Serving the local ag community and its youth have always been important to Martey Stewart of Dixon. It’s not too often you’ll find the president of the Dixon County Farm Bureau home week nights since he attends—and often presides over—a variety of local board meetings.
His loves, in addition to family, are leading 4-H clubs and working with livestock. Stewart and his wife, Linda, operate a farm that consists of a 200-head cow-calf herd and a flock of 80 ewes. Their four married children and their nine grandchildren all live relatively close, offering help when they can.
“We need more young people in production agriculture and there are good opportunities today for them to get involved,” Stewart says. “We need to nurture their interest early through participation in youth organizations.”
Stewart does his part. He is club leader of the Hubbard Junior Feeders, a 4-H Club he originally participated in for 10 years as a member and for past 40 years as its leader. He established a Dixon County 4-H club—the New Generation Club--several years ago. He also is president of the Dixon County 4-H Council.
He is president of his local church council, a hospice volunteer for the past 15 years and a livestock judge who traveled to 11 county fairs this summer and fall in that capacity. Another livestock role for Stewart is being a northeast Nebraska and western Iowa field man for the West Point Livestock Market.
Volunteering comes natural to Stewart, and he gives credit to his participation in the Nebraska Farm Bureau Leadership Academy in 2009 and later in the two-year Nebraska LEAD Program for enhancing his leadership abilities. “I would recommend both of those programs for not only becoming exposed to different issues and types of agriculture but also in the life-long friendships you gain.”
The cowherd and ewes keep the Stewarts active on the farm. “I grew up with livestock, starting with a small dairy on the farm near Hubbard. We also raised sheep and hogs.”
After high school, he graduated from Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City, Iowa, with an associate’s degree in livestock management and marketing.
His Angus-based cowherd produces calves that are sold as feeders to backgrounders and feedlots. The cowherd is split, with two-thirds of the cows calving in spring and the remainder in fall. “Fall-born calves are less labor intensive and they provide me with another market option. We start selling them in March, which is beneficial because that timeframe coincides with when the time pasture rents are due. Despite the seemingly never-ending calving, Stewart says, “I’ve always loved calving season.”
About half of the lamb crop is sold as show lambs and the remainder as fat lambs. The lamb market has been mostly positive that past few years due to a shortage of numbers, he says.
The same can’t be said for the cattle market. Prices have plummeted over the past few weeks due, in part, to heavier weight carcasses, the impact of the economic problems in China and price competition from alternative protein sources at the meat counter. High pasture rents weigh on the bottom line, also.
To cope with higher input costs and the downturn in the cattle market, Stewart has taken a closer look at culling older and low-producing cows, those cows that are aren’t weaning heavy enough calves. Relying on cornstalks in fall and, if the weather permits, into winter is a great resource here in Nebraska, and it makes a big difference in the bottom line. He rents cornstalk ground and pastures in the northeast Nebraska area.
“Our calf prices are about one-third less that they were from the peak last year,” he adds.