Subsurface Drip Line Irrigation

Being from central Illinois I see many row crop fields with irrigation. the most common style of irrigation in my county is a center pivot irrigation system. This is common in my county because we sit on the Mahomet-Teays aquifer, it is easy for farmers to access water with wells then pump the needed amount of water for the crops.

Another form of irrigation is drip line irrigation. this form of irrigation is common on vegetable farms. The irrigation is buried a set number of feet beneath the soil. Subsurface irrigation is plastic lines buried usually every other row to provide a controlled amount of water. The plastic line has holes that place the water where the roots are able to reach is. This water is pumped from a well. The well is dug on the edge of the field and

sub-surface-drip a large line runs perpendicular to the rows on the edge of the field and smaller lines run parallel to the rows. Subsurface irrigation is an efficient way to provide water to crops.

If farmers were to not irrigate their field they would have a potential yield loss. The plants would most likely be fine unless they are in areas that have little rainfall throughout the summer.

A key reason that subsurface irrigation is efficient is that there is no water evaporation. Since the water is being provided under the soil the water does not evaporate into the air and no water is wasted. Also, farmers are able to pump needed nutrients through the lines to the crops.

Some disadvantages of subsurface irrigation are animals chewing the lines, lines busting and tillage. The lines are plastic they can be easily damaged by the pressure of the water being pumped through. Also, animals like ground squirrels will chew through the lines causing issues with the lines. Tillage can also be an issue considering you want the water to be easily accessed by the root system. This means the lines can only be placed so deep in the soil making it harder to till fields with subsurface irrigation.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the installation of subsurface drip line can run from $500 to $800 dollars an acre. In areas that the groundwater may be hard to reach or the aquifers are too deep to access, this system may not be the best. It is on the higher side of price per acre. Many vegetable farms will use this system because they are not covering as many acres, so it is more efficient for them to use.


My Name is Derrick Rabbe, I am a from Mason City, IL. I am a junior studying Agricultural business at Western Illinois University.


Little Goats, Big Deal

If there is one thing you need to know about me, it is that Nigerian Dwarf Goats are my life! When I think about what motivates me to talk and engage with others, it is frequently on a goat related topic. The journey I have taken pursuing my passion for goats over the past decade has shaped me.

I currently belong to one of the best families I could ever imagine, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat (NDG) community. My association with this community started back when I was in high school when my family moved from the rural town of Kirkwood, IL to a small hobby farm just outside of Galesburg, IL.

il st fair 2013
Photo by: Ann Alecock

This was a time of transition that helped to shape my personal identity and allowed me for the first time to begin to know what I truly valued. The transition to the farm was great for my personal identity because when you grow up in a small rural town you learn early on from interacting with others in the community the importance peers place on showing livestock at the county fair. So, when my family and I moved to a farm I knew I wanted to show some sort of livestock; I knew it was what farm kids did. That spring the county 4-H club that my friends and I belonged to held a dairy goat workshop. I became quite excited about going to this workshop because very few of my peers knew anything about goats. When I talked it over with my parents and got their okay to go to the workshop they placed a few conditions on my participation. I had to call and register for the clinic and ask for directions to where the event was scheduled to be held. This was quite the challenge for me; I was terrified to call and talk to someone I had never met before on the phone and was not the best at taking directions for locations located in rural settings. Little did I know that the person I was calling on the phone would soon become one of my lifelong friends and a true mentor for me in the Nigerian Dwarf Goat community.


