More than a show

Dedication. Drive. Devotion. Determination.

From the 2 a.m. call to the barn as a sow delivers a litter of piglets, to the daily chores of feeding, grooming, training and bonding with each show animal, raising and exhibiting pigs is a family affair for the Todd family of Seneca, Mo.

Jarrod and Jami Todd each were raised on family farms. He worked cattle while she showed livestock, including pigs. So, for their three children—Jori, Jeffrey and Jaci—farm life and showing pigs are part of their DNA.

“They have a system, and the kids work well together,” said Jarrod. “Jami and I think it is very important for them to raise their own show pigs, so they know all the steps involved in pro­ducing and showing an award-winning animal. It’s really cool to see all their hard work pay off.”

The oldest Todd sibling, Jori, was 2 years old when she began working with pigs.

“I started showing in the ‘peewee’ divisions when I was 4 or 5, then started showing against the older kids in the ring when I was 9,” said the 17-year-old senior at Seneca High School who was crowned the 2022 Newton County Fair Queen this past summer. “I enjoy the competitive factor. I like raising a pig and winning with it. I enjoy walking them around, building that trust and getting them ready for the show.”

“Washing them, well, I don’t really like to do that because it makes me cold afterwards,” she added with a laugh.

In the world of livestock competitions, some families find it easier to purchase an animal that is already muscled and knows what to do in the ring rather than breeding, nurturing and training one. The Todds say they take a more difficult yet rewarding approach.

“I could go out and buy show pigs, but we chose to study genetics, listen to judges’ feedback, learn more about nutrition, and train and bond with each pig we raise,” Jarrod said. “It’s fun to take a hog you bred and raised and beat guys you know spent a lot of money on a hog they purchased just for that show.”

Such inequality of opportunity is part of the learning process in the show pig circuit, Jami added.

“It is a life lesson on values, work ethic and seeing the process through that the kids are going to learn, either in the show ring or elsewhere,” she said. “There is nothing better than watching them have that interaction from the day a piglet is born to the time they take it to the show arena. Seeing our kids grow and take part in the responsibilities of producing a good-quality pig that comes off of our farm is everything to me. That’s a big accomplishment. And when they come home with an award, there is pure joy.”

When raising show pigs, the focus is on traits and physical characteristics, Jarrod explained. The judges are looking for muscle quality, how the pig carries itself in the ring and the ever-elusive eye appeal. The Todd family keeps those qualities in mind with each step in their show pig production.

Nutrition is an important part of the process. The Todds met Greg Davis, MFA livestock specialist who has expertise in show pigs, at a producers’ meeting hosted by MFA Agri Services in Neosho, Mo.

“We talked about MFA’s Ring Leader line of show feeds, and they had lots of questions about nutrition and how to get better with the competitions,” Davis said. “I learned more about their program as well as their goals. I believe that the Todd family is great to partner with because their goals are right in line with MFA’s values. At MFA, we look at the whole farm perspective and the whole farm solution. As far as I’m concerned, the big­gest part of the whole farm is the kids.”

Since meeting two years ago, Davis and the Todds have built a relationship they describe as a “win-win” for each. Davis shares nutritional expertise as well as showmanship tips. “If we have a question about anything, Mr. Greg is probably the first person we call,” said Jami.

“We really are good friends,” Davis added. “I love to see how this experience molds and shapes each child. When raising livestock, there are some hard knocks along the way. It is tough when you implement a plan, and something doesn’t go right. The Todd kids are learning about the process, the good and the bad as well as what it is like to be successful. Just raising and grow­ing a pig is one thing. But to really do it right and be prepared when the show comes around makes the pig healthier, more sound and less stressed.”

Just like a proud parent, Davis also sees where each child shines.

“Jori does an excellent job with showman­ship. Jeffrey looks at catalogs and researches the genetics to match the animals he’s going to breed,” said Davis. “They order the semen from the boars that Jeffrey picks. Jarrod gives his son that responsibility and trust. And at 11 years old, Jaci has good examples in front of her, and she is learning from them. She is going be a good one.”

The Todds said they believe having Davis as a resource and the nutrition in Ring Leader products give them an advantage in the highly competitive show pig circuit.

