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Bean yields were 1,911 pounds on the first Riverton unit, 1,608 on the first Heart Mountain, 1,111 on the third Heart Mountain, and 1,064 on the second Heart Mountain. Peas yielded 1,566 pounds per acre on the first Heart Mountain, 2,406 pounds on the second Heart Mountain, and 3,211 pounds on the third Heart Mountain.
The low crop yields were attributable primarily to the low nitrogen and organic matter content of these new lands. These yields could be greatly increased by a proper rotation of alfalfa aná tilled crops.
Table IV shows the very small number of livestock on all of the units. The earlier openings have more than the later ones but they are all very small. This is where improvements can be made-increasing the number of livestock and the percentage of feed and grazing crops. This calls for a larger acreage of farmland and some additional financing to purchase additional livestock.
Feed and pasture crops do not give as large a gross income per acre as the cash crops, but they are essential in improving soil fertility and cash crop yield per acre. Livestock makes efficient use of byproducts on the farm that would otherwise be wasted ; and even more important, they provide productive work for the farmer who would otherwise be unemployed during the winter months.
There are several different livestock enterprises that offer an opportunity for success. They will be mentioned later. It takes both money and time to get into the livestock business. The older project had more livestock. The first Heart Mountain was the only group to have as much as $1,000 in beef cattle and over $2,000 in all livestock in 1950. There was an average of 1.7 dairy cattle per farm on all 5 units.
Table V shows the average cost per farm on the different units in 1950. It is interesting to note that there was not the wide spread between the average cost per farm in the different units—there being only 26 percent between the largest and the smallest. This shows that there are many fixed costs that do not vary greatly, regardless of the cropping operation and the income therefrom. Machinery costs were relatively high due very largely to the large investment in machinery in proportion to the small acreage. This is a place where a saving could be made in costs by having larger units. It would cost very little more for machinery to handle 180 acres of crops than for 90 acres growing the same kind of crops. The depreciation on machinery and equipment was one of the largest items of cost, being $729 on the second Heart Mountain and $681 on the first Riverton. The largest single item of cost was the interest allowed on owned capital. The crop expense includes seed purchases which was relatively high on the third Heart Mountain and second Riverton as it was necessary to buy seed to get started.
Table VI is the payoff sheet as it shows the average receipts per farm on the different units which ranged from $2,168.69 on the second Riverton opening the $11,324.80 on the first Riverton opening; alfalfa and clover seed crops making the big difference. Livestock, again, played a very small part in the receipts as there were not enough livestock to be very significant. The older the units, the greater the income from livestock. The first Heart Mountain had $311.80 from sheep, $158 from swine, and $449.76 from their dairy herds.
The most important crops on the first Heart Mountain unit as shown by receipts were peas with $705.71, beans second with $448.46, alfalfa seed third with $443.44 and alfalfa hay fourth with $413.41. This does not show the full importance of the crop as it may have been fed to livestock.
On the second Heart Mountain, peas were the important crop, contributing $2,393.90 of the $3,900.60 total from all crops. Clover seed ranked second with $492.90. Peas were the major crop on the third Heart Mountain with $1,759.20 and barley second with $948.29. These two crops accounted for 94 percent of the total receipts from the sale of all crops.
The first Riverton unit had a gross income from crops of $9,675.68 with $7,004.31 or 72 percent coming from alfalfa seed. The next important crop was beans with $1,286.26. Due to the fact that it was the first year for the second Riverton unit, the sale of all crops totaled only $983.16 with the small grains oats, wheat, and barley-contributing practically all of the crop income. Offfarm income was at $995 or slightly larger than the crop income.
It is unusual for satisfactory crop yields to be secured on new lands the first year or so. Low yields and small acreage give the new settler a very meager income on which to live. In order for the new settlers to get by the first 2 years, their small incomes from crops had to be supplemented by: (1) GI payments, (2) work of the farm, (3) capital that they had brought with them, or (4) credit from wherever they could secure it.
In order to secure profitable crop yields and make efficient use of the irrigation water, it is necessary to have a system of farm organization and management that will return much of the plant growth to the soil in the form of organic matter; a system that combines livestock with cash crop production.
The above system calls for a rotation of grain, legumes for seed and hay, pasture, and cash crops, combined with a sufficient number of livestock to make efficient use of the grain, hay, pasture, and byproducts from the farm crops including the cash crops.
The livestock not only make efficient use of the feed, but also give profitable employment to the operator during the winter months, and at the same time, supply the organic matter so essential for successful crop yields.
