Podcast: Money Versus Yield - Maximizing Profit in Corn Farming
26 Jun 2422m 55s

Imagine a field day where the topic isn’t how big or beautiful the corn is, but instead how profitable the field will be. That’s the concept of this year's research plot at Matt Miles’ McGehee, Arkansas farm. Matt is competing with Galynn Beer and Stephanie Zelinko of AgroLiquid as well as Kelly Garrett of XtremeAg. Each of the four engineered a cropping plan with the express purpose of maximizing net profit, not merely yield. Matt, Galynn, and Stephanie explain how their research can help farmers like you make profitable fertility adjustments in a slower farm revenue cycle.  

00:00 What is the economic return of a corn plot? You've never asked that question. You've never been shown it at a field day, 00:05 but we're gonna talk about that in this episode of extreme Ag Cutting the curve. Welcome to Extreme ags Cutting the Curve podcast, 00:12 where real farmers share real insights and real results to help you improve your farming operation. And now, here's your host, Damien Mason. 00:22 Hey there. Welcome to another fantastic of Extreme Acts, cutting the curve. You know what? You go to these field days, you've been 00:27 to them since you were a kid. You go there and it's always the same thing. They give you a hat, they give you a yardstick, 00:31 they take you out and show you a field plot, and they talk about all the great yields they're gonna get and how these, and of course, 00:36 the seed corn companies are really bad about this. None of 'em are ever below average, right? It's like the Lake Wobegon 00:41 where every child's above average. We've seen this, but you know what they never talk about at field days? 00:45 They never talk about the actual economic return. It's all about pushing the bushels. It's all about, you know, 00:52 how amazing these these stocks are. What's the economic return? We ask that question with our friends at Agro Liquid, 00:58 and my friend Matt Miles, one of the founders of Extreme Ag, is doing this exact plot, this trial, this test in McGee, 01:06 Arkansas on his agro liquid Field day, uh, test plot. So Matt, you gave it the title Economic Return on a Corn Plot. 01:14 Nobody's ever thought about that. It's not about economic return, it's just about going out and proving that we can get big, fancy stocks 01:19 and take people on a hayride and show it to 'em, right? Well, that's what, you know, that's what the consensus is at times. 01:26 And, you know, we get so hung up on, on high yield, you know, with the cGAS and the soybean contests and all that, you know, 01:33 and high yield's different in different areas. And high yield for, for Stephanie May be, you know, she may can grow 70 bushel beans 01:41 or 200 bushel corn cheaper with more ROI than I can, 250 or 300 bushel corn. It's about what you take to the bank. 01:49 And the cool thing about this plot is each one of us with our own personalities and our own styles, including my out of the box, you know, 01:58 brother Kelly Garrett, we've all got different approaches that we're making. So it's probably the coolest plot loud Phil 02:05 Day I've ever done. I actually agree with that. And, uh, forgive me, dear listener and viewer, you're saying, wait a minute, 02:10 who are the other two people on this call? Well, it's Galen Beer with Agro Liquid. And then, uh, Galen Beer is joined by Stephanie Linco. 02:16 She's the, I think I'll call her national agronomist. I don't know. To me, she's international. She's from Michigan, but she just works everywhere. 02:22 She knows her dirt. Anyway, Stephanie, Stephanie's been on multiple, multiple videos with me. In fact, uh, we get to where, 02:29 like we exchange greeting cards. Uh, I know our children's middle names. Anyway, Stephanie, um, you're, 02:36 you're an aggro agronomic background. You've been in more field days and more plots and all this. I mean, it's what you do. 02:43 They never talk about the money, the actual return on this. It's not, it's not what's there for, it's, it's, it's a lab. 02:49 It's there to prove that we can get great big ears. This one's different talk to me. It's just different, you know, 02:54 and when we're looking at making a fertility program for any grower, you know, we need to keep that budget in mind. 03:00 So yes, I'm an agronomist. I wanna look at the soil test to make the best program, but at the same time, I wanna