“The worst part about the show side is that there are secrets, and not a lot of people share. It’s nice to have someone like Greg who lets you know that there are simple things we can do to solve problems,” said Jarrod. “It just makes our life a lot calmer in the barn and makes us more successful without shell­ing out so much money on an expensive fix.”

MFA Ring Leader is one of those recommendations. Jarrod describes the feed line as “extremely user friendly.” The show swine feed comes in several different formulations to target spe­cific traits, maturation stages and special needs of each breed. It also comes with MFA Shield Technology, an all-natural blend of proprietary supplements that improves gut health and helps the pigs thrive and grow at the proper pace.

“A few years ago, we experimented with three different feeds,” Jarrod said. “We used Ring Leader and two other prominent feed brands. The two most successful pigs we had at the larger shows were fed only Ring Leader. We have not had a problem with scours, and the pigs love the feed.”

To be successful with show animals, following a solid nutri­tional plan is vital, Davis said.

“You see a winning pig and then want run to the supply trail­er to buy what that owner is using,” he said. “There is always some tweaking along the way, but the Todds have a calculated nutritional plan and stick to it. Our Ring Leader feed is very fresh and very palatable. Consumption is better. Results are better. Everything is better.”

Other keys to the Todds’ success are analysis and genetic research led by 14-year-old Jeffery, who said he enjoys the re­sponsibilities of breeding and owning pigs. His analytical work includes diving deep into the judges’ comments from previous competitions.

“I like the recognition when I place higher than someone who I know does not do the research or work I put into it,” the teen said. “The genetics are fun for me because I have the ability to make my pig look a certain way.”

Cheering on her older siblings is still Jaci’s main role during shows, but her competitive side is amping up as she starts to show pigs. She is also very interested in the genetics and bloodlines of her animals.

“My pig, Bella, is a blue Hampshire,” she explained. “I started talking to Dad about what type of pig I want­ed to breed her with, and I first thought a calico. Then I talked to Mr. Greg, and he had a blue butt boar. They were both blue pigs, which I thought was cool, and his boar had the qualities I thought were needed to make a really good pig.”

When asked about her long-term goals, Jaci said, “Sometimes I think about making a business where I am kind of like Mr. Greg. I want to help other kids learn more about pigs and how to show them, but I also want to keep raising pigs.”

Jami added that she feels that showing pigs has made their family closer and stronger, which are rewards that can’t be defined by trophies, plaques and ribbons.

“Each kid has a special role, which makes things fun,” she said. “For example, when we have a sow ready to give birth, Jeffrey literally gets into the crate right next to her, and she is as calm as could be. Then Jori is the one who makes sure that the babies get milk in their stomach right away. And Jaci helps dry them off and get them ready to go. It is a great team effort with some great life lessons for all of us.”

For more information about MFA’s Ring Leader Feed and tips on feeding and showing pigs, visit mfa-inc.com/Swine or talk with the livestock experts at your local MFA or AGChoice center.

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Laying the groundwork

THE 2022 MFA FORAGE TOUR ON JULY 13 at the University of Missouri’s Southwest Research Extension and Education Center (SW-REEC), located about four miles southwest of Mt. Vernon, Mo., demonstrated what Mother Nature’s extremes can do to the best-laid plans.

Jay Chism, director of the SW-REEC, began laying the groundwork for a new forage research partnership between MU and MFA in the winter of 2021. Trials would include warm-season annual forages such as sorghum-sudan and fertiliz­er applications. Little did he know that the weather was not going to cooperate.

“As with any year, the weather plays a key role in the success or failure of any forage plots we plant,” Chism said. “This year, the challenges were especially evident.”

Rain, rain and more rain fell across Missouri in the spring. During the month of April, southwest Missouri saw more than 4.5 inches of the wet stuff, and then almost 10 inches fell in May.

It was tricky just to get the forage test plots in the ground, said Matt Massie, senior research agronomist at SW-REEC.

“We waited on the rain and just had a window of one or two days. The plots were planted much later than normal,” he said. “But then the fields dried quick­ly as temperatures got up into the high 90s, with many days over 100 degrees during June and July. The area near the river bottom dried up hard and fast. It was just like concrete down there.”

With lack of rain, growth was slow, and the test plots did not demonstrate what researchers had hoped, said Landry Jones, MFA Incorporated conserva­tion grazing specialist, who helped organize the Forage Tour.

