Rotational Grazing

 

More than a quarter of agricultural ground in the midwest is some kind of pasture. About 80% of these pastures are not properly taken care of. Because of that they have issues with uneven fertility, erosion, and weeds. One of the most common reasons for poor pasture health is being continuously grazed throughout the season. Continuous grazing results in very low pasture yields and makes it impossible for it to fully recover. Pasture ground needs to be managed in a way that improves efficiency and productivity. Rotational grazing will dramatically improve pasture quality.Summer_grazing_landscape_LG

What exactly is rotational grazing? Rotational grazing is when pasture is split into sections. This way livestock can graze a section at a time, so the other sections can regrow and recover. Then when that section is grazed down, livestock is moved to the next section, which is fully grown up. For this cycle to work well, rotations must be timed with the forage growth. A common problem with this is that some livestock producers rotate based on a schedule instead of the growth stage of the pasture. When done correctly, rotational grazing can improve an operation’s efficiency in a number of ways. When my grandpa had cattle he would always rotate them, and so does the farm I work for now.

Some of the positive impacts of rotational grazing include increased production and yields, time saving, environmental benefits, animal health and welfare, and obviously increased pasture productivity. The midwest has a lot of farmers using rotational grazing right now. A Wisconsin survey found that in the 1990s there were almost no farmers using this. Now over half of beef and dairy operations are using this management system. However rotational grazing is not just for cattle, it can be used with sheep, horses, goats, and chickens. This management practice benefits the farmer, animals, and the land. It also allows the farmer to profit from the land. Grazing systems have become much more common as people begin to see the improvements it brings.

 

Kevin McCutchan. Aledo, Illinois. Senior at Western Illinois University.

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Importance of Nitrogen Management

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Nitrogen is one of the most widely distributed elements in nature and is one of the most important elements for corn. Nitrogen comes in a few different forms and can be applied in different ways and different times. A few of these different ways include anhydrous ammonia which is knifed into the ground in a gas form, urea which is typically applied by an airplane as a solid, or a “Y drop” application which is a liquid form. Being a farmer, there is a lot to think about before applying nitrogen as in: operation size, fertilizer price, equipment size, and the time management. Operation size could be a determining factor as to whether you apply in the fall or in the spring, or possibly even both. When driving around and talking to different farmers, I get a lot of different responses as to when people apply their nitrogen and why they apply it when they do. A fall application is less risky, especially for a bigger size operation, just because of the fact that if you wait until spring you could run into rain and be severely delayed, or may be unable to even apply. The downfall to applying in the fall is the possibility of leaching or losing nitrogen into the atmosphere. Having our own aerial application business, we have quite a few farmers applying urea by an airplane. The reason it is applied by airplane is because the corn is typically too tall for a ground rig. This is typically a little higher in pricing compared to a ground rig but when the corn is too tall sometimes you do not have a choice.

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As genetics of corn have changed dramatically over the last 10 years, the nitrogen curve on a corn plant seems to be changing. What I mean by that is 10 years ago the curve of nitrogen uptake by a corn plant showed that it needed a lot more nitrogen early on and not as much as you got closer to tasseling. We are now seeing with changes of genetics that the corn plant will start needing nitrogen very slowly early on (V4-V6) and then be in great demand of nitrogen as it reaches tasseling. V4-V6 on a corn plant means it has between 4-6 leaves, which is usually around knee high.

A system that is fairy new to the industry that farmers are now using is a system called Y drop. It is applied with a high clearance sprayer system equipped with a combination of metal and rubber hoses that delivers nitrogen directly to the soil surface. It is applied close to the base of the stem without touching the canopy. Y drop can offer more flexibility to farmers than ever before when it comes to the timing of the application.

Farmers are constantly looking for ways to save input costs whether it be through fertilizers, seed, or equipment costs. Nitrogen is not an input that a farmer wants to cheap out on. Without proper nitrogen applications, the corn crop can suffer tremendous yield losses. Improper nitrogen applications will end up causing the farmer more money in the long wrong so it’s better to do it right the first time.

 

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Continue reading “Importance of Nitrogen Management”

Sigma Alpha: Not your typical sorority

 

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Prior to coming to Western Illinois University to further my education, I always had told myself, “I would never join a sorority.” I had thought that sorority girls were nothing but a bunch of rich girls who always had to wear a new outfit to go out or that they bought their friendships. However, I am now a sorority girl and the thoughts I had about Greek life were wrong.