make sure that 03:07 that farmer's still making money. And so that's why we chose to do this plot here with Matt. And we tied in a couple of different people, you know, 03:14 Kelly Galen and myself, and looked at basically four agronomists, different recommendations that kept that budget 03:21 and those dollars in mind. And to see, you know, who's gonna come out at the end getting the most, you know, return on those dollars 03:27 for fertilizer that we spent. Okay, so that's what I wanna get to next. Galen, how does this work? Okay. 03:32 Um, it's not just, oh, we threw the seed in the ground and we spent no money on it. We didn't do anything, and we're a fertilizer company. 03:41 We're not gonna put nothing on it, and we're gonna see if we make money. That's just what you did. You did varying degrees of spend. 03:47 And that's kind of what we're trying to do, right? That, that, that's what, that's what we're doing here, is this is a, a plant nutrition focused profitability tests. 03:55 So we didn't, we didn't have Matt changing varieties and herbicides or anything like that. It's just how can someone leverage 04:02 their nutrient dollar the best? And some of those are some additives that someone might throw into the mix there. 04:08 But at the end of the day, we're gonna add up what everyone spent on, uh, fertilizer and then, and then deduct that out from the revenue so we can see 04:18 who is most profitable. And it's, it's one of those situations where, um, you know, you have to be mindful of the things you can control. 04:26 And for me, I think Matt noticed on my plot, I had two applications. So it's not only just economics, it's the, 04:33 it's recognizing the cost of going across that field every time too. So you can make 80 trips and probably raise some good corn. 04:41 You have time for 80 trips. So that's a little bit of a consideration here as well. Matt, I have been in the ag thing. 04:48 I've spoken at meetings for these high yield award dinners and whatnot for the seed companies. 04:53 And I jokingly, you know, would come home and tell my wife. I'm like, yeah, so they grow amazing yields, 04:59 but I wonder what their actual profitability is. And that's always been kind of the knock on, uh, you know, uh, these high yield chasers, are they actually profitable? 05:07 So this plot you're doing seeks to prove that you can do both, but you're doing varying different, um, treatments. 05:15 So talk about the treatments, uh, and then I want you to tell me which one you think is gonna create the biggest return. 05:22 Well, I'm actually, I'm actually pretty nervous on this myself for several different reasons. 05:27 You know, we, that's always been a concern of mine. And the high yield beans, everybody would say, you know, that's kind of where we got our, 05:34 our start was with the high yield beans. And everybody would say, yeah, but look at the money they spent on 'em. 05:39 You know, we did these same kind of plots in soybeans at hefty, and we, we pretty much, well, I mean, we won a lot of those 05:46 and we won the ROI too. So, you know, I've, I've always tried to mold my high yield against, I would never tell a farmer 05:54 to do this that he couldn't do it on his whole crop. Now, you know, there's certain areas and certain places that's gonna yield better in a 06:01 field no matter what. That's where you're gonna go get your content. But we're doing most of these practices. 06:07 Like what I've got in my plot out here is my grower standard practice. That's what I'm doing across the board. 06:12 Also have three checks out there that is what I call local grower standard practice, which so far the whole time is gonna be seed 06:21 and nitrogen, you know, minus the litter in the, in the pre-plant fertilizer early. So we've got a bunch of different things to look at. 06:27 I'm nervous for two reasons. Number one, Galen's just now putting out this first nitrogen application, you know, what I thought I've learned in, 06:37 in my career farming corn, which has been very short compared to other things, is in these super sandy soils, we've got a spoon feed. 06:44 You hear that word all time, spoon feed, spoon feed. Well, we get all these rains. What Galen's idea is, I think, and Stephanie's too, 06:51 and for sure, Kelly, you don't need all that nitrogen early. You don't need any nitrogen early, right? 