PRAIRIE GROVE — Dairy farming is not an
industry most young people would choose to enter. The work is hard, the
hours are long and the economics are downright brutal. Scott Davis,
31, is not like most young people, though.
He became a dairyman in 2000, when he and his father
purchased 300 acres and 25 head of Holstein cows. During the past 11
years, the Davis farm – located in Prairie Grove – has grown to
comprise 223 milk cows on nearly 650 acres. In 2006, Scott’s wife
Cassie, 28, came on board full time to take care of the accounting. His
dad retired last year.
Growth like this is a feat under any circumstances, but it’s
especially noteworthy considering what has happened to the Arkansas
dairy industry since Scott started farming. In 2000, there were more
than 500 dairies in the state. Today, there are only 120. The
volatility of milk prices during the past decade has put more than 75
percent of the state’s dairies out of business.
For the Davises, an emphasis on efficiency – making more
with less – has keyed their success. Scott uses advanced milk-testing
and record-keeping techniques to track data on each cow in his herd and
monitor things like milk quantity and quality, animal health and feed
conversion costs (how much it costs to feed a particular cow versus how
much money in milk that cow returns).
“I’ve seen my volume increase by more than 4,000 pounds a
month since I started testing and tracking,” Scott said. “Right now, my
herd’s producing an average of around 20,000 pounds of milk a month,
and that’s low for me. This is just a start. The ultimate goal is to
milk fewer cows but get a larger volume of milk out of each cow.”
Scott’s ability to succeed in the face of adversity is just
one of the reasons he and Cassie are one of the three finalist-families
in Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R)
Achievement Award competition.
This award honors young farm families across the state for
their hard work, innovation, progress and the general excellence of
their operations. The winner of the award will be announced Dec. 1 at
the 77th Arkansas Farm Bureau Convention in Little Rock. The winning
couple will take home a 2012 Ford F-150 Crew Cab 4x4 truck and an
expenses-paid trip to the American Farm Bureau Convention in January in
Hawaii to compete for the national award. The other finalists for the
award include C.J. and Cara Parker of Carlisle, who grow rice, soybeans
and wheat; and Jeremy and Magen Allen, who raise cattle and run a
custom feed and trucking operation on the farm in Bismarck.
Scott and Cassie have both been extremely active in Farm
Bureau and its YF&R program. Scott has been on the Washington
County Farm Bureau Board of Directors since 2003. He was named
secretary/treasurer in 2010 and this past October he was elected vice
president. The couple has been on the county Farm Bureau’s YF&R
Committee since 2003. They served on the Arkansas Farm Bureau YF&R
Committee from 2007-2008. Cassie was recently picked to lead the county
organization’s Women’s Committee.
“It’s important for younger people to be active and promote
agriculture as much as possible,” Cassie said. “The further away from
the farm Americans get, the less important they think agriculture is.
They don’t realize it’s what feeds them, clothes them, shelters them
and keeps them alive.”
The Davises have a 5-year-old daughter named Lily and a one-month old daughter named Ella.