Andy Wendland, son of a prominent central Alabama farming family, has stepped into running the family business and made it better.

Based in Autaugaville, Ala., Autauga Farming Company is a smooth running farm with a good mix of row crops and beef cattle. 

As a result of his success as a beef cattle and row crop farmer, Wendland has been selected as the 2011 Alabama winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. Wendland now joins eight other state winners from the Southeast as finalists for the award.

The overall winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at the Sunbelt Ag Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.

His farm has 6,975 acres, most of it owned by Wendland family members along with 985 rented acres. “Land to farm is hard to come by,” he says. “Much of the land we used to farm is now growing pine trees.”

This year, he’s growing about 1,350 acres of cotton, 575 acres of wheat, 150 acres of soybeans, 300 acres of corn, 150 acres of oats, 100 acres of rye and 2,650 acres in permanent pasture or hay land.

He has often grown rye, soybean and wheat seed for the Alabama Crop Improvement Association. This year, he is growing Sunn hemp as a seed crop. A potential soil building cover crop, Sunn hemp is a summer annual legume. In addition, he has 120 acres of pecans and about 1,500 acres of timber. 

He uses conservation-tillage and has upgraded his farm equipment. Some is now equipped with precision farming technology. He also uses computer based management tools, including FarmLogic for crop input records and grid-based soil sampling.

Even with little irrigation, his long-term per acre yields have been good, about 750 pounds for cotton, 45-50 bushels for wheat, 90 bushels for oats, 35 bushels for soybeans and 85 to 90 bushels for corn. He irrigated 220 corn acres last year and harvested 190 bushels per acre. “This is just our third season of irrigation,” he says. “Most of our corn is irrigated, and next year we plan to irrigate cotton. We are considering adding more irrigated acres.”

Last year, his livestock enterprises included 792 cows, 767 calves, 150 replacement heifers and 40 herd bulls. “Our cows are mainly Angus, Charolais and Simmental crosses,” says Wendland.

“We have 10 breeding units or herds. We only buy full-blood performance tested bulls.” Alabama’s Beef Cattle Improvement Association recognizes many of his cows as top producing Gold Star Cows. He maintains a closed herd and uses cattle management software to help determine which cows are most efficient and which heifers to keep as replacements.

He markets his calves through the Producers Feeder Calf Sale. “We sell calves in uniform truckload lots,” says Wendland. “Because of the herd health program and the reputation of the sale, we hope we sell for premium prices. Our sale is a model that other Alabama groups have followed.”

Prior to the sale, he sends his calves to Hollinger Cattle Co., in Camden, Ala., where they are pre-conditioned for 45 days. “This reduces stress on sale day, and the calves perform better on feed for the buyers,” he adds.