Rickey Cornutt of Boaz, Ala., raises crops and cattle on small fields. He’s a successful farmer on Sand Mountain in North Alabama.
A farmer for 33 years, Cornutt’s farm consists of 2,000 acres, including 1,600 acres of rented land and 400 acres of owned land.
As a result of his success as a row crop and beef cattle farmer, Cornutt has been selected as the Alabama winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award. He joins nine other individuals as finalists for the overall award that will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at the Sunbelt Expo farm show in Moultrie, Ga.
His per acre crop yields have been impressive, about 150 bushels of corn from 600 acres, 50 bushels of soybeans from 600 acres and 70 bushels of wheat from 270 acres.
Sand Mountain is really a plateau known for sandy soils. Cornutt’s fields average about 25 acres in size. Sand Mountain is also home to Alabama’s poultry industry.
Cornutt doesn’t raise chickens, but he uses litter from chicken houses as fertilizer for his fields. Cornutt contracts to clean out about 25 poultry houses each year. “Chicken litter is just a great source of nutrients for our crops,” he adds.
His beef operation consists of about 250 brood cows weighing an average of 1,000 pounds each, 70 replacement heifers weighing about 750 pounds each, 11 herd bulls weighing 1,800 pounds each and calves weighing up to 400 pounds each. His hay and pasture land covers about 600 acres. “We use Angus bulls on commercial cows, and we background our calves,” says Cornutt. “We save about 60 replacement heifers each year, and we graze our cattle on about 13 pastures.”
Cornutt’s cattle are spread out just as his crop fields are spread out. “We have anywhere from 10 to 50 cows on each farm, in 13 different pastures,” he adds.
With cattle in so many pastures, Cornutt finds it easier to keep bulls with the cows yearround. In marketing calves, he says, “We have the numbers, but not the uniformity for truckload lots.” He is able to sell and ship uniform groups of calves by joining with neighboring beef producers.
He can sell calves at one of four auction markets within 40 miles of his farm. “We often sell calves using a video at the local stockyard,” he says. “That way, the calves don’t have to go to the stockyard, and they never leave the farm until they are purchased.”
Selling grain is helped by his close proximity to poultry farms. “These poultry feed mills pay premium prices for our corn and soybeans,” he says. Typically, he receives 25- to 50-cent-per bushel premiums for his corn. He has been able to contract grain and receive a dollar per bushel higher than the national cash price.
Cornutt uses no-till planting and Roundup Ready technology for his corn and soybeans. He also alternates classes of herbicides to prevent resistant weeds from cropping up. “We save on chemical costs with our sprayer equipped with a global positioning system and automated steering,” he adds.
He also relies on an Alabama Farmers Co-op agronomist for crop advice. The agronomist also conducts corn, soybean and wheat variety yield tests on his farm.
Read more about Cornutt’s operation and the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award at the Sunbelt Ag Expo website.