Sigma Alpha, the Professional Agriculture Sorority, is the sorority I chose to get involved in at Western. Sigma Alpha is a sorority of girls who share the same interest and love for agriculture. The best way to describe Sigma Alpha is to look at it’s objective:

“The objective of Sigma Alpha shall be to promote its members in all facets of agriculture and to strengthen the bonds of friendship among them. It is the purpose of the members to strive for achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service, and to further the development of excellence in women pursuing careers in agriculture.”

But why choose Sigma Alpha? Through my experience, automatically meeting over 20 girls who would all end up so close in your MC (membership candidate) class made you feel like you were back in kindergarten where everyone wanted to be friends with everyone. Getting your Sigma Alpha “mom” and finding out that that one person would soon be a friend and just a call away when needed. Getting to meet the active girls and only hoping the MC process would speed up to be able to get your first stitched letters. Within those 6 weeks of the process you learn about Sigma Alpha and learn to appreciate the organization as a whole.

A few words from our current President, Elizabeth Miller, “My experience within Sigma Alpha has truly been such an eye opening and rewarding experience that I think every girl should have at least once in their lives. I’ve watched the sorority as a whole change and adapt to the times as well as the girls within our local chapter change. Just because it’s a professional agriculture sorority doesn’t mean you grew up on a farm or both of your parents are in agriculture, or it doesn’t even have to mean to have declared agriculture as a major. You just simply need to want to grow within a sisterhood that supports and has similar morals to those agriculturalists in society. And because of those beliefs within the sorority, I was able to find my “home.”  A piece of advice I’ve been giving to all our new members is this; whether it’s within Sigma Alpha or in another organization, be sure to get involved within the leadership roles of the organization you choose.”

 

     Sigma Alpha gave me sisters I don’t ever want to lose contact with, and with the bond we have through sisterhood I don’t think I ever will. So when looking into sororities, think about Sigma Alpha. It will be the best decision you will never regret. I know it was for me.

    Hello, my name is Breann Knapp and I am currently a senior at Western Illinois University studying agriculture business, with a minor in marketing. I am from Ashland Illinois, a town of about 1,200 people with farming being a huge part of the community. At Western I am involved in many clubs through the school of Ag; Sigma Alpha (sisterhood chair), Ag Vocator Team, Collegiate Farm Bureau (treasurer),and Hoof n Horn Club.

Benefits of Growing up in Agriculture

Agriculture. Many hear this word and it goes in one ear and out the other. To some, like me, it’s a word that has become a part of who I am and what I live for. Dirty boots, long hours, constant work, and no excuses were daily occurrences around the farm I grew up on. Our focus on the farm was row crops and showing/raising cattle. Agriculture has been my family and I’s way of life since I was in diapers. Growing up around agriculture taught me many things starting at a young age, things that have shaped me into a hard-working, honorable, and selfless young man. I didn’t always think it was “fair” that I couldn’t go out after the Friday night football game or sleep in late on a Saturday morning, but in agriculture, there’s no time for staying out late or enjoying a Saturday morning. Those rare instances happened when the cows were fed, stalls were cleaned, and the farm was taken care of. Fair? No. Building character. Yes. To explain this lifestyle to someone who isn’t familiar with it, is difficult, but that’s what we’re here to do, make people aware and knowledgeable of how this word, agriculture, changes all of our lives daily.
Through living a life on the farm and around agriculture, I have learned many life lessons that I will carry with me for years to come. Strong work ethic, responsibility, open-mindedness, and knowledgeable are a few of the most important life lessons I have learned. In this industry you become aware very quickly that you are not only working hard to benefit yourself, but you are responsible for benefiting people far beyond your imagination. No pressure.
Knowing this, having a strong work ethic is one of the most important lessons learned almost immediately. Being someone who has a strong work ethic means that you will not stop until the work is done, which is the essence of farmers and livestock owners around the world. Raising and showing livestock was not for the weak. You had to be disciplined, you expected your animal to be disciplined, so you had to lead by example. Responsibility plays right into having a strong work ethic. I was responsible for helping with working ground, getting equipment ready, and hauling crops to the elevator. While showing cattle, I was responsible for feeding, working, and training my show calves. These responsibilities came alongside school, extra-curricular, and just regular life responsibilities. It’s tough, but you learn to work through it and be the best you can be.
Agriculture has such a broad standing, that the new methods and equipment are always surfacing. Let’s face it, no one wanted to continue farming like we did back in the “good ol’ days.” There methods were good, but we’ve reached a whole new multitude of people to provide for. Being open-minded is an essential skill in being in this industry. Everyone will do things in their own way and have their own processes when it comes to their crops, and feeds, and equipment used, but if we all keep an open mind and listen to one another, we can learn a lot. From personal experience, I have acquired skills that have led me to have better organization, problem solving skills, and ability to be innovative. These skills go along with the saying “You have to deal with the hand you were dealt.” There are good harvests and there are not so good harvests, which means that not all of us have the newest, most high tech equipment, around, but will make do with what they have. This is how I was raised. We had what we needed and it got the job done, both on the farm and in the ring.

