eKonomics News Team
Black Oak Cattle Company | Sturgis, KY
The eKonomics Farmer Profile Series provides perspectives from farmers across North America, encouraging a peer-to-peer dialogue on all aspects of 4R nutrient stewardship. Our goal is to help to support farmers everywhere in ensuring and sustaining plentiful yields to feed the world’s growing population for generations to come.
Name: Jerad Day
Name of farm: Black Oak Cattle Company
Farm location: Sturgis, KY
Key crops on your farm: Corn, wheat, rye-grass and cattle
A bit about your farm’s history: Our farm was started by my great grandfather in the 1930’s and has been passed down through the family since. I was away from the farm for a few years and moved back seven years ago to work part-time on the farm and take over the cattle side of the business, where we have about 60 head of beef cows. My father operates the row-crop portion of the farm.
Years in business: The farm has been in business for more than 75 years.
What soil characteristics describe the majority of management zones on your farm?
The land on our farm consists mainly of rolling hills. Because of our location in Western Kentucky, our soil is fairly fertile and topsoil runs pretty deep. Our nutrient application practices focus on the rye-grass and wheat we raise for hay, as well as the fertilization of pastures every year.
What is the best part of being a farmer, in your experience?
For me, the best part of working on our farm is the gratification that comes from raising an animal from birth and seeing it grow throughout its life cycle. I’ve enjoyed working on the farm since I was a kid spending time in the fields with my dad, and I continue to enjoy day-to-day activities such as driving a tractor, working on a fence, etc.
What are your primary sources of information for making decisions related to fertilizer use and nutrient management on your farm?
We work very closely with our local ag retailer to make decisions regarding nutrient management. I rely on them to keep up on the latest nutrient management research, news and practices so I can focus on everything else. They have done a lot for us in the past related to seed, fertilizer and other input decisions. We also make sure to soil sample at least every other year.
Given the various fertilization options, what application processes do you incorporate on your farm in terms of rate, placement, timing and nutrient source, and for what reason?
Again, we work closely with our ag retailer for nutrient application, as they determine the best application processes and also perform custom application on our farm. We broadcast fertilizer with variable rate application and have done some grid sampling in the past. As far as timing goes, we usually apply whenever Mother Nature allows for it.
Dr. Robert Mullen’s in-depth analysis of the 2015 soil test levels in North America issued by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) reveals a decline in nutrient balance trends as more Kentucky soils test below the critical level for K and P. Given that information, what are you observing in your region of the state that conflicts with or supports that information?
Over the years, we have continued to increase application rates to account for increased yields and subsequent higher nutrient removal. On pastures, we increase rates every third year and use a maintenance approach the other two years to control costs. On the row crop ground, we plant corn every year that we chop for silage and plant rye grass that we harvest in the spring for hay. There is a significant removal of plant residue and we recognize that we need to account for the nutrients that are lost. The natural output of our farming practices means we are taking more than we are leaving and we have accounted for that through increased applications.
What is the most important lesson you have learned as a farmer?
Be patient. It is important for farmers to take their time and avoid trying to do too much at once. This comes from personal experience, as I have attempted to perform 40 years worth of upgrades on our farm in just five or six years. Examples of upgrades we have focused on include updating the fencing on our cattle farm and enhancing conservation practices. While these upgrades will be beneficial in the long run, making things easier on both us and on our animals, they can be overwhelming at times and require patience to complete.
What short piece of advice would you give to a new farmer?
Appreciate the opportunity you have been given. New farmers are rare and it is a hard industry to get into, so don’t take this chance for granted.