November 3, 2006
Jay Davis says his looks forward to the day he may get to have a conversation with Jhett, his infant boy.
It's the same conversation he had with his dad, and more than likely, the same his father had with Jay's grandfather.
"Having a 1-year-old really changes your whole outlook on life," Jay says. "I really look forward to the day that hopefully Jhett has an interest in agriculture. But it's not something I intend to overly encourage. Farming and ranching isn't an easy life."
And if there's one thing 35-year-old Jay has learned after seven years as a full-time agricultural producer, it's that farmers are a lot like Chicago Cubs fans.
"You have to be an eternal optimist," he says. "You're always looking to next year."
Three of his last four crop seasons balked at Mother Naturefirst with too much rain, then none at all. Add to that stagnant commodity prices and soaring energy costs, and Jay had little choice but hope for the best as he eyes a new year.
"Looking back at the last couple of years, I hope we don't see another time like it," he says.
But, Jay admits, it's all part of the game when it comes to farming and ranching.
Ranching constitutes the bulk of Jay's operations. His operation runs stocker cattle. A big part of his business is preconditioning feeder cattle. He also develops replacement heifers and runs a breeding bull development program. He uses the farming operation to ensure feed for the cattle, growing corn, wheat, oats and several varieties of forage.
In addition, Jay and his family also operate a farm service company for custom fertilizer applications, as well as a trucking company to transport cattle, feed and fertilizer.
It's a diverse operation indeed, but one that Jay says keeps the cash flow ready in his operation.
But even diversity can't compete against drought. As Jay started baling hay this year, he said he was down to just four round bales from his winter feed reservesbarely enough to feed a fraction of his cattle.
But the hard times also forced some thinking outside the regular field of play, Jay says.
With a degree in animal science from Texas A&M and a Masters in ruminant nutrition from Texas Tech, Jay says he put his education to work developing feeds.
"We baled corn stalks for the first time ever," he said. "We also brought in some ground cotton burrs from the Rolling Plains and mixed that with our feed productsanything we could do to stretch the available forage and come up with creative ideas to gain cattle with different ingredients."
"We've pretty much established the fact that commodity prices won't increase tremendously," he says. "The focus has to be on efficiency."
On his own farm, that means minimum tillage practices to save on fuel, and coming up with new ways to distinguish what he grows from the rest.
"With our feed grain production, for instance, we work to convert it to the finished product and sell it at retail," Jay says. "That's a lot better than just selling the grain at the local elevator. Instead of selling hay, we sell it converted into weight on cattle. The closer you can get to the consumer, the better the potential for profitability."
Down the road, Jay says he suspects to be doing even more with less. Like many parts of Texas, his farm in the Grandview area is under tremendous pressures from urban development. But those are battles for another day, Jay says, and he intends to meet them head on with his family.
"I'm so proud of him," said Jay's wife, Laura Davis. "I know I don't say it enough. He loves his work, just lives and breathes it. I'm sure he could do something else with fewer hours and less physical demands, but he wouldn't be happy."
Although Laura didn't grow up on a farm like her husband, she says she's excited about raising their son on one.
"We're blessed to have our son grow up around all of this, and see all the things I never got to see growing up in the city," she says.
And for all trying times, Jay says he wouldn't pick a finer life for him or his little boy.
"The best part is getting to see the many blessings the good Lord has bestowed on us," he says. "Whether it be watching a good sunrise on a Sunday morning over a wheat pasture full of cattle or simply being able to till the soil, plant the seed and reap the harvestit's something that's been around for hundreds of years. Being able to carry that torch forward is a greatly rewarding experience."
Jay Davis says he makes use of all facets of his businesstrucking, grain production, and husbandryto grow closer to the consumer and increase profits.
The Davis family includes 1-year old Jhett, Laura and Jay.