debt has consequences including conflicts, stress, and sleepless nights. Financial freedom is not living paycheck to paycheck or paying bills with credit cards.
You have got to know your own big picture. It’s important knowing where your money goes and having emergency accounts. The biggest change you can make is to stop using credit cards! Start a simple budget and savings plan to control your finances instead of them controlling you.
Carol Cowan: Women in Agriculture
It’s no different than in years past; women have always played a role in agriculture. At OSU, there are 797 women in enrolled in agriculture compared to 795 men. Across the globe women are 50% of the world’s population and provide 60 to 80 % of the agricultural labor force. In Blaine County (Carol’s home) there are 822 women farmers. There are numerous organizations for women in agriculture.
It’s important that women know more than just working the fields. From marketing to research to financial management; its crucial women get involved in every process of agriculture.
Chad Selman: Graying Agriculture
The national average age of a farmer is 54 in 2002. Agriculture is progressing in countless ways via technology although the age of those farming is increasing. Some numbers could be lower for age but so many are not coming back to the farm after college. Chad is glad to see many retiring since it provides a chance for those who do want to continue in farming to buy there land and equipment; thus expanding there own operation.
Jared Cullison: Declining Number of Large Animal Veterinarians in Agriculture
There are less people going into schools and graduating from vet schools. Parents don’t encourage vet careers, kids are becoming lazy, most students aren’t from rural areas, and their income won’t pay-off their student loans. There are more women becoming vets than men.
Only 8 out of every 50 students become large animal veterinarians. There’s many more in small animal medicine due to better pay & hours. Large animal vets have a far greater range and length of hours and work with much less pay. Many students don’t want to live in rural areas. Many drug companies bypass vets to sell to producers directly. Of over a dozen applicants in last years class only 1 was male.
For those that do large animal vet practice; they love it. However, most are of retirement age. There are various programs across the U.S. that promote benefits for those who will move and or study for rural medicine yet so many still have a hard time filling the need. If there were an agri-terrorism attack a great deal of large animal vets may be employed for the federal government; away from there rural practice.
Scott Neufeld: Ag Economics
Scott illustrates in a story the precarious environment the next generations of farmers are having. Many farm families don’t have the cash flow to progress with what will eventually change in agriculture. Things simply aren’t looking good. Few work so hard to achieve an income that is so unpredictable. Part time labor is difficult to find and quite expensive and yet most will leave for higher paying jobs.
There are difficult issues regarding land and mineral right owners. Scott share from his own experience the problems and lost revenue from 10 acres of land lost to drilling in addition to excessive weeds that persist around the sites and gravel road displacement. He even doesn’t get much of a check from them worth the amount of problems produced by the sites. Some fare better than others.
Rose Bonjour: Problems with Attracting and Keeping Youth in Agriculture
Rose illustrates the rarity of a person like Travis Schnaithman who plans to keep working on his family’s farm. Few offspring want to go back to the family farm. Less than 1 % call farming their primary occupation. Less than 4 % of those farm families have a gross income of over 50,000 dollars. Farmer’s are declining and those still farming are getting older. The risks are too great.
The best and brightest don’t come home because farming can’t compete with the rest of the employment sector. Agriculture comes with a stigma that it is lower level job and uneducated in nature. We must expand existing programs in school that promote agriculture. Consumers need to know how important agriculture is to us all.
Jackie Walther: Ethical Issues in Agriculture
Jackie shows pictures of cute farm animals which turn out to be clones. Animal rights, GMO food and cloning are big issues in agriculture. Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer is the way most cloning is done. Why should we clone? To improve the quality of the herd in many ways: birthing, disease, and size/market preference.
The cons of cloning come with restrictive genetic diversity which can be devastating if problems occur. No long term studies show problems with eating cloned meat or milk. Cancer research can benefit form cloning as well as organ donation. Where do we draw the line? It’s hard to say because so much good can from it.
