Feature

4R advocates lead by example

Written by Kerri Lotven on .

Practicing the 4R principles—right fertilizer at the right rate, right time and right placement—is ingrained in Lynn Fahrmeier’s farming philosophy. When he began raising row crops and livestock with his father in the 1980s, Fahrmeier said he recognized the need for sustainability and stewardship on their operation in Wellington, Mo.

Now, those efforts have been recognized nationally with the 4R Advocate Award, presented annually by The Fertilizer Institute to champions of nutrient management. Fahrmeier and MFA Precision Ag Specialist Scott Bergsieker were awarded the honor on March 3 at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio.

Farhmeier farms 2,300 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat and raises 200 Katahdin sheep, 40 head of cattle and eight hives of honey bees. He said the goals of his operation are to improve profitability, leave the farm in better condition for future generations, incorporate a balanced approach to productivity and reduce impacts to the environment.

In the late 1980s, Fahrmeier switched from conservation tilling to no-till, except on acres with heavy clay soils that required vertical tillage. When soil-sampling shifted from field composite samples to 2.5-acre grids in the mid-1990s, he was all for it.

“I’ve always believed in the importance of soil sampling,” Fahrmeier said. “I’m just too tight to throw fertilizer on the ground not knowing if it needed it or not. Now it’s all part of the 4Rs, and we sample by management zone, which helps us put the right product in the right place and in the right amount. If you’re not sampling, you’re guessing.”

Bergsieker works with Fahrmeier through MFA Agri Services in Lexington to develop these management zones using data the progressive producer has collected through the years. In addition to soil-sampling records, Fahrmeier began collecting yield data in 1995.

“At that time, there were only three yield monitors in the state of Missouri,” Fahrmeier said. “Two of them were based out of Lexington, and I was one of them.”

The longevity of this data benefits both Bergsieker and Fahrmeier when they sit down to develop the farm’s management zones. Recently, it held added value when they worked together with Matt Stock, MFA precision account sales manager, to retrofit Fahrmeier’s John Deere 1790 planter with Precision Planting’s vSet Select meter. This technology enables Fahrmeier to change seed varieties during planting without getting out of the tractor. This never-before-attempted project took time, effort, teamwork and collaboration with Precision Planting’s own staff to work out the kinks they encountered in the process, Fahrmeier said.

“I guess I like to keep my fingers bloody being on the cutting edge of stuff,” Fahrmeier joked. “But, if this technology works in the I-states where they don’t have nearly as much variability, then it should really work here. That’s the theory.”

He used the multi-variety capabilities on his corn acres for the first time in 2016. This year, the team will analyze his last six years of soybean yield data to build a new prescription from scratch, rotating those corn acres to soybean acres.

“Just recently, Lynn and I met to determine where the management zones will be,” Bergsieker said. “Once your zones are figured out, you need to work with your seed folks to determine what varieties or hybrids will work best. It really takes a group effort to get the planter prescription right.”

Fahrmeier and Bergsieker said they look to the recommended 4R principles when planning fertilizer applications. According to The Fertilizer Institute, these principles were designed collaboratively by industry leaders to benefit the environment and producers’ bottom line.

Fahrmeier applies nitrogen with N-serve, a nitrogen stabilizer, in the fall. He also uses variable-rate technology for phosphorus and potassium application in the fall or spring.

“Lynn likes to be the first to try something new,” Bergsieker said. “It’s in his blood. He wants to do the right thing while increasing production to feed a growing population. As a precision ag specialist, it’s my duty to make sure every pound of fertilizer ends up in Lynn’s crops. By applying 4R nutrient stewardship practices, we get the job done.”

To keep nutrients in the fields, Fahrmeier flies in a winter rye, turnip and radish cover crop mix on 25 to 50 percent of his corn acres into the standing corn crop. Cattle and sheep then rotationally graze those cover crops in the fall and spring to prevent overgrazing traditional pasture ground.

To prevent runoff, Fahrmeier created terraces in his hilly terrain areas and a 150-foot riparian corridor next to the creek that runs through his property. Most fields also have buffer strips on field borders. Fifteen of Fahrmeier’s acres are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, and he established food plots for wildlife and hunting.

These management approaches work well, Fahrmeier said. His corn yields have more than doubled over the past 30 years, and his soybean yields have nearly reached the same mark, all while using less fertilizers.

“I view everything as a total management package,” Fahrmeier said. “Everything works together. Changing my fertility program is part of a total management plan to increase yield. With precision planting, we do a better job of singulating seed. With zone management, we’re putting the right amount of fertilizer on for the high-yielding areas and low-yielding areas. We’ve increased our knowledge and management skills to go along with all these advances.