I spent several hours a week during that summer volunteering at my mentor’s farm learning and caring for her herd of goats through hands-on experiences. She showed me how to care for the goats–from clipping hooves, to shaving hair for shows, to disbudding new born babies. When my summer experience was over my mentor presented me with my first Nigerian Dwarf Goat (NDG), who still lives on my family farm today. Over the next couple of years, I continued to learn about goats from my mentor and through additional reading/research I conducted. I soon began to travel with my mentor and her daughters showing NDGs all over the central United States. By the end of the second year showing with my mentor and her family, I had purchased a few does to add to my own show string. During my first show season, of owning my own goats, my small herd did well as we placed middle in of the class at most shows. Our final show of the season was the Illinois State Fair. Walking into the ring that morning to the senior dry doe class, little did I know that my doe would be selected for reserve grand champion. I was filled with joy, all my hard work had paid off.

cnsfarms sirius black

Prior to my senior year in high school, my mentor, her daughters and I decided to start our own dairy goat club called Land of Lincoln Nigerian Dwarf Goat Club (LOLNDGC). Our new club was designed with families in mind. At LOLNDGC it is not about who wins in the show ring, it is about being with family, having fun, and learning about the breed. It is amazing for me to think that a chance phone call all those years ago would lead to the development of a new community of people gathered together to share in a common experience and love for goats. Today our club has families from all over Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

During my sophomore year of college, I spent the summer at a medium scale NDG operation in Georgia. During my time in Georgia I learned a great deal on how to handle and work goats by myself. My supervisor at the time stressed to me the importance of learning how to disbud and other tasks by yourself, because you will not always have someone to help you. One of my favorite things to do in Georgia was feeding baby kids 3 times a day. When you walk into a building filled with 35 plus baby goats it will make even the hardest of hearts melt.

Soon after returning from Georgia with the help of my mentor I obtained my Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) testing license. This license allows me to travel and test other people’s goat herd for milk quality. The test gives feedback to the breeder about their animals; SCC (Somatic Cell Count), Butterfat, Protein, Total Solids, MUN (Milk Urea Nitrogen), and Lactose. Through milk tests animals can earn milk stars based on the results of the tests.

Photo by: Karen Goodchild

As Lincoln Land Nigerian Dairy Goat Club (LOLNDGC) was growing the club hosted more shows and clinics during the year. Our small club soon grew to a club that hosted 3 main show weekends a year with an average of 5 different shows being held in one weekend. In the summer of 2016 the LOLNDGC was asked to hold the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association judges training in Macomb, IL. During the 3 days of intense training we studied and talked deeply about what the NDGA looked for when judging. After the third day we took a writing test over the judging manual as well as had to place 4 classes of goats. I am proud to say that I passed the training and am happy to represent NDGA as a judge. Since obtaining my license I’ve had the opportunity to judge in Oklahoma, Illinois and Iowa. I was not only able to judge Nigerian shows, I have also judged county fairs and other goat breed association shows. In 2016 I decided to give back to the organization that has given so much to me over the years. I decided to join the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association Board of Directors. Currently I am the youth chair for this amazing organization. With the help of the other board members I continue to learn and gain knowledge about the goats as well as the organization.

topsy milk
Photo by: Hillary Rabe

My journey with goats has been clearly shaped by the values I hold important and the communities I choose to belong to. The extended family that I belong to today is larger than I could have ever imagined and helps to motivate me to learn and achieve more knowing I have their support.




Want to know more?

Land of Lincoln Nigerian Dwarf Goat Club:
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association:


head shotMy name is Cori Sargent and I’m from Cameron, Illinois. I am currently a senior here at WIU and I’m majoring in Ag Science with a minor in Animal Science. Who would have guessed that a 4-H workshop would have turned into a passion.

Gestation in Swine: Crates or Pins?

Pigs are a unique livestock in comparison to others when it comes to gestation. Gestation for a sheep can vary from 144 days to 155. A cow is usually 275 days to 290, and a horse is on average 25 days short of a year. A pigs gestation is 114 to 116 days  with an average litter size of 12. If the pigs are not born within that small window, then something is seriously wrong. Knowing this information, it is obvious why farrowing is such an important aspect in producing swine. Farrowing is the process of a sow (a female pig) birthing piglets.

