MFA value comes full circle for cattle producers

As corn and soybean prices go up, feed prices are expected to follow. Producers need to be thinking about how to survive these market conditions, said MFA Livestock Specialist Stephen Daume. Efficiency will be imperative to remain profitable.

“In the past few weeks, it seems like the No. 1 question I’ve gotten from livestock producers is, ‘What can we do to decrease feed costs?’” said Daume. “Throughout my years at MFA, I can definitively say cow/ calf or dairy producers who are most successful in the long term are those who do an excellent job with their forages.”

Chip Thomure is one such producer. He raises more than 400 head of commercial cattle on his farm near Park Hills, Mo.

“I’ve been in the cattle business since I was old enough to make money and buy one,” Thomure said.

The cattleman set out on his own when he was 16 years old. Living in a horse trailer at the time, he made money as a farrier. By age 20, Thomure had purchased 10 acres and operated his own concrete compa­ny. Everything he’s built has been carefully crafted from the ground up.

Thomure had done business sporadically with MFA for around 20 years, but three years ago, MFA Key Account Manager Chris Klein engaged him in a deeper discussion about the farming operation and its needs.

“We just started talking to him about what he does and what we do,” Klein said. “He was feeding a commodity feed at that time. Stephen and I have done enough research on how our feeds compare that we knew we could do better for him.”

Thomure started using MFA feed and enrolled his cattle in MFA’s Health Track program, but in 2019, he decided to go all in with MFA— adding Nutri-Track’s precision agronomy services.

“We really started looking at our pastures,” Thomure said. “If you can’t grow it, you can’t mow it. We had ground that wouldn’t even grow ragweed, and now we’re getting hay production off of it. It’s phenomenal.”

Daume and Klein said they recommended the Nutri-Track program because they have ex­perienced the results first-hand on their own farms.

“It’s something we make a point of talking about to all our beef producers because we be­lieve it is always the right thing to do,” Daume said. “We’ve seen it on our farms and on our cus­tomers’ farms. It’s absolutely one of the most important things a producer can do to ensure he’s spending money on the most essential nutrients to maximize the amount of beef produced on an acre of grass.”

Thomure began with 230 acres of his pastures in Nutri- Track, and MFA Precision Agronomy Specialist Rob Rickenberg put togeth­er fertility and weed-control plans for his forage production.

“We went in and grid-sampled his pastures to see if his lime and other nutrient levels were up to par,” Rickenberg said. “Then we applied a round of P and K in the fall, which generates good root growth. In the spring, we’ll come back and put on nitrogen.”

Thomure said the split application actually saved him money when fertilizer prices jumped earlier this year.

“I’m really glad I did it,” he said. “Rob could see the writing on the wall and let Chris know it would save me a little money to do it then. It ended up saving me a ton. What I really like about grid sampling, though, is you’re only putting on exactly what the field needs, where it needs it, and that’s where you’re investing your dollar. Over-fertilizing is just as bad as under-fertilizing.”

With Nutri-Track, Thomure said he has more grass than he’s ever produced, and controlling weeds allowed the grass to grow and take over, choking out future undesirable invaders.

“We more than tripled our hay production on that field and were able to graze our cattle on it until February,” Thomure added.

According to Daume, that’s what producers want when facing unfavorable market conditions.

“During this time of high feed costs, maximizing the amount of beef produced with forage is key to minimizing cost of pro­duction,” Daume said. “Producers who do a good job producing and managing high-quality forage rely less on harvested feed or grain to produce a pound of beef. They have better performance with lower costs. Animal health and productivity are also better when high-quality forages are present in an operation.”

The phrase “one-stop shop” gets thrown around a lot in business. Daume would rather describe it as having more tools in the toolbox.

“MFA offers everything from start to finish,” he said. “We have the tools to assist producers with being efficient, raising beef, producing pounds of milk or whatever it might be. It could be using Shield to help improve calf survivability or Ricochet FesQ Max mineral to help cows utilize fescue-based forage more efficiently, meaning they gain better, milk better and conceive better. We can help with fertility and weed pressure so there are more nutrients available to the plants. We have fencing materi­als to help put in a decent rotational grazing system. And when it comes time to sell those cows, we can help with that, too.”

In addition to participating in Health Track and Nutri-Track, Thomure uses MFA silage wrap, helping mitigate problems with spoilage. He provides the herd with Ricochet mineral, and his calves get a dose of Shield Plus when they are born.

“We had 200 head of calves weaned to sell, and we didn’t have to doctor but one calf,” Thomure said. “It’s good insurance for us.”

MFA’s business model was built to support the idea of “going all in.” Everything works together, Daume said. But, for Thomure, it’s not just about the products and services. It’s about the people.

“MFA has people who are experienced,” Thomure said. “They know what they’re talking about and will treat you with respect.”

Daume, Rickenberg and Klein have 35-plus years of collective experience with MFA. Their individual knowledge of agronomy, livestock and farm management is evident and extensive, but coming up with a plan to fit a producer’s needs and goals is a team effort.

Roughly three years ago, MFA Incorporated restructured, in­troducing the key account manager position into the field. That concept was designed to facilitate better customer experience.

“When I first started in this position, MFA leadership said ‘Build relationships. Sales will come from that,’” Klein said. “That was a true statement.”

And that’s what he set out to do.

“Chip’s been there for us, just as often as we’re there for him,” Klein said. “He’s one of our best promot­ers of MFA and he’s even helped us work cattle on another customer’s farm.”

Likewise, Thomure said all three men go out of their way to ensure his experience is a good one.

“I don’t even have to look at the feeder,” Thomure said. “They come out and check my grain bins. They know the amount of feed I’m feed­ing every day—whether that’s a ton or a ton and a half. They know how many days to count so I don’t run out of feed. They schedule around holidays. They help me work cattle. The other day, I had a bull in bad shape and Rob called to make sure I checked it. It’s just a good deal.”

That level of service is important to Thomure, who still operates his concrete business in addition to farming. With two full-time jobs, he understands that time is money, and money is also money.

“With what MFA offers, I’ve been able to have more production on this farm,” Thomure said. “I think that’s the true value in this relation­ship.”

For more information on what MFA can do for your farm, visit your local MFA Agri Services.

Expert advice for flourishing forages

Stephen Daume, livestock specialist for MFA Incorporated, shares these considerations to produce a quality, highly productive forage crop:

1. Understand your field’s fertility. Nutri-Track has proven very beneficial in increasing the quantity and quality of forage harvested per acre. It allows producers to take inventory of soil nutrients and prioritize cash expenditures on nutrients that will provide the most benefit per dollar spent.

2. Control weeds and brush. Timely, targeted application of herbicides to control weeds also greatly improves quantity and quality of forage harvested per acre. “I’ve seen producers go on their own and end up using the wrong product for the job or at the wrong stage of growth and get less-than-desirable results,” Daume said. “That’s expensive!”

3. Use nitrogen stabilizers. These products are environmentally responsible and economically smart, especially with higher fertilizer costs. Stabilizing nitrogen ensures it will stay where you put it.

4. Implement rotational grazing plans. This practice will help keep forages vegetative and more productive. Don’t overgraze.

5. Pay attention to timing. Harvest forage for hay or silage at optimum time for peak quality and quantity.

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