I N T H I S I S S U E
1^ Where is Agriculture Headed?
_ Dave Lubben
2^ Who Is Doing the Thinking?
_ Vic Madsen
3^ Winter Meeting Feedback
4^ Winter Meeting Workshop Reports
_Making a Place for Children on the Farm
_Direct Marketing Meat
_Biological Controls for Iowa
_What About an Off-Farm Job?
_Hoop House Hog Production
_Keeping Track: Records and Decision Making
_Keeping Track: Records and Decision Making
_Farming in Stories
5^ Order and Input Form
6^ Shared Visions
11^ Dave Lubben
_ E. Anne Larson
12^ Notes and Notices
_ New PFI Officers
_ District Events Planned
_ SARE Producer Grants
_ Iowa Farm Leader Award
_ Wanted! Your Input!
_ Volunteer Farm Guides Wanted
_ Toolbox Conference March 8
15A^There's a Snake in My Pasture!
_ Ed Broders
15B^'Visitors' on Iowa Farms
_ Kamyar Enshayan
17^ 1995 On-Farm Trial Results
19^ Berseem Clover
19^ Late Spring Nitrate Test
22^ Purchased Manure
24^ Deep Banding
28^ Manure and Planter Row Fert.
30^ Hazelnut Establishment
32^ Weed Management
34^ Other Seed and Seeding Trials
39^ Biological Control
_Mark and Julie Roose
_Phil and Sharon Specht
41^ Strip Intercropping
42A^ Trees for Biodiversity
_Matt and Diana Stewart
42B^ Rotational Grazing at Neely-Kinyon
42C^ Learning When to Calve in a Grass-Based Dairy
_Matt and Diana Stewart
42D^ Back to Conventional Grazing -- For Awhile
_Steve Hopkins and Sarah Andreasen
42E^ Barley-versus-Corn-Based Hog Rations
_Dan and Lorna Wilson, Colin and Carla Wilson
43^ Sustainable Ag Training Underway
_ Jerry DeWitt
43^ Footprints of a Grass Farmer
_ Tom Frantzen
45^ From the Kitchen
_ Marj Stonecypher
46^ Correspondence to the PFI Board
47^ PFI Membership Application and Renewal Form
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1^ WHERE IS AGRICULTURE HEADED?
(Editors' note: Dave Lubben was elected President of the PFI
Board of Directors at the annual meeting on January 6th.
An articlie on Dave appears on page 11.)
Dave Lubben, Monticello
Each year I have the opportunity to facilitate a long-range
outlook symposium. This round table discussion consists of
15 to 20 people, many of whom are farmers, bankers, industry
representatives and university personal. The interesting
part of the discussion involves the various backgrounds of
the people invited. Since each person has a different job
in the agricultural industry, each has a different point of
view where agriculture is heading.
The overall objective of the round table discussion is to
find the future trends in agriculture and examine the
opportunities and the threats that may occur. We have to
ask ourselves, "Are we asking the right questions of today's
agriculture? What is the overall impact, how will this
effect me and what must I do different in the future." All
of the guests are challenged to extrapolate where
agriculture is headed over the next five to ten years?
I will share with you some of the questions posed to the
participants, and maybe you would like to answer some of the
"What new trends do you see in the grain industry over the
next five years?"
"What should be done to help the American farmer to get a
bigger share of the US food dollar?"
"What new trends do you see in the livestock industry
(cattle & hogs) over the next five years?"
"As we plant fence row to fence row, what happens to
conservation practices without government farm programs?"
"What will be the hottest topic or the biggest challenge in
the agricultural economy one year from today?"
"What do you feel will be the three most significant
changes that will occur to our national economy over the
next five years?"
"What educational move do farmers need to make now to make
sure they have a job ten years from today?"
Predictions from the outlook meetings:
Farmers will divide into two camps. The conventional
farmer will continue to get bigger and add debt. The
sustainable camp will need to investigate the feasibility of
specialty crops and direct marketing. Individuals will have
to do more of their own on-farm research to get the answers
they need. Diversity does not guarantee profit, only more
Farmers must become more financially astute and develop
written marketing plans. In the past farmers have tried to
be independent, individualists. That era may be coming to a
close. In order to compete in the next century, farmers
will have to develop networks or alliances with other
farmers, to combine individual expertise in production,
marketing and financial skills. It's already being done in
New Zealand, in grazing networks where they critique each
other's management. Farmers will start new cooperatives
that produce profits instead of cooperatives that produce
The banking industry will also see many changes. There
will be more reliance on performance lending, where they
monitor cash flow projections and earning abilities. With
the elimination of farm subsidy programs, lenders will need
new tools to monitor farmers' financial skills and
We as farmers must maintain our ability to learn; we don't
know what we will have to learn in the future. ]
2^ WHO IS DOING THE THINKING?
Vic Madsen, Audubon
Editors' note: The following article is a slightly revised
version of comments outgoing PFI President Vic Madsen made
at the annual Practical Farmers of Iowa meeting January 6.
My wife says that there are times when I qualify as a grumpy
old man. As I reviewed what I wrote for today it looks like
this was written on one of those days.
The message I would like to share today is that after being
involved with Practical Farmers of Iowa for ten years, I am
convinced that long term profitability demands that we be
able to think for ourselves.
For a minute, think about the industrial style of management
and ask who is doing the thinking. For example:
1) Many farmers pay $500 per year or more for marketing
advice. Who is doing the thinking?
2) The local fertilizer salesman takes soil samples,
interprets them, and then makes application recommendations.
Who is doing the thinking?
3) The herbicide salesman makes the herbicide selection,
determines the rate and custom applies the product. Who is
doing the thinking?
4) Multinational swine breeding companies develop their
secret-genetics gilts, sell them for two and a half times
the fat hog price and sell the matching boars for $1,200.
Who is doing the thinking?
You can probably add to this list, but I think you get the
There is a graph that Tom Frantzen uses in some of his
talks. The idea is that the dollars of agricultural
activity is divided between the marketing sector, the farm
sector and the input sector. Since the early 1900s the
marketing sector has had about 55% of the dollar activity.
But the farm share has steadily declined from about 25% to
5%. The input sector has increased its share by almost the
same dollars that the farm sector has lost.
I have a hunch that you could use the same trend lines to
describe who is doing the thinking. Then the question
arises: how did the input industry take over our thinking
In the book Your Money or Your Life, the authors talk about
a common technique used by the advertising industry to get
people to buy their product. It's rather simple. The goal
is to create emotional instability in the potential customer
and then provide the product to solve the emotional stress
the ad created. I've fallen for that one many times. Life
insurance companies are great examples. Their ads show sad
people, which creates emotional instability in the reader -
and then their product solves the problem. After seeing
thousands of ads thousands of times, we believe we must do
what is suggested in order to be attractive, prosperous, and
well thought of.
So how do we take back control of our farms and do more of
our own thinking? Maybe we should step back a bit and look
at our farms like a jigsaw puzzle. Each of us has different
sized and shaped pieces representing our land bases, capital
resources, buildings, labor supplies, and personal and
family goals. No one standing outside our farm can know it
as well as the operator because they don't know our
situation or personal goals. If the completed puzzle
represents a profitable, sustainable farm, we need to
remember that each of us must do our own thinking because
everyone's puzzle is different. ]
3^ ANNUAL WINTER PFI MEETING FEEDBACK
At the Jan. 6 winter meeting in Ames, more than 170 people
listened to presentations from Michael Duffy and Laura
Jackson, participated in the eight workshops, and took part
in the producer poster session. The producer posters were
popular among the thirty-seven people who turned in their
meeting evaluations. But the greatest number of people
noted their reason for coming to the meeting as the chance
to visit with farmers. Through social interaction and
posters, the main attraction at the annual meeting remains
the attendees themselves.
Mike Duffy's talk on profitability was the next-most-listed
reason for attending for the group overall, although Laura
Jackson took the honors among women and non-farmers
returning the evaluation. Many people also came to learn
more about Shared Visions: Farming for Better Communities.
Overall, the most frequently cited workshop was Keeping
Track: Records and Decision Making.
Statistics don't tell the whole story, however. A
less-popular workshop, for example, could make a great
difference to the right person. Here are a few responses to
the question "What did you get the most from at the
"Direct Marketing Meat - got info for our Shared Visions
group. And Records and Decision Making. We were so
inspired we worked on our goals all the way home."
"Meeting other farmers and sharing ideas with them. I
really enjoy the keynote address and the breakout sessions.
The posters are also great - keep emphasizing and encourage
others to get involved in."
"Potential for change."
"How could the meeting have been better? PFI members were
forthcoming with suggestions."
"Add a bulletin board for people to post questions,
"Enjoyed last year's Sunday worship service."
"Keep things on time. District meeting was a disappointment
- directors weren't prepared."
"Dancing, music, PFI storytelling."
"Workshops did not discuss big issues in sustainable
This year people were asked for one good idea to increase
membership in Practical Farmers of Iowa. Here are some.
"Hold workshops in each district and encourage each member
to bring along another farm family. Doesn't have to be
anything fancy, the farmer-to-farmer contact is the most
"Have more active district meetings and educational
"Put out news releases in small local papers about the
results from the on-farm studies."
"Don't be so conservative. I wish that PFI would be more
adventurous and creative and colorful and not so boring."
"Develop relationship with community college ag programs."
4^ WINTER MEETING WORKSHOP REPORTS
Thanks to the note-takers and amateur videographers, most of
the winter workshops were captured in some way. Send in the
form in this newsletter for the video or additional printed
Making a Place for Children on the Farm
Presenters: Frances and Reuben Zacharakis-Jutz, Jessica
Frantzen, Eve Abbas, Bryan Hoben and Margaret Smith
Summary: Susan Zacharakis-Jutz
"Cleaning barns, moving pigs, picking rocks, mowing grass,
and housework!" came responses to "What are the worst jobs
at home?" from farm kids Reuben, Jessica, and Frances. But
they liked horseback riding, working with livestock,
spending time at the pond, playing softball, and working
with Mom or Dad. They also shared feelings that most of
their friends don't understand or appreciate the work
involved in a family farm business, which makes them feel a
little bit different. We enjoyed input from other children
as well who attended this session.
Parents Eve Abbas and Bryan Hoben recognize that their
children sacrifice some activities that other children
enjoy, but think the advantages of learning responsibility
is a fair trade. Both Bryan and Eve stressed the importance
of evaluating each child individually for their abilities to
take on new tasks as the mature. As a nurse, Eve is
especially aware of potential dangers, but stressed
introducing new jobs gradually.
Our panel and other conference participants shared wonderful
insights into fostering a love of the land and the farm.
"Make time for fun--stop at the creek and see what's new
when you go to move cows".
"Work together on both jobs you like and jobs that you don't
like." "Start children young on easy tasks--like feeding the
chickens." "Find what interests your children and help
them pursue that area."
"Involve you children in decision making."
"Remember to praise your children when they do well and be
gentle with reminders of how they can improve."
"Above all, share your joy!"
Direct Marketing Meat
participants: Mike Mamminga, Robert Recker, Cindy Madsen,
Mark Tjelmeland (moderator)
additional materials available
Mike Mamminga, who is head of the Meat and Poultry
Inspection Service of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and
Land Stewardship, led off with a description of services
offered by his office. He wants producers to understand -
early in the game - how state and federal safeguards
operate, because he wants them to be successful in their
marketing. The Iowa inspection service can be reached at
515-232-1163. New state legislation now requires slaughter
inspection of ostriches, emus, rheas, and migratory
There are two kinds of meat lockers, said Mamminga.
