After working for a pair of brothers for 14 years, Danny Cawyer has taken over the operation
Danny Cawyer grew up on a farm in Cossville, Mo., raising hogs, beef cattle, dairying and row crop farming. They farmed around 500 acres and raised wheat, beans and milo.
Being one of nine children he helped with chores and loved it from the moment he was big enough to help. When he was 8 years old, they started dairying and continued until he was 30. He also helped row crop for several farmers around the area.
Danny and his wife Sara Cawyer have four daughters, Brianna Vinson and her husband Nathanael Vinson, Laney Cawyer, Ellie Cawyer and Macey Cawyer. Sara runs the combine during wheat and soybean harvest, and takes care of all the farm books.
“Sara did not grow up on the farm, but has very much taken to it and enjoys it,” Danny said.
Laney and Ellie help in the hay field, but they all enjoy helping when they get a chance.
The farm Danny now owns located in Carthage, Mo, was actually started in 1947 by the Jones brothers. In 2000, Danny ran into Wilbur Jones, one of the three brothers, at the parts store. They were both getting baler parts.
Wilbur’s brother Willard had passed away and his other brother William, had developed some health issues. Wilbur asked Danny if he’d consider coming to work for him. Danny told him he could help him some in the fall, but he was still dairying with his dad. After helping the brothers in the fall of 2000, Wilbur told Danny he needed him to stay permanently. Danny sold his interest in his parent’s farm back to them and went to work for William and Wilbur full-time. William passed away two years later, and Danny continued to work for Wilbur until he passed away in 2014.
When Wilbur passed away, he allowed Danny the opportunity to take over the farm. With owned and rented ground, Danny now farms a little more than 3,000 acres.
The row crop operation is around 1,200 acres. They raise corn, wheat and soybeans. Danny’s dad Eddy Cawyer retired from his own farm a few years ago and now helps Danny on the farm full-time.
Ronnie Baker, works for him as well. In an average year, they have about 600 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans. They generally plant double crop soybeans but with the weather challenges this year of getting the wheat in, they will have a lot of first crop soybeans. They rotate crops on a two-year three crop rotation and chop 100 acres of corn for their cattle feed. Their corn yield in a decent year averages around 150-plus bushels to the acre, with wheat yields averaging in the mid-80s to low 90s. Soybean fields are all dry land and their yields average in the mid to upper 40s. They maximize storage by storing everything that’s grown on their own farm and selling it throughout the winter. Their share crops are sold locally during harvest. Tillage practices are primarily conventional, but they no till most of their soybeans and some of their wheat.
Autosteer has helped a great deal on their farm. Danny said he’s able to watch his equipment better and is much less tired by the end of the day. They plant 20-inch rows and have definitely noticed it shades the ground faster and has significantly helped with weed control.
Danny favors planting and harvesting corn although he said, “In 2019 you really couldn’t love any of it.”
That was definitely a challenging year on the farm because of the wet weather. Danny hasn’t talked to anyone, no matter how old they are, who remembers a year quite as challenging because of rainfall.
“It was hard to get anything planted or anything harvested this year. I don’t think we did anything in 2019 that you would’ve considered smooth or normal. It was even hard to put up hay.”
To help monitor soil health, Danny does periodic soil tests, tries to fertilize accordingly and adds lime when needed. He uses liquid and dry commercial fertilizer, as well as poultry litter and hires out all fertilizer work. They use Roundup Ready, Extend and Liberty Link and this year will be adding Enlist soybeans. The traits that he looks for in corn are pest resistance and high-yield potential. In soybeans, he looks for a taller bean for easier harvest.
Farming practices, in general, have stayed the same over the years. They have recently implemented no-till and bought an inline ripper to break up the soil compaction. The no Till in soybeans behind wheat has allowed them to speed up getting soybeans planted after wheat and has been very beneficial in moisture retention. By using the ripper and breaking hard pan it’s allowed the moisture and roots to go down, which has shown good response in crop yield.
The biggest challenge Danny foresees in the future is marketing grain at the right time.
“Everything we ever thought we knew about has changed the last few years, that we actually rely on brokers now to help market grain,” he said. “Seed genetics is huge and is changing every year with so many advances made.”
The Cawyers also have a cow/calf operation, primarily a cross-bred Limousine Angus herd and have begun to use Charolais bulls on some of their red cows. They run about 500 pairs and market cattle through Joplin Regional Stockyards, but this year they are going to start marketing some off the farm. They would like to background all of their own calves and sell them off the farm. Danny said his kids have shown interest in the farm but it’s a little too early to know if they’ll want to continue it.