06:57 You know, just, just get it when it really, when the demand curve's there. So I'm sitting there on pins and needles, I've spoke 07:04 and three times, Galen's gonna put his first load out. Today we're putting it out on the lab, and Stephanie's kind of done a in-between, uh, 07:13 me and Galen and Kelly. So it's gonna be so interesting to see as all this preaching I've been doing about spoon feeding 07:21 nitrogen, potash, should I just throw all that out the window? Stephanie, normally when we've done field days, 07:29 agri liquid, at least partnering with extreme ag for the last, what, two, three years now here on these field days, which is really cool. 07:35 Usually when we're in the field, you say, here's prescription A and we look at like six acres that has that, and here's prescription B, which you do A 07:46 and then you add three more things that becomes prescription B, et cetera. In this field day plot test that Matt is doing, 07:54 it's the mat practices, it's the Stephanie practices, it's the Galen practices. Is that what I'm understanding? Kind of, kind of walk me 08:01 through the, the method or the prescriptions of each different plot. Yeah, that's absolutely what we did. 08:09 Um, Matt Galen, myself and then Kelly Garrett all put in a recommendation and we just went with, we're going for, you know, two 50, 08:18 um, bushel corn and what fertility program do you want? And it was pretty much an an open book. What treatments do you want? 08:24 What fertilizer products do you want? What timing do you want? And we all came up with our own program based upon, 08:30 you know, what we thought from our personal experience would provide that best yield while keeping it, you know, 08:36 the most economical. So four different, um, practices and, and, uh, a treatment prescriptions, 08:44 but they're all at the same place. They're all in McGee, right outside of Matt's offices. Here's the tough part. Galen, you're relying on Matt 08:52 to actually do your prescription. Do, do you think the competitive spirit's gonna get in there and he's going to like spike the football 08:58 for himself and screw you and stuff? I, I did mention that to him, but I, you know, I trust that Matt's not going to, 09:06 it feels like, uh, he's got a little bit of a conscience and I think Lane would, uh, 09:10 probably keep him in line there as well. But that didn't stop the trash talking. 'cause uh, he did mention wanting me to lose by 40 bushels, 09:19 and I reminded him it's a profit challenge, not a yield challenge. So if I lose by 40 bushels 09:25 and win the other end of it, that's good too. But, uh, yeah, that, that, that's part of it. That'll do a good job. 09:32 We, we know that unless there's just a miscalculation somewhere. Well, what's cool about it is that, Matt, you're not, 09:40 yeah, I mean, if you only wanted to win you, you could sabotage theirs. That's not the point of this. The point of this is truly 09:46 to tell our followers, Hey, we thought this would be the one that made money. No, it's this one over here. 09:52 So I kinda like the way you're doing this. What's your gut tell you right now? We're recording this on May 22nd, I think it is. 09:59 What's your gut tell you on May 22nd, which one's gonna make sense? Come, uh, combine time? 10:05 Well, Stephanie mentioned 250 bushels and 250 bushels in McGee, Arkansas. If I can average 250 bushels across my corn, 10:13 I'm gonna be super happy. I've got a higher input cost than anybody in this plot. And I'm usually around, uh, average on my corn, two 30 10:21 to two 60, somewhere in that range. 2 32. Wait, wait, are we talking yield or money? Yield. Okay, I'm at 2 30, 2 60. 10:29 I'll get a field, use our NCGA field to be in the two 80 range. You know, I'm still, my pursuit is a 300 bushel 10:37 whole field that is economically, you know, safe to do. So we, we analyze each input. We do, I'm nervous 10:44 because I've got more in it than they've got. I'm almost uner because I know that, in my opinion with what they're doing 10:54 is gonna be about 180 to 190 bush of corn. Now, I may not, I'm not gonna come in at two 50, but I may come in at two 20 now. 11:03 Almost good though, if, if they win, because I learned, I learned more off of being off of doing this. 11:10 Right? Yeah. You know, if I was gonna do it wrong, I'd have a 400 bushel NCGA injury. Okay. You know, that's just something that, 11:17 that's the code we go by and No, No, no. You mean if you're gonna do it wrong, if you're gonna, 11:22 if your, your thing is, you would lose the economic challenge, but win the yield. And that's the problem that most farmers, 11:29 they wanna win the yield challenge. And we're, we're absolutely reversing that thinking with this, which is what 11:35 I'm really excited about, Stephanie. Um, am I right. I'm not being critical in any way. Farmers chase yield sometimes at 11:41 to the detriment of the bottom line. And, and then they have somebody that's an agronomist, maybe from Michigan, smart woman. 