“What you see in the test plots is not what those plants are capable of, but even with very little moisture, there is some growth,” Jones pointed out to MFA staff and customers during the July tour. “This area received .001 inch of rain since June 8. It’s clear that you need rainfall and fertility for a good harvest. The plots got the fertility, they just did not get the rainfall.”

Massie added that if the plots had been planted in May, they would have been harvested in July. “We could still potentially get a couple of cuttings,” he told the tour group, “but it’s looking dreary right now because the forecast is less favorable. But that’s life in south­west Missouri.”

Once the growing season and harvest were complete, Chism confirmed in early 2023 that the severe drought at the SW-REEC limited the number of cuttings and total yield.

“Having plot work each year in all kinds of weather conditions provides the best information for the producers in the area,” he said. “Not any one forage works in all locations, but if we have good randomized and replicated forage plot research, we can offer real data from southwest Missouri soils.”

Chism said he appreciates MFA’s investment in MU’s plot work and would like to see the work expand to perennial forages.

“Forages drive the cattle business,” he said. “Understanding how to maximize the forage base in the area and using annual forages to increase the ton per acre can help contribute to a cattle producer’s bottom line.”


After viewing the sorghum-sudan test plots, the tour group visited a local producer’s farm to learn about Corteva weed-con­trol trials with DuraCor, a herbicide that provides extended control of more than 140 weeds while maintaining grass safety. Nutritious grasses are able to thrive, making each acre more productive.

Tests compared impregnated and non-impregnated fertilizer applications, broadcast spraying and timing of applications. Im­pregnation is the process of applying a concentrated herbicide solution to dry fertilizer granules during blending, allowing plant nutrients and weed-control products to be spread at the same time. Corteva, the manufacturer of DuraCor, refers to this fertilizer impregnation system as UltiGraz.

After seeing the untreated control plot, which was overgrown with weeds, attendees viewed plots that had various degrees of control. The trials demonstrated that timing and type of prod­uct do matter when it comes to weed control, said David Moore, MFA range and pasture specialist. The earlier you tackle the weeds, he stressed, the better.

“We missed a fair amount of weeds in the plots that received the later herbicide applications,” Moore said. “The weeds got too far ahead of us. When we use an im­pregnated fertilizer, it works as a pre-emergent product. So those weeds were already out of the ground, and we’re behind the 8-ball.”

To help reduce weed competition in forage fields, Jones said that nothing is going to beat spraying, but the Ulti­Graz system has its place.

in early summer to spray their pastures or their hay fields,” he said. “Impregnation saves that step and can be very important to an operation, depending on how busy they are or if they have the equipment to spray.”

Expecting the unexpected from Mother Nature should be a part of the plan, Jones empha­sized.

“A lot of folks, especially in southern Missouri, get out early and spread fertilizer on cool-sea­son grass pastures. Most of the time that works because, in a typical spring, we’re getting consistent rains,” he explained. “Temperatures are slowly warming up and that goes right in line with what fertilizers need to be incorporated into the soil. However, issues arise when we are not protecting the nitrogen, and we hope for the perfect weather scenario.”

This past spring was far from perfect. Too much rain early in the season followed by hot, dry conditions are “the two worst things” in forage production, Jones said.

“The rain dilutes the nitrogen, which can cause runoff and leaching,” he said. “Heat can cause volatilization, and nitrogen is lost to the atmosphere before we get rain to incorporate it.”

Jones advised growers to use a product such as SuperU, a urea-based granule with a built-in stabilizer, to guard against above- and below-ground nitrogen loss, volatilization, leaching and denitrification.

“I would recommend using SuperU any time, especially during spring application,” he said. “With the high cost of fertilizer, when we can optimize or be more efficient with that nitrogen use, then the better off we’ll be from a dollar-and-cent standpoint as well as from a forage utili­zation standpoint.”


Moore, Jones and Chism are planning and preparing for the 2023 MFA Forage Tour. Because of last year’s weather, they are going to repeat some of the same trials and hope for more normal conditions. Due to the drought, foxtail was a common weed problem for many producers, so the tour will also examine herbicide products to combat it.