It is important to make sure that the sow is in a safe environment while impregnated. If the sow is ever in distress, malnourished, or not adjusted to the environment, then the farrowing process could be jeopardized. The first day I worked in a sow unit, I quickly realized arranging the animals was controlled chaos. Common practice is to move impregnated sows to gestation crates. The sows are arranged in rows that group the pigs that were bred on the same day together. This system is called a snake. The beginning of the snake contains females that have recently been bred and ends with sows days away from farrowing. Commercial sow units have been using this method for decades. It is an extremely efficient system that is time tested. The number one factor holding gestation crates back is public perception. The crate keeps the pig isolated so it stays healthy, but it does limit the pigs mobility. Many producers using with gestation crates fear that they may day be banned. Units are specially designed around the crates.

Large scale commercial operations anticipate the banning of gestation crates. Smithfield Foods has claimed that their entire swine operation will be crate free. Advancements in technology are now making managing gestating hogs from pins much easier. The pigs on a sow unit using pins are given ear tags that have chips that can read anytime a pig is feeding. When the pig sticks its head in the feeder, the chip is read and the exact amount of feed it needs is distributed. This integrated system is great for monitoring the health of every animal in a pin.  Producers are beginning to use this system because the public view this as a more humane approach. the sows are free to move around and interact with other pigs. A large disadvantage when holding livestock in pins, their is the increase in labor. Something as simple as giving a pig feed could be a hassle. If the pig does not eat because it is sick, the animal must be located and directed to the feeder. This may sound easy enough, but when an employee is working in a unit with 6,000 sows, it can be very time consuming. Having hogs not in crate rows impedes on a number of day to day task such as; breeding, handling, and disposing of fatalities.


The biggest issue in banning gestation crates is the impact it would have on the entire livestock industry. A majority of pork in America comes from a mother that was held in a gestation crate. If gestation crates were immediately banned, countless businesses would go under. A majority of which would be family farms. Switching a unit from a crates to pins is an extremely costly endeavors. Their are many producers that feel that crates are far more humane than critics claim. In most cases, the fatality rate of

gestating sows in pins are higher than units using crates. Pigs are naturally social creatures. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a group of pigs to pick on the weaker of the heard. The crates are isolate the sows form any major physical interaction.

The ultimate reason for the divide in these two different styles is caused by the consumer. Perhaps the pigs are more happy when they have space to walk and interact with pigs. Animal welfare is a huge concern for all farmers with livestock. There are ethical questions that are tough to answer in this debate. Since a pig is an intelligent animal, does it know it is trapped in a steel crate or, is that the only life the life it knows? Should pigs be kept safe from each other, or should they be able to be in a pin with other swine? These are questions that will probably never have a perfect answer. Realistically, if one of the two styles were to go, it would be the use of crates. If crates were out right banned, then would have to be a gradual process. It would take operations years to change their sow units. I hope that gestation crates will be around for many more years but the industry is constantly evolving. Some times change is for the better.

Thank you for reading my post! My name is Grant Biddle and I am a junior here at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Ag Science. All of my life I have been around swine working with my father and uncle at our family farm. I hope I informed anyone who is curious about swine production. I would be more than happy to answer any questions regarding the blog.



Becoming a WIU Aggie

Being a city girl for most of life, I can truly say that I never understood agriculture. Living in the suburbs of Memphis TN, and a suburb of Chicago IL, I was not educated and did not properly understand what agriculture meant to this country. Being a girl who lived near big cities I always knew I wanted to be a Veterinarian. When it came to deciding colleges I chose to go to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Getting my class schedule ready, and preparing myself for move in day my

Fall 2017 – Photo by Leah Christofanelli

mom and I discussed about veterinarian schools. Knowing how expensive graduate school was going to be, we decided to look at schools in Illinois. Little did I know that I would eventually fall in love with a school that was close to home, also have an amazing Agriculture program, and that I would find my people that I would call my second family.

Choosing Western Illinois University was the best decision I have made so far. Starting out here I didn’t know anyone, and I knew I would have to get involved. I began with joining Sigma Alpha, the professional agricultural sorority on campus. These girls have taught me not only friendship but leadership and interview skills that I know will help me later on life. I also got into the Ag-Vocating recruitment

Fall 2016 – Photo by Elizabeth Miller

team on campus. Even though I joined the team this semester, this organization has shown me what agriculture is really about. I have met the most hardworking individuals that have not just shown me but have shown others how truly dedicated and passionate they are towards agriculture.