"Official" establishments have a state inspector on hand
before and after slaughter. A "custom" establishment does
only private and in-house slaughtering. Meat at such a
locker will have labels saying "not for sale," or "exempted
poultry." To confuse things, however, these businesses may
also buy and process inspected meat from an "official"
Cindy Madsen, Audubon, shared some of her tips for marketing
chickens. She sees a wide range of quality at her locker.
She sorts birds by size, packages them simply but cleanly,
and tries to get them to her customers as quickly as
possible. Cindy encouraged others entering the business to
"know your costs."
Mike Mamminga also pointed out the need to track all costs
and revenues. Options that bring a good price but only use
part of the animal are not necessarily profitable. "Look at
the whole beef or you'll lose your profit,' he cautioned.
Like Cindy Madsen, Robert and Mary Jane Recker sell by word
of mouth. They ask $1.60/hanging pound for their beef.
While they pay for a "general cut-up," customers can pay for
additional processing. The Reckers say they presently net
about $0.25 per pound (of hanging carcass) above what they
would get selling to a meat packer.
They plan to develop their own label and market frozen
packages door-to-door. They can legally do that within Iowa
because their locker at Frederika is a state-inspected
If meat will not be sold out of state, there is no need to
use a federally inspected facility, said Mamminga.
Producers can develop their own label for product
recognition. They should do this in cooperation with their
locker, and his office must approve the label for accuracy.
In addition to the basic label requirements, "you can put
anything on the label that's not false." "Speak to what you
do," urged Mamminga. The information on the label should be
concrete and verifiable.
Biological Controls for Iowa
participants: Joe Fitzgerald, John Obrycki, Kris Giles, Mark
Joe Fitzgerald, at the New Melleray Abbey, did not have
enough corn borers to justify a release of the parasitic
wasps. The wasps are released from small cardboard capsules
scattered around the field; 500 wasps per capsule, and 100
capsules per acre. Even so, the neighbors who came to a
spring orientation meeting at the monastery are still
talking about the trial, says Joe.
Mark Roose and Kris Giles described the alfalfa weevil
project. The weevil has naturally occurring enemies in a
fungal disease and several parasitic wasps. Five or six
days after a June rain, the fungus wipes out the weevil.
Giles, Roose, and Phil Specht, in McGregor, monitored the
population and disease levels in the weevil, sampling
regularly and raising some weevil larvae in test tubes.
Because the fungus needs moisture, Roose and Specht left a
strip of alfalfa uncut at the first harvest to act as an
incubator for the fungus. See the research report in this
The workshop discussion turned to other insect pests and
other biocontrol techniques. Tom Wahl has grafted diseased
stems of multiflora rose onto roses in a pasture, and the
grafts have reportedly been successful. Plant pathologists
are still studying the potential of this disease to spread
to cultivated roses.
ISU entomologist John Obrycki described a new project to
control corn borer through a microsporidim organism named
Nosema (no-SEE-ma). PFI and Obrycki have received support
for on-farm research with this biocontrol in 1996. Two new
cooperators are needed to participate with this project.
What About an Off-Farm Job?
Panel members: Kathy Koether, Mark Bruns, Mike Reicherts,
Joan Blundall (moderator)
What are the pluses and minuses of working off the farm?
Contrary to popular thought, our panel members noted more
advantages, but didn't make light of the fact that working
elsewhere changes farm and family dynamics. Joan Blundall
shared a social/historical perspective of people considering
off-farm employment as negative or as a weakness. In our
current perspective, it is a fact of life for many, and may
have both positive and negative aspects. Off-farm work may
be a short- or long-term strategy to meet an individual's
and the farm business needs. Panel members shared three
different strategies for helping meet their personal and
Mark Bruns enjoys his work in a machine shop where, in
addition to manufacturing, he provides training for
developmentally disabled people. By cutting back on acres
farmed, he finds rewards from both professions and no longer
feels the competition with neighbors for more land.
Relaxing the financial burden, also allows him to
concentrate on improving the genetics in his ewe flock.
Kathy Koether loves the farm, but always wanted a teaching
career. She has combined teaching and additional schooling
with their family farming goals. Kathy shared that "her
family has always supported her work," and that "training
opportunities are out there; you only have to look to find
Major changes in farm enterprises and farm management
philosophy led Mike Reicherts to work part-time for another
farmer, for what he considers a transition period. Mike
stressed not to view life changes as negative. Change is
stressful and alters how the farm and family operate, but
for him has been a growing experience. This may not have
been the path he would have chosen, but is making a positive
experience of it.
Hoop House Hog Production
Participants: Mark Honeyman, Archie Kuntz, Laurie Connor,
Vic Madsen (moderator)
video available, additional material available
Laurie Connor started the session reporting on her research
in Manitoba, Canada, where she has compared hoop structures
with conventional ones for grower-finisher pigs and dry
sows. She said the first 7-14 days are a critical period
for young pigs that enter the hoop system in winter.
Because the group may not have the total body mass necessary
to heat the space, temporary drop ceilings can be useful.
In general, though, humidity control is more important than
temperature. In Iowa, the south end is typically open in
winter except for an air barrier up to about 4-5 feet. The
north end is open at the top in winter. This system
Canadian farmer Ron Floyd happened to be present at the
workshop. It was he who originally imported the hoop system
from Japan. The bedding-manure pack is removed only after
the pigs leave for market.
Some farmers like to place a layer of ag lime between the
ground and the bedding. It is commonly believed to suppress
pathogens, and it provides a convenient marker when cleaning
out the structure. Floyd estimates that a producer should
allow about one half-hour per day for labor in the typical
Mark Honeyman agreed that labor requirements are less than
in a conventional barn. He said that while the Swedish
system and other deep-bedding approaches are
management-intensive, they do not require a lot of equipment
One of the problems of production agriculture, noted
Honeyman, is that we build single-purpose buildings that
last too long. Materials for a 35 x 70-foot hoop unit
typically cost around $7,000.
Honeyman is directing research on hoophouse hog production
at two ISU outlying research farms. He said he is less
concerned about the wintertime performance of hoop systems
than how well hogs on a manure pack will handle the typical
hot, humid Midwestern summer.
Archie Kuntz, a hog producer from Brooklyn, Iowa and a
dealer for a hoop manufacturer, said the buildings should be
situated outside windbreaks for better air circulation. On
his own farm he made a mister system for his hoop structure.
He noted that, while in Canada hoop structures are oriented
east-west, in the United States structures are north-south
to minimize solar gain.
Keeping Track: Records and Decision Making
Panel members: Mary Dreier, Tom Frantzen, Dave Lubben, Mike
Duffy and Larry Kallem (moderators)
video available, additional materials available
Though there are many views on how to make farm management
decisions, our panel members agreed that business records
are critical to aid that decision making. Speakers even
took us a step further back in the decision-making process.
"Don't even think about managing resources without a goal!"
Tom Frantzen emphasized.
Two major record and decision making systems were described.
Mary Dreier and Dave Lubben both use 'classical' accounting
and business analysis for each enterprise on the farm. Both
have worked for many years with the Iowa Farm Business
Association (IFBA) to analyze their records.
This nonprofit, farmer-run organization provides
record-keeping guidelines, computer software or paper entry
systems, and analysis services to cooperating farmers. Dave
and Mary agree that the ability to compare their operations
with other Iowa farms has helped them feel confident about
their businesses. Advisors within the IFBA have also been
helpful in focussing on goal setting for their clients.
Tom Frantzen and his family have been implementing Holistic
Resource Management (HRM) on their farm for several years.
This management philosophy may be unfamiliar. It is based,
in part, on ecological principles of maximizing use of
sunlight, the water cycle, and the nutrient cycle to make a
living from your land. Goals are set to improve or maintain
the resource manager's quality of life. Decisions then are
based on whether or not farm management changes move you
toward those goals. More emphasis is put on planning and
replanning than with other systems.
There are several tools that can be to used to help manage
the farm business. First must come the commitment to
improve on your current system and devote time to the
Farming in Stories
Presenter: Michael Cotter
Summary - Gary Huber
Michael Cotter, a storyteller and farmer from Austin,
Minnesota, began by telling the first story he ever did in
public - a story about a killdeer mom trying to protect its
nest from destruction as Michael tilled a field on his farm.
He went on to describe how he began storytelling - how it
was something he felt strongly about wanting to do, but at
the same time was something he was afraid of trying. "The
hardest thing to do is get up and tell a story," he noted.
He continued, "The story is in you, in your experiences, but
the magic of storytelling is in the listening. If you could
see your faces, you would know this truth." Michael then
asked people to describe some of their experiences as he had
done with the killdeer story. Various participants offered
stories, many related to birds they remembered in their
youth and on their farms.
He continued by saying, "Another thing that is needed is a
safe place to be able to tell your story. Your memories
trigger the stories, and with a safe place you are free to
get into your memories and value them." He went on to note
that stories can't be told without a community because "its
the people that make telling stories possible."
Again various participants offered some stories, many of
which came from their memories of aunts and uncles during
their childhoods. Michael offered that it is important to
write down the memories that are triggered by the stories of
others so that these can be offered as your own.
Other stories from the participants followed as people
present began to feel more at ease. Images were offered
from peoples' pasts, many of them vivid and moving
testaments to ordinary peoples' experiences. Michael ended
the session by noting, "The telling of stories heal, and we
all have healing to do in our lives." ]
5^ ORDER AND INPUT FORM
o Michael Duffy talk
o Hoophouse hog production
o Direct marketing meat (Mike Mamminga)
PFI Meeting Video Tape
o ($10.00 purchase) _$_________
Eight-hour tape contains opening comments by Vic Madsen, the
Michael Duffy and Laura Jackson talks, and one session of
each of Direct Marketing Meat, What About an Off-Farm Job?,
Hoophouse Hog Production, Making a Place for Children on the
Farm, Records and Decision Making, and Production Contracts
(minus Neil Hamilton's talk).
Make checks payable to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-9632
Your Ideas Here:
A NAME for the new newsletter column featuring your
questions / comments and an "answer panel" of PFI
A NAME for the new PFI fund being established to increase
the organization's financial stability.
6^ SHARED VISIONS
(Editors' note: Since most of this newsletter is devoted to
results of trials done by cooperators involved in the
On-Farm Research Network during 1995, the Shared Visions
section is limited to brief summaries of the fourteen groups
that are part of the Community Group Network.)
Ag Connect - Based in Lenox, this group is implementing a
regional beginning farmer program. Shared Visions resources
were used during 1995 to promote the program and develop a
database of retiring farmers.
Audubon Graziers - This group's goal is to demonstrate that
management intensive grazing (MIG) can be profitable,
sustainable, and improve their community's quality of life.
Shared Visions resources were used during 1995 to support
on-farm research on MIG, to conduct a series of pasture
walks, and to develop a grazing library at the local
Cattle Feeders' Community Alliance - This Pocahontas County
group wants to diversify local farms by bringing cattle back
to the area. They specifically want to produce beef of
superior quality and develop arrangements to share the
benefits that accrue from this quality among the people
Coalition for Holistic Agricultural Resource Management
(CHARM) - The goal of this NE Iowa group is to achieve a
high quality of life for their families and communities
based on ecologically-sound and economically-viable farming
practices. They are using the Holistic Resource Management
(HRM) decision-making model and the help of group members as
a mentoring team to achieve this goal.
Farm Fresh CSA - This Benton County group's goal is to
benefit local farmers, consumers, and communities by
enabling local growers to market their fresh produce to
members of their community. To achieve this goal, they are
developing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project.
Shared Visions support was used to promote the CSA and
document their experiences.