photo 3Photo From: Logan Johnson’s Facebook

Continuing to learn and grow is one of the most priceless life lessons I have learned. Agriculture has allowed me to have a better understanding of where, how, and why most of my food that I eat makes it to my plate. Many people try to avoid this topic of where our food comes from and how it makes it from Point A to Point B, because quite frankly, it scares people to know the truth. Now, this is another topic that I won’t dive into today but the reason I brought it up is because this is where growing up in agriculture allows a person to have a deeper understanding of raising and harvesting food that people are going eat. It lets them know why we treat animals with antibiotics to fight against illnesses and diseases. It allows them to know why we spray our crops to do the same thing as we do with animals which is fight off diseases that the plant could come in contact with. The end goal is to produce a plentiful amount of product and a very high quality product for the consumers. Yes, people have an idea of this process, but the only way to take it one step closer and really understand is to do and see what goes on.
Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.” Agriculture is the backbone of our nation. Many may think it’s easy, but come take a walk alongside me or another amazing farmer one day, and we could teach you a thing or two (we might even learn something from you, too)!

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My name is Logan Johnson, and I am a senior with a major in Agricultural Business with a minor in Animal Science. Before coming to Western, I spent two years at Lakeland Community College. I grew up in the small town of Heyworth, Illinois. This is where my family laid our roots and we raised and showed cattle. Along with the livestock my family farmed a few hundred acres of row crops. It’s who I am and what I live to do. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

Agriculture: past vs present

Farming has changed in a major way over the last 50 years. From recent interviews and what I have personally heard over the years of being around a family farm I have put together some interesting opinions and ideas how farming has changed over the years. The biggest change has been with the size of the farms and the other biggest change has been with the way farms are operated. I based this off of local Illinois farms.

Farming from the past:

Most farms began as a entire family effort. The size of the farm was usually between 40 and 160 acres, with many different types of livestock the majority being cattle, hogs, and chickens because you can get eggs from chickens, milk from the cattle as well as meat, and you can get meat from the hogs as well. The crops that were planted were usually corn and soybeans like we have now and they were split up over the tillable acreage that was available.

The equipment that was used was usually the farms had one tractor and that was used for doing chores and working the ground after harvest. They farm also had to have a planter and a harvester on the farm. The planters were usually four row with the biggest being six and the harvesters were sometimes a combine or sometimes a pull behind harvester depending on how big the farm was.

I interviewed a couple of farmers that have been around to see the big changes over the years so I asked one of them what he remembers most about when he first started farming 60 years ago. The biggest thing he remembered was how much hard work it took. He says there weren’t  cabs on tractors, no heaters on the water (so the water wouldn’t freeze for the livestock), and there wasn’t someone else to do the work for you. I’m sure this is how most of the older farmers would say farming used to be because it was more of a way of life than a business, farming was how the family survived and how the money was earned.

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New combine vs Old combine photo creds: machine finder

 

Farming in the present:

In west central Illinois farms range between 300 acres at the smallest to 10,000 acres at the bigger end. Not all of the acres that are farmed by a farmer are owned by one single farmer. That is one way farming has changed is that most farmers don’t just farm the ground they own most farmers are cash renting or splitting the ground with the person that owns it. Today farms are a lot less diverse meaning that usually farms specialize in either crops mostly being corn and soybeans or specializing in livestock either cattle or hogs.

Farming has become more of a business.  Farms are having to increase in size to spread out expenses. The size of everything in farming has increased and the price has increased with it. The equipment that is used now has doubled in size from 50 years ago and the technology has improved so much that the tractors can basically drive themselves. Going back to the interviews with a local farmer he says “If you were to tell me when I started farming that I would be able to push a button and the tractor would go in a straight line I would have called you crazy” and he’s right nobody would ever imagine the improvements that have been made with the technologies in farming. The livestock industry has changed as well, the livestock is becoming more of an indoors operation using cattle and hog confinements to better the animals so they are not out in the elements and will lesson the risk for injury.

Farms have had to increase in size because the farms are now having to feed three or more families. Another reason farms have had to increase is to make up for the input cost and the cost to purchase a new piece of equipment.

