There is no doubt that environmental stewardship on farms is important, but at the same time, working to provide people with the food they need is important as well. The Shoup family in Wayne County is working to find the ideal balance between productivity and environmental care on the crop and farrow-to-finish hog farm that is this year’s Ohio Pork Industry Environmental Steward Award winner.
“Our families find church and the many activities associated with membership to be a primary focus. In the past year our farm has had family members complete mission work in Palestine, Haiti, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia. Future plans for visits in 2013 include Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, India and Nepal. Over the years our family members have attended short-term mission trips in parts of the world to understand more fully the needs of the many, help provide for those needs and learn just how blessed we are in this country with the abundant food supply which is available,” said Dave Shoup, with Shoup Brothers Farm Ltd. “Stewardship to me means different things in different countries. If you are in a Third World country, food is the most important thing and you are going to get it any way you can. I think a lot of times we limit what we can produce in this country and forget about the people in the world that are starving.”
The 3,000 acres of corn, soybean and wheat crop ground on the Shoups’ farm produces roughly half of the feed needs for the 3,200 sows and 70,000 hogs sold annually. Shoup Brothers Farm Ltd. is a seven-family farm that was started by Dave’s great-great grandfather. The farm now employs the 8th generation of Shoups.
The farm has been in operation for over 100 years with hogs being the primary enterprise for the past 50 years. William and Robert are the original Shoup Brothers that started farrowing sows on straw in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Farrowing sows was very labor intensive in the early years as each sow was allowed outside twice daily for feed and water,” Dave said. “The operation grew to 400 sows in the 1970s.”
The farm has continued to evolve since then.
“Breeding pens were built and we started hand mating everything. Our first double-curtain chimney ventilated finishing barns were built throughout the 1980s and early 1990s,” Dave said. “In 1994 we depopulated and repopulated the breeding herd and built our first off-site nursery to house 5,000 weaned pigs. Onsite nursery facilities were remodeled to additional farrowing rooms and the operation grew to 1,000 sows. At that time we were finishing about 20,000 pigs per year. We introduced artificial insemination in 1997 and bought our first real time ultrasound in 1998. We currently have sows at three locations as well as a gilt development unit, which was built in 2004. We finish 80% of our hogs in our own finishers and we contract finish the remaining 20% with farm families in Wayne, Ashland, Richland and Holmes Counties.”
William and Robert are still involved with the finances and banking for the operation.
“Even though they are over 80 years old they are both readily willing to start at 4 a.m. and are available at any beckon call,” Dave said. “They help transport animals and take care of mowing around all of the barns, which is a huge help in keeping the farm looking nice.”
Now five of their sons are currently overseeing the day-to-day aspects of the business. Each of the family members involved has their own role.
“We all have our own niches and special areas. We have a family member that oversees each major component of our operation,” Dave said. “We feel that is it is a real benefit to have so many family members.”
Robert’s son, Ed, oversees the main sow farm and handles corn planting and crop harvest. Dave, a licensed veterinarian, oversees the isolation facility for the gilt development unit, visits each sow farm weekly for pregnancy diagnostics using the ultrasound and manages herd health programs. His involvement in the crop farming entails spraying and tillage operations. Dean oversees all self-owned and contracted finishers as well as feeds 200 head of Holstein steers each year. Dean manages the marketing of the hogs as well.
Doug manages the sow farm where he lives and plants soybeans and wheat for the entire operation. Doug’s wife, Diane, actively participates in the Ohio Pork Producers Council’s Family and Consumer Science Classroom program. She has given pork-cooking demonstrations and talked about modern farming practices to 387 classes and nearly 8,000 students in northeast Ohio in the 2012/2013 school year alone. Don oversees all nursery locations including two self-owned facilities as well as a contract nursery located in western Wayne County while working full-time at United Titanium in Wooster, Ohio as a mechanical engineer. In the next generation of Shoups, Ed’s son Lyle is working full-time on the main sow farm and in crop production and Ed’s daughter Leslie is part time, working to keep financial records and pay bills. Dave, Dean, Doug and Don’s children are primarily involved on weekends and during the summer when their school schedules allow.
Manure management on the farm has been a crucial component to success. All of the manure produced on the farm is applied on the farm.
“Our main sow herd is in the city limits of Orrville. We border town on the south and southwest side, so manure application has always been a challenge for us,” Dave said. “We use a dragline injection system and a lot of times people don’t even know we are applying manure. We think that is great.”
Nearly all of the owned and rented acres of the farm receive nutrients from manure every two to three years.
“Manure is spread on many acres each year and application decisions are based on soil test results and soil phosphorus levels. Except for limited foliar phosphorus applications to corn, no commercial phosphorous is purchased and applied to our fields because adequate P is available through our manure nutrient management program,” Dave said. “We periodically test manure from the different production sites to determine N, P, and K nutrient content. Nitrogen credit for the next crop is given based on manure application to soil the prior summer, fall and spring.”
Most of the barns have deep storage pits under the buildings that are pumped twice each year — either late March or April and November or early December. The Shoups use strip-till and other conservation tillage to minimize soil disturbance and pair those tillage practices with buffer strips and grass waterways to prevent soil loss and run-off.
“We work with other farmers in the area as a Sugarcreek Watershed Partner and have streams tested regularly by this organization,” Dave said. “The Sugarcreek Watershed Partner group also monitors the quality of the aquatic habitat in our streams as well as tests for runoff nutrients.”
The future for the farm is exciting, but increasing regulations, extremist group agendas and changing consumer whims will provide more challenges ahead while the farm continues to strive to produce more with less.
“Proper environmental stewardship needs to balance people’s basic needs and environment effects,” Dave said. “People have been injected into the environment and while they must have their physical and social needs met are also responsible to interact with the environment in a sustainable fashion. A good steward realizes they do not own the environment but only manage it in an efficient manner for the greatest possible outcome.”