Ryan Luter: Animals in Agriculture
Advocacy groups make struggles for livestock producers. The pet industry brings in profits of over 40 billion dollars a year. Americans spend so little on their food that they have enormous power over how it is produced. Most people are 3 generations removed from the farm and don’t know what it entails to raise livestock. The media are always looking for a hot story to share that damage the industry.
We must be proactive producers and share it with the public. Ryan shares with us how important it is to have speaker training to get our point across. People can be easily influenced on how positive animals are being cared for just by getting across a clear message. Focus on what you do as an individual. Keep it simple and memorable. The passion for the subject will sustain you.
Charles Rohla: Horse Slaughter
From 2006 there were 200,000 horses being slaughtered. Two in Texas and one in Illinois are now banned from this. This was only 2% of what is consumed worldwide. Much of the problems lay in that transportation was not designed for horses but for cattle and swine. If no slaughter occurs many horses are abandoned and neglected for even worse mistreatment.
There are 30,000 head of wild horses kept in pens in the U.S. Their feed and care is by the taxpayer. It will cost a fortune for their care if no alternatives are available. The meat itself is extremely lean and healthy and consumed around the world. Prime steaks are very expensive in the right restaurants. Not enough information for the big picture is being shown to the public.
John Cothren: Educating the American Public about Agriculture
It’s more than a food source; it’s a way of living. The pharmaceutical industry gains enormously from agriculture as well as clothing. It’s sad to see many family farms going away. For a family farm to cover expenses it requires 75,000 dollars with a production of enormous volume; more than most family farms can produce. In the 2002 census there were only 70,000 farmers age 35 or younger.
With fewer putting food in the industry the price rises. It’s so important that agriculture not become a forgotten industry. The 2008 Farm Bill will be around 300 billion dollars of which the bulk of it goes to food stamps (nutrition programs). It is crucial that we educate the public.
Michelle Hampton: Agri-terrorism
In 2004 the resigning Secretary of Health and Human Services said “For the life of me, I cannot understand why terrorists have not attacked our food supply.” A foreign animal disease would cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost sales and fear generated problems. Anthrax outbreaks in the past show the amount of devastation that can occur. Farms are geographically unsecure. Feedlots allow for easy targets.
Effects from agri-terrorism would ripple through the entire economy. Vaccines must be up to date and fences maintained. In 2002 documents were found in Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan showing plans for agri-terrorism. Anthrax is by far the most plausible method that could be used.
After Michelle’s presentation we took a quick break before two speakers from the Noble Foundation would present their talks. There were still five of our class that didn’t have an opportunity to speak today but would do so after breakfast Friday morning. Once we returned we began with Dr. Marilyn Roossinck from the Plant Biology Program.
Dr. Roossinck achieved her PhD. in human viruses and then later focused on plant viruses because she didn’t want to kill mice. Her department just celebrated their 20 year anniversary of which there are over 50 PhD. scientists. The Plant Biology Program has several lines of study they focus on: Genomics – genes to a trait, Natural Products – legumes, Cellular Biology – root growth, and Plant Microbiology – disease in plants.
Many studies lead to forage quality and plant nutrition. A “model legume” they use that is a relative of alfalfa is Medicago Truncatula. They use it for all aspects of their studies because of its ease and simplicity of use. Aside of Medicago’s use, a great deal of focus on other plants is for antioxidants, disease resistance, tannins, molecular structure, and root growth on the genetic level. Dr. Roossinck, outlined how each of the various groups in her department focus on the different lines of research.
Her particular line of study is on viruses as mutualists. More generally, how viruses can be beneficial to there host unlike agents of disease. Two particular biodiversity areas of study are at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Osage County and the forests of Costa Rica. In these areas they have found over 800 varieties of viruses in Osage County of which 40% have at least 1 or more viruses & over 5,000 viruses in Costa Rica in which over 80% have more than one virus. Ironically none of the samples show any signs of disease. All are symbiotic and positive for the plants’ life.
She gives 2 examples of certain kinds of plants that live in extremely hot and cold environments. In both cases a fungus that lived with the plant, that contained a beneficial virus aided in the plants existence. In fact when the virus and fungus were removed, the plant did not survive. Each of these studies shows how this research could benefit other aspects of their relationship that could be applicable to forage crops in the future.
