STARKVILLE, Miss. – Two farmers who have changed production practices to better target markets for their crops have been named the 2004 Mississippi Farmers of the year. Charles Coghlan of Benoit and Sledge Taylor III of Como were honored at a banquet in Starkville last night.

The award, sponsored by TeleSouth Communications and the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, is named the Louis N. Wise Award in honor and memory of Louis N. Wise, former vice president of the Division of Agriculture at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

Coghlan, winner in the row crop category, farms about 5,000 acres of cotton and soybeans near Scott, Miss. He farms land with a thick sand cap left after the Mississippi River levee break in 1927.

He has been forced to find and develop farming practices specific to his unique soils. Land forming, drainage, irrigation, fertility, row spacing and planting date management have helped him maximize efficiency and production. He said he depends on the early-planted strategy with his soybeans to capture August delivery premiums.

“I changed to 30-inch cotton in 1990 to increase yields,” says Coghlan. “In the mid 1990s, we started planting Group 4 soybeans to take advantage of the early spring rains. I have planted as early as March 1. The soybeans will stand a frost. In 2003 we averaged 53 bushels an acre on 1,200 acres of dry land.”

Coghlan is a member of Cotton Incorporated, the National Cotton Council, Delta Council and is on the board of the Lake Bolivar Gin Co. and Scott Farm Supply.

He and his wife, Marida, have two children and six grandchildren.

W. Sledge Taylor III farms about 6,500 acres in Panola County near Como. Although he grows cotton and soybeans and is a ginner, Taylor is noted for his outstanding cattle operation. Since starting in the cattle business in the mid 1970s, he has used the latest livestock management practices and strict preventative health programs to create one of the more outstanding herds in the states.

His herd has a 95 percent pregnancy rate, a 450-pound average weaning weight and he averages production of about 175 pounds of beef per acre. He markets his calves through a private auction held at the local livestock barn. Potential buyers are given the opportunity to view the calves in the pasture and then bid at the auction on the ones they’ve selected.

“The cattle are sold for future delivery at a specified weight and weaned for a minimum of 30 days,” explains Taylor. “On delivery date, cattle are delivered to local livestock barn, sorted, weighed and loaded on each buyer’s trucks.”

He is actively involved in the community and professional organizations where he feels he can bring change and make a difference. He is a past president of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association, a former president of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association and a Delta Council Cattleman of the Year Achievement Award winner.

He is active in the Como Methodist Church, the North Panola Chamber of Commerce and the Panola County Livestock Association.

Sledge and his wife, Denise, have three children.

Eva Ann Dorris is a free lance writer who frequently contributes to Delta Farm Press.

e-mail: eadorris@aol.com