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In this March 2023 Today's Farmer magazine


More than a show - cover story
Todd family learns life lessons in and out of the ring

by Jessica Ekern

Laying the groundwork
Successful forage production takes planning, management and patience with Mother Nature

by Jessica Ekern

Five ways to drought proof your forage.
Adapted from a 2023 MFA Winter Agronomy Meeting by David Moore, MFA range and pasture specialist,

by David Moore

Q&A with MFA
Learn more about your cooperative leaders
Interview with Frank Schieber

Fields of study
MFA’s agronomy research persists through challenging growing season

by Garrett Imhoff

Conservation conversations
Communication is key when it comes to implementing soil health, fertility management practices on rented acres

by Allison Jenkins

Planter prep is first step to crop success
Proper equipment maintenance helps ensure seeds get the best start

by Kevin Moore

Base grazing decisions on these five principles
Proper pasture management helps protect forage productivity, yield

by Dr. Jim White


Country Corner
Technology is transforming ag. Are you ready?

by Allison Jenkins

UpFront / Blog
Discard old pesticides at free collection events
Ag Day turns 50
MFA Foundation gift supports rural mental health resources

Markets (as printed via flipbook)
Corn: Drought concerns continue to affect markets
Soybeans: Lower Argentina yields may boost U.S. demand
Cattle: Smallest cattle herd since 2015
Wheat: Crop conditions questionable in Great Plains

Carb optional

BUY, sell, trade


Spring forward with optimism

by Ernie Verslues

Closing Thought
Poem by Walter Bargen
Photo by Cassidy Pellham, Ozark MFA Agri Services store manager

Click HERE or the image below to see the issue as published via a flipbook

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Conservation conversations

Todd Oberreuter farms 1,150 acres of row crops and 25 acres of pasture in north-central Missouri, and he doesn’t own any of it. Every acre is rented.

But that hasn’t stopped him from treating the land as if his name were on the property deeds. Oberreuter recently planted 200 acres of cover crops and enrolled in the Carbon by Indigo program through MFA. He’s grid-sampled about half the acreage he farms with MFA’s Nutri-Track precision program. He has installed grass waterways, built diversion dams to help control erosion and plans to put in drainage tile in some of the most flood-prone fields.

“I’ve always been taught to leave things better than when I got them,” Oberreuter said. “I want to implement these types of practices because they add value to the land, they add value to me as a tenant, and they add value to the landlord.”

Making such investments in rented acres may seem risky, but Oberreuter and his wife, Debbie, don’t feel that way. They say they work to cultivate solid relationships with their landlords, and, in fact, prefer to call them “partners.” Most of their leases are for three to five years, and the terms are all in writing so that expectations are clear.

“Before we rent a piece of ground, the first thing we do is interview the landlord and decide if we want to work with him. Whether you have 40 acres or 400 acres to lease, you’re still going to be a partner with us,” Oberrueter said. “If we can’t get along in that first interview, we just get up from the table. I want people to be treated like I want to be treated.”

This type of relationship is the foundation for the com­mitment needed when it comes to boosting adoption of conservation, soil health and fertility management practices. Unfortunately, not all tenant-landowner relationships follow Oberreuter’s example. Most farmland leases are verbal, year-to-year agreements, according to Ray Massey, University of Missouri Extension professor of agricultural economics.

“There is tremendous interest in long-term conservation prac­tices right now, but most leases are oral and annual,” Massey said. “What’s interesting, though, is that statistics show that over 60% of them have been in effect for more than five years.

So those tenants and landowners really do have long-term leas­es, it’s just that they don’t have assurance of a long-term lease. Can that be overcome?”

It’s a big question, considering that nearly 40% of U.S. farmland—some 350 million acres—is rented or leased from agricultural landowners, according to the American Farmland Trust. It’s also an important question affecting programs de­signed to address food security and climate change.

“Conservation within leases is a hot topic because the gov­ernment is stressing sustainability, regenerative agriculture, green ag, whatever you want to call it,” said Landry Jones, MFA conservation grazing specialist. “There’s more information and funding available than there ever has been for practices aimed toward those goals. We’re going to see more and more of those conversations taking place between landowners and tenants.”