Our last presentation was by Dr. Joe Bouton; the Noble Foundation vice-president and director of the Forage Improvement Division. Their goals are to produce tangible products for the industry; in particular forage and pasture crops. He explained the greatest need for crops is for ideal cool season perennial forage.
They use the F.I.D. Cultivar Development Model. Basically they have direction beginning with an 1. Objective, 2. Germplasm, 3. Selection Breeding, 4. Testing and finally 5. Market Release. Involved in all these processes are genomics – which are “mile markers on chromosomes,” Transgenics – genetically modified organisms, Endophytes – fungi in plants, Agronomy – necessary for pre market release and eventually teaming up with commercial partners. Currently they are looking at reducing the lignin content in some alfalfa and clover types to improve its digestibility.
Native Switchgrass could be most hopeful for a sustainable biofuel. Their research also shows that it could be a relatively good forage crop for cattle as well. Its input-output ratio is excellent compared to corn. They’ve found that one round bale of switch grass makes 50 gallons of ethanol at the expense of 1 gallon of gasoline. Dr. Bouton shared a story of a farmer that traveled from coast to coast in his own biofuel produced & powered truck.
After a full day of interesting and diverse presentations by our own class and those of the Noble Foundation, we adjourned. After an hour to relax we headed off to dinner within the pleasant dining facilities of the lodge. They treated us royally with a delicious meal of prime rib, salad and sides. Towards the end of dinner we were honored to have Mr. Mike Cawley, the president of the Noble Foundation join us. I had the pleasure of visiting with him at our table.
Mr. Cawley gave a wonderful and humorous talk with us. He shared stories that focused on leadership and how important it is that we get to know and acknowledge those that help us in what we do. People are often overlooked. By reaching past our “comfort level” we ourselves grow as individuals and gain a greater appreciation for our fellow man. The evening visit with Mr. Cawley capped off a tremendously informative and enjoyable day.
Thursday, November 6, 2008-a.m.
Scribe: Wesley Crain
After eating a wonderful breakfast at the conference center of the Noble Foundation, Charles Rolla of the foundation and also a member of Class XIV gave us a presentation on the consulting process at the Noble Foundation. The main purpose of the consulting side of the Noble Foundation is to help the producer. At the present time they are working with 1668 cooperating farmers. The older farmers are usually the larger farmers and the younger ones are the smaller farmers. The size ranges from 2 acres up to 90,000 acres. The consulting team usually consists of six members from various departments of the Noble Foundation. The consultation process has 8 main steps: 1-sign-up, 2-goal setting, 3-ag services-maps of lands, 4-office visits-define goals and plans with the farmer, 5-farm visits, 6-solution meetings-office visits telling recommendations with 3-5 critical points, 7-operational plan-sent to producer, 8-implementation and follow-up. This is a continuous cycle going back to number 1 and revisiting with the producer and seeing if they want to continue in the future. For further information or help the website is www.noble.org and the helpline phone number is 580-224-6500. Our chairperson Gary Kafer got us loaded up and we headed for the Goddard Ranch.
At the Goddard Ranch we were met by John Kastner the manager of the ranch. He has been manager for twenty-six years. He then gave us a quick rundown of the farm. The farm has 6500 acres and is only divided by the highway. They run 500 Hereford cows along with the exotic animals. They use to be in the horse industry but are nearly out of that venture. W.R. Goddard was an original trustee of the Noble Foundation. W.R. is Bill Goddard’s dad- the present owner. They have 15 different species of grass on the ranch. The exotic animals were acquired in the 30’s and they now have about 220 head of exotic animals consisting of 15 different species. They have 3500 acres in high fence and are content with the number of exotic animals they have presently. They supplement feed the exotic animals: alfalfa, grass, and protein depending up on the season. The main problems are coyotes and the weather. The main species were: Gemsbok, Barasingha, Axis, White-tail, and Sitka. The department of agriculture regulates the exotics-not the wildlife department. After a tour of the exotic animals we headed for the Dupy Farm.
