Willie and Brooke Murphy, of Clinton County, are editors of the Dec. 4, 2017 Growing our Generation e-newsletter, featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.
Hello, we are Willie and Brooke Murphy and we farm in Clinton County alongside Willie’s family. We run a very diverse farming operation, where we raise corn, soybeans, wheat, barley and hay on 3500 acres. Along with row crops we also raise cattle and hogs. Our cattle operation consists of 60 cow-calf pairs and three feed lots were we finish 200 to 250 head per year. We have two, 1200 head hog finishing barns that we lease to a local grower. We both attended Wilmington College where Willie earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture with a concentration in agriculture production and Brooke earned a degree in agriculture with a concentration in business. Willie farms full time and Brooke takes care of the paperwork for the farm. We have a one-and-half-year-old little girl Addie, who loves helping with the cows and being outside whenever she can. We were both very active in both 4-H and FFA and hope to instill those same values in our children in the future.
Planning is the most important step toward developing and growing a successful operation. Long before a crop is planted, harvested, bred or born a plan needs to be developed. My plan consists of a list of objectives outlining the entire operation’s goals from the time it becomes an idea until the day the checks are cashed. Budgeting is the first step; how much money is it going to take to grow this crop or feed this calf to the finishing weight. The Ohio State University along with several other resources have excellent crop and livestock budgeting tools available for free to everyone. Theses budgets allow you to plug in your own numbers and compare it with information they have compiled. Gather information early, long before you harvest, start aligning prices and/ or getting an idea on prices for the next crop. Knowing in advance what you’ll need to prepare for the next crop is imperative.
One way I have found to help with planning ahead is by keeping records of expenses throughout the year on a per acre or per head basis. Accurate, up-to-date records have several purposes. Each month budget and actual expense records should be reviewed to show how the operation is preforming and if changes need to be made. Actual expense records can be very helpful when planning an operating budget for the next crop. Real numbers help make more accurate figures for the future. Turn your budget into your marketing plan, and now that you have input expenses use this budget to make your sales plan. Marketing a product can be the most difficult task on the farm. Let your budgets and yearly planning help make these decisions easier. When there is profit, make sales to cover expenses. Use that yearlong budget to indicate when expenses will occur, and execute sales so funds are available when needed.
The last step to a successful plan should be record keeping, outside of expenses and income records. There are a lot of records a farmer can track; all are important and will help to further expand the operation. Yield maps outlining specific hybrids can show you what does the best in your own operation and on your own farms. A profile for each individual brood cow helps track calving dates over several years, calf weaning weight, vaccination records, health issues, and all other important information, such as how mean a cow will become after calving. Research is an important part to help improve your operation. In agriculture, there are several resources and research organizations to learn from.
One learning tool young farmers should take advantage of is the generation that came before them. Ask questions, and reach out to older farmers. They have been doing this much longer than we have and have far more experience.
On our farm we raise a wide array of specialty row crops. Long before I became a part of our operation, my family started raising specialty row crops. Since becoming a part of the farm, I have helped explore and continue to expand our specialty crops. For the past three years, we have raised non GMO white corn, and this is not the first time we have ventured into to white corn. Currently we are receiving a 70 cent premium, and we are selling to supply snack food companies. Fifty percent of our yellow corn acres consist of food-grade quality hard endosperm variety specific non GMO corn. This corn receives a high premium but is held to very high and specific levels of quality, purity and appearance. A portion of corn is sold to a local distillery, which must maintain a 99.1 percent purity level. Our remaining corn acres are non GMO, which is sold to river markets for a premium as well. Corn is the easy crop on our farm; our soybean acres are widely diverse. Our acres of beans are planted for specific reasons. Having a 17-year relationship with a northern Ohio company, we concentrate half our bean acres to grow non GMO hybrid specific soybeans. In 2017, we raised three different varieties — two are yellow beans and the third a green soybean for them. These green beans are just like regular soybeans, but completely green throughout and used for cooking purposes. Our non GMO beans are sold for premiums as high as $4 per bushel. Discovered as a part of a weed management program, we have been raising 200 to 300 acres of liberty seed beans for three years. To help maintain weed control, we tried liberty beans which led to growing seed for a central Ohio seed company. Liberty seed beans have high yield potential and pay up to a $1.20 premium. The remainder of our beans are liberty or Roundup, which are rotated in a multiyear process with corn to help with weed control and modes of action for continued weed control over long periods of time. The remaining piece of the puzzle is barley. We supply a local elevator with barley to manufacture various feeds. We like raising barley for two reasons: barley consistently yields with or higher than wheat bushels and we harvest the barley 10 to 14 days earlier than wheat and can consistently raise 50+ bushel double crop beans.
There is no doubt that these specialty crops can increase the work load to insure segregation, separation, and purity but what the premiums add to the bottom line will outweigh the extra work.
Since 3500 acres of row crops wasn’t enough to keep us busy, we decided to increase and expand other parts of our operation. Our two, 1200 head hog barns, which are leased to a local grower, provides us with a fixed income through the year plus additional fertilizer from the manure. On our farm cattle have always roamed on the ground not tillable, already owning all the necessary equipment we decided to expand our cattle operation. Growing our herd to 60 head of brood cows was only the beginning. In years past we had bought/raised 80 to 100 head of calves per year to finish out. In 2017, we have purchased and raised 250 head and sold 180 head to date. A portion of our calves are sold for freezer beef which has become an important part of our cattle operation, in 2016 we sold 50 head. Customers purchase wholes, halves, and quarters which we deliver to local butcher shops, for custom processing. Our last enterprise is a hay and straw business, 130 acres of hay which is baled three to four times per year, and 70 to 100 acres of straw. Once we have enough baled for the cattle, we square the remaining cuttings. I started the hay and straw business in high school and continue to provide quality product for all of my customers. Diversity is a very important part of our operation and keeps us busy. It allows us to make good use of all our resources including land, equipment, buildings, and labor 365 days of the year. Please check out our Facebook page Murphy Farms–Freezer Beef and Hay for more information.