Clay County’s Brian Neal McLerran receives Tennessee Small Farmer of the Year award

 

Brian Neal Mclerran of Clay County was recently awarded the Tennessee Small Farmer of the Year Award at TSU’s Small Farm Expo in Cheatham County. 

Kerry King, County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency in Jackson and Clay counties, made the announcement last week.

McLerran was nominated for the small farmer of the year award for implementing “Best Management Practices” on Diamond M Farms, and has  been involved in farming all of his life.  He is a graduate of Tenneessee Tech University with a degree in Agriculture Engineering and Industrial Technology, and is married to Dr. Samantha McLerran. The couple has three children. 

In the beginning, Diamond M Farm’s interest consisted of, tobacco, hay, and crossbred cattle.  In 1997, the McLerrans decided tobacco as a cash crop was no longer feasible.  They ventured out to learn how to increase cash flow of the farm, and decided the answer was to increase cattle numbers. 

Increasing the number of cows posed a problem with having enough pastureland, so the McLerrans had to research and implement management practices to be efficient and get the most out of their land. The farming operation is currently 50 purebred Angus cattle, 60 acres of mixed hay, and 50 acres of pasture.

McLerran’s success is dependent on the sale of excellent quality cattle, and he  markets replacement bulls and heifers and some beef to individuals.

McLerran says he is proud to operate Diamond M Farms.  He makes all management decisions, and contributes all of the capital and labor for his farming operation. Brian’s father, W. Roy McLerran, provides all the land and still plays a leadership role in the farming operation. 

“Brian Neal McLerran should be commended for his contributions to the agriculture community,” King said in making the announcement.  “He is a member of many organizations, including the Clay County Cattlemen’s Association, Overton County Cattlemen’s Association, Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association, American Angus Association, and serves as the chairperson of the Overton County Tennessee Farm Bureau Members Young Farmers and Ranchers.”  

McLerran is an active volunteer in Farm Bureau’s “Ag in the Classroom” program in Overton County. Diamond M Farms also hosted a Pasture Walk in 2005, sponsored by NRCS, Clay County SCD, TDA, Clay County Cattlemen’s Association, and UT Extension Service, with over 130 farmers attending.  

In 2005, Diamond M Farms was awarded Grassland Farmer of the Year by the Clay County SCD.  In 2007, McLerran served as Chairman of Agri Leadership 20/20 and graduated from the program in 2006.  

King noted a variety of environmental management practices have been implemented on Diamond M Farms. Exclusion perimeter fencing has been established to keep cattle out of creeks, and springs. Perimeter fencing has been installed around four existing ponds within the rotational grazing paddocks.  Cross fencing has been utilized to divide 50 acres into 17 paddocks for rotational grazing.  

Cattle are rotated every three days during the grazing season. Ten automatic water facilities have been installed to provide water for seventeen rotational grazing paddocks. Four covered feeding pads have been constructed with geo-textile and rock to prevent runoff, sanitation, and lessen pasture damage. One large covered area has been constructed with a concrete floor for an additional feeding area and litter storage.  Pasture management practices are used to improve pasture quality.  Fifteen acres of annual warm season grasses of pearl millet and Sudan are drilled.  Forty acres of winter wheat and rye grass are drilled.  

Cattle herd management practices have been implemented to improve herd health and quality.  The following practices have been implemented with cost share assistance through TDA, King said: a new handling facility has been installed to vaccinate and work cattle; three hay storage barns have been built to maintain good quality hay; two grain storage bins have been constructed for feed storage. McLerran also purchased one bull and select semen. “This farming operation follows and extensive artificial insemination program,” King said. “Genetics are imperative to Diamond M Farms’ success.”  

McLerran manages his farm to get the most benefit, and said the biggest obstacle he had to overcome to implement and install these practices was money, with project costs being expensive.  Another obstacle is coordinating when to do the projects to not disrupt the operation.  McLerran worked with FSA, Extension, TDA and NRCS to receive cost share on these projects.  

McLerran is involved in research on a daily basis, and is always looking to improve his farming operation.  He has worked with the Extension Service on a multitude of tasks, taking advantage of all of the information the Extension service has to offer. McLerran has completed the “Master Beef Producer” training offered by Extension, and has a Premise ID established for his farm that he obtained at Farm Service Agency.  

“The benefits from all of these practices implemented and installed are phenomenal,” King said.   

“I thinks the most beneficial practice has been the rotational grazing, which has had the largest impact on weight gain,” McLerran said.  Adequate supply of grass has decreased hay usage, allowing them to market hay to less fortunate farmers, thus increasing farm income from proceeds.  

“Clean drinking water has increased weight gain, too,” McLerran said.  The environmental benefits from the fencing animals out of the creek has decreased erosion and improved water quality.  The covered feeding areas and litter storage facility has decreased pasture damage and runoff.  All of the management practices implemented in combination have had a significant impact on Diamond M Farms operation.  “Our goal is to produce top quality beef,” he said. 

“We are proud to serve farmers like Brian McLerran,” King said. 

Awards, which are presented at TSU’s Agricultural Research and Education Center in Ashland City, are given in three categories: Best Management Practices, Alternative Enterprise, and Innovative Marketing. 

The Tennessee State University School of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences sponsors the Tennessee  Small Farm Expo each summer in recognition of the exemplary efforts of small farmers across Tennessee, and USDA Farm Service Agency is a major partner in this event.

 

SMALL FARMER OF THE YEAR-Kerry King (county executive director of the Farm Service Agency), Roy McLerran, Jo Nell McLerran, Will Dodson (son of Jason and Amy Dodson) and Small Farmer of the Year Brian McLerran. King nominated McLerran for the award. (Photo submitted)

SMALL FARMER OF THE YEAR-Kerry King (county executive director of the Farm Service Agency), Roy McLerran, Jo Nell McLerran, Will Dodson (son of Jason and Amy Dodson) and Small Farmer of the Year Brian McLerran. King nominated McLerran for the award. (Photo submitted)