Farms Forever - This group's goal is to enhance
communication between rural and urban citizens of Louisa
County. Support from Shared Visions in 1995 was used for
several evening tours of farms of local families involved in
alternative crops and farming practices. Support in 1996 is
being used to develop a directory of local producers who
want to market directly to area residents.
Hampton Area Rural Development Action Committee - The goal
of this group is to investigate the feasibility of adding
value to area crops and livestock. They are currently
looking closely at opportunities to produce and market
high-quality, antibiotic-free pork.
Jefferson County Group - This group's goal is to develop
cooperation and harmony among Jefferson County residents and
collaboratively examine and test ideas, crops, and products
that are suited to their County and can help farm families
be prosperous economically, socially, and environmentally.
Magic Beanstalk CSA - This Central Iowa group's goal is to
create a local food system, build community ties, and expand
awareness of the relationships between food, land, and
people. They are reaching this goal by developing a CSA.
Shared Visions support during 1995 was used to hold field
days and collect information on labor requirements, harvest
amounts, and profits.
Neely-Kinyon Farm Committee - This Adair County group has
been planning research for a 160-acre farm near Greenfield
that was given to the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research
and Development. Shared Visions support is being used to
investigate value-added options that will support area farm
families and communities.
Northeast Iowa Congregational Supported Agriculture Group -
Members of this East-Central Iowa group share an interest in
working through area churches to help farmers directly
market their products to congregation members. Their goal is
to develop a cooperative organization to locally market
diversified, healthy food products to their communities
while providing producers the ability to be self-supporting.
Prairie Talk - This Eastern Iowa group's goal is to create a
sustainable, supportive, people-oriented community where
consumers and producers cooperate to create a better world
for themselves and generations to come. Shared Visions
support is being used to develop and plan for the use of an
educational resource library on organic farming practices.
Promised Land Beginning Farmer Program - This group began by
working to establish a community-based beginning farmer
program in the Grundy/Hardin County area. Support from
Shared Visions is being used to create a guidebook for
people wanting to start farming.
Total Resources Management Services - The goal of this
Carroll County group is to develop options that allow
livestock producers to utilize their manure as a resource
instead of viewing that manure as a waste material. They are
interested in a variety of options, but they are currently
focusing on manure brokering.
11^ DAVE LUBBEN
by E. Anne Larson
(Editors' note: This is an excerpt of an article that
appeared in the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture's
1994 Annual Report. Dave has served as an ex officio member
of the Center's Board of Directors.)
You know the minute you enter Dave Lubben's quarter-mile
lane north of Monticello that he pays attention to details:
the barn and outbuildings are well-repaired; the cattle lot
fences gleam white in the late afternoon sun; the farm yard
is groomed to a tee.
As Dave talks about his methodical approach to farming, it's
clear that he leaves little to chance. He's an advocate of
using indicators that will help him manage the 1,400-acre
grain and livestock farm that he co-owns with his father and
He refers to the three-ring binder he carries with him as
his "bible." In it, Dave maintains information on
operational goals, historic records, and financial data, as
well as a performance evaluation. Production costs are
figured to the penny. Plans to market grain are laid out in
detail. Before the crop is even in the ground, Dave knows
when, how much, and at what price it must be sold to ensure
A 1979 ISU farm operations graduate, Dave continues his
education by reading agricultural and economic journals,
accessing computer databanks on the markets, and talking
with financial advisors. Since 1982, he has been part of a
marketing club that meets monthly to share knowledge of
His service on a Monticello bank's board of directors has
cemented his belief that to succeed, the farmer has to have
a firm grip on economic realities. In the mid '80s, Dave
thought that banks were largely to blame for the
difficulties farmers faced. Over time, however, he has come
to believe that producers share responsibility for farm
failure. In the 80's, he resolved that "I didn't want it to
ever happen to me. And if it did happen, I wanted to know
it before my banker did!" ]
12^ NOTES AND NOTICES
# New PFI Officers Selected
At the winter PFI meeting, the membership unanimously
approved changes to the PFI articles of incorporation that
provide for two board members from each of the five
districts. Also approved was a provision for ballots by
At the district caucuses, all the former associate board
members were elected as full board members. In addition,
two new PFI members joined the board: Dan Specht, from
McGregor, and Barney Bahrenfus, from Grinnell.
In the board meeting that followed, Dave Lubben, of
Monticello, was elected PFI President. He succeeds Vic
Madsen, who has served the past three years. Thanks, Vic.
# District Events
Southeast District Co-sponsors Meeting
On Thursday, March 7, the Southeast District of PFI and the
Southeast Iowa Research Association will co-sponsor a
meeting in Montgomery Hall at the Johnson County
The Southeast Iowa Research Association owns the ISU
research farm at Crawfordsville, where ISU agronomist
Antonio Mallarino is researching fertilizer placement and
rates for reduced tillage situations.
The program will begin at 10:00 am and includes a variety of
research reports and discussion. A lunch will be available
for purchase. For more information, contact Jeff Olson,
Northwest District Hosts Energy Speaker March 9
The northwest district will get together at the Family Table
Restaurant, in Cherokee Saturday, March 9, for supper and a
program. The Family Table is on the west side of Highway
59, on the north side of town. Supper is on your own at
6:00 pm, with the program at 7:00.
The program will be a presentation and discussion led by
Lara Levison, who is a field representative in the energy
program of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Union
recently published Powering the Midwest, the report of a
regional study of the potential of solar, wind, and biomass
energy. One conclusion of the study, according to PFI
director Paul Mugge, is that the Midwest could become an
# SARE Announces Producer-Initiated Sustainable Agriculture
The North Central Region of the USDA Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education (SARE) program has allocated about
$200,000 for the Producer-Initiated Sustainable Agriculture
Competitive grants of up to $5,000 are available for
individual farmers and ranchers and up to $10,000 for groups
of farmers and ranchers who are interested in studying
sustainable agriculture production and marketing. The grant
period will begin in mid-fall 1996 when funds become
available and can extend 12-18 months.
During the first four years of this program, 127 grants were
awarded to producers studying a variety of topics. These
ranged from rotational grazing and livestock systems to crop
production systems, urban and rural waste management, weed
control, alternative uses for CRP land, biological weed and
pest control, organic farming, marketing, quality of life,
water quality and soil conservation.
Grants have been used to conduct on-farm research trials,
sponsor educational programs and field days, develop new
technologies, and to create or modify equipment. Projects
that include a youth component are particularly welcome.
The application deadline is May 1, 1996. For more
information and application materials, contact the PFI
coordinators (515-294-1923) or the North Central Regional
Office of SARE (402-472-7081).
# Iowa Farm Leaders of the Year Award to Thompsons
The Des Moines Sunday Register announced on Feb. 11 that
Richard and Sharon Thompson have been selected the Des
Moines Register's Iowa Farm Leaders of the Year. It is the
first time a couple has received the award.
The article in the Register, written by Jerry Perkins,
traces the Thompsons' own personal, lifelong journey toward
sustainability. After more than a decade of farming, they
reached a spiritual turning point that has led to changes
both in their lives and in the farm. Dick credits Sharon
with being a source of strength and persistence in the years
that their farming seemed to go against all norms.
The Register piece also describes the birth of Practical
Farmers of Iowa and the development of the cooperative
relationship with Iowa State University. With illustrative
quotes from others involved in the collaboration, the
article points out benefits that this relationship has
produced for agriculture in Iowa.
# Wanted! Your Input!
Practical Farmers of Iowa isn't much without the energy and
guidance of people like you. Several times in the past
weeks situations have come up that fairy cry out for member
input. Take a look at these "opportunities" and decide if
you might have something to offer.
Master Librarian Wanted!
PFI has five district libraries. A year ago a master list
of the books and video tapes was put on the computer.
Districts have acquired new materials since then, but it is
a well-kept secret. Districts don't know what is in the
libraries of other districts, and PFI members are generally
not aware of the new titles available. We need a master
librarian to keep up a master list so people will know what
is available and where they can find it. Maybe that person
could also organize some book reports for the newsletter.
If we don't know what it is or where it is, we probably
aren't going to read it!
Contact one of your board members or the PFI coordinators if
you have an interest. The old list is available for
updating on a computer file, if that would be helpful.
Answer Panel Needs a Name, Questions!
There's a lot of information flying around today. But it
isn't always easy to use. What's the first thing you do
when you have a question about farming? You probably get an
opinion or two from other people you respect. That is the
idea behind a new feature that will be starting in this
newsletter. But we don't know what to call it. Any ideas?
Four PFI members have agreed to be part of this panel to
respond to your questions (or comments) about farming.
Farming? That's a pretty broad topic. But there is broad
experience represented on the panel.
Ron Rosmann, a former PFI president, runs a diversified
operation near Harlan with his wife Maria. They have hogs,
rotationally graze beef cattle (cow-calf), use ridge
tillage, and are in the transition to organic certification.
1222 Ironwood Rd., Harlan, IA 51537-4102. 712-627-4653.
Roger Schlitter is a loan officer in Osage and a member of a
Shared Visions community group. 3 Boulder Rd., Mason City,
IA 50401. 515-423-3081.
Margaret Smith farms with husband Doug Alert in a new farm
operation near Hampton. They are building up their cow herd
and fixing up the farmstead. Margaret is helping to
organize the PFI Women's Winter Gathering set for March.
She also works as an agronomist at the USDA National Soil
Tilth Laboratory, in Ames. 972 110th St., Hampton, IA
Tom Frantzen and his wife Irene raise hogs, cattle, turkeys,
and a diversity of crops in northeast Iowa. Another past
president of PFI, Tom has spoken widely to groups of farmers
and scientists about systems thinking, our relationship to
information and information providers, and working
relationships for a sustainable agriculture, community, and
quality of life. 1155 Jasper Ave., New Hampton, IA 50659.
These folks would really appreciate hearing from some other
PFI members with questions or comments. If they need to,
they'll tap the resources of Iowa State University or other
institutions for information. But these are people who have
their own expertise and their own perspectives from working
and living in the country. Don't disappoint them, drop a
Name That Fund! PFI Begins Support Campaign
As announced at the annual meeting, Practical Farmers of
Iowa officers are formulating a long-term plan for the
financial stability of the organization. Grant-based
funding can go through ups and downs over time, and PFI
needs to establish a "financial flywheel" that will sustain
the organization's work through the years.
"Flywheel," well, maybe that's not the name to attach to
this effort. Can you think of a more appropriate name? The
Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs has a fund they call
"The Granary." What would a fund be called that supported
sustainable agriculture in Iowa? The floor is open for
Whatever it is to be called, the fund received its first
major contribution just as the concept was being developed.
Ann Lennartz is a PFI member in the Seattle, Washington area
who is associated with a community-supported agriculture
effort there. In December she wrote PFI a $500 check - and
arranged for a matching contribution from her employer!
# Volunteer Farm Tour Guides
Volunteer farm tour guides from the Waterloo area are needed
for the summer. They need to be knowledgeable about
farming. Contact Suzanne Lee at Solos and Smokestacks,
# Expanding the Toolbox Conference Set for NE Iowa March 8
"Expanding the Toolbox: Farming Systems and Learning
Approaches" is a one-day conference to be held March 8,
1996, at Northeast Iowa Community College, in Calmar. This
event will bring together success stories on enterprises for
family farm agriculture and on teamwork approaches for
non-farmer agricultural professionals. The meeting is
designed for producers, Extension and Natural Resource
Conservation Service personnel, and others from the
tri-state area. A follow-up three-state bus tour is
scheduled for summer.
