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A Legacy of Success

Posted Oct. 15, 2008

For more than half a century, the Noble Research Institute's agricultural consultants have provided farmers and ranchers with the knowledge and support to maximize their operations. Below four families tell how one organization changed their lives.
Four families tell how Noble Research Institute consultation changed their lives.
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"Having people" is a phrase synonymous with having resources and information to assist you in your business. This concept is not new to the Noble Research Institute.

In fact, one aspect of founder Lloyd Noble's agriculture enhancement and land/soil stewardship mission was to assist farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma and Texas. For more than six decades, Noble Research Institute consultants have been working with agricultural producers to achieve their financial, production, stewardship and quality-of-life goals by providing direct consultation service - at no cost to the agricultural producer. Today there are four consultation teams, which include experts in the areas of wildlife, pasture and range, horticulture, soil and crops, agricultural economics and livestock that work with more than 1,500 producers. Lloyd Noble knew the value of "having people" long before it was popular.

Four producers shared their experiences of working with the Noble Research Institute consultants who assist their operations.

Micheal and Julie Campsey
Jacksboro, Texas

The Campseys will be the first to tell you they started their ranching venture with an urban background, limited agricultural knowledge and a herd of cows that featured every color in the rainbow.

They moved to one part of the ranch bought by Micheal's father in 1993, and by 1997 they were managing their part of the ranch.

"The overgrazed ranch came with about 300 cows and a foreman," Julie Campsey recalls. "The herd included some of every color, and they had been selected on the criteria that they would have a calf in the fall."

Two years passed uneventfully. The Campseys were just happy to be out in the wide open spaces and believed they were making progress. In 1995, their local veterinarian told them about the Noble Research Institute and its consultation services.

"We contacted the Noble Research Institute, and our program has never been the same," Micheal Campsey said, adding that 90 percent of what they have learned about ranching and grasses has been from their consultation team.

The Noble Research Institute consulting team taught the Campseys about herd health and vaccination programs, Beef Quality Assurance principles, how to maximize a 45-day weaning program and how to improve the "marketability" of their herd, including factors such as animal uniformity, timing of sale and breeding for certain market endpoints. Noble Research Institute agricultural economists further assisted in developing recordkeeping systems, understanding the production value of each cow on the ranch, and balancing feed rations and managing their grasses so that no hay is used for the cow herd.

The Campseys' herd was reduced to 200 head by 1997 because of the ongoing drought situation. In addition to destocking, they initiated a serious rotational grazing system.

"We had survived on less than desirable native pasture up to that point," Micheal Campsey said. "The Noble Research Institute consultants taught us to let our grasses rest. By doing so, the native grasses became stronger, and the good grasses were able to flourish."

In addition, the Campseys changed to a spring calving herd to better utilize their grasses. They also began culling the herd and adding Angus-based females as replacements to establish uniformity. They introduced Charolais bulls to maximize growth traits and hit targets for their marketing program, which now includes a 45-day weaning system. All of these changes were suggested by the Noble Research Institute consultants who assisted the Campseys with the logistical aspects.

They now have a 60-day calving season in the spring, which not only makes the calf crop uniform, but is a management and labor time saver.

The Campseys also began a wildlife management program for their enjoyment and to diversify their income. The ranch is now enrolled in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department "level 3 managed lands program" for the deer population. "Hunting is a big part of our overall program now, and we lease several pastures, primarily to folks in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and Wichita Falls, Texas, area," Micheal Campsey said. They also donate 10 hunting blinds annually to a December deer hunt for underprivileged boys held by the Northwest Texas Field and Stream Association.

"We can always count on our Noble Research Institute team to help us when needed," Julie Campsey said. "Our team is as hands-on as we want them to be, and they are always accessible. We talk to them regularly. We participate in a number of their programs annually and, even though we have been with them more than 10 years, we still rely on them. We will always want to have them as part of our management plan."

Jeffrey Reuter
El Reno, Okla.

The Reuter family has deep roots in the El Reno area, as previous generations homesteaded their land in Oklahoma's historic land runs. Jeffrey Reuter represents the third generation to make his living from this property.

Their operation includes 125 mixed breed commercial cows with Charolais bulls selected by the Noble Research Institute, and they run about 350 stockers year around. They also raise alfalfa and rye primarily for grazing. In addition, Reuter runs a stocker/feeder buying company.

Reuter found out about Noble's consultants by chance. He was on a farm tour in 1992, and, in the literature provided, there was an article about the Noble Research Institute. He made a phone call that has resulted in a 16-year relationship.

"If I had to pick one thing that the Noble Research Institute has helped me with the most, it would have to be my management skills," Reuter said. "They have greatly improved my skill level and have made me a better manager."

Reuter credits his consultation team with assisting him with feeding programs, application, analysis and usage of fertilizer, better production of improved grasses, including winter rye, developing stronger grasses and pastures, fencing and rotational grazing systems, and controlling areas prone to erosion. They have taught him to get by with less tillage of the land, which is critical now in light of fuel prices, and how to utilize crop residues to improve fertility.