Since I have been at WIU, I have taken several courses through the agriculture department. After taking some of the advance animal science courses I know now that Veterinary Medicine is my goal.  My professors have challenged me, and I believe have made me into a better student. After taking one of Mark Hoge’s animal science courses, he has been able to teach my the basics of taking of livestock from being able to vaccinate cattle to being able to sort swine. Even though I want to specialize in exotic animals, I honestly believe understanding livestock will help me reach that goal.

valentyines day.jpg
2018 – Photo by Jana Knupp

About the Author:

My name is Olivia Perez and I am currently a Junior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Science, and focusing in pre-Veterinary Medicine. I am from Knoxville, IL but graduated high school from Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, IL. I chose to come to WIU because it was close to home and they have a great pre-veterinary program. At WIU I am involved in Sigma Alpha Professional Ag Sorority, Ag-Vocator Recruitment team, the Humane Society Service Association, and Zoology club!

Taking on the National Farm Machinery Show 2018

For over 50 years farmers and agricultural companies have been meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, for the largest indoor farm machinery show at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center.  The show started in 1965 and has over 800 exhibitors, 300,000 people that attend and spread over 27 acres of enclosed buildings.

IMG_0133The show started as a machinery show as you can tell from the title but it quickly changed into and agribusiness type setting when chemical, seed, fertilizer and anything agriculture related quickly jumped at the show.  The show offers companies oppertunities to connect and show the end user, a farmer, what the company is working on while developing customer relations.

After seeing some of the background, why is it important as a student in agriculture to go to such a show and what could you possibly benefit from going?  After going for 4 years now I couldn’t possibly imagine not going.  As a student at WIU you encounter new things and are encouraged to network with people, establish relationships and build upon yourself.  The NFMS is the holy grail for ag students to build connections and network with others to help build your relationships and establish yourself with others in the agricultural world.  While being at the show you will get a chance to talk with the people behind the machines and within the companies.  They tell you about themselves what they do and how they started.  Along with this you get the farmers side of things because there are thousands of them there, its easy to pick up a conversation with anyone that is interested in agriculture.

I feel as though events such as this are crucial to the development of agriculture students because although we are in one area and see a lot of agricultural diversity it is not at the same level or extent as the NFMS.  You get to experience all sides of agriculture that help develop students into more worldly-minded agriculturists.  I feel as though it is important to open up to all the sides of agriculture because it gives myself an advantage in the market place for jobs to be able to connect and share knowledge to the places you are seeking employment.

The show conveys a sense of heritage through the agriculture community.  It takes agriculture and shows the advancements that are made throughout the show from old ideas and methods to new concepts and capabilities.  The show has something for everyone to explore and find out more with a wealth of over 800 knowledgeable vendors on their products and science.  It also lets you connect with companies you might not be used to seeing faces with like chemical providers and seed companies. IMG_0129

My experience with the show is somewhat a family affair as my father and I go each year to connect with people and share our love for agriculture.  It gives me time to learn about more of what’s changed when you have someone that been around and has been to some of the earlier shows in his life.  It lets me think about what agriculture was and where it’s going and is insight from the standpoint of someone that has been in agriculture for 50 plus years.  But as I found this year its not just myself that learns from this and likes to see it grow.  As one of the big hits with the show is the national truck and tractor pull each night.  Some may think this is just entertainment but for people like myself it gives you time to connect with others over a common interest.  It makes that unapproachable company that you couldn’t say something to earlier easy to start to talk to and work into opportunities, and to build connections with people and enjoy a sport that has adapted from trying to pull the biggest plow in the field to pulling a sled down an soil track.