Sessions, panels and workshops will feature planned grazing
for dairy and for beef, low-investment hog production
systems, and the HRM and "strategic management" approaches
to decision-making. Presenters will include producers and
agricultural information providers who have joined to
implement these practices. Examples of team-building,
facilitation, and other empowerment approaches will be
presented and discussed. The "decision case" model will be
explored as a tool for holistic problem solving.
Preregistration by Feb. 27 costs $20. Thereafter
registration costs $30. To register contact Northeast Iowa
Community College, 800-728-2256, ext. 219. For additional
meeting information contact Rick Exner, 515-294-1923 ]
15A^ THERE'S A SNAKE IN MY PASTURE!
Ed Broders, Stockton
Rotational graziers have long known of the practice's
benefits for wildlife. On my family's farm in Muscatine
County, rotational grazing has done just that. It has
proved especially beneficial to a rare species of snake.
Smooth green snakes are not common in Iowa. Live
individuals are a vivid green color, with a distinctive,
bright red tongue. I've seen one alive in my life. Small
and elusive, these harmless reptiles are typically found in
wet or marshy areas, where they feed on insects.
The smooth green snake is considered an "indicator species"
in prairie remnants. Its demise is attributed to habitat
loss and pesticide use. The snakes are not well studied
because they are difficult to catch and do not survive in
captivity. Fewer than ten populations are known in Iowa,
all of them in the eastern half of the state.
The specimen I found last fall was only the third I've ever
seen. What's interesting is that it turned up in rotated
pasture, about 600 feet from the road ditch where I saw the
previous two. I can't draw any firm conclusions, but it
seems reasonable that rotational grazing has expanded the
habit for this rare snake. That should encourage the snake
A mixed seeding of legumes and cool season grasses cannot
match the native prairie for biodiversity and prime snake
habitat. For the moment, however, it may afford the best
balance between preservation and agricultural production. ]
15B^ HOSTING INTERNATIONAL VISITORS ON IOWA FARMS
Kamyar Enshayan, Cedar Falls
Even Iowans often refer to Iowa as a place that needs to
have more cultural diversity. However, our region is
diverse and to see that you only have to look. Every year,
from March to June, millions of international visitors from
Central and South America and the Gulf of Mexico region,
visit rural Iowa and some even settle down.
I have met many right here in Cedar Falls and surrounding
Pelicans? In Iowa? Yes, white pelicans with a
nine-and-a-half- foot wingspread. And to see all these
water birds, all you need is a pair of binoculars, a field
guide to identify what you see, and being out there to look.
Depending on what kind of habitat you visit, you can see
many species of migrating birds who enrich our spring with
their songs, colors and presence.
Each year, from April through May, during my one-mile walk
to work every day, I have seen numerous birds whose winter
home are the rainforests of Central and South America. What
an amazing treat. Here is a partial list of birds I saw
last year in Cedar Falls as I walked to work:
Cape May warbler
Common yellow throat
The spectacular colors and the magic of seeing these birds
live cannot be reproduced in a field guide. You've got to
see these awesome creatures and you, as I always do, will
know you are among miraculous things in heaven.
I have been lucky to see several bobolinks and dickcissels
who nest in prairies, pastures, hay fields and meadows. I
know of several PFI farmers who are delighted to see these
birds on their farms and are creating more habitat for these
international visitors to convene here.
Whooping cranes used to nest in Iowa. Iowa was a richer
place and due mostly to habitat destruction, what we now see
of wildlife in Iowa is a tiny fraction of what was here.
The last year whooping cranes nested here in Black Hawk
County was 1871, and we all have been slightly impoverished
ever since. (To find out what else we are missing out on in
Iowa, read A Country So Full of Game: the Story of Wildlife
in Iowa, by James Dinsmore).
I can think of at least two ways we can greet our
international visitors and nurture a genuine cultural
* Go out there and meet them. Take your binoculars and
field guide and enjoy.
- Build convention centers! Not the kind Chambers of
Commerce usually spend $150 million on, but the kind any
land owner can rehabilitate, restore, or reestablish with
some investment of time, creativity and forethought. I am
talking about marshy areas, prairie potholes, woodlots,
riparian habitats, prairies, hay fields, forests and all the
other biotic convention centers that we desperately need in
Many farm families are demonstrating that these habitats
enhance their farms and their lives and are a necessary part
of their farm landscape. That is "value-added" in the
truest sense. ]
17^ ON-FARM TRIAL RESULTS
READING THE NUMBERS, KNOWING THE TERMS
Valid and reliable farmer-generated information is a
cornerstone of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Consequently, PFI
has worked to develop practical methods that safeguard the
accuracy and credibility of that information. PFI
cooperators use methods that allow statistical analysis of
their on-farm trials. Chief among these are: 1)
"replication," and 2) "randomization." (See Figure 2., a
typical PFI trial layout, "figure2.bmp".) The farming
practices compared in a trial are repeated, or "replicated,"
at least six times across the field. Thus trial results do
not depend on a single comparison only, but on six or more.
The order of the practices, or "treatments," in each pair is
chosen with a flip of the coin. This "randomization" is
necessary to avoid unintentional bias. PFI on-farm trials
have been recognized for their statistical reliability. So,
while PFI cooperators don't have all the answers, they do
have a tool for working toward those answers.
When you see the outcome of a PFI trial, you also see a
statistical indication of how seriously to take those
results. The following information should help you to
understand the reports of the trials contained in this
report. The symbol "*" shows that there was a
"statistically significant" difference between treatments;
that is, one that probably did not occur just by chance. We
require ourselves to be 95% sure before we declare a
significant difference. If, instead of a "*," there is a
"N.S.," you know the difference was "not significant."
There is a handy "yardstick" called the "LSD," or "least
significant difference," that can be used in a trial with
only two practices or treatments. If the difference between
the two treatments is greater than the LSD, then the
difference is significant. You will see in the tables that
when the difference between two practices is, for example, 5
bushels (or minus 5 bushels, depending on the arithmetic),
and the LSD is only, say, 3 bushels, then there is a "*"
indicating a significant difference.
The LSD doesn't work well in trials with more than two
treatments. In those cases, letters are added to show
whether results are statistically different from each other.
(We usually use something called a Duncan multiple range
grouping.) The highest yield or weed count in a trial will
have a letter "a" beside it. A number with a "b" next to it
is significantly different from one with an "a," but neither
is statistically different from a number bearing an "ab." A
third treatment might produce a number with a "c" (or it
might not), and so on.
Average 1995 statewide prices for inputs were assumed in
calculating the economics of these trials. Average fixed
and variable costs and time requirements were also used.
These can vary greatly from farm to farm, of course. The
calculations use 1995 prices of $2.85 per bushel for corn,
$6.25 for soybeans, and $1.50 per bushel for oats. Labor
was charged at $8.00 per hour.
Some tables show both a "treatment cost" (which includes
relevant costs, but not the total cost of production) and
"treatment benefit." The treatment benefit is the relative
advantage of a practice compared to either: 1) the least
profitable treatment in that trial; or 2) a "check"
treatment of zero-rate or zero-disturbance. The comparison
treatment is assigned a treatment benefit of $0. Other
treatments can show a dollar benefit either greater or lee
If there are no significant yield differences in the trial,
treatment benefit is calculated solely from input costs. If
the yield of a treatment is significantly different from
that of the comparison treatment, then that difference in
bushels is also taken into account to calculate treatment
benefit for the more profitable practice.
Dollar amounts shown in parentheses ($ ) are negative
numbers. A treatment "benefit" that is a negative number
indicates a relative loss. The highest-yielding practice
doesn't always have the greatest treatment benefit. You
will see that sometimes the additional input costs of a
practice outweighs its greater gross return. And in some
trials, the least profitable practice is not the lowest
yielding. In these cases a "Crop Over Treatment Cost"
dollar value may be included in the table to show the
absolute net value of each treatment. This parameter
reflects yield differences whether or not they were
Here is one more thing to be aware of. Fertilizer shown
with dashes between the numbers (18-46-0) means percent by
weight of nitrogen, phosphate, and potash in the product.
Fertilizer shown with plus signs (18+46+0) indicates pounds
per acre of those nutrients in an application.
The results that appear here imply neither endorsement nor
condemnation of any particular product. Producers are
encouraged to carry out their own trials to find what works
in their operations. In reports of trials that involve
proprietary products, brand names are included for purpose
Many on-farm trials are of a straightforward "A versus B"
type. These trials, which are easy to design and analyze,
correspond to the typical experimental question "Is
alternative 'B' better than, worse than, or the same as
customary practice 'A'?" This approach can be used to
evaluate individual practices or entire systems of
practices. Many of the following 1995 trials are "A/B"
19^ Berseem Clover Before Corn
PFI farmers were among the first to introduce berseem clover
into their cropping systems. Cooperators are still
examining this annual legume for its production and
compatibility. Tom and Irene Frantzen, Alta Vista, have
compared berseem and red clover for the last two years
(Table 1, "table1.wmf"). Oats has yielded better when
seeded with red clover than with berseem, but the
fast-growing berseem has made more straw when the oat/legume
mix is baled. There was also more berseem regrowth after
mowing in 1994.
The 1995 corn yielded nearly six bushels better after
berseem than after red clover. But the late spring soil
nitrate test showed plentiful nitrogen across the field.
Tom attributes the advantage to planting conditions,
explaining that the berseem left the soil in better shape
than did the red clover. (Both treatments were disked
before planting.) Many people have remarked that in the
wet spring of 1995, planting conditions made all the
difference to the success of a crop.
19^ Using the Late Spring Test
Paul and Karen Mugge, Sutherland, looked at the value for
corn of liquid hog manure compared to purchased nitrogen.
In the spring following soybeans, they knifed 2,500 gallons
into alternate row middles, avoiding wheel tracks. Paul
estimates that application to have been 100 pounds worth of
total nitrogen. In the comparison treatment, they relied on
the late spring test for a rate to sidedress 28-percent N.
When Paul took the late spring soil nitrate test on June 7,
results indicated only 14 ppm (parts per million) nitrate
where liquid manure was applied. That didn't seem to make
sense. ISU agronomist Fred Blackmer suggested that, since
the test would still be valid until the corn reached one
foot in height, Paul should sample again in a few days. On
June 19, the test showed adequate nitrogen for the crop.
Leaf samples Paul took mid-season also indicated no shortage
of N in either the manure or the purchased N treatment. The
corn receiving liquid manure yielded somewhat less on
average, but not enough so that random chance could be
discounted. But Paul also took end-of-season stalk samples
for nitrate analysis, and these suggest that the manured
corn, in fact, ran out of N. The target range for stalks is
700-2,000 ppm nitrate. The corn that received only
purchased N averaged 1,300 ppm, while the manured corn
showed only about 120 ppm! Maybe the first results from the
late spring test were the right results!
Another possibility suggested by Blackmer relates to
incorporating manure in concentrated bands. With the
concentrated carbon source, it is possible for the
subsurface band to become anaerobic to the extent that
significant denitrification takes place. While Blackmer
emphasizes we don't yet know the precise conditions in which
this would occur, he points out that it would be a case of
more manure amounting to less crop-available N.
Ray and Marj Stonecypher, Floyd, also used the late spring
soil nitrate test in their comparison of two sidedress N
rates (Table 1, "table1.wmf"). And like Paul Mugge, Ray
Stonecypher took the late spring test twice. On June 19 the
test yielded 14-15 ppm nitrate. A more thorough sampling on
June 21 gave 11 ppm. In some years past, Ray has undercut
the recommendations from the test without a loss in corn
yield. Most of those fields, however, have a history of
some manure. This particular field has no manure history,
and that may be reason to use the late spring test more
conservatively. According to ISU agronomist Alfred
Blackmer, guidelines for using the late spring test with
manured soils should be released next spring, and they will
call for less nitrogen.
