What is in this article?:
- Rotation, fertility and timeliness are keys to profits for Hank Rabb
- Controlling insects
- Hank Rabb is a fourth generation farmer who understands the benefits of rotation, good fertility and timely management.
- Rabb farms about 2,400 acres of cotton, 800 acres of soybeans, 1,500 acres of corn and a little over 300 acres of wheat around Waterproof, La.
- While he produces a multitude of grain or oilseed crops for their good yields and better prices, cotton still has his heart.
Hank Rabb rotates cotton, corn and wheat on the Louisiana operation. But he has “a soft spot’ for cotton.
Rabb doesn’t waste time after receiving a recommendation from his consultants, Steve Crawford for weeds and Roger Carter for insects, usually scheduling an application within minutes, or “as long as it takes to bring it from the retailer to me. We don’t play with that. We’re right on it. When a recommendation is dropped off, we’re on the phone. I like to get it done. I don’t want to wait a day.”
While pigweeds haven’t ransacked the area to the extent that they have farther north in the Delta, Rabb is not taking any chances. When one does pop up, he takes a no-prisoners approach, not only hoeing the offenders from the field, from burning them on the turnrow. “I don’t want the seed in the field. I want them all out here in the turnrow.”
Rabb is about 35 percent to 38 percent irrigated and hopes to get to 50 percent by this fall.
Rabb harvests with two John Deere 9996s. He is hoping to trade them for a John Deere round bale picker. “It should help reduce labor and equipment requirements on the cotton operation, and should make the operation a little safer for labor.”
When he goes with the round bale picker, Rabb will reduce his cotton acres slightly so he doesn’t put too much stress on one picker. Soybeans will likely be the beneficiary of that shift.
After cotton harvest, he’ll cut cotton stalks, and subsoil every acre at a 45 degree angle, followed by a hipper. Then he’ll be ready for the next crop.
While cotton is definitely his favorite crop, it’s hard for Rabb to ignore the economic and yield benefits from keeping corn, soybeans and wheat a big part of his rotation.
Rabb says wheat and double-cropped soybeans are proving very lucrative, with good prices and good yields. “It’s kind of hard to pass it up. Wheat’s already at $7.20 a bushel for next year.”
Rabb uses an advisor to help him construct a marketing plan based on forward contracting and options. This year, he locked a large percentage of his cotton in the high 80s, a level that at first was disappointing considering how high prices had been. But with the price weakness this summer “we wish we had booked more at that level.”
Rabb feels that cotton prices need to be much higher than 70 cents a pound to be profitable for producers, especially with the potential for a new farm bill “that’s probably not going to be too friendly to farmers.”
Rabb credits an intensely managed fertility program for consistently producing good cotton yields. “I really stay with it, take soil samples to make sure the cotton gets what it needs.”
Rabb had five full-time hands that will always remain as the nucleus of his workforce. “A lot of them have been with me for over 20 years,” said Rabb who gins with Producers Gin in Waterproof.
Despite higher prices for corn, wheat and soybeans, Rabb doesn’t like the idea of cutting his cotton acres too much. “I know a lot of farmers really jumped hard to grain. I’ve been able to keep a consistent yield with cotton, and with the prices we’ve had the last couple of years, I’ve done very well with it. I’ve got some good ground where I can still make some pretty good cotton.”