I think if you’re a person that is involved in agriculture that for at least one time you need to make your way to Kentucky to the show and stay for a day.  Take in where agriculture has gone and where it is going because the incredible rate of progression is hard to keep up with as you just seem to relies that this is only what a college student looking in is seeing.  Myself and my fellow agriculture students are the future to the development and stewardship of the agriculture industry.  The NFMS dates for next year are February 13th-16th.

My name is Lee Stiltz, and I am a senior here at Western Illinois University.  I will graduate in May 2018 with a degree in agriculture science and a minor in precision agriculture.  I am currently seeking a position in precision ag/ag retail, and I look forward to where a career path in agriculture can take me.  All pictures in this blog were from


Dicamba: The Make it or Break it Year

The last growing season was the foundation of what is to come.  We had dicamba

Photo from DTN by Aaron Hager

soybeans on the market. Dicamba is a herbicide farmers have used to control broadleaf weeds like waterhemp. Some producers were hesitant to jump on the dicamba train while others jumped immediately.  The farmers that chose the dicamba route couldn’t have
been more pleased with the cleanliness of their fields as well as the yields.  On the other hand, the producers that chose another route were furious with the damage done, shown in picture to the right, to their fields by the dicamba drift from their neighbors.

What can we expect in the 2018 growing season? With the label possibly getting pulled after this year, what can we as producers do to solve the problems

Photo from Agriculture Wire

that occurred last year?  When I have been talking to seed salesman in my area many of them are saying that 80% of the soybeans sold are going to be dicamba soybeans. This will solve most of the soybean damage since the producers are switching over to dicamba this year.  The label has became more strict since last year to hopefully limit the drift of the herbicide, but the instructors must be followed by the applicator to be effective.

One salesman in the local area called this growing season a “joint effort” and that is exactly what it will come down to.  The farmer and applicator need to work together to minimize and eliminate the drift factor that occurred so much in 2017.  Hopefully with execution of the label, there should been an effective control of drift.  With a successful 2018 growing season Monsanto will be able to renew the label for years to come.

Hello, I am Dexter Redenius. I am a junior at Western Illinois University.  In December I will be graduating with a bachelors degree in Agricultural Science with an emphasis in Agronomy and a minor in Agricultural Business.  I am from a small town, Augusta, IL.  I have been exposed to agriculture all my life.  I come from a farming family and I also have helped other local farmers in my area when help is needed.  My family farm includes row crops and commercial beef.  Agriculture is a passion that has been instilled in me from generations before me and I am excited for the next steps in my life to pass on the passions that I have to others.

Vegetarian to Meat Lover



There are many food trends that have become more popular lately. Organic, non-GMO, vegan, vegetarian and label free are just a few to name. These trends have become popular through internet fads, social media and the ever-increasing desire to be healthy and all natural. However healthy and natural people think that these fads are, there is always something overlooked when making a serious life choice such as changing your entire diet. I recently talked with two friends of mine who made these life choices, twice. They each made the decisions to go vegetarian. Now, after a combination of five years later, they both are back and loving, to eating their meats.

Alissa and Reagan both made the decision to convert to the vegetarian lifestyle. This was not just a diet for them. They each took it seriously. This means that they did not consume raw meat, meat products or meat-based foods. They were not vegan, but neither ate fish nor gelatin. Alissa and Reagan did still enjoy their eggs and dairy products during their vegetarian lifestyles.

Alissa was the first to turn to vegetarian. Her parents both are vegetarian but have never pressed it on her to be one. They gave her the freedom to make her own food choices growing up. Throughout her life she had been eating meat about once or twice a week. However, after a wrongly cooked steak made her ill, she decided to go full vegetarian. Her choice was not for health reasons. This was a personal choice on her part that had many influences. She chose this to keep from getting sick again. There were other inspirations in her decision, such as the harsh treatments she THOUGHT that animals were put through and that everything she had been reading on the internet told her that vegetarian was the healthier option. Alissa was a vegetarian for over four years.