Shan Ingram gave information on how the Noble Foundation acquired the land. A bachelor deeded some land to the Noble Foundation after a time period. They then sold some of the land to buy some better type of soils to do research. The land they bought is called the Dupy Ranch and was acquired in 2004. It is used for forage research-no livestock. Plot research is replicated at least 3 times and run for 2-3 years. Bret Flatt of the ag division gave us some more information about the farm. He is a contractor to forage improvement and does the day to day operations. He has been with them for 27 years. The farm was leveled and the west half consists of 21-2.5 acre tracts. The east half contains 18-2 acre tracts. There are two irrigation wells that produce 350 gpm apiece. Usually, they water a half inch per week, sometimes twice per week. They have up-graded the irrigation system and it is now on a GPS system and is programmed at headquarters, and can be turned on and off remotely and also water selected sections. The fence is electric and hog proof. We then toured the switch grass plots. Four pounds of switch grass seed is planted per acre and the 2.5 acre plot may produce 1100 pounds of seed. Increasing tonnage of forage is the primary research on the plots. There is a pilot ethanol plant at Hugoton, Kansas. This plant is turning forage into ethanol. One cutting of switch grass after frost seems to be the most profitable at this time. Research is continuing on all aspects of switch grass production. Annette learned a new use for the hollow stems of the switch grass plant at this stop. We then journeyed on to the Oswalt Road Ranch.
At the Oswalt Road Ranch we were greeted by Ryan Reuter and he gave us a tour and presentation on the new working facilities. To design and construct the facility has taken about two years. The actual construction has taken twelve months. The pens are made from heavy-duty panels from WW manufacturer. They have 10 fifty by one hundred feet sorting pens that can be split to make 20 pens. Moving cattle into the working chutes is done by remote control. It is easier on the cattle and safer for the workers. Molly manufacturer makes the guillotine style stop gate. C and S Cattle Handling Equipment and Silencer were the two brands of cattle chutes that they had installed. Each chute was equipped with scales and Ryan said scales were the number one item to have on chutes. The ranch is going to do research on prescribed burns in the future to see how cattle performance, range and wildlife are affected by burns. The ranch will be divided into six 600 acre tracts with three tracts being used as a control and the others being burned. We then moved up to the shed for lunch. The lunch provided by the Noble Foundation was catered by Budros Rib Joint from Ardmore. We enjoyed eating brisket, sausage, cowboy beans, potato salad, apple cobbler and whipped cream. The approximate cost of the total facilities at the Oswalt Road Ranch was estimated at one million dollars and around $650,000 of that was for the shed and working facility. Carol was totally embarrassed on her actions when going to the bathroom. Chairman Gary then got us loaded up to go to our next destination.
Ken Gee greeted us on the hill. He has worked for the Noble Foundation for 26 years and is doing research on getting bigger antlers. Three major things contribute to bigger antlers: age, nutrition and genetics. Age is the biggest factor. They captured 25 deer and fitted them with remote GPS radio collars earlier this year. They used a drop net to capture the deer. They have lost 5 deer because of humans either poaching or illegal hunting. A fix on the animal is recorded every 30 hours until deer season, and then a fix is recorded every 8 minutes. The research has three different densities of hunt: high density hunt of one person per 75 acre, low density hunt of 1 person per 250 acres and the control of no hunters. Everyone enjoyed the view and the talk about deer, then chairmen Gary wrapped up his duties on time and we moved on to our next destination.
Thursday, November 6, 2008-p.m.
