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Serving: IA
Deb and Will Frazee
LET’S TALK: Whether it’s on their farm or across the ocean, Deb and Will Frazee welcome the chance to talk to people about food, agriculture and farming in Iowa.

Cattle and conservation

Will and Deb Frazee of Emerson in Montgomery County named Iowa Master Farmers for 2017.

By Lynn Betts

William “Will” Frazee just might know as much about cuts of beef — especially new cuts of beef — as some of the butchers at the local grocery store. That’s because the new Master Farmer and his wife, Deb, spend a great amount of time promoting the kind of beef they produce on their Montgomery County farm in southwest Iowa.

Will has been a tireless volunteer with the Mills-Montgomery County Cattlemen, who were involved in the initial rollout of new beef products like the beef shoulder petite tender and flat iron steak. His work helped get the new value-added chuck cuts into grocery stores across Iowa. 

Will and Deb get help from son Curt and daughter Krista in operating Frazee Farms Ltd., a crop and livestock operation. Cattle feeders for years, they built a hoop building in 2009 to eliminate all outdoor feedlots on the farm. They feed 280 head at a time, two times a year. “We call it the Cattle Hilton,” Deb says with a smile. “We’ve wondered why we didn’t build it years ago.”

VALUE-ADDED: Will Frazee was instrumental in helping introduce
new value-added beef cuts, like the flat iron steak, into grocery
stores in Iowa and beyond. He has a strong working relationship
with his local Fareway meat manager Al Thole (right).

Will says the building showed its advantages the first winter, when they saw a series of blizzards. “As much as we like it in winter, the shade it gives in hot summers and the deep bedding in place of mud in an open lot in spring and summer might help even more.” The cattle are calmer, and average daily gains have increased to 4.1 pounds per head per day, above average for most cattle feeders.

The deep bedding of cornstalks used in the building is a better environment for the cattle, and makes better use of manure. Cornstalk bedding is renewed weekly; manure is stockpiled and hauled to crop fields when weather permits.

Committed to conservation
Will has no-tilled his corn since the early 1990s and soybeans since 1998. Using 20-inch row spacing in a corn-soybean rotation, he’s averaging 205 bushels an acre for corn and 58 bushels an acre for soybeans.

In 2014, Will built the final 3 miles of terraces to complete all the terracing needs on his farm. He planted 7 acres of filter strips on both sides of streams last year, and has established contour buffer strips and field borders. This spring Will plans to no-till soybeans into 150 acres of a cereal rye and rapeseed cover crop he seeded last fall. All this conservation has made a difference for wildlife, he says.

The Frazees use technology, autosteer and GPS. They sample soil on a 2.5-acre grid, and use variable rate and GPS to apply dry fertilizers and seed. They also map manure application with GPS, and use auto-shutoff on the planter and section control on the sprayer.

Community, national service
Will has been a member of the Mills-Montgomery County Cattlemen for over 30 years, and served on its board from 1984 through 2016. He also held offices on the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation Board for five years and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Board, and was vice chair and chair of the Iowa Beef Industry Council.

In 2008, Will was appointed by the U.S. ag secretary to represent Iowa on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. He served two three-year terms, including service on the operating committee, a group of 20 cattle producers who determine how the national beef checkoff is spent.

CONSERVATION SHOWCASE: Deb and Will Frazee’s farm is a
conservation showcase, with terraces, buffer strips, no-till,
contained cattle feeding, cover crops and nutrient management.

Will has traveled the world promoting the cattle industry and Iowa agriculture, and people from around the world have come to the Frazee farm to get a firsthand look at an Iowa farm. The entire Frazee family has been active in 4-H; last year, Will was inducted into the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame.

Will and Deb are active in the Strahan Methodist Church. Will was a board member of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau for 10 years, and was president from 2010 to 2013. Since 2014, he’s been taking about 60 days away from his farming operation each year to work as a District 9 director on the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Board.

Deb is the southwest Iowa STEM regional manager, where she works with schools, Extension and other parties to include agriculture in science, technology, engineering and math courses.

Profile of Will and Deb Frazee

FARM: corn, soybeans, beef cattle
FAMILY: daughter Krista; son Curt, with wife Jennifer; and three grandchildren
LEADERSHIP HIGHLIGHTS: Mills Montgomery County Cattlemen, Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation Board, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Board, Iowa Beef Industry Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Board, 4-H Club and Project Leader, Montgomery County Fair Board, Montgomery County Farm Bureau, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Board, Strahan United Methodist Church Board, and Red Oak Chamber and Industry Association

Betts writes from Johnston.

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