One challenge is the fact that most rented ground is owned by non-operators who often live hundreds or thousands of miles away and may not have farming experience or knowledge. For example, Oberreuter is currently working with 11 different landlords who own property in Sullivan and Putnam counties in a 15-mile radius from his home in Powersville, Mo. He said they all have different backgrounds and reasons for leasing their land for farming, from hunters and investors to widows and retired farmers.

Among those landlords is Don Marshall, who moved from northern Illinois and bought property near Unionville, Mo., in 2015. In choosing a farmer-tenant to lease his land, Marshall said the priority is assuring their management goals align.

“I want my land taken care of, so I need somebody with the same philosophy—somebody who’s going to treat my farm like it was their own,” he said. “That means I need to know who they are as a person and build a good, long-term relationship, something we work on over time.”

The attitudes of landowners such as Marshall are currently being studied by Massey and a team from MU and the Univer­sity of Alabama. In particular, they’re researching how agricul­tural land leases influence stewardship practices. So far, they’ve found that farmer-tenants are often reluctant to adopt conserva­tion practices because they fear losing access to rented land or feel that high cash rental rates make it impractical. Others are unsure about lease security and landlord support.

Often, however, these fears are unfounded. A 2020 survey conducted by the American Farmland Trust suggests there are several factors more important to the non-operator landowner than financial considerations, and many revolve around conser­vation. The MU Extension researchers confirmed those findings through five focus groups conducted in 2021 and 2022 with 37 non-operator landowners in Missouri.

“I went into this research thinking that the landowners were probably most interested in their annual rental payment,” Massey said. “We found that money is important but not the only important thing. Many said they would sacrifice a little income to see the value of increased wildlife habitat or soil pro­tection for a long-term benefit on their land. I don’t think that’s really understood in a lot of tenant-landowner relationships.”

The next step in the research involves a nationwide survey of non-operator landlords—if Massey and his team can access them. Such a list doesn’t exist, he said, underscoring just how difficult it is to examine farmer-landlord relationships.

Ultimately, Massey said, the project should help identify ways to foster better incorporation of environmental and social stew­ardship into agricultural lease agreements.

“To make any real headway in achieving climate-smart objec­tives, we have to get landowners and tenants working together,” Massey said. “Can we alleviate some of the barriers? Our hy­pothesis is that we just need to pave the road for those decisions to be made.”

The project is still a few years from completion, but, in the meantime, here are some general considerations for landowners and tenants if conservation, soil health and nutrient manage­ment practices are among their goals.


Longer-term relationships are necessary when a tenant or land­lord wants to participate in some type of conservation, preci­sion agriculture or carbon sequestration program. And if those parties are going to enter into a long-term relationship, it needs to be a good relationship, Massey said.

“It’s much more a people business than they may under­stand,” he said. “It’s important to know each other’s goals and values, not just how much the rental price is going to be.”

Oberreuter’s method of interviewing potential landlords follows this advice, and it’s a process that can go both ways. A landlord may be wise to talk with several interested farmers before choosing a tenant, Massey said.

“Farmers may even want to have a resume that explains your farming experience, goals, equipment, skills, things like that,” he said. “It’s a good way to introduce yourself to landlords, just to let them know you’re a serious farmer.”


Along those lines, agreements that extend beyond one year are more conducive to conservation practices and nutrient manage­ment programs, both of which are longer-term investments. A lengthier agreement allows both parties to share risks associated with trying something new, such as adopting cover crops.

“Conservation practices don’t have an immediate payoff,” Jones said. “Sometimes they have a five-to-10-year window until they’re really going to be beneficial. If ground is changing hands every few years, it’s hard to make that investment. Having more long-term relationships between farmers and landlords would benefit conservation.”


Though verbal agreements are most common, they leave plenty of room for misunderstanding and miscommunication, Massey said. A written lease helps alleviate those concerns.

“A long-term conservation practice such as putting in grass waterway or riparian zone probably needs to be written down as to how the expenses will be handled, especially if the tenant could lose access to the land before the benefit is realized,” Massey said. “If you insist on maintaining a verbal agreement, I would probably emphasize short-term conservation, such as a cover crop or no-till or something of that nature.”


When it comes to getting involved in more complicated pro­grams such as carbon sequestration or precision agriculture, education is important, Jones said, and it’s a two-way street.