Scribe: Burton Harmon
Red River Farm Pecan Production/Demonstration (RRF)
Charles Rohla came to the Noble Research Foundation in 2006. The RRF has 500 acre of pecan trees, 250 acre native trees and 250 acre older paper shell varieties. The RRF uses Savage Equipment Shakers and Pickers. Savage is built in Madill OK, and is the largest pecan equipment company in the world. They then shook the tree and picked the pecans. Squirrels and crows can eat 1lb of pecans per day each, and blue jays can eat a ½lb per head per day. 85% of all of Oklahoma pecans are native. United States is the only place in the world that pecans are native. The US is the No. 1 producer of pecans, we 85-90% of the worlds production. Mexico is growing rapidly as a world producer. There are no native trees east of the Mississippi River. Pecan trees need 55-60 inches of water during the growing season for maximum production. The meat of the pecan accounts for 45-60% of the weight of the nut. The nut can be kept from turning bad for a year at 34 degrees, six months at room temperature and forever at subzero temperature.
There are approximately 35 trees per acre, which will produce 1000lbs per acre. Pawnee variety trees are usually the most productive. It takes approximately 400ac of native trees or 40 ac of improved varieties to justify the purchase of the harvest equipment. Green Thinning is the process of shaking the trees early to thin the number of pecans produced. This will make production each year more consistent.
Wilson Cattle Co. Jack Wilson (Ryan, OK)
This is a family owned starter yard. In the past the yard was a feed lot style facility with dirt pens. They have recently switched to starting cattle in 30ac traps with one head per acre. This has reduced their sick pulls. The cattle they are getting come from Lake City Florida. They have an order buyer and a holding pen there. They will start buying cattle in Florida on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They then will leave there on Thursday and spend 18-22 hrs on a truck. The calves will arrive in Oklahoma Friday. They will get hay Friday night and water. Saturday morning they are worked, mass vaccinated, and then taken to their grass lot. They give each calf $23 worth of vaccines. The reason they like the Florida cattle are, the grass there is weak and the grass here is strong and the calves really respond well, and the calves are really aware of their own needs (feed, water, and rest). They took their worst land and made it the most productive. After these calves have been back grounded they will go to their partner’s wheat.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Scribe: Mechelle Hampton
The morning started out at 7:00 am with a nice breakfast buffet at the Noble Conference Center, with John Cothren as the chair for the day. Ryan Luter gave the morning blessing.
To begin the day, a few more presentations were on the agenda.
Lisa Blubaugh: Consolidation in Agriculture
Lisa explained the trickle down effect and the importance of supporting local businesses in your community. Lisa explained how consolidation creates economic problems for the smaller “mom & pop” businesses and that bigger is not always better. She encouraged us to all consider buying locally and to support the smaller family owned businesses in our communities.
Mary Steichen: Agrotourism
Ms. Steichen explained that agritourism is a noun and it was added to the Webster’s Dictionary in 2006. Ag tourism is the 3rd largest industry in the state bringing in $5.3 billion. In Oklahoma, Ag tourism features 500+ farms, ranches, attractions, vacations and numerous events. Mary explained that bird watching alone is a $34 million boost to state’s economy. Agrotourism is the fastest growing global segment in travel and allows many people to reconnect with their rural roots.
Kent Switzer: The Aging Face of Agriculture
Kent began his presentation with a joke that he explained goes like this…. “What do you call it when you will a farm to your children?” “Child Abuse.” But on a more serious note, Kent shared with us that the average age of the American Farmer is 53.4 years of age. In 2002, 61% of farmers were over 55 years of age and 8% were under age 35. As an alarming statistic, Mr. Switzer shared to date the inmate population exceeds that of farming! He stated that three of the reasons for leaving the family farm are 1) economic 2) smaller family units and 3) social status. Kent said there is an old adage that says, a barn will build a house, but a house will not build a barn. He left us with this thought to consider, “Farming is not an occupation - it is a lifestyle.”
Wesley Crain: Fewer Young People in Agriculture
Wes said his philosophy is one of the reasons for the lack of young persons being involved is that it is downright hard work! He explained that the drive and determination of hard work is not seen in many young people today. Additionally, the start up costs associated with farming is quite expensive. It is more difficult to obtain loans and/or get someone to co-sign on such a large note. One more reason for the lack of younger persons being involved in agriculture is the rural location and the proximity to entertainment. Wes stated that we need young people in agriculture so we will not have to wonder where our food will be produced.
