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Making the cut

Jerry Little expects to get at least four cuttings of coastal bermuda-grass hay per season for both round and square bales.

His irrigation capability on all his hay farms makes that possible — especially during dry spells.

Little has all electric irrigation wells at Tuscola, Texas, in the heart of the fertile Jim Ned Valley. He feels fortunate the wells are shallow; it’s only about 30 feet to water. He uses Valley center-pivot irrigation throughout the hay fields.

Knowing he has the water availability enables Little to put out a blend of fertilizer every year on the fields of coastal.

Key Points

• Jerry Little believes supplying irrigation to all of his hay fields is vital to production.

• Fertilizer is applied to coastal bermudagrass in liquid and dry forms.

• Little juggles farming with a busy manufacturing business.


“Sometimes I use liquid fertilizer, but other times I may broadcast dry fertilizer,” Little says.

He also topdresses with fertilizer after each hay cutting. In addition, Little uses a product called Hydro Hume, which he finds helps break down the fertilizer nutrients into a more usable form for the grass production.

Coastal remains benchmark

Little does raise some Tifton 85 grass, as well. Like coastal released in 1943, it was developed at the Coastal Plains Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga., by the late Glenn W. Burton, who also propagated Tifton 44. (Bermudagrass was introduced to the United States in 1751 at Savannah, Ga.)

Coastal and Tifton are both hybrids and have to be established from sprigs (roots, stolons, tillers and rhizomes).

“I do raise Tifton 85, too, but I’ve found cattle tend to like it here more than horses do,” Little says. “Tifton is just a little too coarse for some horses. Coastal is still the preferred hay by equine people I deal with.”

But he allows Tifton 85 certainly lives up to its reputation for prolific growth, especially under irrigation.

“I must cut Tifton every 28 to 30 days,” Little says. “You’ve really got to stay up with it.”

Overall, Little aims for a yield of 80 to 100 small square bales of hay per acre, or four to five big round bales.

Little Manufacturing

But his tractors, hay balers and center-pivot irrigation systems aren’t the only things keeping Little rolling. He juggles his Tuscola hay farms with Little Manufacturing in Abilene as the third generation to run the family business.

“My grandfather started it in the early 1950s, next my dad, and I then bought it from him,” Jerry notes.

The business started by manufacturing paint stripe equipment, and it just grew and diversified.

“Now, we’ve kind of gone from that [striping machinery] to asphalt maintenance work,” Little says. “We do asphalt work mainly with airports.”

And that keeps Little traveling a lot.

In fact, midway this year, Little Manufacturing already had done the asphalt for an airport at Dumas, Texas, high in the Panhandle, and at Beaumont on the Texas Coast. Before summer’s end, Little was slated to do asphalt work at Port Isabel.

“The Panhandle to the Coast — I guess you could say that’s pretty spread out,” Little quips.

Little feels fortunate that one farm employee has been with him for 21 years in the shop and field, and he also gets help from two grandsons at times. His two grown children did not go into agriculture.

With his 6-foot-4 frame, large hands and broad shoulders, Little admits he takes ribbing about his name. That was especially true when he played football as both a center and defensive linebacker for the Wylie Bulldogs. He was in the Class of ’68.

Big Jerry Little? “Yes, I’ve been kidded about it all my life — even today,” he says. “It just kind of sticks with you.”

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BIG GUY LIKES BIG TRUCK: At 6 foot 4, Jerry Little appreciates his Dodge Ram 3500 Heavy Duty truck, not only on his Tuscola, Texas, hay farms, but also as he travels from the Panhandle to the Texas Coast for his Little Manufacturing business ventures.

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TIFTON 85 GROWS FAST: For Taylor County, Texas, hay producer Jerry Little, this Tifton 85 grass grew so prolifically after a string of rainy days during July this summer that he could hardly keep up with the cuttings. Nevertheless, coastal bermudagrass remains his benchmark grass for customers.

This article published in the August, 2010 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.