In order to make a success of the more intensive cash crops like sugar beets, potatoes, peas, and beans, it is necessary to combine their production with the soil-building crops like alfalfa, clovers, and grasses. In order to follow this soil-building program of improving the nitrogen and organic matter content of the soils, it is necessary to limit the acreage of the more intensive cash crops and increase the acreage of the less intensive feed crops. This calls for a larger total acreage of class I and II farmland or its equivalent than the Bureau of Reclamation has been allocating per unit. In order to carry on the soil-improving program, the rotation should include:
1. A small grain crop to grow as a nurse crop for the alfalfa and grass seedings, and supply the feed needed for the livestock.
2. Alfalfa seeded in the first crop of barley and grown for the 3 following years as a cash seed and hay crop and for the nitrogen fixation that alfalfa adds to the soil.
3. Two or three years of clean cultivated row crops, beets, potatoes, corn, peas, or beans to improve the physical condition of the soil, control weeds and disease, and for the large cash income per acre that the cash crop contributes.
4. Two or three years of legume and grass mixtures for pasture is desirable on the lighter soils to increase the organic matter content of the soil, and supply summer grazing for the livestock. It does not give as large a gross income per acre as cash crops, but it gives its return at less expenditure, and improves the soil.
5. There should be sufficient acreage of the different crops to: (a) warrant the use of the necessary equipment, (b) make efficient use of labor, (c) give a gross income large enough to permit the opportunity for the operator to earn a fair labor income. Nine fields of approximately 20 acres each, representing 180 acres of class I and II lands, constitute an economic
unit for the average farmer. The following rotations meet the needs of the above, and when combined with a well-balanced livestock enterprise that will make efficient use of the feeds, forage crops, and byproducts, will build up the organic matter and nitrogen of our newly irrigated lands, thereby increasing their yields per acre and the efficiency of the land and labor thereon. All rotations are subject to change to fit local conditions. This includes the crops grown as well as the size of the fields.
Table VII gives a 7-year rotation of 7 fields of 26 acres each. It consists of small grain seeded with alfalfa the first year, 2 years of alfalfa for seed, and 1 year of alfalfa for hay followed by 3 years of cash row crops.
It will require a few years to get into a sound rotation as it is recommended that as a rule all new lands should be seeded to small grain and alfalfa and the alfalfa used for seed the first few years. New lands of the type we have in the State seem to be well adapted to legume seed production especially the first few years while diseases, weeds, insects, and other limiting factors are at a minimum.
Cash row crops would improve the physical condition of the soil, rid the land of weeds and make efficient use of the nitrogen fixed in the soil by the previous alfalfa crops. Row crops to use in the rotation might include potatoes, sugar beets, peas, beans, and corn for silage. Potatoes and corn are well fitted to follow the alfalfa the first year.
Table VIII show's an 8-year rotation and differs from table VII in that the alfalfa is left down for 4 years. This gives more hay for livestock or for seed.
Table IX shows the method of working from new lands seeded to small grain and alfalfa into a 9-year rotation using 3 years of alfalfa, 2 years of cash crops, 2 years of grass and legume mixtures for pasture, 2 years of small grains for
feed and as nurse crops. This rotation may be preferable to rotations VII and VIII on the lighter soils especially low in organic matter.
Table X shows the approximate amounts of total digestible nutrients produced on the 9-year rotation farm which are sufficient to support 54 cattle units (1 mature cow of the beef breed) using 4,400 total digestible nutrients as the amount required per cow.
Table XI shows the approximate number of dairy animals that could be carried on the farm and the approximate receipts from livestock and their products and from crops. The gross income of $15,045.60 should be sufficient to enable the operator to meet all expenses including a fair interest rate of 5 percent on his investment and a reasonable return for his labor. The dairy enterprise offers better distribution of labor than either the beef herd or flock of sheep.
Table XII shows the number of beef animals that could be carried on the 180acre farm, and the approximate receipts therefrom. The total receipts would be about $3,500 less than in the case of the dairy herd, but less labor and other expenses would be required.
Table XIII uses a farm flock of sheep as the livestock enterprise-270 breeding ewes, 45 yearlings, and 7 rams would constitute the flock. The total receipts from the sheep would be about $1,200 more than from beef cattle, but the sheep would require somewhat more labor and a larger cost for fencing.
For those who wish to buy feeder lambs and steers in the fall and finish them for the slaughter market during the winter, there would be sufficient feed for from 80 to 100 head of steers or 800 to 1,000 lambs, depending on the original weight and pounds of gain put on the animals.
Lamb and steer feeding gives good labor distribution, using the labor on the livestock during the winter months and leaving all labor available for crop work during the rest of the year. It is especially well fitted for those who grow sugar beets and have the byproducts therefrom.