Recap:

I would say farming has changed more than any industry in the world because people have had to adapt to the changes over the years or they would no longer be farming or have a farm for generations to come. The bigger changes have been with the size of the farms, they have basically doubled in size. Another major change is the technology has changed with the seed planted and the equipment that is used for the farm operation.

Bio:

My name is Colton Melliapt farmsnger and I am a Junior at Western Illinois University. I am majoring in Agriculture Business with a minor in Accounting. I grew up on a corn, soybean, and livestock farm outside of Laharpe Il. Farming has taught me many life lesson throughout my years being around it. I plan on going back and farming and expanding the operation for many years to come.

 

Preach What You Practice: The Importance of Being Agriculturally Literate

So what if I told you that getting a degree and accepting a full time position wasn’t enough? Or maybe that you needed to do a little bit more than own and operate a farm, because that’s so easy, right?

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh, but hear me out.

Growing up, agriculture was a large part of my life. I was raised by a farmer, it was almost promised that at least one of my friends parent’s were connected to the industry,  and I went to a high school where 90% of the enrollment were members of the FFA. I have always thought of farmers as heroes, and assumed that everyone else did too.

Then I came to college. During my three years here, I have found myself struggling at understanding how unconnected some people are to agriculture. (I mean c’mon people, this town is surrounded by thousands of acres of corn and soybeans.) But as time continued, I realized that some of these people don’t know that the fields they pass are filled with crops that people build a lifestyle off of, and that those crops are then turned into the food you eat, the clothes you wear, or multiple different products that you use on a daily basis. They have never actually seen a cow, hog, or sheep. They have only seen pictures of them posted on social media accounts. And not only pictures, but pictures that misrepresent the industry that employs 17% of the nation’s population. And because of this and numerous other factors, the agriculture industry has found themselves as hot topics of controversial debates in environmental, nutritional, and welfare issues.

This May, I will be able to say that I have successfully completed a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture, but it shouldn’t stop there. Because even though it’s cool to say that I have learned how to mock design a plant breeding program, written a 10 page paper on the effects of White Mold, and preg checked a heifer carrying its calf,  that’s not going to make someone feel better about the large airplane flying over their house, spraying chemicals on the cornfield next to them, or someone worried about the presence of antibiotics in their meat. It does, however, make it easier to have these conversations, because you have more education to back you up. But as stated by Dr. Gruver, an agronomy professor who finds importance in gaining agriculture literacy, “education in an academic setting is valuable but is a very small part of one’s education (even for academics like myself who spent ~ 20 years in school!)”.

In order to educate the uneducated, and to be able to hold professional conversations with the people who are totally against us, I think there are a few things that those inside of the industry can do to help themselves become more agriculturally literate. Dr. Gruver also mentions “the foundation of agriculture literacy is curiosity… its not so much how much you know about agriculture at any one time but rather how you respond when you see an agriculture related headline, hear someone talking about agriculture, observe an unfamiliar farm implement or practice when driving down the road, notice an agriculture related post on-line, or look at a new item in the grocery store”.

Always stay in the loop

Do your best at keeping up to date with what’s going on in the industry: new technology, new innovations, current issues, etc. Read new blogs, watch more Ted talks, and take advantage of free conferences. This will not only bring more information into the type of farming you practice, but also open your mind to new possibilities and show you the new things that they may have to offer. Try to get information from both private and public sectors of the industry; this will give you the advantage of weighing your options before you commit to something new. Also find out information on what people outside of the industry are thinking. For example, a large number of society believes that there are antibiotics in our meat. However, they think this because they are not made aware of withdrawal periods. My point being, if you find out why they think the way they do, it will help you approach the situation and conversation in a much more positive manner. If you conduct the conversation using factual details, you will probably get more accomplished than just simply explaining that you farm for a living,and don’t agree with their comments.

Remain open minded

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Herndon Harvest 2016

 I’ll be the first one to admit, I am pretty stuck in my ways. I would rather not be susceptible to change if I didn’t have to be. (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, am I right??) However, you’ll find that the agriculture industry now-a-days is constantly trying new things, and the practices that you’ve watched your father do, who has watched his father do, might actually be outdated. These new things could range anywhere from new seed innovations to more regulations or  precision technology to environmental practices. Because of this, agriculturalists are forced to keep an open mind to the possibilities. I challenge you to do this with outsider beliefs too. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who was raised inner city,  who doesn’t understand the process of their food getting to the grocery store shelves. From there, understand that these people believe the first thing they hear or see from the media, simply because they haven’t ever been given any other information to doubt it. With that being said, if you ever come in contact with someone like this, use that as an opportunity to change their minds! (College kids, i’m talking to you!)

