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For brothers Damon and Devin Mungo, farming has always been a way of life. Between cattle, turkeys jobs and families, the two third-generation farmers take advantage of every hour in the day. The two took over the family farms in 2000 after the death of their father, Dwight.
Right now, Devin has 220 beef cows and five turkey barns that house 28,000 birds on close to 500 acres. He gets baby turkeys at the age of five weeks old and raises them for 15 more weeks. If that’s not enough, Devin runs a deer processing operation from September through January.
“Farming is a tradition in this family. It’s a real busy life,” Devin said.
Damon, who works full time at Abitibi-Bowater, focuses on beef cows. Right now, he has 160 head of cattle on somewhere between 400 and 500 acres.
Given that, they also welcome all the help they can get, including assistance and advice from the Lancaster Soil and Water Conservation District.
Now, after taking advantage of a federal grant money through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Mungos have completed upgrades to their respective farms. They have also been honored for their hard work.
The two brothers were recently named as the county’s farmers of the year by the Lancaster Conservation District.
Bill Ardrey, chairman of the Lancaster Conservation District board of commissioners, said the annual award normally goes to one Lancaster farmer who is protecting natural resources to an unusually high degree or in an innovative way.
However, this year the district chose to honor the Mungos with separate awards since the two are related and did similar work at their respective farming operations.
“They have both planted grass to stabilize eroding areas and improve grass quality and quantity,” Ardrey said. “And they’ve both tried new varieties of grasses and new marketing strategies for their cattle.”
Damon started making the upgrades in 2003.
“It’s very hard to make a living farming these days,” Damon said. “You have to maximize everything and be very efficient. You have to get the most you can out of every acre of ground, every animal and every piece of equipment.”
Ardrey said improvement to the two Mungo farms was substantial.
Both installed watering facilities for their cows.
“I ran well over a mile of pipeline to water tanks so my cows drink fresh, clean water and stay out of ponds and streams,” Damon said.
They also cross-fenced their farms to allow rotational grazing.
Devin said rotational grazing is a practice that’s worth the effort.
With rotational grazing, cows only stay in the pastures for a week or two. When when they’ve eaten the grass in one, they’re moved to the next pasture.
Ardrey said the practice assures that cows always eat fresh, nutritious grass so they gain weight faster. It also gives pastures a rest period so the grass can regrow. Ardrey said healthy pastures that haven’t been overgrazed eliminate the potential of fertilizer and manure running off into nearby streams.
It’s already building a better herd, Devin.
“They have fewer parasites because they are not grazing around their droppings and they gain weight faster,” Devin said. “A farmer can’t afford to call in a vet very much and we don’t want to give our cows medicine unless they really need it.”
Damon said the change to rotational grazing has helped the bottom line, too.
“You have to buy less hay if the cows are eating the grass you grow,” he said.
The brothers now aerate pastures and test soil so that nutrients and pesticides can be properly applied.
They also fenced cows out of wooded areas to use as wildlife habitats.
“I like to deer hunt when I get a chance and I worked really hard to get a good stand of Durana clover on firebreaks on one farm,” Damon said. “My cows have benefited by my seeding clover in some the pastures to diversify their grazing and I’ve already seen turkey and quail, as well as deer.”
Devin is also the first county farmer to us aluminum sulfate (alum) in his turkey barns.
Ardrey said alum limits ammonia exposure in the barns and binds nitrogen to the soil when turkey litter is spread on pastures which can reduce the potential for surface water pollution.
Devin said the alum benefits the birds and those who care for them, too.
“It’s really helped in the winter when it was cold because we have to keep the curtains closed and there is less air.”