11:47 She comes out and says, you just need to pump more fertility to it. You need to pump more fertility to it. 11:51 Is that you, are you the one that's, uh, leading these guys astray? Well, I'm not gonna say I lead them astray, 11:58 but I'm gonna try to make them, you know, kind of that equal balance between, you know, what you need agronomically, 12:04 but also trying to keep that economics inside, uh, insight. You know, I, not just an agronomist, I also farm. 12:11 So I, I relate because that means dollars for me at home. And so when I'm making a recommendation for any grower, 12:18 I have, you know, that farmer mindset to me that, you know, I want them to be profitable. 12:22 And a lot of times the grounders will go out and just recommend what's convenient for them, um, to eliminate that risk. 12:28 But I also know that dollars are probably a bigger risk because if that farmer is not gonna be in business two or three years down the line, 12:36 or he's not profitable with that program that you're providing, um, he's no longer a customer. And so he may no longer be in business. 12:43 He may no longer be a customer, you know, of mine. And that's not the end goal. You know, we want our growers to stick with us for a number 12:49 of years, so we wanna make sure they're profitable. I think it's cool. You and Galen are both not just company people out here, uh, trying to push product. 12:57 You both farm, uh, you're, you're a large scale farmer in Michigan. Galen's not as big a, a farmer, 13:02 but the thing is out there in Guyman, Oklahoma, I mean, let's face it, you can see, you can just about see Roswell, New Mexico from his farm. 13:11 I think so. I mean, it looks bigger than it's, Hey, answer me this. What's your gut tell you? Both. 13:16 I wanna go around the horn here. What's your gut tell you, Stephanie? Well, we've still got you here. 13:20 Which one's gonna make the most money? You, your, your, uh, recommended Galen's, Matt's or Kelly's? 13:30 I think it's gonna be hard to tell. Um, like Matt said, his dollars is much higher. Uh, the other three of us are all kind of playing, you know, 13:37 pretty similar in that dollar market of what we've spent. Uh, so it's gonna come down to yield, I think, to see 13:43 what that separation is. And, you know, we had the first round of tissue tests that we're all pretty even. 13:49 So I think right now it's gonna be hard to even predict, you know, where that separation will be. 13:53 But the corn's still small. And so we have a lot of time to, you know, I'm excited for the field day to see, you know, what it looks like, 13:59 you know, a few more weeks down the road. Galen does your, okay. Matt's spending the most money on his experiment. 14:05 You're, where are you on the spend? I'm, I, I don't know exactly. I'm about there with Stephanie and Kelly. 14:13 I think I might be a smid higher than them, but I'm, I'm lower than Matt. Is, is Kelly the cheapest? Is Kelly 14:19 the one that's spending the least amount? I don't Think so. I'm pretty p****d. 14:24 Stephanie's spending the least amount. Okay. Yeah. And we've done these before and that Stephanie's done that and leveraged her dollar to be the best. 14:32 Okay, so of all things, why I like the experi, because we've, I've never been to a corn plot that did this. I mean, I, I've never seen, 14:39 they always just to go out there and talk about yield. The other reason I'm kind of excited about this is, this is the year 21, 22, 23 record 14:48 farm income years. We are now going to be in a more normal environment where every dollar needs 14:55 to be a little more scrutinized than it was in 2022. We're 40% off of ag revenue for commodity crops. Like our, we're talking about here. 15:03 This is the year to be thinking this way. Am I right? Yeah. I think, I think the, the easy figure for most farmers, Damien, is always revenue. 