Plant cotton, harvest wheat
As a certified public accountant, Paul Minzenmayer appreciates balance. In farming, he needs timing to click.
This year — hopefully, with some moisture returning — Paul aims to plant cotton starting in mid-May and finishing by May 25. That would be in time for him to shift gears and start combining wheat.
Of course, 2012 weather could mess up his preferred timing.
With the historic 2011 Texas drought, Paul didn’t finish planting cotton until June.
Nevertheless, while many farmers abandoned their cotton — only 3.1 million acres were harvested of Texas’ 7.5 million planted — Paul was pleased to take 75% of his 2011 cotton acreage to harvest, especially in an all-dryland cotton operation. What’s more, he actually made some decent yields.
Paul mainly prefers to plant FiberMax cotton FM 1740B2F from Bayer CropScience and the Deltapine cotton DP 1044 B2RF from Monsanto. Both those varieties have really impressed him.
“I want the Flex since I am no-till [farming] for weeds,” he says.
The bookkeeper and number-cruncher also says the Bollgard II trait is worth it. “Bollgard is only an extra $7 or $8 per acre and is well worth it in case of worms,” says Paul.
It’s not every year, but his Southern Rolling Plains region has come under major worm attack some seasons.
• Wheat has taken on a greater importance for Minzenmayers.
• Timely planting and harvesting of crops is vital to farming.
• Paul Minzenmayer uses test plots to select the best wheat and cotton varieties.
Although he favors the two cotton varieties mentioned, Paul is happy to cooperate with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service on variety trials. He has done test plots for both Extension and Bayer CropScience, including the challenging 2011 season.
“We may have 30 different varieties in our test plots,” Paul says.
Last year, Paul and wife Monica hosted the annual Runnels County Farm Tour so fellow farmers could compare the performance of the different cotton varieties.
Paul believes in harvest aids and will use one that fits a particular year’s conditions with two goals: to get cotton out of the field while the fiber quality is good, and to harvest all his cotton so he can sow wheat.
He takes cotton to the Kasberg Gin, Miles; Mereta Co-op Gin; and the Miles
While cotton is mighty important, Paul now grows about three times as much wheat as cotton. His farm operation is spread out, and deer destroyed so much cotton at Hatchel, Texas, that he switched to wheat there.
Wheat acreage increases
Paul says since his farming acreage is now three-fourths wheat and one-fourth cotton, wheat has become far more important than when he started farming cotton in 1998.
Wheat stubble works with his no-till cotton; the plowing expense, including diesel cost, is saved.
“We generally can make about one-half bale per acre more on cotton behind wheat, than cotton behind cotton,” Paul reports. The downside, he adds, is he doesn’t make as much grain with wheat after cotton.
In his area, the Hessian fly has wreaked havoc with wheat crops some years. That leaves him with two wheat variety options in Coronado and Duster wheat, which are resistant to the Hessian fly. What’s more, Duster from Oklahoma State University also is drought-resistant.
“Both of those really do well for me,” Paul allows.
The Minzenmayer farm harvests all of its own wheat, not needing any custom harvesters. Paul opts for three John Deere combines, each with 35-foot draper headers to cut wheat.
Paul brings his wheat to the Lone Star Grain Elevator at Roscoe, Texas, which he owns with partner Howard Pruser. Paul usually runs five 18-wheeler grain trucks to get wheat to the elevator quickly.
The farm has three full-time and two part-time employees, plus seasonal help, especially at harvesttime.
But the best thing about harvesttime is Monica cooks all the meals for Paul and the crew, and brings them a warm supper every night to the field.
Paul and Monica run a few registered Black Angus cattle in a cow-calf operation.
They aim for outstanding genetics in steadily improving their growing herd.
During the worst drought in Texas history last year, they felt fortunate to be able to graze some Conservation Reserve Program acres, along with some wheat acres.
They were even able to sell some square bales of hay to horse people.
“We like to sell hay — not buy hay,” Paul says.
The Minzenmayers normally would sell calves at about 500 pounds. But because of the Exceptional Drought (the worst category), he sold some calves at 300 pounds to take the stress off the cows. That proved profitable and a good strategic move to cope with the drought.
“It was good income,” Paul reflects.
This outstanding young farmer-rancher and CPA knows when some management decisions will pay.
He’s got the numbers.
This article published in the March, 2012 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.