“Combine that with following the 4Rs, and we’re bound to make things better.”

Making medicine mobile

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

As the Veterinary Feed Directive neared its Jan. 1 implementation date, Dr. Cliff Miller began preparing for the extra time it would take to provide livestock producers with the forms they needed to obtain and use medicated feeds under the new federal law. 

The Moberly, Mo., veterinarian expected the VFD mandate to add to the workload and record-keeping at his Green Hills Veterinary Clinic. He was right. 

“It’s meant more paperwork, meetings and lots of discussion,” Miller said. “I realize we need judicious use of antibiotics, but this has also added a layer to our to-do list. The other day, I probably had 30 minutes of phone time tied up in one VFD, by the time I called the producer, then called the feed guy, then called the producer back, then called the feed guy again to figure out what we could use in this particular case. That’ll hopefully be a lot quicker once this learning curve gets better.”

Under the new rules, a valid VFD form is required before producers can purchase and administer livestock feeds with the newly regulated antibiotic additives, which were previously available “over the counter.” Only veterinarians can issue a VFD form, which must include such information as premises where the feed will be used; dates of VFD issuance and expiration; name of the antibiotic, dosage and duration of use; why the VFD is issued; species and production class of animals to receive the medication; cautions, withdrawals and special instructions; and more.

To help simplify this process for Miller and other veterinarians, MFA Incorporated has developed a new mobile app that puts electronic VFD forms at their fingertips. The VetForms app allows veterinarians to generate and submit VFD forms from mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. It also includes an entire library of resources that veterinarians can use in providing other livestock services such as treatment records, pregnancy check forms, heifer pre-breeding evaluation and group processing information.

VetForms debuted in January, just as the new VFD rules went into effect. The app is available through the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association, which has a membership of 1,500 practicing veterinarians across the state. Users sign up for the program through the MVMA and pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee. That cost is all-inclusive no matter how many VFDs are issued.

“Our members have been anxious about the VFD and how they’re going to handle it, and that spawned interest in this app,” said Richard Antweiler, MVMA executive director. “The app is helpful and versatile for our veterinarians, and that fits with our organization’s mission to help them keep up to date on technology and deliver excellent health care.”

The partnership with MVMA was purposeful, said Tony Martin, MFA staff veterinarian and director of animal health. While MFA created the app and provides ongoing technical support, the veterinary association handles all the promotions and subscriptions.

“Veterinarians are independent and not associated with any one feed company,” Martin said, “so it made sense for this to be controlled through their own organization.”

“The credibility of having our association—a noncommercial entity—lending their name to this app in partnership with a very well-known professional company like MFA is pretty powerful,” Antweiler added. “It transcends what either of us could do on our own.”

The VetForms concept branched out from the construction of MFA’s PowerCalf app, a mobile data-management system designed to help beef producers realize the full value of their herd’s genetic potential. In creating the infrastructure for the PowerCalf program, developers realized there was a need for such technology among veterinarians as well.

“I see it as a gateway to a new world of veterinary medicine,” Antweiler said. “Mobile technology like this can improve productivity and efficiency, which helps keep costs under control.”

While other electronic VFD management programs are available, most of them are computer or web-based. The mobility, comprehensive content and utility of the VetForms app set it apart from other VFD technologies, said Martin, who provided the detailed data to populate the app based on a VFD training guide he’d put together for MFA locations and employees.

“There’s nothing else like this out there, not to this extent,” Martin said, adding that he also sees the VFD app as an educational tool.

“Because these medications did not require veterinary involvement until this new law, many producers and their vets don’t have a full grasp of the actual label claims,” Martin said. “So the VFD app can be used as a reference guide. The vet can make the choices and create the VFD on site without having to look up and learn about each individual product. It definitely speeds up the process.”

Miller, who has seen requests for VFDs ramp up with spring mineral season, said the app has certainly streamlined the process. Because VFD forms must also be maintained for at least two years, he said the electronic versions are also easier to keep on file. Each form has a unique submission ID, and once a form is submitted there is an option to send it via email or text as a PDF.

“It’s so much quicker and easier than literally having to fill out a piece of paper in my office,” he said. “The app allows me to be out on the farm and create a VFD chute-side, if I need to. Having something user-friendly like this at my fingertips is a big advantage.”

Will the digital divide ever end?

Written by Nancy Jorgensen on .

