Randy Smith works with his two brothers on an operation that’s been in the family for 150 years. Together, they manage 630 acres of row crops, while running a 250-head dairy operation, as well as finishing steers and handling 2,500 custom finish hogs.
Sally Krueger, FBN: Why did you decide to check out conventional corn hybrids from the F2F Genetics Network this year?
Randy Smith, Minnesota Farmer: Well, I used to always plant “the best of the best,” but I'm starting to realize that just because you spend a lot, doesn’t always mean you get a lot. This year, we decided that with dairy prices getting pretty tight, we needed to trim costs. A friend of mine told me FBN was coming out with a seed brand. It was affordable, and the yield results looked pretty good, so I decided to try two products. We also decided to go almost all conventional corn this year, just to give it a shot. That’s all we used to plant, so I know how to manage it. I’m impressed so far. My corn from F2F Genetics popped right out of the ground. We went through some tough conditions this season, but populations are right where they should be. It’s all about what’s right for your farm.
SK: When you go to select seed, or try something new, what are you looking for in a corn hybrid?
RS: You know, the price of what I bought from F2F Genetics is less than half of the price of seed from some of the bigger name companies. So I’ve saved quite a bit of money there. I’m always skeptical, so we won’t know the real turnout until harvest. So after price, and yield, the biggest thing I’m looking for is stand, because nobody wants to be out there at harvest picking up downed corn.
SK: I know you said you’ve planted conventional before. Can you tell me what your weed and pest management plan looks like?
RS: For weed management, we use various products containing acetochlor and atrazine. I do that on the whole farm and it keeps it pretty clean. On my borders, and on a farm that has a ragweed problem, I use a mesotrione product. We’re mostly corn-on-corn, so we use bifenthrin to protect against insects. And with the cold winter we had, I’m hoping that will keep our insect pressure down a bit. I'm also planning on doing a double fungicide application. We’ve always planted conventional corn behind alfalfa, and I’ve never worried about a fungicide, because it was the first year in corn. But this year, we’re about 90 percent corn-after-corn, so we’re planning to add fungicide to the mix on all our conventional.
SK: How closely do you pay attention to overall profitability versus yield?
RS: Well, we need the yield to feed all the livestock, but it absolutely has to be profitable. If we can yield high enough and put it in with less money, that’s ideal. We run the numbers, and my brother [who handles the financial side of the operation] tells me where we can cut expenses. If we can get a similar return from a $100 bag of seed that we do a $300 bag of seed, that’s great.
When I first joined FBN, he grumbled a little about that expense. But then when I ordered the seed, we realized that the savings there alone had already paid for our membership. And honestly, we’ve saved a fair amount on the chemical side, too.
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