15:14 It's easy. And so then that pushes you to start thinking, I gotta push more yield because I can push more revenue. 15:21 But, uh, I've had a farmer that has reminded me for years, don't spend dollars to pick up dimes. 15:29 And that's what comes to mind here, is that yield, you can, you can actually spending $2 to get one back. 15:37 The purpose of this is just to bring an awareness to make your dollars spent count, Final agronomic thought. 15:44 And then I want, I want to get a preview of what we're gonna see in June 27th when we're down at the plot. 15:49 Stephanie, what do I need to know about this? If the person's saying, you know what? I wanna spend less money from an agronomic standpoint, 15:56 there's a lot of things you can do. There's a lot of things you cannot spend on. There's a lot of things you can spend on. 16:01 It can be a little overwhelming. Your first recommendation is like, what did you look at on all of these? 16:06 Uh, uh, you, Kelly Galen and Matt, and say, whatever you do, don't do this. Whatever you do, do this. 16:13 I think the biggest thing is relating it back to that soil test and figuring out what that crop needs. Um, you know, it's easy to say, 16:20 I'm just gonna cut my nitrogen back, or I'm gonna completely remove micronutrients. You know, those are easy buttons to, to lower the cost. 16:27 But you need to see, you know, which nutrient can survive off the soil. And then what nutrients do you need to, you know, 16:34 apply in order to make sure you still get that yield. Matt, I'm gonna guess because we've, I've enjoyed my time in the delta. 16:40 You're gonna say, I worry less about the soil test. 'cause let's face it, I've got a beach out here. Uh, all, all my nutrients leach away. 16:48 Um, I bet you're gonna say no. I think it's more about tissue. I think it's more about the plant than the soil. 16:55 What's your, what's your thought comparative to what Stephanie just said? Well, we have to manage our soil differently 17:01 because it's pretty crappy soil compared to everyone else. So, so in t 17:06 and, uh, Stephanie brought up that tissue sample. I about half panicked when I got that tissue sample because they were all as good as I was. 17:14 Some of 'em were better, you know, there was something out there that were worse. And the checks that I didn't do in the local 17:18 grower was way worse. But, you know, I, people, everybody makes fun of me. 'cause I say it's so hard to farm here. 17:25 And, and we struggle, you know, I was looking at my budget this year, what can I take outta my corn budget at $4 corn? 17:32 Yeah. And we go through each product individually. I'd be like, nah, I can't take, nah, I can't take that one out. 17:38 So I'm basically getting cut hardly anything back on my corn crop that I normally cut, cut back 17:45 because each one of 'em equated back to less yield. I will say this, I do want to get this out before you, before we stop. 17:53 The first time I ever met Galen and Stephanie, agri liquids are kind of, they're, they're not real good salesmen. 18:01 I'm just gonna be, They're so pro farmer and, and I think it's because they farm that they're not gonna allow you to go out there. 18:11 They're not gonna recommend you go out there and do something stupid. And that is a cool thing in this industry today. Yeah. 18:17 To find a company that says, no, don't put that out. It's not gonna make you money. I'm like, make me money. I figured he was worried about you making money, 18:25 but Stephanie summed it up, you know, if I'm not here in three years, I'm not buying anything. So I would, I do wanna applaud this team here 18:32 for they look at the whole situation and they recommend what's best for you in that situation. I, I got, I have to grudgingly admit I like these two, 18:41 and I hate most people. I mean, and that's, that's the, the, the deal there. Um, the, you know, spoon feeding, we talk about it a lot. 18:49 And with you being a business partner at Agro Liquid, that's kind of your thing. It just seems to me that if you're gonna cut back, 18:55 it's on anything but the extra treatment. In other words, spend less, but go across the field more and put it more in a spoon feeding dose. 19:05 Is that really the theory that more people should be thinking a year like this anyhow, I guess Galen and Stephanie? 