Rural Americans would like to see an end to the “digital divide”—a phrase used to describe greater availability and higher speeds of internet access in cities compared to rural areas. The term surfaced with the advent of the world wide web in the 1990s, and it remains accurate today, 10 years after smartphones were introduced. However, a growing number of providers are delivering high-speed solutions to rural customers.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband commonly refers to a high-speed internet connection that’s always on and faster than 25 megabits per second download and three Mbps upload. Wireless speeds vary, cable usually only serves towns, and faster options like DSL and fiber-to-the-home are rare in rural places. The most remote areas still depend on more expensive, less reliable satellite coverage.

Residents of Parsons, Kan., got lucky when Galen Manners moved back home. He worked in the cellular industry before returning to the family farm to grow wheat, corn and soybeans. Seventeen years ago, he launched Wave Wireless, and today the company provides wireless broadband internet to 2,500 customers via 22 radio transmitter sites.

“I couldn’t get broadband at my home, so I built my own small network,” Manners said. “My neighbor asked to join in, then my cousin, and it grew from there.”

Until Wave Wireless arrived on the scene, residents of Labette County could only access painfully slow dial-up internet service from landline phone companies.

“Before we got Wave Wireless, our internet service was terrible,” said Mark Gilpin, who raises cattle and row crops near Parsons. “Galen does a good job; his service is excellent.”

Gilpin, who subscribed to Wave Wireless about 12 years ago, uses the connection to check cattle and feed prices, search for bargains on Craigslist and read news on media sites. His wife, Rhonda, uses it to conduct research and communicate as part of her job teaching nursing at a nearby community college.

In addition to farmers, Wave Wireless serves small-town residents, schools and agribusinesses like Parsons AGChoice, an MFA Incorporated location where Manners and Gilpin purchase supplies. Along with his role as president of Wave Wireless, Manners continues to farm and uses broadband to download weather, market prices and other ag-related information.

“While the hilly terrain and lack of population make it difficult to provide broadband here, eastern Kansas is fairly well served by a number of small wireless providers,” said Manners, who heads up a team of eight Wave Wireless employees, including his wife, Sandy. “We don’t compete head-to-head with the big companies that focus on cities. Our primary goal is serving rural customers.”

The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report found that “while the nation continues to make progress in fixed and wireless broadband deployment, many Americans still lack access to advanced, high-quality voice data, graphics and video offerings, especially in rural areas.”

With its small towns, hilly geography and water features, MFA country falls into the territory that is difficult to serve by internet providers. A study released in 2016 by the Strategic Networks Group and the Rural Telecommunications Congress found that Missouri ranks close to the bottom among all states in terms of its efforts to provide broadband access, and Arkansas rates only slightly better. Kansas lands a bit below average. Iowa scores 10th in the nation—the best among MFA states.

In April, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announced $45 million in funds for a program that will enable every public school in the state to build the infrastructure for high-quality internet access. Newly appointed Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn said she is also placing priority on getting higher-speed internet into the state’s rural areas “so Missouri farmers and ranchers can fully utilize the technology at their fingertips.”

“Attracting the next generation back to the farm has been, and always will be, important to me,” said Chinn, a fifth-generation farmer from Clarence, Mo. “To do that, we must protect the integrity of agriculture and invest in rural communities. Better internet makes for better, more productive farms, schools and hospitals, and growth in rural communities equates to growth across the state.”

Broadband’s big boys such as AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Charter typically focus on urban areas such as St. Louis and Kansas City. That’s why Wave Wireless and hundreds of smaller, independent providers are needed to help fill the gap in rural America, where sparse populations fail to attract larger players.

Electric and telephone cooperatives have also entered the high-speed internet market, true to their grassroots mission of serving their members.

“Missouri is a hotbed of activity by electric co-ops extending fiber to the home,” said Rob West, executive vice president of rural infrastructure at CoBank, which provides more than $4 billion in loans to U.S. telecom systems and $10 billion to electric co-ops. “One of our customers, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, has been a leader in showing that providing fiber to rural homes and businesses can succeed.”

Co-Mo shows you can deliver

Co-Mo Electric sets an example for others, West said, offering wholesale broadband service to United Electric Cooperative of Savannah Mo., Barry Electric Cooperative of Cassville, Mo., and other co-ops as far away as Virginia. And Co-Mo Electric succeeded without government assistance, which is used by many broadband providers to bring high-speed service to rural places.

In 2010, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative surveyed its 24,000 consumer-members and found pent-up demand for high-speed internet. While some had access through smartphone providers, the only other options were dial-up or satellite service. More than 300 letters of support came in from homes, businesses, schools and medical facilities. However, the co-op’s application for federal stimulus funding was denied.