The ISU Extension bulletin Soil Testing to Optimize Nitrogen
Management for Corn (Pm-1521) suggests setting a critical
level of 25 ppm and sidedressing 8 pounds of N for every ppm
below that in the sample (Figure 3, "figure3.bmp"). Using
Ray's example: (25 - 11) x 8 = 112 lbs N. Ray's low
sidedress rate, 60 pounds N per acre, would be below the
guidelines even if a critical level of only 21 ppm were
used. The high rate treatment, 120 pounds N sidedressed,
was "in the ball park."
Like the Mugges, Ray and Marj discovered low levels of
nitrate in the corn stalk at the end of the season. The
high rate treatment averaged about 450 ppm, and the low rate
treatment averaged about 170 ppm. While results below the
700-2,000 target range do not definitely mean the crop was
short of N, the numbers show that none of the corn had
excess nitrogen left at the end of the season. This is
especially true for the corn that received the 60 pound
sidedress. It yielded significantly less than the corn that
received 120 pounds.
The 120-pound N corn, with a stalk nitrate of 450 ppm, is in
the "marginal zone," as described by soil scientist
Blackmer. Between 250 and 700 ppm, "producers should not be
concerned," says Blackmer, but they should set their target
for 700-2,000 ppm. The 10.6 bushel difference shows that in
this particular trial there was a strong response to N
between the 60 and 120 pound N rates.
22^ Purchased Manure
Ron and Maria Rosmann, Harlan, are moving their farm toward
organic production. They compared their own composted hog
manure (at a total rate of 14+14+19) to purchased chicken
manure (44+54+33) on a field with very high soil test
potassium and soil phosphorus testing in the low range
(Table 1, "table1.wmf"). Leaf tissue samples taken at
silking showed no significant differences between the two
practices for any of the major nutrients. At the end of the
season the yields were almost the same. Taking into account
a $3 per ton charge for making the compost, the economics of
the trial still favored the home-composted hog manure by
$15.65 per acre.
Tom and Irene Frantzen, Alta Vista, also evaluated an
approved organic fertilizer, a pelleted turkey manure
marketed under the brand name Sustaner and containing
approximately 4-6-4 nutrient value (Table 2, "table2.wmf").
They compared 225 pounds and 375 pounds of Sustane, a zero
check treatment, and starter fertilizer (3+8+50). All the
treatments yielded similarly, so the zero-rate check
represented the most profitable practice.
John and Rosie Wurpts, Ogden, are PFI members who have used
Sustainable Projects grants to carry out a long term
comparison of fertility management systems. Biological
amendments marketed by Agrienergy, Inc. and recommended by a
consultant have been compared to fertilization practices
based on soil tests and ISU Extension recommendations.
Input costs have been lower in the ISU system because, based
on soil testing, usually only nitrogen has been recommended.
Based on 1995 input costs, the ISU recommendations were
favored by $8.15 in soybeans and $22.85 in corn (Table 1,
"table1.wmf"). In the five years that these replicated
trials have been continued, the only significant yield
difference was due to a 1991 weed problem in corn in the
biological system. The average economic benefit of the ISU
recommendations compared to the biological ones has been
$26.63 in corn and $20.69 in soybeans.
The Neely-Kinyon Farm, in Greenfield, evaluated ACA, a zinc
ammonium acetate additive that in very small amounts has
sometimes increased corn N uptake (Table 2, "table2.wmf").
The three treatments were: starter fertilizer,
starter-plus-ACA, and a check treatment with neither ACA nor
starter. Mid-season leaf tissue samples showed no
difference among the three practices in nitrogen, phosphorus
or potassium, although leaves in the ACA treatment were
lower in sulfur. The three yields were not significantly
different, so the economic advantage went to the
no-fertilizer control treatment.
Multiple Treatment Trials
Sometimes a simple A/B trial won't answer the question. In
comparing two rates or placement methods of fertilizer, for
example, it is often necessary to have a third, "check"
treatment of zero fertilizer to know whether fertilizer was
needed at all. Sometimes a producer will want to evaluate
two or more factors (say, placement and timing), each at two
or more levels (say, rates of fertilizer). Many of the
following trials involve more than two treatments. The
shading in the tables helps keep track of which lines belong
in which trial.
24^ Deep Banding
Many agronomists believe that fertilizer placement can be
important in reduced tillage systems like no-till and
ridge-till. Some ridge-tillers are placing fertilizer bands
5-6 inches deep, attempting to "take the fertility to the
plant." In each of the following four trials, deep banding
had a significant yield effect, but in only two did the
practice pay for itself.
Ted and Donna Bauer, Audubon, compared a fall deep band of
0+55+50 to a fall broadcast treatment at the same rate
(Table 2, "table2.wmf"). The soil in this western Iowa
field tests high in potassium and low in phosphorus. The
soybeans in the zero-fertilizer check treatment yielded as
well as those receiving the broadcast. The deep band
treatment yielded significantly better than broadcast but
not better than the check. Even if yield difference between
deep banding and the check had penciled out to be
significant, it would not have been sufficient to outweigh
the additional cost. The check turned out to be the most
Don and Sharon Davidson, Grundy Center, also evaluated a
fall deep band in the row in relation to a zero-rate check
(Table 2, "table2.wmf"). They used the bander belonging to
PFI members Harlan and Sharon Grau, from Newell. The
experiment also included a starter fertilizer treatment and
a fall knife-only treatment. The knife-only treatment was
the same as the deep band but without the fertilizer. It
was included to see if there was a mechanical effect
separate from the fertilizer effect of deep banding. The
soil generally tests high in both potassium and phosphorus.
The knife-only treatment did not affect corn yield. The
spring starter had a yield somewhat greater than the check,
but not significantly so. Because of the costs involved, it
was the least profitable treatment. The deep band did
increase corn yield significantly in this experiment, but
because of the cost it was only about two dollars per acre
more profitable than the check treatment with no fertilizer.
Dean and Deborah Ekstrand, of Pocahontas, also tried a fall
deep band (32+80+70) ahead of corn, comparing that to a
broadcast of the same rate and a zero-fertilizer check
(Table 2, "table2.wmf"). The field tests very high in both
potassium and phosphorus, and it received manure in the
spring of 1994. No additional N was applied to the crop.
Leaf tissue samples at silking indicated no nutrient
shortages, including nitrogen. But the broadcast fertilizer
yielded significantly more than the check (13 bushels). And
the deep band treatment yielded 24 bushels more than the
check, making it the most profitable practice. The field
overall yielded about 50 bushels less than nearby fields.
If the treatment response was just to the 32 pounds of N in
the fall-applied fertilizer, the crop must have run very
short of nitrogen late in the season.
Richard and Sharon Thompson, Boone, included a deep band
treatment in a trial with spring-applied manure and
manure-plus-starter fertilizer (Table 5, "table5.wmf", Field
4D). The deep band significantly increased corn yield
compared to the zero-rate check treatment, but the cost of
the band outweighed the yield benefit.
PFI cooperators have been working with ISU agronomist
Antonio Mallarino, who is also carrying out his own
extensive trials of fertilizer placement. PFI cooperators
have been doing starter and fertilizer placement trials for
years. No consistent picture has emerged, despite
indications that placement may be especially important in
the reduced tillage systems that many PFI members use. Part
of the difficulty is the number of variables. These include
changes in weather from year to year, and changes from farm
to farm in fertilizer formulations, rates, placement, and
soils. A group of cooperators is collaborating with
Mallarino to get some answers.
Mallarino assisted four PFI cooperators in carrying out
their own trials, reported in Tables 3 and 4 ("table3.wmf,
table4.wmf"). He also included these ridge-till farms in a
wider study that includes no-till producers and ISU research
farms. At these sites, Mallarino compared two rates of deep
banding or broadcast and a zero-rate check treatment,
looking separately at phosphorus and potassium. He also
combined P and K in one treatment, and in some corn trials
he applied starter fertilizer over duplicates of plots
receiving either no preplant P and K or preplant P and K.
Mallarino and his team conducted these experiments both in
corn and in soybeans. They are still analyzing the data
from 1995, but they can report some preliminary findings.
The results in Table 3 ("table3.wmf"), for comparisons of
preplant placements, are averaged over the two fertilizer
rates because there were not significant yield differences
between rates. The control shown is the average of the
no-broadcast and the knife-only zero rate plots because
usually there was no difference between these treatments or
differences were not consistent.
Soybeans did not respond to P or K fertilization in most
1995 trials, and never responded to placement. In corn,
there were responses to fertilization and placement in
several trials. When there were significant differences,
the deep-banded treatment yielded more than the broadcast
treatment. Except for one or two trials the response to
placement was small, and usually it would not pay the extra
application costs. Responses to potassium in two ridge-till
sites, however, probably were large enough to outweigh
additional costs, reports Antonio.
The results in Table 4 ("table4.wmf") show preliminary
results of comparisons of starter fertilizer. The starter
was an NPK mixture (liquid) that varied among trials.
Antonio applied additional nitrogen broadcast at planting
time (about 100 lbs N/acre) to minimize the response to
starter nitrogen. There was positive response to the
starter when compared with yields of plots that received no
P or K preplant. When the starter was applied after a high
rate (double the maintenance rate) of preplant (fall) P and
K, however, they observed no response except at one site.
Mallarino will complete work with PFI cooperators and the
other farmers in 1996. The results from 1995 suggest that
yield increases from deep-banded P or K are not reliable
enough to offset higher application cost of yearly
applications. However, Mallarino thinks that less frequent
deep banding could be profitable. Although not all
ridge-till fields showed a response to deep-banded
potassium, the yield differences in the responsive fields
suggest a probable benefit to deep banding when averaged
over multiple fields and seasons.
28^ Manure and Planter Row Fertilizer
The manure/fertilizer placement trial by the Thompsons was
one of three they are carrying out to find the best
combination and timing of manure and fertilizer application.
In that particular experiment, the most profitable
treatments were spring-applied manure and the
zero-application check. The least profitable practices were
deep banding (despite the yield increase) and
manure-plus-planter row fertilizer.
In these three trials by Thompson in Table 5 ("table5.wmf"),
the most profitable treatment was not always the top
yielder. Table 5 ("table5.wmf") shows "$ Benefit"
calculated the usual way, but it also shows "Crop Over
Cost," the value of the yield minus treatment cost. This
provides another version of the net value of a practice, one
not based on statistical differences.
"Planter row fertilizer" is how Dick Thompson describes the
8+23+46 that he places two inches below the seed with the
deep placement shoe on the planter. The four treatments in
the trial in field 4C (Table 5, "table5.wmf") were:
spring-applied manure, planter row fertilizer, both
together, and neither. These make a two-by-two factorial
design where each factor (manure and planter row fertilizer)
occurs with both combinations of the other factor.
The table shows that manure-plus-fertilizer gave the top
yield, but, again, not the best profit. That honor went to
the manure-only treatment.
The two factors, manure and row fertilizer, can be evaluated
on their own, as shown in the table. Averaged over
treatments, both manure and row fertilizer were
statistically significant factors for corn yield. However,
while manure overall was associated with a $5.54 per acre
benefit, the factor of row fertilizer led to an overall
The Thompsons carried out a similar trial in a soybean field
that will go to corn in 1996 (Table 5, "table5.wmf," field
5). There the planter row fertilizer increased soybean
yield over the check treatment but not sufficiently to pay
for itself. Spring-applied manure did not increase yield
and led to an even greater loss. These fields have
benefited from manure for many years, and it isn't
surprising that soybeans failed to respond to a single
application. Soil test phosphorus and potassium are both in
the very high range.
