Texan Taps Into Network Of Advisers
By Carroll Smith
Dimmitt is a small town on the Old Ozark Trail in the Texas Panhandle and is known as the home of bluegrass musicians Smokey, Edd and Herbert Mayfield. Cotton producer Bill Myatt began farming with his dad, Jerry, and granddad, Tubb, in Levelland and eventually bought land in Dimmitt, which is in Castro County. He now farms 8,000 irrigated acres of cotton, corn and peanuts with his son, Jake, in Castro, Bailey, Hockley and Cochran counties where they also run a few head of cattle.
Of the 8,000 acres, 5,000 are under pivots and 3,000 are watered by subsurface drip systems. “We would like to have every acre in drip because it’s much more efficient,” Myatt says. “With drip irrigation, we can come close to 4 bales of cotton per acre compared to 2 to 2 ½ bales per acre with pivot irrigation. We get almost twice as much yield from the same amount of water with drip. Drip irrigation doubles what the water can do.”
Jake adds, “We can start pre-watering earlier and more efficiently with drip irrigation because the water-holding capacity is a lot better since the drip tape is below ground. There is no run-off.”
The ‘Network Of Minds’
Myatt attributes much of his success to information he gleans from an “inner circle” of advisers who cover every aspect of the operation from production to marketing.
“We call it our ‘circle’ or ‘network,’ which is made up of 40 to 50 people who are experts in their fields,” he says. “My Dad, who is semi-retired today, is intense, determined and was the beginning of what we call our inner circle of advisers because he gave me such a good foundation when I began farming. Now our network includes Larry Martin with Deltapine, Kyle Lawless with Dekalb, as well as other seed and chemical reps, people at our tractor dealership, our drip irrigation installer, cotton buyers, bankers and my accountant.
“These are all examples of people in our ‘network of minds’ that we can depend on and trust. There are too many important decisions to be made on an operation this size. I couldn’t possibly handle them all myself. If we make a wrong decision, it hurts us financially.”
Myatt says he and Jake don’t mind asking questions, and the people that they count as members of their circle offer their knowledge willingly, which helps the operation prosper.
“We appreciate them and respect their opinions,” he says. “I believe the best way to learn is to get information from someone who is doing something better than we are. If you’re on my ‘favorite list’ on my phone, then you are in my circle. And we have some guys on speed dial.”
New Product Evaluator
Myatt also has been a Deltapine New Product Evaluator since 2011. The NPE Program is made up of more than 200 cotton farmers across the Cotton Belt who evaluate pre-commercial Deltapine varieties on their farms on 20- to 25-acre plots. These farmers provide feedback on variety performance and yield results, then vote on which varieties should be commercialized.
In 2015, some of Myatt’s planted acres included XtendFlex cotton varieties DP 1518 B2XF, DP 1522 B2XF and an NPE variety that is being brought to market this year as DP 1612 B2XF. The Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton technology, upon regulatory approvals, will allow three modes of action over the top – dicamba, glyphosate and glufosinate – for a more flexible and reliable weed management program.
Myatt points out that seed was limited for 1518 and 1522 last year, but, this season, he intends to plant a significant amount of acres to DP 1522 B2XF and the new Deltapine Class of 16 variety DP 1612 B2XF. In fact, he received an award at the 2015 NPE Summit for making the highest yield in the Southwest region on his plot of DP 1612 B2XF.
“In 2015, we had the best grades we’ve ever had,” Myatt says. “Although it wasn’t a typical year to have good grades, our Deltapine cotton varieties, on average, went into the loan for about 57 cents. And although 2010 was the best yielding crop we’ve ever had, 2015 came close to those yields with even better quality. We typically expect 3- to 4-bale cotton every year.
“Today, we are built into a high-quality market. The higher quality cotton is something that you can sell. Last year, most of our cotton was contracted early, but on the small amount of cotton that we didn’t have contracted, we received a premium.”
The Myatts also attribute improved grades to the John Deere 7760 round bale cotton picker that they added to their equipment line-up last year. “We had never picked cotton until 2015,” Myatt says. “We just used a stripper.”
The most troublesome weed that plagues the Myatts’ operation is careless weed, or pigweed. They currently apply pre-emerge herbicides to keep this pest under control.
“We haven’t found any resistant pigweed yet, but we have to keep fighting,” Myatt says. “Once dicamba is approved for Deltapine Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton, we can add it to the fight to keep our fields cleaner. It will give us a stronger program to help control pigweed, tumbleweed and other broadleaf weeds, while glyphosate or glufosinate can take care of the grasses.”
As the Myatt family continues to stay loyal to cotton in the Texas Panhandle, Bill says he is glad that Jake chose to return to the farm after graduating from Texas Tech.
“I didn’t pressure him to farm because it’s high-stress, high-intensity and extremely demanding,” Myatt says. “Very few days go by when you can just forget about it.”
But, despite the challenges associated with farming, Jake says he enjoys the work. “I’ve been going to the farm with Dad since I was 4 or 5 years old, working for $1 a day and free food,” Jake says. “That’s really the only job I’ve ever had. I feel like we are blessed to be able to do something that we enjoy, and I always knew that I was going to farm.”
And how does Bill Myatt feel about his family’s chosen profession?
“Like my Dad and my Granddad before him, we are in it for life,” he says.
Contact Carroll Smith at 901-326-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.