“It was hard to tell our members that we weren’t going to offer broadband after all,” said Co-Mo Electric’s CEO, Ken Johnson. “We looked at wireless, but we serve rough terrain with hills and trees in central Missouri, and wireless isn’t the best solution. With fiber, we can serve everyone.”

Co-Mo’s member-elected board of directors approved a fiber-to-the-home pilot project in one of the cooperative’s most populated areas based on signing up a targeted percentage of customers.

“We took a page out of the playbook from when co-ops first brought electricity to rural America,” Johnson said. “We spread the word through meetings, newsletters, press releases and social media. As the deadline neared, we went door to door.”

At a meeting near Lake of the Ozarks, a local banker offered to pay the $100 sign-up fee for bank customers, Johnson said.

“Pandemonium broke out as people rushed to the registration table,” he said. “We signed up enough people to meet our goal.”

The pilot succeeded, and the board approved three more phases to connect the co-op’s electric consumers as well as 1,500 customers in nearby small towns, which “almost begged us to come,” Johnson said.

While a town might host 35 to 50 consumers per mile of line, Co-Mo Electric serves an average of just 7.8. Fiber-to-the-home is generally the most expensive way to deliver broadband, and tough terrain makes every mile more expensive. But the board remained committed.

“When kids go off to college, it’s hard to get them to come back without the quality of life that comes with broadband,” Johnson said.

Co-Mo Electric extended fiber to some of its substations to install remote control systems and assure electric reliability. The distribution co-op partnered with its wholesale provider, Central Electric Power Cooperative, to expand fiber’s reach.

“We have a total of 4,000 miles of distribution line, and we built 3,000 miles of fiber,” Johnson said. “By the end of 2016, our subsidiary, Co-Mo Connect, attracted 14,500 subscribers—mostly residences. Of those offered the service, half opted to take it, and we will continue to grow.”

CoBank and CFC, another cooperative that finances rural electric and telecom systems, provided $80 million in loans. Johnson said he expects the project to break even in seven or eight years.

“It took a lot of work, since no electric co-op had ever done this before,” he said. “We hit the market at the right time when interest rates were low.”

Johnson shares a couple of examples of how high-speed broadband has helped boost the local economy. Before Co-Mo Connect, a local gunstock manufacturer turned away business because he could only afford to activate his satellite connection to take orders for certain hours each day. With his fiber connection on 24 hours a day, he can now take more orders and business has grown.

In another case, a call center planned to move from Lake of the Ozarks to Kansas City, but Co-Mo Connect’s affordable broadband saved those 40 local jobs.

Telecom steps up

In addition to the electric co-ops, telecommunications companies continue to upgrade rural internet services.

“Progress is steadily being made to deploy rural broadband deeper into rural Missouri and increase broadband speeds,” said Ric Telthorst, president and CEO of the Missouri Tele-communications Industry Association, which represents three dozen small, community-based telecoms.

Telthorst cited NEMR Telecom, a co-op in northeast Missouri, as an example of a small cooperative delivering fiber-to-the-home. Jim Sherburne, CEO of NEMR Telecom in Green City, Mo., said that 88 percent of co-op members who have been offered fiber broadband have taken the service.

“We serve a very rural area where most farmers raise cattle, corn and soybeans,” Sherburne said. “A grant from the Universal Service Fund allowed us to offer high-speed broadband.” The fiber project is 75 percent complete and will wind down by 2020.

The Universal Service Fund is collected from U.S. telecommunications companies and offered through the Federal Communications Commission to support increased availability of telecommunications services throughout the country. Over the years, subsidies have been updated to support not only traditional voice telephone service but also high‑speed broadband. In addition to this funding, many providers benefit from other federal and state grant programs designed to bring high-speed service to rural places.

“Everyone thinks they deserve fiber to the home, but in reality it’s difficult to deliver high-speed everywhere fast,” West said. “It usually takes government funding.”

Telthorst listed other telcom association members that now or soon will provide high-speed broadband:

  • GRM Networks, a cooperative in northwest Missouri, recently upgraded service.
  • Granby Telephone Company, a family-owned business in southwest Missouri, is completing fiber-to-the-home.
  • CenturyLink plans to install 1,600 miles of fiber to serve more than 70,000 customers in 100 Missouri communities by year-end.
  • AT&T and Verizon are investing millions in making their networks more robust across the state, and AT&T is developing technology that would send broadband wirelessly along—not through—electric lines.