30^ Hazelnut Establishment Trial
Two PFI farmers in northeast Iowa have invested in
diversification, planting a perennial crop - hazelnuts. Tom
and Irene Frantzen, Alta Vista, and Mike and Shelly Natvig,
Cresco, want to know the most cost effective way to get
young hazel plants through their first years of life. With
help from PFI Sustainable Projects and the Organic Farming
Research Foundation, they established a trial on both their
farms to answer the question (Table 6, "table6.wmf").
Carrying out the same trial on more than one farm can be a
very powerful tool, because results can be applied more
There were two approaches to establishing hazelnut
transplants that these producers wanted to evaluate;
protective tubes and ground maintenance. Tubexr tubes are
made of plexiglass and are used to protect young trees and
bushes from extremes of weather and browsing deer and
rabbits. Elevated humidity inside the tubes reduces stress
on the plants during the growing season, and the tubes give
some winter protection as well. Traditional methods of
establishing transplants have reduced competition from weeds
by keeping an area of bare ground around the plants.
Sometimes a mulch has been used to accomplish the same
thing. Mulch also buffers changes in soil moisture and
temperature, and it requires less total labor than
maintaining the bare ground.
The Frantzens and Natvigs set out a two-by-three factorial
experiment. Three methods of ground preparation were
included: bare ground, wood chip mulch, and no ground
preparation at all. Each of these three methods was tried
with and without the Tubex tubes. Each farm had six
replications of these six combinations. Table 6
("table6.wmf") gives results overall for both farms
together, and it shows the two factors (one a two-level
factor and the other a three-level factor) rather than the
six individual treatments.
In late June they transplanted their hazelnut seedlings into
rows deep-ripped with a single shank chisel. At the end of
the season, they measured several growth parameters,
including plant height (in centimeters), plant diameter (in
millimeters), and the number of bud nodes. The end results
won't be known until at least one winter has passed, but the
first year data tells a story. Plants with Tubex averaged
25 percent taller than those without, and they also had
greater diameter and more nodes. All these differences were
Ground preparation also made a difference. Plants with no
preparation or with bare ground were significantly taller
than those with wood chip mulch. Plants with bare ground
maintained had significantly greater diameter than plants
with no ground preparation, while the diameter of mulched
plants was intermediate. There were no significant
differences in number of nodes, except when tubes were not
used. Then plants with no ground preparation had
significantly more nodes than mulched plants, with the bare
ground treatment falling in between. The height differences
between treatments were also greater when tubes were not
At the experiment's completion, there may be a trade-off
between effectiveness and cost. Some of these methods have
only initial costs, others have ongoing costs. If hazel
plants survive better or come into production sooner with
certain methods, those benefits may outweigh the costs. The
Frantzens and Natvigs will follow this experiment for the
next several years.
32^ Weed Management Trials
In 1995, Richard and Sharon Thompson, Boone, developed their
1994 trial of light-versus-dark planting into a two-by-two
factorial experiment combining light/dark planting and
planting date (Table 6, "table6.wmf"). Some experiments in
Europe and the U.S. have suggested that weed numbers can be
reduced by depriving weed seeds of light at planting. Doug
Buhler, weed scientist at the National Soil Tilth Lab, who
provided consultation, says it may only take a split second
of exposure to light to signal some weed seeds to germinate.
Dick Thompson attempted to achieve dark planting conditions
by building housings over the units on his ridge-till
planter. An electric light in each unit could be switched
on for the light-planting treatments.
The Thompsons have often observed reduced weed pressure when
crops were planted later than usual. Later planting allows
the planter and rotary hoe to catch more of the spring flush
of weeds, and there may be other factors involved as well.
In all, the trial had four treatments: early planting in
light, early planting in the dark, late planting in light,
and late planting in the dark.
Neither planting date nor planting conditions had an effect
on soybean yield. Early planting, however, resulted in a
fourfold increase in broadleaf weeds compared to late
planting. The light-dark factor did not have a significant
effect on weed numbers either, but there is the suggestion
of a reduction in weeds with dark planting at the late
Two other PFI cooperators carried out weed management trials
in 1995. Ron and Maria Rosmann, Harlan, set out to time the
pre-emerge rotary hoeing of corn by heat units accumulated
in the soil (Table 7, "table7.wmf"). Because of cool spring
conditions, though, the weeds didn't wait for the heat
units, at least as Ron was measuring them. He went ahead
and hoed as demanded by the weed growth he saw in the field.
The trial compared pre-and-postemergence hoeing to a single
postemergence hoeing. Ron found no significant difference
in corn yield, and he reports grass numbers were low
throughout the experiment.
Don and Sharon Davidson, Grundy Center, evaluated a planter
band of herbicide in their ridge-till soybeans (Table 7,
"table7.wmf"). The treatment receiving no band was not
rotary hoed. Both treatments were cultivated. Don has
noted that in some years rotary hoeing seems to be
unnecessary in his ridge tillage system. The data indicate
that 1995 was not one of those years. He reports grass was
significantly more prevalent in the no-herbicide-no-hoe
treatment, and the soybean yield difference (2.9 bushels)
was statistically significant.
34^ Other Seed and Seeding Trials
In 1995 Ted and Donna Bauer, Audubon, repeated an evaluation
of row spacing for soybeans. They compared their customary
38-inch rows to 19-inch rows achieved with a double pass of
the planter (Table 8, "table8.wmf"). In the 38-inch rows,
Ted banded Pursuitr and Destinyr and cultivated once. In
the 19-inch rows he broadcast these materials and did not
attempt to cultivate. The seeding rate in 38-inch rows was
144,000 seeds per acre, while in narrow rows it was 185,000
seeds per acre.
In 1994 the narrow rows yielded more but netted less due to
additional costs involved. In 1995, the narrow rows again
yielded more (4.5 bushels), and this year they penciled out
to a $4.73 per acre advantage. That is taking into account
the additional labor and equipment cost of a second planter
pass (estimated at $7.98). The costs connected with a
dedicated narrow-row planter would be less.
Dave and Lisa Lubben, Monticello, evaluated a planter
attachment to improve seed-to-soil contact (Table 8,
"table8.wmf"). The simple plastic device presses the seed
firmly into the slot created by the planter, an effect
similar to that of a narrow press wheel. There was no yield
benefit in the 1995 trial, and Dave now thinks any advantage
would only be evident in a year with dry planting
The Neely-Kinyon farm, Greenfield, is involved with local
producers interested in the market potential for edible
soybeans and identity-preserved marketing. A trial on the
farm compared a large-seeded, tofu-type variety (LS-201) to
a commercial variety of similar maturity (Stine 2250). Both
are early group II varieties, reports Bernie Havlovic, who
coordinated the trial. Both were planted at 150,000 seeds
per acre on June 7.
The specialty soybeans yielded more than six bushels less
than the comparison variety. But they brought almost $31
per acre more profit (Table 8, "table8.wmf"). The tofu
beans had been contracted for $1.40 per bushel over the
Chicago Board of Trade price. Including the basis between
Audubon and Chicago, that effectively made them worth $1.90
more than other soybeans. The Neely-Kinyon Farm will
continue to explore edible soybean production, says Bernie,
and they are hopeful that a tofu variety better adapted to
their area will be available in coming years.
39^ Biological Control of Corn Borer
Joe Fitzgerald, New Melleray Abbey, Peosta
We sought to control the European corn borer in field corn
with timed releases of trichogramma wasps. Our experiment
was conducted on two one-acre plots with the assistance of
Iowa State University entomologists. Our goal was to
control the corn borer without using chemicals.
Michigan State University research indicated a 78 percent
reduction of European corn borer larvae with the release of
trichogramma wasps (Orr and Landis, 1993). Chemical control
of the corn borer was less effective: Dipel, 34% reduction;
Pounce, 65% reduction; Lorsban, 66% reduction.
The first step in the experiment was to acquaint those
involved with the life cycle and effectiveness of the wasps.
We hosted a meeting of three neighboring farms and the staff
of our own farm early in the 1995 growing season. We
involved other farmers in this meeting to expand the public
awareness and understanding of integrated pest management.
Staff from the Practical Farmers of Iowa and the ISU
Department of Entomology led the meeting.
The ISU entomologists scouted fields to locate plots which
offered the possibility of corn borer infestation. Once
identified, the plots were flagged (marked) for eventual
release of wasps. Scouting was later done to determine if
enough larvae were present to warrant the first release of
the wasps. Fortunately for the farmer but unfortunately for
the entomologists there were never enough larvae spotted to
trigger a release of wasps.
The experiment was a success in that it highlighted the
value of scouting for pests and provided the opportunity to
broaden local awareness of integrated pest management. The
trial was reviewed at our July 13, 1995 field day with an
attendance of nearly 100 persons.
Biological Control of Alfalfa Weevil - I
Mark and Julie Roose, Pella
On May 16, 1995, assisted by ISU graduate student Kris
Giles, we began a two-year project studying biological
control of the alfalfa weevil. This is part of the PFI IPM
project supported by the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture. The spring of '95 was wet and cold up to
mid-June. From then on our growing season was dryer than
The field was almost a pure stand of alfalfa. We began by
taking 100 sweeps through our hay field with an insect net.
Our plan was to take 40 weevil larvae from the net and rear
them in 20 small vials filled with alfalfa leaves and topped
with a cotton ball. We also took a 30-stem sample to check
how close larva numbers were to the economic threshold. ISU
Extension guidelines are to cut or spray when weevil larva
numbers reach two per stem. We picked the 30 stems and
shook them out into a white bucket to count them.
Kris' work has shown that a fungus can kill larvae in late
May. Our plan was to wait until we had a large population
of weevils and then harvest the hay. We left 12 feet
standing along the perimeter of our fields, hoping this
"reservoir" would concentrate the weevil populations and
speed up fungus activity.
We sampled on May 16, 23 and 30, and June 12 (Figure 11,
"figure11.bmp"). On June 14 we harvested, and we sampled
the strip that was left on June 19. On June 16 we found six
weevil larvae per 30 stems - much below the 2 larvae per
stem threshold. Our rearing results showed that 40 percent
of the weevils were expiring anyway. On May 30 the
population climaxed at + larva per stem. The following week
we saw 75 percent of our captured larvae die. (Kris'
numbers are somewhat lower. He was feeding greenhouse
alfalfa.) We were not surprised when on June 12 the weevil
larvae numbers had fallen back to six larvae per stem.
Because the wet spring had allowed the fungus to increase,
our harvest procedure had little effect on the few remaining
larvae. For the sake of the research, we hope 1996 presents
us with a more typical weather pattern.
Toward July our weather did dry out, providing another pest,
the potato leaf hopper, with a perfect environment to attack
the post-harvest regrowth. Perhaps in the future biological
control of this pest will also be possible.
Biological Control of Alfalfa Weevil - II
Phil and Sharon Specht, McGregor
Our project was getting local farmers involved in integrated
pest management of alfalfa weevils. Entomologist Kris Giles
worked with me to conduct the demonstration and collect
data. I raised alfalfa weevil larvae in test tubes and
noted deaths from fungal disease and two different
parasites. I left a single swath of alfalfa unharvested on
the west side of one field to see if this benefited the
larval disease and parasites. Stem counts and sweeps showed
very low numbers of alfalfa weevils all spring, and roughly
half of them were dying (Figure 12, "figure12.bmp").
In conversations with my neighbors, I realized there was
universal acceptance of IPM techniques. There was some
interest in the alfalfa strip I left unharvested; however,
no one else volunteered to leave a strip. Many more people
read the article in Iowa Farmer Today, and I was asked about
it as I traveled to meetings statewide. The only down side
was the article failed to mention PFI by name!
