(light piano music)
I’m Lee Simmons from Mount Solon, Virginia. Farm name is Big Rock Dairy.
In 1999, I started leasing the farm off my dad. I dealt with NRCS on putting in loafing
lots for the dairy cows. It used to be, you didn’t have no lots out
here. It would take you a half hour or forty-five minutes to get the cows in ‘cause you might
have some up here and some clear out, you know, spread out everywhere. You didn’t
know where they was at, and you had to go look for them.
Now you know they’re in lot 1, lot 2, 3, 4 or 5…
We’ve got this farm back here split off into three different lots. We’ve got the
hills up there split off into two lots for the beef cattle. Put them on one side and
let them eat down, so the grass quality has improved too.
We put water to each lot and then we put in walkways for the cows and that improved the
cow’s health like you wouldn’t believe. You know, when you go to milk cows, you’ve
got dirty udders and get mastitis. It took you more time to milk because you had to clean
them up. We put up this facility to kind of maintain
and have a place to feed them. My dad says he just can’t believe how good
the cattle look down there versus being up here on this hill.
We sample the manure every two years, and Jeff runs the samples of it and gets it back.
Then, he bases our nutrient management plan on that. He comes out every spring to run
PSNT on the corn to see how much more nitrogen we need or don’t need none.
This year, we had two or three fields that didn’t need none on top because we had enough
manure on there to take care of it, so that saves me money in the end.
One of the biggest expenses for dairies is feed, so, if you can’t produce your own
feed, you have to buy it. Yes, it’s expensive to buy.
We no-till probably about 90 acres. Some of the corn ground is work because of all the
compaction we have and some of the sandy, loamy soil.
No weeds in this field. No weeds at all. Cover crops I think helped to hold them down and
the deep till radishes did a good job. I think it broke up soil compaction when we planted
them last fall and the crimson clover… I hated to kill it down because it was so pretty.
NRCS has been great to work with. I mean you can’t ask for better people to work with,
and the water quality that goes through this farm has really improved a whole lot versus
what it was, say 10 years ago. The cattle are out of the streams. They got all the water
pumped to them by well. Plus, the crops have improved a whole lot too. More tonnage, more
yield per acre. With these practices, I see more organic matter
in the soil … definitely, that’s a big plus.
Everybody says, “You’re lucky.” I say I’m very lucky. If it weren’t for them
three, I wouldn’t be staying here now cause it would’ve been done.
They’re good help. That’s for sure. I guess I’m very fortunate that they want
to stay in it. I think they’ve seen the practices we’re
doing and following that with them too to see how we do it, you know? Like no-tilling
corn or small grains and not disturbing the soil. I think they’re learning a lot to
see the benefits of the production we get out of the crops and barley and stuff.
I give them the opportunity: “What do you want to do with this?” or “What do you
want to do with that?” I always ask all three of them. I say, “How do you want to
go about doing it?” Keep them involved. “What do y’all want
to do today?” I don’t give orders and you know– usually I get stuck with the bad
end stuff, but that’s just part of it. You’ve gotta love it … you’ve gotta