Locust Level Farm Named Virginia
Outstanding Seedstock Producer of the Year
Livestock Update, March 2000
Scott Greiner, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Virginia Tech
The 2000 Virginia Outstanding Seedstock Producer Award has been presented to Locust Level Farms of Vernon Hill, VA. Locust Level is owned and operated by the McDowell Family- Mike and Wanda McDowell and children Angela, Bridgette, and Wade along with Mike's parents Mr. and Mrs. T.K. McDowell.Locust Level Farms is located in the Southern Piedmont area of Virginia with operations in both Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties. It is a diversified operation of row crops along with the 150 cow purebred Angus program. Flue-cure tobacco is produced as a cash crop while all other crops are utilized through the cattle program. With approximately 500 acres in permanent pasture, an additional 200 acres of annual and perennial hays are grown which are also used for strip grazing. 125 acres of corn are grown along with 100 plus acres of various small grains. Recent quota cuts in flue-cured tobacco have reduced that production from over 70 acres to 30 acres currently. Locust Level consists of a total of approximately 2000 acres owned and leased.
Along with 150 registered Angus cows, 50 commercial cows are maintained as embryo recipient cows. The use of cooperators for the production of embryo calves and summer grazing along with various partnerships rounds out the production side of the farm. Due largely to the topography of available grazing areas the cows are maintained mostly in 20 to 25 animal unit groups. This also lends itself to the intensive A.I. and embryo transfer program to be carried out mostly by Mike with little outside help. All cows at Locust Level are bred A.I. or implanted with embryos.
Calving season starts in September and ends in March with a break in December and January. While this may seem extensive for the number of cows, it best fits the resources of facilities, labor, and feed at Locust Level. Also the calving season compliments the bull development and marketing program. In many ways Locust Level is non-traditional in cattle production terms due to the need to efficiently balance the total operation with the excessive demands on labor and resources for crop production and to fit into the given land area.
Locust Level markets bulls through two annual production sales- one in January and the other in February. The use of proven, high accuracy bulls meeting stringent criteria for economically important traits are utilized in the exclusive AI program. The resulting performance-tested bull progeny are in high demand by both commercial cattlemen and purebred Angus breeders. Locust Level has embraced new technologies to enhance their genetic selection- including ultrasonic evaluation of both yearling bulls and heifers for carcass merit, and whole-herd reporting. The total AI program has allowed Locust Level to place significant selection pressure on fertility and reproduction.
Environmental stewardship has long been a priority at Locust Level. A complete monitored farm conservation plan that uses rotation, permanent cover, watersays, terraces, and strips as developed by the Soil and Water Conservation Service is in place. To improve water quality, extensive cross-fencing and well water supplied fountains have been installed. For these efforts, Locust Level has been awarded the Virginia Clean Water Award.
Mike has held numerous local, state, and national beef industry leadership positions. He is former President of VA BCIA, and the Halifax Livestock Producers. He is a member of the Virginia Cattle Industry Board of Directors and serves on the beef sire committee for Select Sires. Additionally, the McDowells are active in their community and church, and dedicated to youth livestock programs at the local and state level.