Do something new 

Always try something different while in the industry. If you are focused on the agronomy side of things, try reading more articles on animal science. If you are more involved in the production of things, try to understand more of the research that goes into it. This will further your knowledge and help you understand a wider range of progressing ideas happening in the industry. This will make it apparent that you are involved in the industry, gaining respect from outsiders. Dr Gruver stated “in my opinion, agriculture literacy is NOT “familiarity with a basic set of agriculture concepts” but rather is a process of striving to better understand agriculture every day”. In order to do this, we have to step outside of our comfort zone and do something we’ve never done before.

Communicate and advocate 

Always talk about the new information you are learning. Communicate it to your agriculture friends and communicate it to your non-agriculture friends. Have conversations with multiple farmers and get their input on the topic. Always advocate the positive things happening in our industry. Don’t be afraid to address false information with factual data to back you up. Talk about your personal experiences in the agriculture industry, and how it has undoubtedly affected you positively. Invite them to agriculture places or events. Give them tours of your farm, so they can see exactly how majority of farms are operated. Use your social media outlets immensely to give accurate information to a large number of people. PETA, HSUS, and Food Babe, 3 top anti-agriculture groups, all use social media intensely as a foyer in their marketing campaigns. According to America Press Institute, 51% of Americans receive their daily news from a social media account. Do you see the problem?

In order to further educate people outside of the agricultural industry, we have to be permit the further education of our own experiences and communication tactics. With these things, I hope that maybe just a few more people are capable of successfully sharing how agriculture has shaped their life, just as it has mine.

About the Author

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Hello beautiful people! My name is Jessica Herndon and I am a senior at Western Illinois University, majoring in Ag Science and double minoring in agronomy and animal science. I have an undeniable passion for advocating agriculture, which is one reason why I serve as WIU’s Ag Vocator Team chancellor. I am an opportunist, a lover of ice cream, a ted talk enthusiast, and my dad’s best friend.

Younger Generation Drifting Away From Agriculture Careers

Only 3 percent of college graduates surveyed and 9 percent of millennials said they had thought about an Ag career or would consider it, according to a survey by Land’O’Lakes Inc. This is a HUGE problem to me. I consider this a problem because the generation of farmers is getting older and are going to need someone to take over for them shortly.

The most popular areas of study according to this survey were; health care, technology and education.

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The problem of people drifting away from agriculture I believe has to do with them not knowing about agriculture. To work in an agriculture field you don’t have to be a farmer or a rancher. You can be an Agriculture Engineer, Agriculture Food Scientist, or even an Aquatic Ecologist. The possibilities in agriculture careers are endless, just if there was an easy way to get people to see that.

The survey by Land’O’Lakes also showed that 54 percent of people that responded believed that it was difficult for a college graduate to find a job in agriculture, and 76 percent either did not think or weren’t sure that Ag careers pay well. When in all truth,  the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that over 20,000 jobs go unfilled each year in the United States alone.

I found an article titled, “Why is There Lack of Interest in Agriculture?”, and what I read astonished me. Article below.

{   Why is there a lack of interest in agriculture?

  • Long hours
  • Low pay
  • High barriers to entry
  • Hard, dirty, sweaty labor
  • Finicky markets
  • Fickle weather
  • High and sometimes wildly variable cost of production
  • Thin margins
  • Agricultural policy that encourages less farmers

It’s not just a lack of interest, but also a lack of realistic opportunity in many places. But think about this: for a lot of history, long, dirty, sweaty and ill-rewarded hours were the best option for most people to ensure they had enough to eat. Today, in many parts of the world, you can get a consistent check working regular hours in a climate controlled environment, where even a shitty job will often pay more than farming.

Given that, I find it surprising how much interest there is in agriculture.  }

This article is an example of someone who thinks of Agriculture as only farming. When Agriculture is much more than just farming. It is technology, sales, soil science, animal science, machinery, and much more. This article itself is the main reason I believe in teaching agriculture to the younger generations.

We each need to do our part to ensure that the agriculture field doesn’t suffer in the future. Whether your part is to teach the next generation about agriculture, or being a part of the next generation of farmers, it is up to us to save the future of agriculture.

BIO:

My name is Jennifer Reedy, Senior at WIU, Majoring in Agriculture Business minoring in Marketing. I grew up about 5 miles north of WIU, in the country raised on a small livestock farm.  jen79.jpg