Tim Taylor: Challenges Facing Rural Agriculture
Tim explained that urbanization has become a competing factor for the agriculture industry. We do not have enough undivided land to provide food for our growing population. Mr. Taylor emphasized that we need to protect our farmland so that we will have enough to continue to produce enough agricultural commodities to continue to meet the demand of the United States and to also continue the exports to foreign countries. Tim stated we do not want to become dependent on other countries to provide food for the U.S. In Tim Taylor fashion, he shared a joke of “the difference in a recession and depression is that a recession is when your neighbor is out of work and depression is when you are out of work.”
We finished up a bit of housekeeping by filling out evaluations for the Noble Foundation regarding our stay and the education we received. OALP Class XIV loaded up in the vans and headed out for a short drive-through tour of the Noble Foundation campus on our way to the Mannsville Ag Center.
Mannsville Ag Center - Mannsville
At the Mannsville Ag Center, Class XIV was greeted by Kathleen Maher (Class V and OALP Advisory Board, Vice Chair) and Aaron Custer, a 1984 Oklahoma State University graduate with a degree in Agriculture Economics. He is the owner of the Mannsville Ag Center of which he purchased in 2002. After graduation Aaron began working for Stillwater Milling. He then worked for Martindale Feeds in Valley View, Texas as a nutritionist.
Mr. Custer bought the existing facility, which was built in 1972 as Farmland Coop and peanut processing. Aaron explained there are currently no peanuts grown in the county and one of his challenges has been finding a way to utilize the existing equipment. He has turned the no retail facility into a retail facility specializing in mostly bulk feed, some sack feed, along with a few unique ventures. One of which is cedar shavings, he purchases the cedar logs for two cents a pound. Aaron explained as times become for difficult economically, more folks are looking for opportunities to make a little extra cash. The cedar shavings are used for cool rooms for show calves, as well as pet bedding.
Another unique part of his business is a niche he has found with the oilfield industry. The oilfield is utilizing pecan fines in a mix with their mud. The shelf life for the pecan fines will last forever. He can run 3-5 ton/hour per system. Another way the pecan fines are being used is in pellet wood stoves. Although, he says they burn a lot hotter – close to coal as far as the BTU level and it smells like pecan wood when burning. Aaron indicated that it is important to make adjustments so that the stove does not get too hot.
On the feed side of the business, one of the specialty feeds Mannsville Ag Center creates is a bull ration for Dillon Page, H&D Cattle Company. H&D Cattle Company is a stock contractor of bulls used for the Professional Bull Riding circuit and the National Rodeo Finals. Aaron explained the secret ingredients of the ration are proprietary, but the blend is mixed to increase athletic performance in the bulls and there is a lot more to it than just a little vitamins and minerals.
Just as we were about to leave Sean Maher (Class X) stopped by to say hello and give Dr. Joe a meal sponsorship check.
Oklahoma Steel and Wire – Madill
Kathleen Moore of Oklahoma Steel and Wire and Vicki Byrd and Kathleen Maher (both from Class V) greeted OALP Class XIV and had refreshments available for us. Ms. Moore explained the Moore family began in the steel and wire industry in the early 1960’s by owning and operating Seymour Manufacturing in Seymour, Iowa. With expansion into wire panels, farm gates and grain stirring equipment, the company expanded further into Farm Equipment Manufacturing Company, which eventually became what is now Iowa Steel and Wire.
In 1979, B. L. Moore and his brother-in-law, Robert Lockridge, founded Oklahoma Steel and Wire located in Madill, Oklahoma, with the sole purpose of manufacturing livestock panels. Both companies shared in steady expansion and soon included a comprehensive product line to agricultural and industrial markets. Today these two facilities produce in excess of 200,000 tons of steel per year and employ more than 400 people.
Kathleen attributes the success of their company, now in its thirtieth year to the dedication of their employees.