We had a successful field day on June 24, attended by 24
people. It was a very hot day, even under the 100-year old
oaks, and we went through four gallons of milk donated by
the co-op. Three families attended because of an add I took
in the county paper. I was gratified by the number of
Extension people in attendance. Tour stops included two
solar design barns, one with sand stalls, where we looked at
my handout showing economics of different feeding regimens.
We stopped in the pasture for a look at paddocks for the
intensive rotational grazing of 110 milk cows. We also
discussed some CRP ground that was broken out early to graze
46 dry cows and heifers. And Kris Giles and I described our
IPM research on alfalfa weevil.
41^ Strip Intercropping
ISU agronomists Rick Cruse and Mo Ghaffar-zadeh continue to
work with producers to evaluate narrow strip intercropping
(Table 9, "table9.wmf"). In 1995, two farmers even planted
double rows of corn in the strips, seeking to take advantage
of the available sunlight with high planting populations
(Figure 13, "figure13.bmp").
Cruse and Ghaffarzadeh worked with Tom Frantzen and Steve
Rash (not a PFI member) to evaluate twin-rows of corn.
Final populations were not sufficiently high in 1995 to test
the potential of this technique. The second planter pass
damaged the seedbed created the first time through. If the
principle of double rows ever proves sound, better equipment
could be customized for the purpose.
Twin rows or not, in 1995 plant population presented itself
as one of the next challenges. In three cases, an outside
row of the corn strip exhibited a low yield that could be
statistically associated with low stand: Tom Frantzen's row
4, Jeff Olson's row 6, and Paul Mugge's row 1.
Row 1 was on the south side of the strip in the case of
Mugge and Rash and on the west side for Olson and Frantzen.
Row 1 was next to soybeans and the last row was next to oats
for everyone but Rash, for whom it was reversed. Jeff
Olson's row 6 exhibited numerous stunted corn plants. He
suspects that stalk borers moved in from the foxtail in the
adjacent oats/berseem strip. Paul Mugge's row 6 did not
yield well, but not because of low stand. Grasshoppers
moved over from the neighboring oats strip after finishing
every blade of the oats reseeding.
Through Rick Cruse, Mugge also worked with Mike Ellsbury, an
entomologist from South Dakota State University. Ellsbury
investigated the possibility of rootworm damage in the strip
system. He sampled the soil for eggs, trapped emerging
rootworm beetles, and measured root injury at different
locations in the strips (Figure 14, "figure14.bmp"). He
found that, while there were few rootworm eggs in the soil
where corn was planted, western corn rootworm larvae
migrated underground from the soybean strip into the first
row of corn. Root injury to the corn in that row (row 1)
was significantly greater than in other rows of the strip.
Ellsbury believes rootworm damage is one reason row 1, on
the south edge of the strip, did not produce a greater yield
than other rows. From this year's work, it is impossible to
know how common this problem is in strip intercropping, but
Ellsbury's research demonstrates that rootworm larvae can
migrate. Future trials will evaluate possible solutions,
such as running a tractor wheel between strips to create
42A Trees for Biodiversity
Matt and Diana Stewart, Oelwein
In addition to working on rotational grazing, we have
started a demonstration that is directed toward restoring
ecological biodiversity to our farm. Insecticides were not
used on the cows for fly control, and certain areas of the
farm are being used to encourage wildlife nesting and cover.
With help from Carl Mize, ISU Forestry, 50 silver maples
were planted in May in an 80' x 500' fenced-off "future
forest" area. More plantings are planned in the next years
as we decide what trees or shrubs might attract desirable
wildlife. Twenty Camden poplars and twenty Austree willows
were planted in another area to experiment with fast growing
trees and to establish a cutting orchard for future use.
Dr. Laura Jackson has convinced us to stick with native
species, thus the use of poplars and willows is presently
considered temporary. ]
42B Rotational Grazing at Neely-Kinyon
The Neely-Kinyon Farm, near Greenfield, began rotational
grazing in 1995 with 30-35 dairy heifers on 37 acres. A
goal is to evaluate the economics of raising replacement
dairy heifers on rotationally grazed pasture in southwest
Iowa. Money was spent on permanent fencing and a water
system. Additionally, the pasture was seeded with red
clover and birdsfoot trefoil, and 104 pounds per acre of
triple superphosphate was applied. The stock were in the
field from May through August, and weights were taken
monthly. ISU animal scientists Bill Wunder and Jim Russell
supervised the data collection.
The graph shows average daily gain (ADG) and cost per pound
of gain for the four months of grazing. Instead of dipping
in late summer, ADG continued to climb throughout the
season. Bill Wunder suggests that this was, in part, a
benefit of the legume seeding and fertilization. Jim
Russell has an additional factor in mind.
Russell kept track of daily forage consumption using a sward
stick. He says that the heifers consumed about 33 pounds of
forage dry matter per head each day early in the season. In
July, when each cow began to receive 4 pounds of grain a
day, forage intake went down to around 28 pounds per day,
but total energy intake remained relatively constant. Crude
protein intake didn't change much either, but Russell
figures that the amount of protein escaping degradation in
the rumen - by-pass protein - nearly doubled. It is the
by-pass protein that is used by the cow.
Forage protein, says Russell, is 90 percent degraded by
bacteria in the rumen. Protein in hay is about 80 percent
degraded. Roughly 60 percent of soybean protein is
degraded. Russell thinks that next year ADG could be
maintained by feeding as little as a pound of corn gluten or
bloodmeal, whose protein is about 50 percent available to
the animal. Jim Russell's team is also analyzing the bypass
protein in berseem clover. Berseem, like birdsfoot trefoil,
is high in tannins that prevent bacterial breakdown and
probably make it a good source of by-pass protein. ]
42C^ Learning When to Calve in a Grass-Based Dairy
Matt and Diana Stewart, Oelwein
This report is a continuation of the article that appeared
in the Winter 1994 issue of the Practical Farmer. If anyone
would like a copy contact us at (319) 203-1337 or got in
touch with the PFI coordinators.
The past twelve months have seen us continue to test the
extremes of low-input, grass-based dairying and how we can
adapt some of New Zealand's management strategies to our
Northeast Iowa dairy. Last winter we experimented with
wintering heifers (over one year old) and dry cows outside.
We kept this group of about 60 head away from the buildings
and fed them round bales of hay on our newly-seeded
Our land is gently rolling with a small creek. The cattle
kept the creek open all winter and learned where to seek
protection from the wind. Round bales were fed on pasture
without being unrolled or placed in round bale feeders.
There was very little residue left in the spring, and a
light spring seeding of ryegrass and clover seed covered up
any trace of hay by the middle of May.
Our only mistake was in expecting these cattle to graze
effectively in February. We are having to develop a
cow-calf person's eye for body condition, and I think we
will be better able to manage this situation this winter.
We are now calving heifers at 28-30 months of age, since
that age heifer performed better this past year under our
Another trial this past year has involved drying up cows
early if we didn't think there was much to be gained by
continuing their lactation. This may be the most radical
idea to traditional U.S. dairyman that we have observed in
the New Zealand paradigm. We have employed this practice in
a couple of different situations on a significant number of
cows. It will allow us to increase the number of cattle we
have on grass in the next year, and it helped to increase
our cow density this past year (Figure 9, "figure9.bmp").
It is affordable because of our low-cost methods of
maintaining these cattle.
The first situation was with a group of heifers that calved
in July and August, 1994, that was dried off on February 1,
1995. Six of these were bred in late January and one other
was open. The experience has prepared us for what we expect
to occur this coming year, but it caused a cash flow problem
at the time that took most of the summer to work through.
This is an example of something we've done to learn how far
we can go. The cash flow problem should not be as severe
this year because a greater number of cows will freshen
beginning in February. The second major dry-up came on
November 1, 1995, when we moved inside and dropped from 100
to 79 cows milking. Our barn only holds this many, so we
will stay at 79 until we go back to grass.
We have now set up our herd to calve seasonally, calving in
both the spring and fall. Phil Specht in Clayton County,
Iowa has done this for the past few years, and it seems to
be the type of low-input system that will fit the
traditional, established dairy of the upper Midwest. We
will not have to increase our capital investment in
facilities and can probably double our cow numbers without
sacrificing profit per cow. The advantages to
spring-calved, grass-based dairying have been well
documented. Fall-calving dairies built the Midwest dairy
industry. As is the case of much of the sustainable
agriculture movement, many of the answers to our future can
be found in our history.
Fall-freshened cows are bred in December and January, not in
the heat of summer. These same cows will milk enough more
in the winter (because of the lack of heat stress) to
compensate for the cost of baling hay. Come spring these
cows can go to grass without grain supplementation and
produce profitably during the latter part of their
lactation. Spring-calved cows, on the other hand, would
have to be on hay and grain during the latter part of their
lactation, which would come in late fall and early winter.
One of the biggest differences, though, may be the cost of
raising calves. Fall-born calves can be raised outdoors
with little supplement feeding from 8-24 months. Our area
of Iowa requires more feed, shelter, and labor for
We started grazing in April of 1994 and the first grazing
data appears in the May, 1994 test (Figure 10,
"figure10.bmp"). Supplemental forage feeding started in
July of that year and in October of 1995. Nineteen
ninety-three and 1994 had similar milk prices. Milk has
been worth about 10% less in 1995, depressing our
income-over-feed cost by about $50 per week compared to last
year. Given that, our income-after-feed held up well. And
we feel we are making progress toward a system that utilizes
grass and seasonality in ways that fit our goals and
42D^ Back to Conventional Grazing - For Awhile
Steve Hopkins and Sarah Andreasen, Newton
Nineteen ninety-four was our third year under intensive
rotational grazing management on a rented farm in northeast
Iowa, near Decorah. Our 20-25 Jerseys grazed 20 rugged
acres of predominantly bluegrass pasture that was divided
into 30 paddocks with water in each. Nearly ideal growing
conditions in 1994 enabled us to rely almost entirely on
pasture for forage well into the fall. Our feed costs for
1994, which include actual purchase costs of hay, grain,
minerals, and pasture rent, averaged $4.41 per hundredweight
(cwt) of milk produced from March 1 through October 31.
Nineteen ninety-five was our first year of dairying on the
farm we bought in central Iowa, near Newton. Since we were
not able to complete fence construction and water line
placement, we managed our herd of 20-25 Jerseys using
conventional grazing. Our 25 acres of pasture on this farm
included 17 acres of rolling, permanent bluegrass pasture
with severe weed problems and an 8-acre corn field no-till
seeded to pasture in April of 1995. Despite having somewhat
greater pasture acreage than our previous farm, there was
less usable forage for the herd because of fallen trees,
scrap metal debris, and infestations of hemp, ragweed, and
Canadian thistle. We spent much of the summer liberating
the permanent pasture of this competition using bush hogs
and chain saws, as the cows grazed wherever they could.
Largely because of this situation, we had to make up for
poor pasture quality with purchased feed - grain, minerals,
and hay. In addition, after a very wet April and May, we
endured very dry growing conditions in July, August, and
September of 1995. Since our pasture had no rest periods in
which to recover and grow during the dry spell, we ran out
of forage at the end of August. We were forced to
immediately feed hay and additional grain to make up for the
lack of pasture.
Consequently, our feed costs for 1995, which include
purchased grain, hay, minerals, and a pasture rent
equivalent charge, averaged $7.43 per cwt of milk produced
from March 1 through October 31. Adding a standard overheat
cost of $5.00 per cwt to our feed costs, our average total
cost of production was $9.41 per cwt in 1994 and $12.43 per
cwt in 1995. Because of greater feed costs, our 1995
returns (income over total costs per cwt) were less than
half of the returns in 1994 (see Figure 5, "figure5.bmp").
