A Diversified Decisionmaker

A Diversified Decisionmaker

By Jason Jenkins, Mill Creek Communications

At 26 years old, Klinton Holliday would be considered a “millennial,” a member of that oft-criticized generation that grew up only knowing phones that are smart, trophies just for participating and lives lived openly on social media.

But Holliday isn’t your “typical” millennial. Not only has he assumed a leadership role at home, helping to manage the family’s growing farming operation outside of Prairie Home, he’s also lent his voice as a young agricultural advocate. While some his age still are seeking their path in life, Holliday’s vision for his future and the future of Missouri agriculture is clear.

“I’ve been helping on the farm since I was 13,” says Holliday, who graduated high school in 2011, then attended the State Technical College of Missouri in Linn where he studied diesel mechanics. “Farming is all I’ve ever wanted to do.”

Today, the Holliday farm is the epitome of a modern diversified agriculture operation. While the family raises about 1,200 acres of row crops each year, primarily in a corn-soybean rotation, they also maintain 300 acres of Miscanthus giganteus, a sterile perennial bunchgrass that can grow up to 15 feet tall. The grass is grown and harvested for its fiber, which is processed by a company in Aurora and sold as a high-quality ingredient for pet food.

The Holliday farm includes 300 acres of Miscanthus giganteus.

Livestock are equally important to the Cooper County producers. Currently, they run a small cow-calf herd and also manage four turkey barns where they raise egg-laying hens on contract for Cargill Inc., producing 6,000 to 8,000 eggs daily. Holliday credits his father, Chris, for putting the farm on its current trajectory.

“My grandpa farmed in the ’60s and ’70s, but when farming got bad in the ’80s, he got out of it and started doing construction,” Holliday says. “My dad also did construction, but he always wanted to farm again like his father had when he was a kid. Dad bought his first 50 acres early in the ’90s, and he just built it from there.”

The family added poultry to their production portfolio in 2008. Back then, the barns were open-air structures with curtains for the sidewalls. They raised 40,000 meat turkeys at a time.

“We did that for about 10 years, and then Cargill approached us and asked
if we’d be interested in taking the risk of switching the barns over for egg production,” Holliday says. “We looked into it and decided it’d be a good thing.”

The change required converting the structures to wind-tunnel barns with solid sides and concrete floors. Nest boxes with a conveyor system for automating egg collection also were installed in two of the barns.

“We started switching over last summer and finished up with the second set of barns in January, so really it’s all pretty new to us,” Holliday explains. “Our longest barn is 880 feet long and 50 feet wide. I don’t remember how many yards of concrete we poured, but we did it all ourselves.”

The Hollidays’ poultry operation is somewhat unique, occupying two rungs on the turkey production ladder. Whereas most farms will either raise hens to egg-laying maturity or manage an egg-laying flock, the Hollidays do both.

Roughly every 25 weeks, the farm receives about 12,000 day-old hybrid turkey chicks that are bred to be egg layers. These birds are raised to maturity, at which time the flock — which contains both hens and toms — is moved to the egg-laying barns.

Crews from Cargill visit the farm regularly, collecting semen from the toms to artificially inseminate the hens. Hens will then begin laying fertilized eggs, which they predominantly lay in nest boxes.

“It’s all automatic. If they lay them in the nest box, the eggs will go to the end of the barn on the conveyor,” Holliday says.“We’ll put the eggs on flats, wash and dry them and then put them on racks. Cargill sends out a truck every day to pick them up.”

The eggs are delivered to Cargill’s hatchery in California, Mo., where
they are incubated. When the chicks hatch, they are sent to other farms where they’ll be fed out and butchered.

Holliday says that while the system is new to their farm, he likes it more than raising meat turkeys.

“It’s a lot more work because it’s every day, but I still like it better,” he adds.n “Collecting the eggs is kind of fun, so that’s a plus.”

Holliday (left) at a recent USA Poultry & Egg Export Council event, with longtime girlfriend and now fiance, Kaitlin Flick (right).

Holliday’s familiarity with raising turkeys and soybeans — as well as the issues that both grain and livestock producers face — made him an ideal candidate to serve as the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council’s representative to the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council. The non-profit organization’s mission is to promote exports of U.S. poultry and eggs around the world while keeping current on matters that have a direct impact on the industry.

According to USAPEEC, one out of every six bushels of soybeans produced in the United States is consumed by the poultry industry, accounting for more than half of domestic soybean use. Increasing demand for poultry abroad increases demand for soybeans and corn at home.

When Holliday began serving in his new capacity in 2016, it didn’t take long for him to gain an appreciation for the importance of the poultry industry to both the soybean and corn industries and how crop farmers can benefit from increased poultry exports.

“When you see the connections, you begin to understand the importance and impact of free trade. Mexico alone is a huge, huge market,” Holliday says. “If we didn’t have trade with other countries, we wouldn’t be able to raise as many turkeys. There wouldn’t be as many poultry farms. Market development is crucial to our poultry industry. The USMCA [United States-Mexico-CanadaAgreement] is important. If we had more free trade, that would help everybody: corn people, soybean people, poultry people.”

The past two years, Holliday has traveled to both Costa Rica and Panama for USAPEEC meetings. He says learning about poultry export opportunities
to countries in Central America and Southeast Asia has been encouraging, even in light of ongoing trade disputes with China that have impacted soybean exports.

“If we could figure out this trade deal [with China], we could send poultry over there because they’re going to be at a loss for protein,” Holliday says, noting the outbreak of African swine flu that has reportedly decimated the Chinese hog population.

Wearing two hats — that of a soybean farmer and turkey producer —
while attending these international meetings also has given Holliday new appreciation for diversification within his family’s operation. Grain prices have a direct impact on feed costs, but he says neither historically high nor historically low commodity prices are good for agriculture overall.

“There’s a good happy medium in there somewhere,” he adds.

In addition to representing MSMC andadvocating for the interests of Missouri’ssoybean producers within USAPEEC, Holliday assumed another leadership role in 2018. He was selected as one of 10 members of the eighth class of the Missouri CornRoots Leadership Academy, a program organized by the Missouri Corn Growers Association.

The purpose of CornRoots is to educate up-and-coming leaders about the biggest issues facing corn farmers today, teaching them to communicate effectively with consumers, the media and legislators. Holliday says they spent time in both Jefferson City and Washington, D.C., this year, talking to state and federal legislators about the importance of the corn and ethanol industries to Missouri and beyond.

“In Jeff City at the Capitol, we talked to people from St. Louis and Kansas City, people who aren’t really that familiar with agriculture,” Holliday says. “We explained what we do and why rural economic development affects us all.

“We went to Washington in July and met with our representatives, but we also had a lot of conversations with people from non-corn states, lobbying for the USMCA and the Renewable Fuel Standard,” he added. “The program really helped me to be a better leader and advocate for agriculture.”

In addition to trade, Holliday says the issues that concern him most as a poultry farmer are threats from diseases such as avian influenza and the imposition of more regulations on animal agriculture by local governments.

He says he appreciates that Gov. Mike Parson signed into law legislation this year that prohibits agricultural-related county health ordinances from being inconsistent with or more stringent than state laws and regulations — even while his home county’s health board passed such regulations in the days just before the new law took effect.

In the future, Holliday has his sights on growing the family’s farming operation. This summer, he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Kaitlin Flick. He also recently purchased his own acreage.

“I wouldn’t mind row-cropping some more acres, maybe getting a lot more cattle, too,” he says. “We’re always trying to expand, do new things and keep up with technology. Hopefully, we can make the farm even bigger.”

Find the rest of the issue here.