September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Anglin enjoys dairying in Arkansas

Drought, extreme weather often challenging
Excessive heat and humidity can hang around for three months in northwest Arkansas. Triple A Farms uses this loose housing barn that’s equipped with fans. The highest temperature Ryan Anglin has recorded is 117 degrees Fahrenheit. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED
Excessive heat and humidity can hang around for three months in northwest Arkansas. Triple A Farms uses this loose housing barn that’s equipped with fans. The highest temperature Ryan Anglin has recorded is 117 degrees Fahrenheit. <br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO SUBMITTED

By By Ron Johnson- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Don't try to convince Ryan Anglin there's such a thing as global warming. The dairyman from Bentonville, Arkansas, has had his fill of cold conditions on his 1,200-acre farm in the Ozark Mountains.
On Feb. 8, 2010, he recorded a low temperature of 28 degrees below zero. That day also brought 30 inches of snow.
Then, a few months later, the mercury headed the other direction. On Aug. 8, the temperature hit 117 degrees.
"Do the math on the temperature swing there. That's a 145-degree difference," Anglin said. "Those are the biggest extremes I know of, in my lifetime. I'm 58 years old."
There are also times when the air is just below freezing and there's plenty of moisture in the air.
"We can have quite a few ice storms here, because we're just warm enough that it'll go ahead and rain instead of snowing. At 28 or 29 degrees and rain, you've got disaster," he said.
As might be expected, Anglin and his wife, Susan, and their sons, Cody and Casey, value their emergency electricity generators. Anglin isn't exactly sure how many generators he has on the 300-cow farm, but estimated the number at five or six.
Due to the extreme weather he has experienced - both heat and cold - the dairyman thinks something is happening to the Earth.
"I absolutely believe in climate change," he said. "I don't believe in global warming."
Like dairy farmers in several states, Anglin is still wrangling with the effects of this year's drought, which is lingering in northwest Arkansas' Benton County.
"We're still six to eight inches below normal. We've gotten rain, and our wheat crop is looking great. The pastures have come back, but we've had grass devastation. We've lost 50 to 70 percent of our permanent grasses in certain locations," he said.
His first-crop hay yielded about half of normal, so the native Arkansan has been buying feed from Texas and Louisiana. "And the freight cost is as much or more than the cost of the hay," Anglin said.
The dairy herd carries a rolling herd average of approximately 18,000 pounds, on twice-daily milking.
"We're not setting any records on production," Anglin said. "It's more about the bottom line than anything else. We're just trying to keep them going right now."
Triple A Farms raises all its replacement heifers and bull calves. There's an Angus beef herd, too. The dairy steers are sold at about 800 pounds. That enterprise fits well on his farm.
"We raise all our own dairy replacements, so how much more trouble is it to feed a bull calf than a heifer calf?" he said. "We have the labor, and we can feed waste milk. If you get $100 to $150 out of a bull calf, that fills your pickup with gas. But if you can hold your dollars together, you can actually do something with them."
Crops on Triple A Farms consist of wheat, rye, Bermuda grass, fescue, Sudangrass, corn and sorghum. Millet was added this year because the corn did not do well and more forage was needed.
Much of the land is double-cropped. During late October, Anglin was ready to finish planting wheat. That will be cut or pastured next spring, and the next crop on that ground will be Sudangrass, corn, or sorghum.
Some of the feed is wrapped as balage and some goes into a pit silo. The milking herd gets silage, while dry hay is reserved for the beef cows and dairy heifers.
At one time, the farm used more grazing. But in 1988, the dairy herd was expanded and a new barn built. The best place for that loose housing barn that has a feed floor was on one end of the farm - not toward the middle. The cows would need to walk three-fourths mile to get to pasture from that barn, and Anglin said that's just too far, so he now relies on a total mixed ration (TMR).
The barn is bedded and provides a shady respite from the heat and humidity that can set in between mid-June and the middle of September. While the highest temperature he has seen on his farm is 117 degrees Fahrenheit, that's not the worst kind of condition. A humidity of 80 to 90 percent can occur.
"When it really gets bad is when your humidity is higher than your temperature. That's a cow killer," he said.
The barn is equipped with fans, but not sprinklers. Anglin said, "Sprinklers don't do a lot of good with that kind of humidity. We try to keep the air cool, rather than wet the cows."
Heat, cold and drought can be challenging enough by themselves. Like other dairy farmers, the Anglins are also dealing with milk prices that aren't really low, but not high enough to cover costs and yield profits, either.
The Anglins recently were paid almost $20 for their milk, which goes to a Dairy Farmers of America plant in Fayetteville, Ark., where it's bottled. "With our cost of production, we've got to have $22 or $23 to even think about making any money," Anglin said. "And, depending on the person, that could be break-even."
He's made no money producing milk for 18 months now. Instead, the farm has operated on equity and savings.
"Next spring is D-Day," Anglin said. "If the price of milk falls again, that's the end of it. That's not just me. That's everybody. You can't eat all your equity up just to say you're a dairy farmer."
Anglin had a chance, a while back, to generate $1.2 million. All he had to do was sell 40 acres at $30,000 an acre. That was the going rate, too.
Triple A Farms is just six miles from the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart, which employs 9,000 at that location. Many companies that do business with the retail giant have offices in the area, and houses have gone up left and right.
Anglin called deciding not to sell land a bad decision. With $1.2 million, "I could have milked for another two or three years," he said.
Even if he ends up out of dairying, Anglin intends to keep on farming.
"My boys probably don't want to milk cows," he said. "They want to farm; they want to raise heifers. So when I've had all of it that I can handle, we probably won't milk any cows."
Make no mistake about it: Anglin likes dairying and has devoted time and effort to helping the industry. He stepped down as chairman of the National Dairy Board this past July and is still a United Dairy Industry Association Representative. Anglin has been involved in dairy promotion in some capacity since 1982.
"I believe in promotion," he said. "I think it's the farmers' voice and the direction we're going, working with McDonald's, Domino's and Pizza Hut and with the Dairy Export Council. It's the salvation of the dairy industry. We've just scratched the surface of the potential that's there."
Triple A Farms has been in the family close to a century, with Anglin the third generation on the land. It's also one of just 99 dairy farms remaining in Arkansas. Benton County alone had 750 dairy operations in 1972, when Anglin took over the farm.
"I love cows," Anglin said. "If I didn't have cattle, I don't know what I'd do. I like to work with them and watch them grow and mature and produce. I like raising a baby calf up and watching her come into the barn."
Anglin would like to farm forever. He said, "I've always said, 'The day I die, I want to buy another farm and another tractor.'"[[In-content Ad]]


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