“One of the biggest barriers to successful adoption of these practices is just a lack of knowledge on both sides,” he said. “The landowner or tenant may not know what programs are available, and they may not know the economic, environmental and biological impacts. There also needs to be better commu­nication from the conservation planners to include both the farmer and landowner, because they all have to be on board.”

No matter who broaches the subject, Jones recommends being informed as possible, not just about the intended benefits but also details such as implementation and estimated cost.

“Be clear on who will establish the practices, who will pay for them, and how to compensate for land taken out of produc­tion,” he said. “Those conversations need to be had up front.”


One point of contention when it comes to implementing con­servation practices is the reluctance to take profitable farmland out of production, Jones said. However, marginal ground is often most suitable for these programs, and these scenarios can benefit both landowners and tenants. For example, he said, some cost-share programs specifically target unproductive acres and provide funds for establishment and maintenance as well as an annual payment.

“Using precision agriculture, you can look at areas that are losing money each year, such as field edges, and enroll those acres in a conservation program that would actually yield more profit than farming them,” Jones explained. “Putting these prac­tices on the right acre could make a big difference.”


As lease agreements get more complex, involving a property management company may offer value, Massey said. These services bring neutrality and unbiased guidance to leasing deci­sions, he said, but admittedly, the idea isn’t always popular.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The farm management company usually takes a percentage from the landowner, so they want the rent to be as high as possible. And if the land­owner has conservation goals, I’m not sure those are taken into account. However, the management company has expertise that a lot of individuals don’t have. They have a role to play, but they also need to be educated in the value of stewardship.”


Clear, consistent communication is essential to starting and sustaining a healthy relationship between a tenant and landlord, and that’s especially true when conservation, soil health and nutrient management practices are involved, Massey said.

“Anything that’s complicated can’t be communicated quickly,” he said. “Don’t show up with the fall check and say, ‘I want to enroll in a carbon credit program next week.’ You need to have a longer conversation and provide more information before that type of decision can be made.”

In all communications involving rented land, be sure to follow one of the cardinal rules: know your audience, Massey added. Gauge how frequently landowners would like to receive updates and how they prefer to hear from you.

“If you’re talking to an 80-year-old lady, she probably isn’t on Snapchat,” he said. “She may want a phone call or a person­al visit. If the landowners are retired farmers, they may want details such as which hybrid or herbicide you’re using. Regular communication throughout the year gives landlords peace of mind, and anecdotal research shows they are much more in­clined to have a long-term relationship with this type of tenant.”

Over decades of experience in exclusively farming rented acreage with multiple landlords, Oberreuter said he’s learned that communication is undoubtedly the single-most important factor in building secure leasing relationships that allow for long-term stewardship investments.

“I’m always upfront with my landlords. I don’t hide any­thing,” he said. “I field six to eight calls a week from them, and they might want to talk anything from markets to the price of land to what’s happening with Mexico—not just their farm. I never feel like I’m alone in the relationship, and I don’t want them to feel like they’re alone in it, either. It’s a win-win situa­tion for us both, and it seems to get better every year.”

MU Extension offers many resources on farmland leases online at, including tips for building a farm resume and communicating with landowners. Another valuable resource is, which has an extensive library of forms, worksheets and publications.

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Fields of study

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE 11-YEAR HISTORY of MFA’s Agronomy Training Camp, its annual field day was rained out—even in the middle of a drought.

At the time of the event in mid-August, roughly a quarter of Missouri was in a D2 to D4 drought as indicated by the National and Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. As usual, the Training Camp research site in Boonville, Mo., was ready for tours with signage and demonstrations to allow MFA employ­ees to experience the trials firsthand. A forecast of 100% rain necessitated a change in plans. Fortunately, thanks to the flexibility of all our speakers and a quick move to the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia, the event was not a total wash.

In addition to the Boonville farm, MFA also conducted research and demonstration trials at a second site east of Columbia in 2022. At both locations, corn hybrids and soybean varieties were tested, including MFA’s own MorCorn and MorSoy seed along with partner brands DEKALB, Asgrow, Brevant and NK. Other trials focused on fungicide timing, seed treatments, nutrient use efficiency products, biologicals and corn silage yield.

In this article, we will focus on trials involving corn silage, biological prod­ucts and Xyway, an in-furrow fungicide.


