Fieldale Farms Provides New Opportunity for Growers

Grain sorghum production in the U.S. is expanding in the southeast corner of the country thanks to strategic market development efforts in Georgia and the surrounding states. Targeted meetings with producers and businesses are taking place with the intent to increase production and meet demand for new markets. One market in particular, poultry and broiler nutrition programs, is kick-starting the regional growth with the help of Fieldale Farms.

Fieldale Farms is a family owned and operated poultry production corporation. Serving customers who desire poultry products raised on locally-sourced and sustainable products, Fieldale Farms collaborated with the Sorghum Checkoff to utilize grain sorghum in their poultry feeds. As a drought-tolerant crop with lower input costs than comparable grains, sorghum is a perfect fit for in their nutrition programs and local growers.

“Our interest in alternative feed ingredients has been ongoing for 20 years,” said Dave Wicker, Ph.D., Fieldale Farms nutritionist and vice president of live production. “Our recent interest in sorghum came when we looked at sorghum grown in eastern North Carolina and thought if it could be grown in that region then maybe we can grow it here.”

Wicker and others at Fieldale Farms spoke with the University of Georgia Extension and other livestock nutrition programs to find alternative crops that would fit well in crop rotations for local farmers. With a customer base who desires poultry raised on local grains, Fieldale Farms started examining grain sorghum and its potential to be successfully grown in the region. After reading other sorghum trials and production research from similar areas, Fieldale Farms decided to partner with the Sorghum Checkoff to reach out to local farmers to consider growing sorghum. Fieldale Farms is currently seeking as much grain sorghum as they can gather for their nutrition programs.

“It makes an excellent fit since it has lower input costs, drought resistance, different herbicide and pesticide needs, and it fits in the rotation for many winter-time crops,” Wicker said. “Plus, the people that buy our chicken love it because it’s supporting local farmers.”

The Sorghum Checkoff partnered with Fieldale Farms over the past year to provide not only nutritional information for optimal inclusion rates, but also to provide growers with production information and best-management practices. Sorghum Checkoff staff met with Fieldale Farms and several local growers from the region to host an educational session covering topics, such as planting dates, hybrid selection, pest management, herbicide treatments and regional market opportunities.

“We met with producers and talked to them about how to grow grain sorghum since many of them have never grown sorghum before,” said Brent Crafton, Sorghum Checkoff regional development director. “We also wanted to educate producers not only on the market opportunity with Fieldale Farms but also on other opportunities in the region, such as consumer food.”

Over the coming year, Sorghum Checkoff staff will continue to provide producers in the area more management information on scouting techniques, harvest and storage. The Sorghum Checkoff will continue to work with Fieldale Farms and local producers to facilitate sorghum production and marketing opportunities in the region, creating more options for growers in the expanding region.