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Herbert Word is surrounded by history — history of the generations of family that preceded him as farmers on the picturesque rolling hills and bottom land he and his son, Herbert III (Trey), now farm in Monroe County, Miss., near Okolona. They now represent the fifth and sixth generations of their family who have farmed here.
Sells calves at 400 to 500 lbs.
“We run about 200 mama cows, and we try to sell the calves at 450 to 500 lbs. As high-priced as grain is now, we don’t want to feed them any longer than we have to. We sell mostly through local area sale barns.
“We try to get as many calves as we can out of our cows. Unlike most people who get rid of older cows, we keep them on, and they will often produce additional calves. We have six bulls: four Angus, a Charolais, and a Charolais/Angus mix. Beef prices are very good now, and we’re making up for some of the not-so-good years.”
For hay, they grow johnsongrass — “I know that sounds crazy to row crop farmers who hate the stuff,” he says — and some bermudagrass and dallasgrass. They usually put up over 600 rolls of hay for the winter, and some years plant ryegrass and wheat in the bottoms for winter pasture.
In years past, Word says, they have used mineral tubs and blocks for supplements and worming medications, but this past winter, in two pastures, they’ve been trying Purina Sup-R-Lix, a molasses-based protein supplement that provides a balance of all essential nutrients — energy, protein, vitamins, and minerals
“This has been a particularly severe winter from a feeding standpoint, he says. “We had to start feeding earlier than normal. But, I believe feed utilization has been better in the pastures where the cows had the Purina Sup-R-Lix, and I probably will use it in all the pastures next winter.”
Despite the adverse weather, he says “we only lost three cows this winter; last winter we lost 22 grown cows, and a loss like that hurts.
“We haven’t had any problem with coyotes or roaming dogs; our biggest problem is with buzzards, which will attack just-born calves and mother cows that are weakened from giving birth. I’ve seen as many as 50 or 60 at a time attacking a calf or cow.”
Their soybeans last year were Asgrow 5605 Roundup Ready.
“We plant Group Vs, because we just can’t get into our bottomland fields until May. The Roundup Ready system works well, but we’ve had a problem with teaweed, so we apply Valor behind the planter and it does a good job of control. This year we’ll probably use some Dual or Prowl at planting, too, to hold the grasses until we can get in and apply postemerge Roundup.
“We’re usually the last ones to get planted and the last ones to finish harvesting. We’ll start out cutting 40 bushel beans, but that starts dropping as the weather gets bad and brings our yield average down. Last year, we had problems getting the beans to dry down for harvest, and we ended up having to cut every field twice. In 2009, when it rained so much, we harvested just enough that the crop insurance wouldn’t pay.”
They take their beans to Tom Sawyer Grain near West Point, Miss., about 20 miles away. Most of their farms are share-rent, Word says, and it just isn’t financially feasible to build on-farm storage.