The site of MFA’s Training Camp in Boonville encompasses 20 acres of corn-soybean rotation. This past year, corn was planted May 12 at a popula­tion of 32,500 seeds per acre. Except for the hybrid trials for grain and silage, all other trials were planted with MorCorn 4457. This has been our standard corn hybrid for trials the past three years, which allows for more effective comparisons because we don’t have to count for varietal difference in the results. The corn was fertilized with SuperU at planting with 300 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre. Since this is a testing site, we push nitro­gen fertilization in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of N being a limiting factor that affects yield.

The soybeans at Training Camp were planted June 13 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. MorSoy 3861 XF was the product used across all soybean trials, excluding variety trials.

The site east of Columbia is 35 acres of corn-soybean rotation. Here, the corn was plant­ed May 16 at a population of 32,500 seeds per acre. As with Boonville, all of the corn, except for hybrid trials, was MorCorn 4457 fertilized with SuperU at a rate of 180 pounds of actual N per acre. We had a few studies at both Boonville and Columbia involving nitrogen-based fertilizer, so those studies were not fertilized as the rest of the field but based on the trial treatments. The soybeans were planted June 16 at a population of 140,000 seeds per acre. The bulk of the soy­beans at this site were also planted with MorSoy 3861 XF.


While most would describe this year as hot and dry, weather records indicate otherwise. Yes, it was dry, as you can see in Figure 1A. Boonville started the growing season 2 inches behind normal rainfall, whereas the area east of Columbia was near normal to start. Both sites ended well below the average cumulative rainfall for May through October. Columbia ended up 6.5 inches behind, and Boonville ended up 12.2 inches behind. The lack of rainfall reduced disease pressure at our research locations. 

Now, look at the monthly average high temperatures in Figure 1B. On average, the temperature trended fairly normal this past growing season with the exception of excessive heat, greater than 5 degrees above normal, during the month of June in Boonville.

So, while precipitation was lower than normal at both sites, excessive heat was not a season-long factor. These weather conditions, along with timely rains in mid to late July, produced typical yields in both corn and soybeans.


When it comes to livestock, Missouri tends to be more of a cow-calf state, but some producers still operate dairies or feedlots that require higher-quality forage to produce milk or meat. In the past, MFA has relied mostly on research from outside sourc­es to give recommendations on corn silage hybrids, but our agronomists and livestock specialists identified a need to gather our own data.

In 2022, eight corn hybrids were selected from MFA’s seed portfolio to analyze both quality and yield, measured in tons per acre. From our MorCorn products, we chose MC4311, MC4457, MC4540 and MC4652. From DEKALB’s lineup, we planted DKC 65-95 and DKC 70-27, and from Brevant, B14U78 and B16T87. Each hybrid was planted at a population of 32,500 plants per acre. All of the silage plots were harvested on the same day when the milk line was half or greater and weighed for tonnage. 

A representative subsample of chopped silage was taken for each hybrid at each site and submit­ted for forage quality analysis by Dairyland Labs of Arcadia, Wis. Results are found in Figure 2A. Ter­minology of in this nutrient analysis is explained in Figure 2B.

The lab used NIRS (near-infrared spectroscopy) to generate the feed value of the silage. In a nutshell, NIRS recognizes individual nutrients in a feed based upon the amount of light absorbed at each near infrared wavelength. This technolo­gy allows for rapid and cost-effective assessment of many important nutrients in a sample for the same cost it would take to measure a single nutri­ent by wet chemistry.

Upon retrieving the nutrient analysis results, we found that all of the corn in our silage test had similar nutritive feed values with slight variation between each location and hybrid, which would not likely change the way they would be fed.

On the other hand, yield was comparatively different. At 27.2 tons per acre, B16T87 had greater yield than both MC4311, 19.7 tons per acre, and MC4457, 20.7 tons per acre. All other hybrids landed in the middle of the pack for yield, showing no statistical difference from B16T87, MC4311 or MC4457. 

This was MFA’s first silage trial, and there was a lot to take away from it. Overall, the purpose was to gain baseline knowledge of the flexibility of the MorCorn lineup, and we look forward to testing the same hybrids and some new selections to greater pinpoint products that will maximize yield and quality.


Biological products are catching attention among crop producers for many reasons. The idea of using a product that is comparable in price to fertilizer and could yield the same or more without apply­ing as much or any nitrogen is an attractive proposition. Additionally, reducing ni­trogen losses and moving to a greener footprint is also a trend across the industry.

