The Pryor Times

Agriculture

September 4, 2012

Farm Family of the Year chosen

ADAIR — “I was really surprised, and humbled,” E.C. Peper said. “I don’t know how it happened, really.”

E.C. and Shirley Peper’s family was chosen Mayes County Farm Family of the Year for 2012.

A lifelong Adair resident, Peper’s operation encompasses 2,000 acres. The ranch is running 350 cows, down from 400 because of the drought conditions the last two years.

The commercial cows are mostly black and bred to registered Angus and Hereford bulls.

“A lot of them are black baldies,” Peper said. “You need to raise something people like.”

The Pepers keep the best heifers for replacements and sell some bred heifers.

“We cull heifers pretty close,” Peper said.

Yearlings are sold on contract at 850 pounds.

Monday morning, two loads of steers had been weighed. The average weight was 839 pounds.

“You need to weigh them to see where you are,” Peper said. “We sell them at 850 with two percent shrink. Anything under 850 and you’re leaving money on the table.” This set of yearlings will be sold by video at Vinita sale barn.

Pepers bale all their own hay. This year, with drought conditions, son Ricky said the yield was about 50 percent. Before the drought, some hay was sold, but now Pepers need all they bale.

Peper said the recent rain has helped, but “see the grass is green, but not growing.”

There is still good grass on the well-managed Peper pastures. Bermuda grass / fescue mixtures are thick.

“We didn’t fertilize this year,” Peper said. “We got some chicken litter a couple of years ago, which is good for long-term. But you still have to put some nitrogen with it.”

Not a weed can be found in the pasture. “We have a good spray program,” Peper said. “There’s no reason to fertilize weeds.”

In the last couple of years, Pepers have been planting no-till wheat in the Bermuda grass pastures. Peper said when the Bermuda goes dormant, the wheat will take off. The wheat / Bermuda mix is baled. “Some of that made four (round) bales to the acre,” Peper said. “That really saved us (last winter).”

The water shortage has caused a lot of watering from tanks. A shiny tanker hooked to a semi loads water from Adair Fire Department. The tanker is left over from the Pepers’ previous business as molasses brokers. The molasses, used mostly for feed, came on barges on the Arkansas river. “We had a mill at Muskogee,” Peper said. He said some of the molasses was domestic, but it came from different parts of the world.

The Pepers are in the process of setting four additional automatic water tanks. It has been necessary to run one and a half miles of water line for those tanks.

The Pepers donated land for Adair’s new sewer lagoon and treated waste water is spread by irrigation gun onto an adjoining meadow. “The town really didn’t have any place to put that lagoon,” Peper said.

Good management practices make good pastures, and the Pepers’ ground speaks for itself.

E.C. and Ricky run the operation full-time, but the whole family works on the ranch, especially during hay season.

Ricky and his sister, Angela Root, received State FFA Degrees raising and showing animals. That tradition has continued with two of the Pepers’ grandchildren receiving State FFA Degrees and one receiving an American FFA degree.

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