GLADE SPRING, VA – With a 160-head cow-calf operation and close to 1,000 stockers on his farm in in the western foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Washington County, VA, Adam Wilson goes through a lot of feed.

Specifically, he uses a three-way mix of soybean hulls, corn gluten and distillers’ grain. Wilson makes the mix himself in a plant he built in 2019. The operating heart of the plant is a Roto-Mix mixer, which takes the commodities from bins outside the building to create a feed mix stored in bins inside the airy structure.

“I’m lucky to buy feed in bulk,” Wilson said. “Before we built this we were buying a lot of feed pre-mixed in smaller quantities.”

His neighbors are lucky too, because since Wilson has opened his plant he has been able to sell the feed mix and straight commodities to some of his fellow livestock operators.

Wilson grew up in the area, working on the family farm, which was a passionate hobby of his father Jim Wilson, whose main job was in construction. After Wilson graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in business management, he came home to Washington County. Building and taking care of the cattle operation has been the only job he’s had since graduating.

Building a feed mix facility to improve efficiency

Adam Wilson runs a cow/calf herd as well as close to 1,000 stockers annually on his farm in Washington County, VA. Photo by Karl H. Kazaks

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned over that time,” he said, “is something I already knew, it’s just been reinforced: Take care of your cattle as best as you can, because they take care of you.”

Wilson’s is a mixed-breed herd, with mostly black hides but some white faces and even some red hides. The bulls he uses in the cow-calf herd include a Gelbvieh, two Charolais and three Balancers. He also has a handful of Herefords.

The cows calve both in autumn and spring, with the fall herd being built with first-calf heifers. About nine years ago Wilson built a 363-foot-long covered facility to be able to handle his cows. His primary sale method is load lots sold to order buyers.

The stocker cattle he brings in in October and keeps through August, still maintaining time for the pastures to produce forage for autumn and early winter grazing. “That’s what southwest Virginia is all about – selling grass,” Wilson said.

Wilson provides his herd with three to five pounds per day of the three-way mix, with the remainder of the diet coming from forage, either from pasture or hay. The farm, which is near the South Fork of the Holston River, has 900 acres of owned and rented pasture land and 300 acres of hay ground. Still, every year Wilson buys hay.

He gets by with the help of his family, including his wife Shasta, and two invaluable employees, Brandon Otey and Adam McCall.

“I’m really lucky to have them as help,” he said. “Also, I’m really lucky to do what I do. I love watching these little baby calves grow up to be 1,000-pound animals.”

by Karl H. Kazaks