We hope to drastically cut those feed costs in 1996 by
beginning a rotational grazing strategy on our new farm. ]
442E^ Barley-versus-Corn-Based Hog Rations
Dan and Lorna Wilson, Colin and Carla Wilson, Paullina
This test was conducted to determine the production and
economic differences between a corn/soy ration and a
corn/barley/soy ration. We wanted to see if barley is a
viable alternative to corn in a swine grower-finish ration.
We were looking for an economic use for the barley that we
raise as part of our crop rotation.
The test used 241 head of crossbred barrows. They were all
farrowed within a 10-day period and were of a uniform size
and body type. They went on test at approximately 65 days
of age and 65 pounds. These barrows were from a three-way
cross of York boars on Duroc/Chester sows. The test was
conducted in bedded barns with concrete lots. The hogs from
the two treatments were sold at 240 pounds, in groups of
equal numbers. All were marketed on a carcass basis. Last
year's test was conducted on pasture, and we only graded
about 30 animals that we weren't going to breed in each
The two rations were balanced according to amino acids, not
just percent protein. Both groups were on a corn/soy ration
until they weighed 75 pounds, when the barley group went to
200 pounds of barley per ton. When the pigs reached 180
pounds, barley was increased gradually to 650 pounds per
ton, 40 percent of the grain in the ration. Both rations
used rolled grain and were prepared and delivered by the
local elevator. Both groups of pigs used similar feeders.
As I mentioned, one of the changes we made in this year's
test compared to last year was to sell all hogs on carcass
merit. This way we were better able to compare carcass
differences. This year we also used all barrows instead of
gilts, and we raised this year's test on concrete instead of
pasture. We also had the grain rolled instead of using a
hammer mill. At the conclusion of our test, we learned from
other sources that the roller mill is much better for
barley. Whereas the hammer mill produces a fair amount of
dust, the roller mill yields a more uniform particle size.
In calculating economics, we used $2.50 per bushel for corn
and $1.95 per bushel for barley. All other ration
ingredients were at cost. Because barley is higher in
lysine than corn, we were able to reduce the soybean meal in
the barley ration, accounting for some of the cost savings.
For us, the real surprise came in the carcass results.
Because of the higher fiber in barley, we were expecting
slower gains, more feed per pound of gain, and a fatter
carcass. Our results showed no real difference in rate of
gain, slightly better feed conversion with barley, and a
leaner carcass (Figures 6 and 7, "figure6.bmp,
figure7.bmp"). There was a $3.90-per-pig net advantage for
the barley ration (Figure 8, "figure8.bmp"). Of that, $1.47
came from carcass premiums. The rest was from lower feed
cost and slightly better feed conversion.
At the end of our test we got some useful confirmation from
Dr. N.H. Williams, who works for Land 'O Lakes in Fort
Dodge. He confirmed that our results were comparable to
other research on barley. He told us barrows will work
slightly better than gilts on barley and that rolling is
much better than a hammer mill. He also said that while
pigs in the 52-percent-lean-or-less category will show good
improvement on barley, pigs with the really lean genetics
generally will not. This relates to how well these lean
pigs (and gilts, which tend to be leaner) cope with the
additional fiber in barley. Because the genetics for
outdoors tends to be less lean than for total confinement,
barley is probably a better alternative for hogs raised
outside. The nutritionist stressed the importance of
gradually increasing the ration barley as the pigs grow.
In conclusion, we feel that barley is definitely an
alternative to corn in a grower/finish swine ration on our
farm and probably on many other farms as well. ]
43^ Sustainable Agriculture Training Underway
Jerry DeWitt, Iowa Sate University Extension
The 1990 Farm Bill mandated that Extension and other
education providers nationwide be trained in sustainable
agriculture. In Iowa, selected field staff in Extension and
Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel will be
attending in-service training in March and April. Most
County Extension Education Directors will be attending a
special session in Des Moines on March 20.
Topics will include overviews of sustainable agriculture,
successful models of programs at the local level,
opportunities for activities and programs, information
sources and more. The Directors with agricultural
responsibilities will also receive in-depth technical
information on weed management strategies, alternative
livestock production systems, nutrient management,
biological control, niche marketing/contracting, organic
agriculture, HRM, ICM and more on March 21 and 22.
On April 8-10, Extension Field Specialists and key NRCS
staff will be in Ames for three days of training. The
topics will include not only general overviews of
sustainable agriculture, but also techniques and strategies
in crop and livestock production systems that are supportive
of a sustainable agriculture. We will be placing notebooks
and reference materials in the hands of staff for use in
their offices and in the field for the future.
This is only the beginning of a commitment by ISU to better
prepare Extension and other key education and information
providers with workable and appropriate background knowledge
in sustainable agriculture. ]
43^ FOOTPRINTS OF A GRASS FARMER
Seasonal Pork In The Upper Midwest
Tom Frantzen, Alta Vista
Respect for nature is a principal concept in grass farming.
Nature has deep pockets. Its evolutionary actions are
continuous. When we structure our agricultural activities
with little regard to these forces, we ignore the definition
of a true economy. According to Webster, "economy" is the
"harmonious management of the resources of a community."
Note the key words ... harmonious and management. Dairy and
beef cow grass farmers striving for real economy learn to
align their livestock biology with the forces of nature.
This is especially true in regards to the seasons.
Can we apply the examples of seasonal dairy and beef to
pork? What promises could this hold for hog farmers in the
Recently we completed a two-year analysis of our pasture
farrowing agroforestry operation. This analysis included
weights of livestock, records of supplemental feed, and
details of the hours of labor for chores. Complete records
were kept for three groups of bred sows that farrowed on
narrow strips of pasture bordered by corn and belts of
The bottom line reveals a pig producing technique that is
low cost. A 35-pound feeder can be weaned from this setup
with total expenses of $15. An entire litter takes about an
hour's worth of labor during its time in the system. Both
of these figures are far less than those found in modern
confinement facilities. Timing of the breeding herd to
match the seasons is the key cost-cutting ingredient.
This economy begins with ear notching gilts from superior
litters born in August. When her weight approaches 125
pounds, and if her body characteristics are acceptable, she
is removed from the fat hog herd and put on a limited diet.
Whole high-lysine ear corn, baled hay, and mineral
supplementation provide winter feed. If possible, she
gleans corn stover. When the grass glistens in the spring
sun, the developing gilts are part of the harvesting crew.
By May 1, they are ready for breeding.
Bred gilts raised in a grazing cell with at least a dozen
paddocks have performed well on our farm. The stock density
(weight of animals per acre per day) should range from
60,000 to 90,000 pounds. Two pounds of whole ear corn and
free choice minerals supplement the good quality pasture.
By August 1, the bred gilts are moved into the agroforestry
pasture farrowing strips. Lush strips of alfalfa or red
clover are combined with six pounds of ground corn and
minerals to ensure the proper nutrition prior to farrowing.
Each narrow strip accommodates six to seven litters.
Careful management keeps the age of the baby pigs uniform in
each strip. The adjacent corn strips provide shade during
the August heat and physically separate each farrowing
group. In September, the corn strip is harvested by the
growing pigs and lactating sows.
Pigs remain with their mothers as long as it is practical.
At weaning, the sows are moved to nearby corn stover. This
seasonal farrowing produces a 30- to 40-pound feeder pig in
the fall. Now what?
Winter brings severe weather in the upper Midwest. Small
growing pigs need shelter. We accommodate those needs in
older remodeled buildings. Hogs are finished in an open air
Cargill facility. This arrangement has provided
satisfactory performance. However, it does have drawbacks.
The weaning-to-120-pound stage is done indoors on slats,
with a liquid manure arrangement. These facilities are
aging and require winter manure spreading. Our outside
finishing lot is in good condition. But it requires, like
the other facilities, winter spreading. Hauling manure in
snow violates my quality of life. It also represents a
major conflict with the economy we wish.
Recently we attended a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day.
The tour showcased a low-cost hoop house finishing setup.
This deep-bedded structure fills the housing needs of the
growing finishing pig. The manure pack is covered and can
wait for spring spreading. The strip pasture farrowing/hoop
house finishing looks like a winning combination. ]
FROM THE KITCHEN
Marj Stonecypher, Floyd
Snow-snow everywhere! Seems like all we have been doing is
dig out so we can feed livestock, then dig out so we can
feed the livestock again. I know everyone else is having
the same kind of fun we are, Ha! Think we will take off for
Have you got all your seeds ordered for spring? We have
time to do it now? Well, I don't. I'm outside too much.
Now that Tony is not our hired man, I have to help Ray a
little more. I don't mind. He is a pretty nice guy to work
Here are a few quick recipes for when we get busy with
BBQ BEEF OR PORK
4 LB. BEEF OR PORK ROAST (I use half of each) cooked and
Mix together the following and simmer for 15 minutes.
14 oz. catsup
1 medium onion-diced
1 cup water
1 can tomato soup
1/2 Tbsp. dry mustard
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 cup diced celery
4 bay leaves
salt & pepper
Add meat and simmer on low for 1 hour. Put in buns for that
1 30 oz. can sliced peaches
1 yellow cake mix
1 stick margarine or butter
1/2 cup chopped nuts
Spray 13 x 9 x 2 pan with Pam. Pour in can of peaches with
Sprinkle dry cake mix on peaches. Melt margarine and pour
Top with nuts, if desired. Bake 350 degrees - 45 minutes.
(For a different taste, try apricots and butter-brickle cake
mix or butter pecan cake mix.)
46^ CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD
Correspondence to the PFI directors' addresses is always
welcome. Member contributions to the Practical Farmer are
also welcome and will be reviewed by the PFI board of
District 1 (Northwest): Paul Mugge, 6190 470th St.,
Sutherland, 51058. (712) 446-2414.
Colin Wilson, 5482 450th St., Paullina, 51046. (712)
District 2 (North Central): Doug Alert, PFI Vice President,
972 110th St., Hampton, IA 50441. (515) 456-4328.
Don Davidson, RR 1, Box 133, Grundy Center, 50638. (319)
District 3 (Northeast): Walter Ebert, RR 1, Box 104,
Plainfield, 50666. (319) 276-4444.
Dan Specht, RR 1, McGregor IA 52157. (319) 873-3873.
District 4 (Southwest): Robert Bahrenfus, 15365 S. 12th Ave.
E., Grinnell, IA 50112. (515) 236-4566.
Vic Madsen, 2186 Goldfinch Ave., Audubon, 50025. (712)
District 5 (Southeast): David Lubben, PFI President, RR 3,
Box 128, Monticello, IA 52310. (319) 465-4717.
Jeff Olson, 2273 140th St., Winfield, 52659. (319)
PFI Executive Vice President & Treasurer: Dick Thompson,
2035 190th St., Boone, 50036. (515) 432-1560.
Coordinators: Rick Exner, Gary Huber, Room 2104, Agronomy
Hall, ISU, Ames, Iowa, 50011. (515) 294-1923.
Public Relations Coordinator: Maria Vakulskas Rosmann, 1222
Ironwood Rd., Harlan, 51537. (712) 627-4653.
47^ PFI MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION AND RENEWAL FORM
Zip Code __________________________________________________
Phone # (________) ________________________________________
This is a:
Do you derive a significant part of your income directly
from farming in Iowa?
Individual or family membership: $10 for one year, $25 for
Please enclose check or money order payable to "Practical
Farmers of Iowa" and mail to:
Practical Farmers of Iowa
2035 190th St.
Boone, IA 50036-7423