Farm Feature Friday: The Sneed Family of DS Farms in Warren County, Tennessee
Q&A by TCA Spring Intern, Abagayle Morton
This week’s Farm Feature Friday spotlights Wendy Lofton Sneed along with her husband, Davy, and their daughter, Riley. The Sneed’s have been involved in Tennessee agriculture for many years and are a great example for others in their industry. Wendy’s answers to the Farm Feature Q & A can be found below.
How long has your family been involved in raising cattle? Tell us about how it got started.
I was raised on a multigenerational dairy and row crop operation in Dresden in Northwest Tennessee. We were only the 2ndgeneration to dairy on that farm, but from researching our ancestry it appears I am a 10thgeneration farmer. My grandparents, Leroy and Mary Lou Lofton, left their family farms in Obion County very young to start the new dairy. I was also lucky to marry into a similar family. Davy’s family has been farming the same property for well over 100 years in McMinnville, Tennessee. They have row cropped and raised tobacco, hay,and cattle. We feel so blessed to be able to raise Riley in the same manner that we were, in the dirt with moo-moos.
Tell us about your farm today (breed of cattle, what are you proud of, etc.)
Davy, Riley, and I own and operate DS Farms, a registered Brangus operation in McMinnville, TN. We market registered and commercial Brangus, as well as,commercial Super Baldy replacement females across the Southeast. We have a few donors we flush annually and we AI all non-recips including commercial cattle before turning in bulls. We are proud of the animals we raise and grateful for the people it has placed in our lives. Davy has served on the International Brangus Breeders and Southeast Brangus Breeders Associations Board of Directors as well as numerous committees. We have made friends not only in the Southeast, but from across the country and globe.
What was your favorite part about growing up on the farm?
The thing I loved and disliked the most about the dairy was that we were always busy. There wasn’t much down time. My brother, Matt, and I were responsible for bottle calves which had to be fed twice daily, and I helped milk some through the week, regardless of weather or plans you wanted to make with friends. We transitioned out of dairy cattle in 1995, and all of a sudden our responsibilities were less and I couldn’t understand what other teenagers did after school. I know my work ethic and need to always be doing things stems from this.
Davy grew up as a junior member of the Mid-South Brangus Breeders Association. This association established a junior program where breeders donated registered females to a junior who halter broke and showed the animal through a season and then at the end had the option to sell the heifer at Agribition or pay half of the sale price to the owner and retain the heifer for their herd. This is how Davy established his herd and we still have a few of the original bloodlines running around today.
What have been some of the trials you or your family has had to overcome?
We have had to overcome the same as all farming families including volatile markets and unescapable weather. Schedules can be difficult for us. Like a lot of producers now, both Davy and I work full-time off the farm. Myself as an Agribusiness Development Consultant for the TN Department of Agriculture focusing on livestock and meat processing; and Davy as a Feed and Animal Sales Rep for Performance Feeds and covering southern Middle Tennesseeand northern Alabama. We also own DS Farm Supply between Woodbury and McMinnville, specializing in livestock feeds, mineral, animal health and livestock equipment.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about life on the farm?
It is not a fantasy. It is hard. It is amazing. It is a business. We are educated. We love science and make decisions based upon it. We feed our families and the world and we are passionate about it!
What does it mean to you to be able to work with your family every day?
Everything. We look back fondly on the memories we made with our grandparents, parents, and brothers. Not all were happy and rainbows, but they were meaningful and made us who we are today and we want that for Riley.
Do you have any advice for young Tennessee cattle producers about the business?
Two things – 1. Be Involved and I know it is our passion, but 2) Never forget farming is a business.
Growing up in the dairy industry, Dad always made time to go to dairy producer and ag extension meetings. He knew what was going on in his industry. There are people outside of our industry that try to speak for us. It is our job to stay in the conversation! If you don’t know your local agricultural extension agent, give me a call and I will introduce you personally. This group of individuals know pretty much everything ag about your county and are an amazing resource. If they don’t have the answer, they know who does! Be a member of all the organizations – Tennessee Cattlemen’s, National Cattlemen’s, Tennessee Farm Bureau, etc. These organizations speak for you at the highest levels. Millions of dollars have been spent on your behalf on the national level fighting legislation and policy that could dictate production practices and issues affecting your farm.
Understand the value of your beef checkoff dollars! When our individual dollars are combined both at the state and national level to promote our product, amazing things happen! Have you seen the new marketing campaign, Rethink the Ranch? There are efforts being made on your behalf including promotions, work with doctors and dieticians about the nutrition value of beef, culinary trainings, and EXPORT! Export is worth over $300/head to our industry!
A lot of producers do things the way they always have or the way their parents did. It might be working for your operation, but we need to remember there are other ways. This is a business and markets change. We need to be able to step back, assess the markets, and move accordingly. We need to remember how to make deals. Don’t be afraid to try something new. I love the articles that Laura Vaught has been writing on legal issues. When was the last time you looked at your operation in that manner? How often do you sit down and have a real conversation with your accountant and how you have things set up? Don’t wait until April 15th…catch them when they aren’t busy and really have a conversation.
What's your favorite beef dish?
We are a grilling family! I’m a flat iron girl, Davy is all about a good burger, and we’ll just say one of Riley’s first words was steak.
Is there anything else you can share with us?
We are an amazingly blessed state. We have leadership who understands our industry. We have some of the best resources in all agriculture sectors. Agriculture is a family in Tennessee. We work together. If you need help, just ask. There are so many people in the industry standing by waiting to help you! Whether it be marketing, reproduction, nutrition, business, financing or any other question, we have someone! Give us a ring and we’ll introduce you!