“We are looking at viable herbicide and fertility applications that can improve forage production and profitability for our producers,” Jones said. “The pro­ducer we are partnering with has a very diversified operation. His forages include Kentucky 31 fescue, novel endophyte fescue and native warm-season grasses. He also incorporates rotational grazing, so we are going to highlight his management tech­niques.”

No matter the challenges or composition of these trials, keeping MFA staff and customers informed with the most pertinent and up-to-date information is the goal of the research and the tour, he added.

“We don’t want to get pigeonholed into one way of doing things,” Jones said. “When we think outside the box, many times we find better ways to manage pastures and farms. We can share that information with our producers to serve them better.”

For more information on forage pro­duction, contact Landry Jones at ljones@ mfa-inc.com or David Moore at dmoore@ mfa-inc.com.

Related Story: Five ways to drought-proof your forages by David Moore

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Q&A with MFA director Frank Schieber

This is a continuing series of interviews with MFA Incorporated’s board of directors to help members get to better know their cooperative’s leadership. In this edition, we feature Frank Schieber, District 1 director from Stanberry, Mo., where he runs a diversified farming operation with row crops, hay, pasture and beef cattle.

When you look at MFA’s values statement, which one means the most to you and why?
Schieber: I would say accountability. When I sit in the boardroom, I realize I’m representing the members. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are member-owned. But we also have the responsibility to keep MFA strong and profitable for years to come. As a board, we have to make hard decisions, but we always do it with what’s best for the co-op and the members in mind.

The agriculture industry remains volatile as we start the 2023 spring season. How can MFA help farmers navigate through these challenges?
In farming, there’s always some challenge. It’s never easy. Just like this past year, the north had a good growing season, while the southern part had severe drought. Inflation has been one of the biggest concerns for me and the board, and there’s sticker shock on the inputs we sell. MFA has to balance keeping products there for the members but also staying competitive in the marketplace. We’ve got some great people in charge of that, and I think they’ve done a good job in a difficult situation. Hopefully, we’ll have good weather and good crops this year. Usually, when farmers are profitable, MFA is profitable.

FrankA new Farm Bill is being devel-oped this year. What are some of the priorities it should include?
Schieber: It’s important to keep a strong safety net for farmers, and I don’t want to see the government going overboard on regulations, especially on theenvironmental front. Farmers are the best stewards. We want clean water. We want clean air. We want to take care of the land. But I guess I don’t worry as much about the farm bill as I do about the over-regulation we’re seeing. Europe has restricted the use of atrazine. Canada wants to reduce nitrogen fertilizer emissions by 30%. We’re feeding a growing world, and the more limitations farmers have, the harder it’s going to be for us to keep producing. I would like to see less regulation and more common sense.

You farm in the district that will be served by MFA’s new Ravenwood Agronomy Center. What will a facility like this mean to the growers in your area?
Schieber: As a co-op, we have to be very efficient with our assets but also stay up to date with what we offer our members. The Ravenwood facility is one way to do that. Centralizing fertilizer and crop protection services is much more efficient than working out of facilities spread all over the area. Having a state-of-the-art facility that can fill a 24- ton tender in 10 minutes will allow us to better serve our members. It’s also going to help us better manage all the regulatory requirements instead of trying to keep multiple places in compliance. Plus, equipment is getting more and more expensive, and having one central location will help us keep up with technology. It’s a different way of doing things, and change is hard for a lot of people. But MFA has to move forward to position ourselves for the future.

What have you learned about MFA as a member of the board of directors that you might not have learned without the closer involvement?
Schieber: I knew MFA has a great group of employees here locally, but as I’ve had a chance to go out and meet people at other MFA locations around the state and at
the home office, I’ve realized that there are good people throughout our company at all levels. They work hard,
and they want what’s best for the farmers. I also didn’t realize the scope of community support that MFA gives corporately, such as the MFA Charitable Foundation grants. I always encourage nonprofits to go on the website and apply (mfa-inc.com/charity). Overall, it’s been a joy to be on the MFA board and work with the other directors. We have a really cohesive group that’s very engaged. Wayne Nichols, who is just retiring as chairman, is one of the best men I’ve ever met. It all comes down to people. You can have the best equipment, the best facilities and the best products, but if the people and the leadership aren’t there, you’re not going to be successful. You’ve got to have good leadership, and I think we have that at MFA.

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