"They have a great organization, great people, and they have developed an effective way to get information to people," he said. "Their information is presented clearly, and their consultants realize that information and practices must be practical. I have found the consultants to be hands-on in teaching and making suggestions."

Noble Research Institute consultants have worked with Reuter to maximize his grazing land for his stockers and have developed feeds for certain conditions that best spend his dollars allocated for protein sources. Stocking rates have also been altered to best utilize resources.

"Time management and efficiency are also areas of their expertise, and by implementing their suggestions I have become a better manager," Reuter said. "I no longer think my cattle have to be physically looked at every day. This has been a big time saver and money saver in terms of fuel and wear and tear on vehicles."

Reuter has also developed a wildlife program and gains additional income through hunting leases. "Noble has been instrumental in helping me develop leases and has provided valuable insight into how to develop a hunting clientele," he added.

Reuter's son, Cole, is involved in the family operation and represents the fourth generation for this Oklahoma family. Reuter's other son, Ryan, was also greatly influenced by the Noble Research Institute team members as they made visits to the ranch while he was growing up. After serving as a livestock consultant on one of Noble's consulting teams, he returned to school and received his doctorate degree from Texas Tech University in 2007. Now he is part of the Noble Research Institute Agricultural Research team.

"They have made me a better steward of my land and have put in practices that have improved my bottom line," said Reuter, who added the consultation service is for those "who aren't afraid to make changes."

Jim and Karan Covington
Pottsboro, Texas

The Covingtons are small operators, and they have found the consultation services of the Noble Research Institute invaluable. Jim is an independent contractor in the defense and aeronautics fields, and maintains their cattle operation around his day job.

His family has owned land in Pottsboro, in Grayson County, Texas, since 1947. Hereford cattle have always been the breed for the family. The Covingtons have continued that tradition, but have recently diversified by adding a small stocker operation and adding Angus genetics to their herd.

The Covingtons began working with the Noble Research Institute about seven years ago when they observed the team assisting a neighbor. "I consider the team a part of my ranch. It's like having them as part of my staff," said Jim Covington, adding that there is no way he could put a dollar figure on the assistance provided by the Noble Research Institute.

One of the first things the consultants helped the Covingtons do was soil test, then use the information from the tests to guide their fertilizer program.

"They taught me that when it came to fertilizing, three things could happen - I could use too little, too much or, with soil testing, use just the right amount," he explained. The impact of the soil testing equated to significant financial savings.

Other practices that the Noble Research Institute consultants helped the Covingtons put into place include cell grazing, establishing and managing a budget, and diversifying the operation with crossbreeding. On the advice of their consultants, the Covingtons have started a small stocker operation of about 70 calves.

"The Noble Research Institute has walked us through every step of the stocker operation," Covington said. "We work together on everything. We jointly consider the options and when and where to sell the calves."

The couple handles almost all the work themselves and are joined on many weekends by their daughter, Amy, who resides in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

"We have thoroughly enjoyed our seven years working with the Noble Research Institute, and our bottom line has definitely improved," Covington said. "We probably visit with our team members at least six times a year in person, and we can call or e-mail them for their input on various practices at any time. Our program has benefited greatly from having them as an integral part of our operation."

Jack and Jackie Cunningham
Ardmore, Okla.

The Cunningham family first contacted the Noble Research Institute in 1982, and the relationship has continued for 26 years.

Jack Cunningham moved to the Ardmore area from southwest Texas and soon learned that the land, climate, crops and cattle programs were completely different than what he had experienced. Today, he is joined by son Jackie as they run their operation.

"The Noble Research Institute consultants are knowledgeable in every aspect, and they are the greatest consultants you could ever have. The service they offer is unprecedented," describes Jackie, with Jack adding that he talks to his team members on a weekly basis and they are always willing and ready to talk through a situation.

The Cunningham operation started as a purebred Brahman herd, but by 1989 they had changed to a stocker operation. In addition, they grow pecans and raise wheat.

"They have taught us so much about each part of our operation," Jack Cunningham said. "Some of the areas that stand out in my mind over the 26 years include soil fertility, health of the stockers, crop issues and now even crop rotation as we are considering adding milo and soybeans."

The Cunninghams have learned to evaluate charts provided by the Noble Research Institute that document trends in the stocker industry and to make business decisions based on information.

Jackie Cunningham also adds that in the pecan segment of their operation, the Noble Research Institute has provided tremendous assistance with insect management and fertility.

"One point I would like to make is that they have always been at the top of their game," Jack Cunningham said. "Noble has been part of our management team for more than 25 years, and their information is always current. They are always looking to the future."

Jackie Cunningham agrees wholeheartedly.

"No two places, no two operations, no two sets of land are the same," he said. "Everyone has a different caliber of management and resources, yet Noble has the expertise and wisdom to help all of them. We have met many other landowners who utilize their services, and the Noble Research Institute consultants pinpoint a great program for each."