Reagan was never previously a vegetarian. She and her family had consumed meat since she was a child. After a doctor visit warned her of her high cholesterol, she decided that she needed to take her diet into thoughtful consideration. She made the choice to become a vegetarian. She knew that it would help lower her cholesterol level. She also wanted to challenge herself with a no meat diet in hopes that it would increase the variety of food she was eating as well as make a healthier lifestyle for her. Reagan was a vegetarian for over a year.

I asked both of my friends why they made the switch back to eating meats. Did it taste better? Was there something in their diet that they were missing from not eating meat? Was it healthier to eat meat than to be vegetarian? Was it just a personal preference? I learned through talking with both Alissa and Reagan that it wasn’t just one simple answer.

There were multiple reasons that each started to consume meat again. It was hard for them to be vegetarian. The most important lesson Alissa told me was, “Being vegetarian wasn’t necessarily the healthier choice.” Although they did increase their amount of vegetables, fruits, beans, quinoa, tofu and dairy, they did not necessarily eat healthier. Tofu tempeh, meatless products and the increase in vegetables and other protein substitute foods became expensive. Not only was it expensive, it was also difficult to monitor and find. Anytime either Alissa or Reagan went out to eat, they had to be careful about what they ordered. Restaurants don’t often carry many true vegetarian options. Many foods, such as desserts, soups, salads/dressings were prepared or cooked with meat, meat-based products or gelatin. This created a lot of issues and struggles in finding foods to eat. Chips, fries, cheese pizza, cookies, candy and more unhealthy options were the cheaper and more easily accessible alternatives for Alissa. Although she tried to maintain a good diet, Alissa said that she gained forty pounds in three months after going vegetarian because of the junk foods she consumed more of. “It can be healthy if you want it to be.” Alissa said. “But vegetarians are not healthier just because they don’t eat meat.”

Reagan tried being the healthy vegetarian. She increased the variety of food she ate, not just because she had to, but she wanted to challenge herself. She cut back her junk food and ate no meat. Although it was tough, she did enjoy it. However, an often-overlooked part of the vegetarian lifestyle is the lack of protein being consumed. Alissa and Reagan both noticed that they couldn’t get sufficient protein into their diet, especially in college. The dorms and surrounding restaurants did not have many healthy, vegetarian friendly options. Looking back on it, Reagan realized that she was more fatigued from lack of protein and meats. She also had low blood iron that she was not aware of during her lifestyle. This could have been potentially dangerous if she continued the same diet.

Alissa started laughing when she mentioned how much better she thought being a vegetarian would be for her, and for the animals. Her past meat-based livestock knowledge came from social media and biased internet content. Now living on a cattle farm with her boyfriend, she realizes that not all livestock and food animals are treated that way. The cases and pictures she scrolled through for her research were very rare. She knows the meat she eats now, especially the beef from her boyfriend’s farm, are treated like the animals they are.

Now, both Alissa and Reagan are enjoying their meat again. Alissa eased slowly back in to give herself a chance to see if she could handle the transition again. Reagan did not need to worry about taking it slow. Both Alissa and Reagan eat meat daily. Reagan’s favorite will always be chicken. Alissa and Reagan both love a good steak though. You can’t go wrong with a good flank or fillet mignon.

The point of this post is not to be biased and convert vegetarians to meat lovers. The point of this post is that there are many reasons and life decisions to be made to follow either lifestyle. These decisions are made by the people who are following that lifestyle. And this is okay. We do not need to throw our opinions out and try to convert people one way or the other. People make their own choices for their own reasons. The only thing I wish for you is that you make an informed choice based on true, scientific researched information and personal life decisions. I am not a vegetarian. I do not condemn those who are though. You eat and enjoy your food. I will eat and enjoy mine. And we each will be happy with the choices we have made for ourselves.



Enjoy your food. Enjoy your lifestyle.

About the Author:

My name is Kirsten Kessling. I  am a senior at Western Illinois University pursuing my Bachelors degree in Agriculture Sciences with a minor in Chemistry. I am passionate about agriculture, animals, food and open minded people. After graduation, I hope to find a career that can incorporate all of these things. Thank you for reading this blog!