by Doug Toburen
Parsons, Kansas —
Kansas State University Southeast Kansas Area Beef Specialist Jaymelynn Farney may be new to town but she is definitely not new to Kansas—and she’s no stranger to the beef industry.
Growing up in New Mexico on her family’s commercial cow/calf operation, Farney knew at a young age there was something out there for her and whatever it was, it was going to involve the cattle industry.
“Being involved on the family ranching operation led me to being very active in 4-H and FFA,” Farney, explains.
It was her success in livestock judging that moved her across several state lines.
“Through my success in both 4-H and FFA I was offered a judging scholarship at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan.,” she says. “That’s when I decided I was sure I wanted to be in the ag industry.”
Farney knew she wanted to work with cattle management and health issues, but she didn’t want to go to veterinary school.
After getting to know her judging coaches and becoming more familiar with yet another Kansas school—K-State, she decided she would be heading to Manhattan.
“After graduating from K-State I attended Oklahoma State University for my masters degree, then back to K-State for my Ph.D.,” Farney says.
During her education Farney became familiar with much more than the cow/calf industry.
“While I was in school at OSU I worked in a new area of beef cattle production for me, receiving cattle into backgrounding operations,” she explains. “I loved it!”
By the time she was finished with her Ph.D. at K-State Farney had taken quite a liking to the state of Kansas.
“I really like Kansas. It’s a beautiful state and it stays greener longer here,” she says.
In addition to learning about different types of cattle operations, according to Farney, she has had the opportunity to learn about a number of new forages.
Her learning curve has been sharp when it comes to the types of producers she is working with.
“There are a lot of producers in my area that also have jobs in town,” she says. “Producers in this area are much more diversified.”
One of the biggest changes from her experience back home is relates to grazing capacity.
“I came from an area where we figured it took 40 acres to run a pair,” she explains. “Here you can run a cow/calf pair on four acres.”
When it comes to what Farney can do for producers in southeast Kansas, she has a lot of plans.
“I hope to take what I have learned and experienced from raising cows in a drought area and pass that on to producers here,” she explains. “We were very conscious about grass management.”
When it comes to the overall beef industry in southeast Kansas, Farney says she sees a lot of potential.
“I think the beef industry here is sitting good to help improve some national issues,” she says. “If Texas and New Mexico start getting some rain someone has to provide cattle to help repopulate the herd.”
According to her, with the demand for beef, there must be supply to match.
“We don’t know where the threshold is when people stop buying beef because they won’t spend ‘x’ amount on a pound of hamburger,” she explains.
Looking into the future, Farney says we are a ways away from having too many cows to affect the market, as far as prices go.
“Repopulation in Texas and New Mexico is going to take five to 10 years,” she says.
Another issue Farney finds important in the industry is public perception of beef.
“People are starting to care more about how animals are treated,” she says. “Whether they are treated with antibiotics or not is definitely an issue.”
Her feeling is that if there is demand for antibiotic-free beef it should be provided. Then again, according to her, if some people are not willing to spend the extra money for antibiotic-free beef then the industry must support that as well.
“We can provide what our consuming public wants,” she explains.
Although Farney sees a lot of potential for the cattle industry in southeast Kansas she said she wasn’t in the office for a day before the calls started coming in about drought issues.
“This is a perfect time to look at the effects of overgrazing and mismanagement,” she says. “Producers need to look at whether they need to re-seed as well as their weed populations before they can make good management decisions.”
She has also fielded a number of calls about turning cattle on failed cropland which brought up the issues of nitrate and prussic acid problems.
“With the cost of everything today every producer needs to be more cost-effective,” Farney says. “Leases cost more, corn prices are up, diesel is expensive. With the right management we can improve efficiencies.”
Jumping right in with both feet, Farney is excited about working for K-State and the producers in southeast Kansas.
“I have a very large area — basically the southeast corner of the state — and I am excited about it,” she explains. “This gives me the opportunity to work with operations of all sizes, cow/calf operations, stocker operations and a lot of different forages.”
Even with a very large area and a good number of producers, Farney finds it important to step back a little bit, slow down and find out what is really important to the individual producers.
“We need to listen to the producers and generate programs that will help them,” she explains. “I am fortunate to work with a lot of great people at K-State and I am looking forward to working with producers in southeast Kansas.”£