We were all asked to wear safety glasses as we made our way to tour the plant where cattle panels, barbwire and fencing are made. It was a very noisy environment. Many of the class members made the comment that we all have a new appreciation for barbwire and panels after having toured the facility.
Many of the automated machines used by the manufacturing plant were built in house. For example, the machines used to make fence stays were built in house. The machine twists the wire and cuts them to 48” lengths.
The wire is manufactured as a continuous feed. When the end of a spool is reached, it is spot welded to the beginning of the next spool. The majority of the steel used is domestic.
Other products made include concrete reinforcement, wire horse fencing, which is woven and knotted.
Texhoma Peanut Company – Clint Williams Company – Madill
Steve and Alan Ortloff, son-in-law and grandson to founder Clint Williams, welcomed us to the Texhoma Peanut Company. The company covers 4 blocks and is home to a 22-acre facility and third generation agriculture business. Steve Ortloff explained that Mr. Williams’ philosophy as an entrepreneur was a team effort and that one should never settle for second best.
The facility in Madill is the only surviving shelling plant in the state of Oklahoma. They explained purchases are made of Oklahoma and Texas peanuts, but more from Texas, just because there are more produced in the state. M&M Mars is the largest domestic customer of the Texhoma Peanut Company. Additionally, approximately half of their products are shipped to foreign companies and half to domestic companies. Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico are several of the countries with which they do business. Two domestic companies they mentioned were Skippy Peanut Butter and M&M Mars, which we would recognize.
The class was divided into groups of ten, we donned our hairnets and away we went for an amazing tour of the facility. Who would have thought there was so much involved in processing of peanuts, so that we can all enjoy peanut M&M’s?
This year alone, the Texhoma Peanut Company has processed 85,000-90,000 tons of peanuts. It takes approximately 20 semi loads of peanuts a day to keep the facility running, either being stored or processed at the plant. Many of the machines are automated. One of the sorting machines has an electronic eye or infrared light, which shoot the peanut out with a burst of air if it is the wrong size or color. These machines were originally developed for sorting rice. We were all in awe of the cleanliness of the facility.
Some of the peanuts that do not meet the criteria due to color and size are sold to the wildlife market or oil side. They actually receive a better price for peanuts that are used for the wildlife market to make bird feeds, compared to selling them for oil.
Four varieties of peanuts processed at the facility include, Virginia, Valencia, Spanish and Runner. Runner peanuts had not been grown here until Clint Williams gave them a try and found out he could successfully produce them in the area.
Alan told us that many of the peanuts sold by the gypsies in Italy are Spanish peanuts processed in Madill.
We also saw the Quality Assurance lab, which keeps samples of all of the peanuts processed. M&M Mars wants a very consistent size of peanut and the reason for this is when they print the “M&M” logo on it – the nut will break inside if it is not the correct size. If this happens it changes the oxygen level inside the candy making the peanut taste badly. M&M Mars has two locations to which the Madill facility ships, one being in Cleveland, TN, the other in Hackettstown, NJ. This year 15-20% of their business has been with M&M Mars. We also learned that chocolate does not stick to a blanched peanut. Blanched nuts are those which have the skin removed. The skin is removed by using a machine with abrasion rollers, which “skin” the peanuts.
Runner variety peanuts produce more oil. One of the uses for the peanut shells, when Dursban and Diazinon was on the market the chemical was placed on the shredded/chopped shells. Another way the peanut hulls are used is an additive in livestock feeds due to the high fiber content; many of the hulls are utilized by Bluebonnet Feeds in Ardmore.
OALP Class XIV took a group picture in front of the Texhoma Peanut Company/Clint Williams Peanut Company, which Alan Ortloff said he would try to get placed in the Madill Record.
We boarded the vans and made our way to lunch at the Bar-B-Q Pit accompanied by Vicki Byrd (Class V) of BancFirst and Allen Entz gave the blessing. After a nice lunch, Class XIV said their good byes and well wishes as Seminar III came to a close, each of which seem to go by so quickly. Session IV will be held in Oklahoma City, December 3-5 with the topic being Leadership and Communications.