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• As a result of his success as a beef producer, Phillip DeSalvo has been selected as the Arkansas state winner of the 2013 Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award.
A severe drought last year greatly reduced DeSalvo’s wheat-ryegrass silage yields. The dry weather persisted and prevented him from harvesting a sorghum-sudangrass silage crop. That forced him to buy hay to provide the forages his cattle needed to get through the year.
By locating water tanks made from tires throughout his pastures, he provides a consistent supply of fresh water for his cattle. DeSalvo also built new ponds to serve as a source of drinking water and refurbished some of the old ponds on his farm.
His crops typically include about 300 to 400 acres of wheat-ryegrass silage yielding six to eight tons per acre and 150 to 200 acres of sorghum-sudangrass silage also yielding about six to eight tons per year. “I don’t grow corn silage because I don’t have irrigation here and dry weather is such a big risk,” he adds. DeSalvo also grows bermudagrass hay on 200 to 300 acres.
DeSalvo improved his forage management in 2012 when he built a pit that holds 3,000 tons of silage. “Putting up the bulk of our forage early in the season reduces the need for hay production later in the season,” he says.
His pastures include a mix of bahiagrass, bermudagrass, dallisgrass, fescue and crabgrass. “We also graze our wheat and ryegrass in the winter prior to harvesting them for silage,” he adds. He often plants his wheat-ryegrass silage crops into his bermudagrass stands, and then tills land to plant sorghum-sudangrass. “We plant just enough sorghum-sudangrass to fill our silage pit,” he adds.
He’s raising Ultrablack cattle, a relatively new beef breed consisting of Angus-Brangus cross cattle. “In 2006, we had some of the first registered Ultrablacks on our farm,” he says. “Now, this breed is taking off.”
DeSalvo’s herd includes about 300 commercial cows along with their calves, 200 registered females and 40 to 50 registered bulls. He sells steers through video auctions and cull cows at local auction markets. He markets his heifers and bulls through private treaty sales directly to other ranchers.
He works with Land O’Lakes Purina Feed nutritionists to design feed programs that best meet the needs of his cattle. He groups cattle by age and production cycle to make sure each group receives appropriate nutrition. He also relies on Pfizer and Novartis veterinarians along with his own veterinarian to set up vaccination programs.
DeSalvo pays close attention to bull selection. He aims for 90-day fall and spring calving seasons. This cycle makes it easier to put uniform sets of calves together at sale time. He also uses artificial insemination for breeding both purebred and commercial cattle. “Our registered herd is run like a commercial herd,” DeSalvo says.