BY MELANIE BUCK –
Joe and Jill Brinkley of Grannis were recently named as the Polk County Farm Family of the Year and have now been named as the District Farm Family as well.
The Brinkleys and their three children operate a cattle farm, have eight chicken houses, and a hay and silage business, all run on 645 acres. They also run a dozer business and litter service.
Joe and Jill have three children that are heavily involved in the operation of their expansive farm. “One thing about farm life is we have our kids with us all the time. They help us and know how to work,” said Jill. Carrie, 17, Brent, 15, and J.D., 11, all play active roles in the business. Joe said they are always willing and ready to do what it takes to keep things up and running. “When the kids get up in the mornings, they always ask, ‘what are we going to do today?’” And, there is plenty to do on the successful farmstead they have built.
The Brinkleys have spent 15 years in the cattle business and Joe explained they have a 60-day calving operation that starts in February and lasts until April each year. “We were getting overstocked on our cattle so I started culling the ones that wouldn’t calve good. When I culled those cows, it was saving us a couple of bales of hay per day.” They sell some calves to a special roping farm for rodeos. Around 50 – 75 head of heifers are weaned each year. “We high grade them and keep the best of the bunch.”
They also keep their cattle well fed by implementing a rotation and grazing program. They run a three-day rotation for the herd, moving from one pasture to the next for the freshest grains. “I want optimum forage for my cattle,” Joe said.
The Brinkleys acknowledge technology helping to advance their business practices, saving both time and money. They implemented ultrasounds for their heifers. “The ultrasounds help us to weed out non-fertile cows,” explained Joe. He said that feeding is different for pregnant cows and when the ultrasounds came in, it began saving the family around $750 a month in hay and feed costs.
They have also implemented technology in their haying and silage business. Adding GPS systems to their tractors while fertilizing and spraying has cut down on costs. “When we are spreading seed or spraying, we can mark our exact location and know exactly where we’ve been. We go fill up and come back to the exact same spot so we are going over what we already have and we’re not missing any rows either. That’s a time and money saver,” he said.
Making economical decisions and streamlining their businesses is a big key to their success. The Brinkleys have changed their hay and silage times by beginning earlier in the year and reaping more harvest, starting in March instead of May. They are able to reap three 4×5 rolls of silage per acre and two 4×6 rolls of hay per acre. They use all of their hay and silage for their own farm. Single wrapped bales insure good quality for stored hay.
The Brinkleys also run a poultry farm and are using technologically advanced LED lighting in their broiler houses, cutting energy costs significantly. They have also learned to use their equipment for a variety of services, offsetting costs on the farm. “The farm is the key and everything needs to tie in and supplement that,” said Joe. With that philosophy, they have launched a dirtwork business and a litter business that cross-uses equipment. “Diversification is very important in the farming business,” said Jill. The dirtwork equipment is utilized to maintain their own farm roads, drainage, and fence rows. The litter service helps provide extra income to the farm and offsets broiler house expenses by performing their own cleanouts.
And they aren’t finished coming up with new ideas. “There is always something new coming down the pipes. I can’t sit still,” said Joe.
When not farming, the Brinkleys spend their time with family and church, Kern Heights Baptist, where both Joe and Jill teach Sunday School. Jill also teaches business and technology classes at DeQueen Middle School.
To the Brinkleys, farming isn’t just a job, but a way of life, that is meant for them by God. Being second and third generation farmers, they wouldn’t want to raise their family any other way. “We want our kids to have a good foundation and faith is the most important,” said Jill. “Farming is a lifestyle. God blessed us with this farm to take care of for Him. Everything in life is a balance. We try to balance work, family, and our spiritual life. We put God first,” said Joe.
The Brinkleys will now advance to the state level, where they will await results in the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year, to be announced this fall.