By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, N.C. State College, Raleigh, as published in the Wilmington Star on May 20, 1944
East Carolina is a great crop country. The sandy loam soils of the area are easily worked. They can be improved through the use of legumes and they respond well to applications of fertilizers and limestone.
High acre yields of hay crops, both summer and winter, may be secured and for that reason the great coastal plain area of North Carolina should be a place where livestock can be produced economically and profitably.
As a matter of fact, the section is noted for its production of finished hogs for market but dairying and beef cattle production has developed more slowly. With the knowledge becoming more general about how to establish pasture sods and how to graze farm woodlands in a combination beef and timber producing enterprise, however, these cattle growing ventures are becoming more frequent and some of the fine herds of both beef and dairy cows are to be found in the area.
In some parts of the east, growers have found that their young animals, particularly, do not develop properly. Every livestock man knows that he cannot get very far in livestock farming unless he produces the great bulk of his feed on the home farm. This must be in the form of pasture, hay, grazing crops, or silage. To a less extent, the grain feed is produced. Sometimes when an eastern livestock man depends entirely upon his home-grown supplies for the roughage for his cattle, he runs into difficulties. It seems that something is lacking in, the sandy soils of that area and the more sand in the soil, the more acute is the situation.
This is exactly what A.O. McEachern of Wilmington, Route 2, found out was happening to him. Mr. McEachern runs one of the best dairies to be found in eastern North Carolina. In fact, he may be classed as a pioneer dairyman for that section, and he has developed a fine herd of Holstein cattle as a definite contribution to North Carolina’s livestock progress.
HONORED BY COLLEGE
The North Carolina State College honored Mr. McEachern a few years ago with a certificate of meritorious service to the agriculture of the State because of his success in establishing this outstanding herd of dairy cattle and in his other leadership work among farmers of his section. His farm consists of about 1,000 acres located along the Carolina Beach highway out from Wilmington in New Hanover County. Only about 330 acres are in the open, cultivated land and most of this land is almost all sand. These 330 acres, however, maintain an average of 100 head of purebred registered Holstein cows and about 80 head of young animals.
The other began with purebreds back in 1923 and after he had secured his foundation stock, he never bought another Holstein cow. He added purebred sires from time to time from some of the best herds of America. But to visit this farm and to see the well-kept premises, the excellent pastures, the acres of grazing crops, and the great herd of cattle one would never believe that Mr. McEachern had ever experienced any trouble with his herd.
For several years after he began his herd, the dairyman continued to grow truck crops and to buy practically all of the feed for his cows.
“As long as I did this,” he said, “I had no trouble. The cows would produce their young and the calves would grow off nicely to reach a strong, well-developed size in the usual time of two or three years. My feed was coming, of course, from all parts of the United States and if something was lacking in that which came from one place, perhaps it was compensated for in that which came from another place. I decided, however, to devote my main attention to my herd, to quit the trucking business, and to use the land to grow my own feedstuffs.”
It was then that Mr. McEachern began to run into trouble. For instance, he tried to grow alfalfa but never had much success with it until L.G. Willis, soil chemist and research man in charge of the Soils Laboratory maintained in New Hanover County by the State College Experiment Station, found out that about 25 pounds of borax should be added per acre to the soil.
The dairyman used two tons of ground limestone per acre, 400 pounds of 5-7-5 fertilizer, and about 600 pounds of basic slag, along with the 25 pounds of borax at planting time in the fall and he has one of the prettiest fields of alfalfa, to be found in the state. He says now that he plans to grow about 100 acres as a result of the facts he has learned.
“Mr. Alec” as he is known locally has been quick to adopt all the new facts about how to handle his soil. When he saw that his animals were not developing as they should be tried salt licks in an effort to get needed minerals into them. He fed them more than was good for his profits but still he failed to get the results.
Following the tests and trials made on his land by the soils chemist, he began to get immediate results. The soil was first limed and the cows got the limestone into their system through the feed. Manganese and boron were added. Some cobalt came into the feed through the use of basic slag. Then a little copper was added. The results of putting these minerals into the soil were good. The cows began to breed easier, and the calves were increased in size by 33 and one-third per cent. Their bones were stronger and they had a better developed framework.
“Before, I began adding minerals to the feed through the soil. I couldn’t get a cow up to any size before she was five years old,” Mr. Alec said. “I did that by putting the feed to her until the cost was greater than the profit.”
Before I left his farm, Mr. McEachern showed me a group of 11 heifers about two years old. They were grazing contentedly on a good pasture and would weigh an average of about 1,200 to 1,300 pounds each. I agreed then with his statement, “I have just about whipped this sand.”