Kansas is also making progress in rural broadband access, said Colleen Jamison, executive manager of the State Independent Telephone Association of Kansas, adding that quality service requires a healthy backbone.

“A recent study showed that independent companies in Kansas spend an average of $98 million a year on capital improvements,” said Jamison, who represents 20 of the state’s 35 rural local exchange carriers. “The service can’t be adequate if towers aren’t numerous, and they often aren’t in rural areas with a population density of less than one person per square mile.”

Will rural America  always come last?

As internet service coverage continues to grow, soon CoBank’s West believes the question won’t be whether rural Americans have internet access but whether they have adequate access.

“When will we see 100 percent coverage at adequate speeds in all of America?” he asked. “Most people in rural America have access, but they want better, higher-speed access. None of the new technologies started in rural areas, and that trend will continue. Urban areas will receive 5G technology first, because that’s where the economics make sense.”

May 2017 Today's Farmer

Written by TF staff on .

The May issue of Today's Farmer magazine, MFA Incorporated's member magazine, was mailed to subscribers on April 19th. If you'd like to subscribe to the print edition of Today's Farmer magazine, CLICK HERE.

Links (underlined) to the stories here at TodaysFarmerMagazine.com will be available soon.

IN THIS MAY ISSUE:

Hauling hope (May Cover Story)
Missouri’s agricultural community comes together to help farmers devastated by wildfires
Additional photography coverage available only online here at TodayFarmermagazine.com

by Allison Jenkins & Kerri Lotven

Enhancing rural broadband
Will the digital divide ever end?
by  Nancy Jorgensen

Making medicine mobile
MFA-developed smartphone app helps simplify Veterinary Feed Directive process
by Allison Jenkins

‘Seven Wonders’ revisited
In the quest for higher corn yields, consider these key factors that influence productivity

4R advocates lead by example
MFA and Missouri farmer receive national recognition for nutrient stewardship
by Kerri Lotven

Cattle can suffer from too much sulfur
Right amount of dietary forage can help avoid toxicity problems
by Dr. Jim White   

Residuals help fight resistance
Use new crop technology wisely to benefit from traits, preserve their effectiveness
by Dr. Jason Weirich

Country Corner
Wildfires ignite desire to help neighbors in need
by Allison Jenkins

UpFront
Stewardship could land you $10,000
Agriculture budget cuts run deep
Income on decline

Markets
Corn: Planting progress will influence price
Soybeans: More acres mean record carryover stocks
Cattle: Export growth ahead
Wheat: Demand needed to boost prices

Recipes
Dias de tortillas

BUY, sell, trade
Marketplace

Viewpoint
Key principles help our cooperative succeed
by Ernie Verslues

 click to view the magazine as printed via an Uberflip flipbook

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April 2017 Today's Farmer Magazine

Written by webadmin on .

The April 2017 Today's Farmer is issue no. 3. of the 109th year of the magazine.  

Cover Story: 
A bumpy ride. 
Rural infrastructure is vital to agribusiness 
by Nancy Jorgenson   

Country corner:
Pleased to meet you 
TF’s new editor, Allison Jenkins introduces herself.
by Allison Jenkins  

‘New era’ for N management MFA agronomists compare fertility management tools
by Thad Becker  

Soybean seed care goes beyond the surface The most expensive treatment is the one that’s ineffective
by Jason Worthington   

Feed your fly control needs New mineral options are convenient, effective method to combat costly pests
by Dr. Jim White 

2017 insecticide eartag comparisons (Click to view chart)       

Moving memories Gosche General Store gets renewed life in new location (additional multi-media content will accompany the original story)
by Kerri Lotven   

Changing the equation New MFA Shield Plus Technology adds value to livestock production
by Allison Jenkins   

When safety is a state of mind Safety Pays poster contest 2017 winners (click to view winning posters)

UpFront 
POTUS ditches WOTUS rule
Feral hog removal on the rise
Farmers needed for Missouri strip trial program

Markets 
Corn: Spring crop reports influence price 
Soybeans: U.S. soybean exports hit record highs 
Cattle: Cattle herd still growing 
Wheat: Revised reports improve price projections   

Recipes 
Age of Asparagus

BUY, sell, trade in Marketplace       

Viewpoint 
Strength in an uncertain marketplace 
by Ernie Verslues   

Subscribe here: http://todaysfarmermagazine.com/shop    Today’s Farmer Magazine is published by MFA Incorporated’s for its members, farmers and ranchers who lead agriculture in the Midwest.

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