Triple G Farms
We’ve had some of our T-L units run for 600 to 700 hours continuously without any problem at all.
Bobby Grogan has always had a talent for turning ideas into successful enterprises — even before he and his sons, Darren and Brian, became partners in Triple G Farms, a corn, soybeans and wheat operation located near Arlington, Kentucky. In fact, one successful operation ultimately led to another.
“Dad really started everything back in 1973 when he established the Grogan Sausage Company while farming a few acres on the side,” explains oldest son Darren. “The business eventually grew to the point where it employed about 50 people and processed and shipped about 80,000 pounds of sausage a week to seven states.”
At the same time, the farm grew to about 2,500 acres, which meant it was requiring nearly as much time as the sausage company.
“To be honest, farming was really our first love, even though the sausage business was very successful,” says Brian. “So, my dad sold the company to Atlantic Premium Brands in Baltimore, Maryland in 1996,” he adds, noting that the company still markets the product as Grogan Sausage.
In the meantime, the Grogans used the proceeds to purchase more land, pushing the farm size to around 11,000 acres. However, the family’s entrepreneurial spirit again came shining through as they purchased small farms and uncleared parcels, then used their own dozens and excavators to clear trees and brush and link small fields into larger ones. They also installed 10 center pivot irrigation systems on some of the larger fields … eight of those being T-L hydraulic drive units.
“You don’t see many center pivot systems in this area,” say Darren, who manages the irrigation equipment and schedules. “But historically, our corn has averaged about 70 bushels more on fields with irrigation than without. However, this year, with the dry weather, I think the difference is going to be closer to 100 percent,” he says, pointing to averaged irrigated corn yield averages of 220 to 240 bushels per acre.
While the Grogans now boast a preference for T-L systems, it hasn’t always been that way, according to Darren.
“I had heard all these horror stories about T-L pivots, like how we didn’t want one of those because they leak oil all over everything,” he recalls. “So when the T-L sales rep stopped in one day, I wouldn’t even talk to him. But he still went ahead and left a DVD that explained how they worked.
“Anyway, I went ahead and stuck it into the computer one day and as I was watching it, I got to thinking, ‘This hydraulic drive really makes a lot of sense’.”
After purchasing that first unit, Grogan was sold. Not only did the family purchase six more T-L units, but they even replaced one of three electric pivots they had previously purchased with a T-L unit when the former was damaged in a storm.
“We could have had that one repaired for less than what it cost to trade, but we really wanted a T-L and thought it was a good opportunity to switch,” Grogan explains. “Naturally, we’ve discovered that most of the things we had been told about T-L units simply weren’t true.”
Darren notes that with the exception of a few fields that are double-cropped with wheat and soybeans, most of the pivots are on fields that are dedicated to continuous corn-on-corn.
“We’ll see a nice jump in yield on soybeans after wheat under irrigation,” he says. “But, with our soils, we don’t see much advantage to irrigating conventional soybeans.”
Still, the center pivots serve as more than just crop insurance for corn when summer months turn hot and dry. The Grogans also use the pivots to apply a portion of the nitrogen.
“We put on about 200 units of nitrogen as anhydrous ammonia before we plant,” Brian relates. “Then we put on another 40 units on average through the pivots during the growing season.”
Again, they’re seeing a yield increase as a benefit of the pivots.
“Last year, it was such a wet year that we hardly used the center pivots except to put on nitrogen,” Darren recalls. “Now, this year, we’ve had some of our T-L units run for 600 to 700 hours continuously without any problem at all.”
Since their land is spread out over a distance of 45 miles from north to south, Grogan is especially pleased with the reliability of their T-L units. That’s also the reason he has all the pivots set up on a computerized system that lets him check their progress and status of each unit from the office computer or his cell phone. Should they get a rain during the night, he can even turn off one or more units without ever leaving the house — saving both water and energy.
Since 1999, the Grogans have also adopted precision agriculture techniques that include yield monitoring, grid sampling, variable-rate fertilizer application and GPS guidance.
Such innovation shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as it seems to run in the family. If you have any doubt, just pick up a package of Grogan sausage. That’s where it all started.