This study of the Heart Mountain and Riverton projects shows that for new settlers to have a fair chance of succeeding on these irrigated lands they should have a large enough acreage of class I and class II lands that will permit them to make efficient use of their equipment and machinery, man and motor power, and encourage the use of a crop rotation and a livestock combination that will give the settlers productive work the year around, and a system of farm rotations that will build up our soils rather than deplete them.
Machinery and equipment costs were the largest of any of the cost items on the farms studied, due to the large investment in machinery in proportion to the crop acres. Their tractors and the equipment that goes with them were sufficient to handle double the crop acres found on the farm units.
The average of 87 crop acres of irrigated farmland that we found on the Riverton and Heart Mountain units might not have been too much out of line for the 4-horse team and horse-drawn equipment of former years, but for the present-day farmer with his 15- to 30-horsepower tractor and corresponding implements he is able to handle, with his own labor, 3 or more times the crop acres that he could handle with the horse-drawn implements of former days. He has a horse-and-cultivator-sized farm with a 1950 power and tillage equipment setup sufficient to handle 2 or 3 times his present crop acreage.
The influence of the mechanization of agriculture and ability of the farmer to increase his production is shown by the fact that the farms in the United States at the present time, using 25 percent less farm labor, are able to produce far more farm products than were produced during the 1910–20 period.
The need for the larger farm unit today as compared to a quarter of a century ago is that the present-day farmer is able to handle louble the crop acres his father handled and do it in less time because of the successful development of a lightweight farm tractor. This need for increased acreage per farm is well illustrated in Wyoming, where there is little or no part-time farming. Here the acreage increase from 1920 is as follows:
Acres 1920 750 | 1910_
1, 866 1925 1, 203 1946.
2, 533 1, 469 1950.
2, 729 1935.
This is an increase of 264 percent in 30 years. A study of the increase in farm tractors show that it is closely related to the increase in acres per farm. Most of the new settlers have tractors and the large equipment that goes with them. The thing they are lacking is crop acres.
On a farm of 180 acres of grade I and grade II soils there is an opportunity to create a well-balanced farm organization that is not possible on the smaller units. Labor and machinery can be used to better advantage and there are better proportion factors of production making for efficiency on the larger units.
The most vital factors contributing to low income and financial hardships on the newly irrigated lands were as follows: Not sufficient acreage of class I and class II lands to
1. Make efficient use of equipment and labor. There was sufficient power and machinery on most of the farms to handle double the acreage of farmland now under irrigation.
2. Allow for a soil-improving rotation of alfalfa, feed grains, and cash crops that would add nitrogen and organic matter to the soils, increase the plant food, improve its physical condition, and greatly increase crop yields per acre.
3. Support a sizable livestock enterprise needed to make use of the feeds, hay and byproducts, give productive employment during the winter season, and provide the organic matter so essential for satisfactory crop yields.
4. Give a gross income large enough to meet the fixed and operative expenses of the farm, and leave the operator sufficient funds for the family
living. The size of the unit on a reclamation project should be based on production rather than on acreage. The acreage of an economic unit producing fruits or truck crops may be only a fraction of the acreage required for an economic unit producing general farm crops and livestock.
The Homestead Act of 160 acres was a splendid one for the humid region but failed in the arid sections. It was successful in the Middle West where it placed the so-called public lands into private ownership, adding them to the tax rolls, and developed a great source of income for the Federal Government and the Nation as a whole.
The Homestead Act failed in the arid region because it used acreage rather than production as a measure of an economic unit. The 160 acres in the humid area gave the settler employment through the year, and sufficient gross income from which he could pay his fixed and operative expenses and have a sufficient amount left for his family living.
If the Homestead Act had been based on production per unit instead of a fixed acreage, the public domain problems of the West, insofar as they apply to grazing lands, would have been solved years ago. It may be that we are making the same mistake today in opening up these very small uneconomical irrigated units that we made years ago in trying to settle the arid West with a policy that was set up and well fitted to the humid Midwest.
TABLE I.-Average investment per farm during 1950
Average acreage owned irrigated cropland.
Average price per acre.
Average value irrigated land.
Price per acre..
Average value per farm.
40 $2 $80
74 $5, 825 $4, 076 $1, 715
$849 $19, 976
2 $7,812 $5, 641 $1,089
0 $5, 166 $3, 919
$204 $17, 158
0 $6, 141 $5, 267 $1, 295
$241 $22, 334
$300 $16, 868
1 Includes borrowed capital.