19:11 Yeah. I, I, I think, uh, you know, when you're trying to leverage your nutrients, and this is what I did in my plot, you're, 19:18 you're playing a little bit of a calculated risk. You're trying to save all the bullets you can until that corn's gonna demand it. 19:24 And that's why I'm just now doing my nitrogen application. But, uh, there's a million ways to, uh, 19:32 manage nutrition. And when economics get a little harder, you have to be a little more calculated about it. 19:38 And that's the purpose of this. To your point, a couple years ago at $7 corn, you know, you might see me doing four applications. 19:47 I I might be luxury spending somewhere else. But, uh, the point is, is an awareness of how to leverage those nutrients, uh, 19:55 for the best benefit this year. Easy to get sloppy at $7 corn. You gotta really, uh, you gotta have a little better, 20:01 you gotta have a little better pencil when it's like this. Stephanie, do you take it as an insult 20:05 that Matt called you a poor salesperson? No, I don't. Because, you know, it goes back to what I said before. 20:11 If we're not helping that farmer succeed, you know, in the long run, we're not gonna succeed. So, you know, it might be a poor salesman, 20:18 but, you know, I still think it's, it's a good sales tactic because it's looking at long-term sales than just 20:25 immediate, you know, return. So extreme ag is all about helping a farmer. That's why these guys started this, uh, four years ago. 20:31 Then they brought me in and I'm really excited about that. I'm in my third year, starting my fourth year here this 20:35 summer, so I'm excited about that. So Matt Miles is gonna have a field day on June 27th. We've got four field days yet coming up. 20:42 We already did one at Chad Henderson's, or we got June 13th at Kelly Garrett's in, uh, area in Iowa. We've got June 27th at Matt Miles. 20:50 If you come to Matt Miles, uh, the evening before a as a paying member of extreme Ag, you're invited to a dinner where you'll see people like GA and Stephanie. 20:58 You can talk to them, shake hands, and really get some one-on-one time with them. Talk about the products and the practices and, 21:03 and all the things for the learning. That's the evening before on June 26th. If you're a paying member of extreme Ag, you can come 21:08 to the extreme Ag Field Day, whether you're a paying member or not, that's open to everybody. 21:12 That's on June 27th, beginning bright and early at eight o'clock in the morning. So it's gonna be hot down there. 21:16 We'll have field day, uh, tours. We'll be talking to the industry representatives about what has happening there. 21:21 And then we're gonna have a panel hosted by me with, uh, with Matt and some other people on there. 21:26 So it'll be a really, really good time. Matt, what did I not cover that they're going to be able to enjoy, learn, see at your field day? 21:33 Well, they're going to get Southern Fried Catfish for lunch and they'll also, the Secretary of Agriculture for Arkansas be here. 21:41 So have the dignitary here to kind of hang out with some. So I think that'll be fun. 21:47 And we'll have air conditioning for the eating, so we're not sitting, we're not gonna be sitting out there with sweating our socks. 21:52 We will when we start, but when we get back in. Got it. So's McGee, Arkansas. You can register for this at the Extreme Ag Farm website. 22:00 There's probably even a link right now that our friend will produce when he put this up there. But you know what, get registered. 22:06 You can come to all, all four remaining June 13th at Kelly Garrett, June 27th at Matt Miles, uh, August 8th at Kevin Matthews, 22:13 and then August 22nd out in Maryland at Temple Roads. Every single one of ours will have an affiliation with Aggro Liquid, but also all the other companies 22:20 that we work with to demonstrate how we can use their products and how you can use them on your farm. 22:25 Great, great. Awesome question. What is the economic return on a corn plot, or can you use a corn plot to test economic return? 22:30 You're gonna see more of this at our field day. Thanks for being here To next time, that's Galen Stephanie, that's Matt Miles. 22:35 I'm Damien Mason. Thanks for being here at Extreme Mass cutting the curve. That's a wrap for this episode of Cutting the Curve. 22:41 Make sure to check out Extreme ag.farm for more great content to help you squeeze more profit out of your farming operation.

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