While MFA continues to look at biological products to identify those that work and fit our customers’ production practices, there doesn’t seem to be a magic formula among current market offerings we’ve tested.

In MFA’s test plots, the biological products all contain bacteria but vary in application method, timing and formulation. Our benefit from these products is better use of nutrients and conver­sion of fertilizer to plant-available forms. While some of these have shown benefit to plants, the bacteria’s survival is the first priority. I mention this because microorganisms such as fungi, protozoa and even other bacteria are after the same resources and will feed on the biological product’s bacteria once applied.

For reference, there are roughly 10 billion bacteria in a gram of soil or the equivalent of the weight of a thumbtack. Above ground, there are about 64 million bacteria on a square inch of leaf surface. By comparison, in a single biological product ap­plication, only 4 or 5 billion bacteria are being applied per acre.

We must also consider that bacteria counts are higher for seed-applied inoculum to aid nodulation on legumes, such as soybeans, alfalfa and clover species. This well-known symbi­otic relationship further benefits bacterial survival and per­formance. In the case of biological products today, the same symbiotic relationship is not observed, which diminishes key plant-bacterial bonds at crucial times for bacteria survival. Part of the reason symbiosis is not observed is because the bacteria interact in close proximity to the plant surface and sometimes can be within plant tissues between cells. However, bacteria in new biologicals are not found in specialized cells that cater to the plant’s every need as a nodule does.

There is also concern about efficacy of any product containing a living organism. Reduced efficacy can be caused by mixing with other agricultural chemicals, water that is too acidic or too basic, water that is chlorinated, applying after the product’s expi­ration date, temperature of storage, and if the product has been previously opened. The clock starts ticking once the biological product has been mixed. In some cases, it must be applied with­in 24 to 48 hours of mixing. After storage, the bacteria not only need to be alive but also ready to take on existing microbiology. As mentioned earlier, once a biological product is applied, those bacteria are not just left alone. Predatory microorganisms are now able to feed on them and compete for resources.

Considering the complexity of these relationships, there is fur­ther work to find a true “silver bullet” among biological products. What we have seen so far would never make me second guess a strong plant nutrition program. Biological products are not going to solve your fertility issues. They are only going to improve farms when used in addition to sound agronomic practices.

That being said, MFA agronomists have observed some benefits with Corteva’s Utrisha N biostimulant in large-scale, on-farm testing. Trial locations were spread across central and northwest Missouri as well as in southeast Kansas. 

In a side-by-side comparison, soybeans gained an average of 4.5 extra bushels with Utrisha N applied at growth stages ranging from V4 to V8. Keep in mind, this is one year of data and more work is needed to understand what makes biological products consistently perform and establish their contribution to corn and soybean yield trends.


Xyway LFR is a systemic fungicide for in-furrow application on corn. The fungicide is a triazole, which means it belongs to the Group 3 mode of action. Diseases controlled include gray leaf spot (GLS), south­ern corn leaf blight (SCLB), northern corn leaf blight (NCLB), stalk rot and common rust. MFA has tested Xyway LFR from 2019 to 2022 at both Boonville and our site east of Columbia.

Across replicated trials containing Xyway LFR, we used a rate of 15.2 fluid ounces per acre compared against an untreated check. We found an increase of 5 to 6 bushels per acre when using Xyway LFR (Figure 4). However, there was no statistical difference between Xyway LFR treated and untreated plots.

We must keep in mind that weather and environmental condi­tions did not create disease pressure at our testing sites this past season. GLS, SCLB and NCLB are all diseases that overwinter in the previous crop residue. Our plots are convention­ally tilled, reducing the residue and culturally controlling these diseases. Common rust isn’t found at our locations as often as southern rust, which spreads more rapidly in hot, humid weather. Therefore, Xyway LFR isn’t the best fit for conditions at MFA’s research farms.

For many producers who no-till or have increased levels of crop residue, Xyway LFR is likely to be a better fit. Still, there are other fungal diseases that Xyway LFR does not control, such as southern rust. In these cases, do not forget to scout and make timely over-the-top applications of fungicides that will combat the diseases at hand.



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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 or talk with the livestock experts at your local MFA or AGChoice center.

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