Tag Archives: animal agriculture

Andrea with South Dakota farmers Peggy and Brad Greenway in front of their tractor at harvest.

Chatting Sustainability and Food Safety with The Greenways and Hungry For Truth

It’s always a pleasure to sit down and open up a conversation about food and farming with South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. In fact, that’s what Hungry for Truth is all about. True to our mission, we had another wonderful opportunity of connecting, Iowa native and speech pathologist/feeding and language specialist, Andrea Boerigter with soybean farmers, Peggy and Brad Greenway of Mitchell, South Dakota to talk harvest, sustainability, food safety and animal care. They spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon together filled with good conversation and farm education. Today, Andrea is sharing her perspective of her recent South Dakota farm visit.   

This Sunday I was fortunate enough to visit and learn about one of South Dakota’s family owned farms.  I was promised an experience of learning about everything that goes into the inner workings of a farm: from the manure being knifed into the field all the way to the meat being butchered.  I absolutely got what I was promised, but I got a whole lot more.

Peggy teaches Andrea about corn in the field.

The moment Peggy opened her front door and invited me to sit down with her, I entered a world I have not been in since my childhood.  She spoke about her husband being in the field with harvest and her daughter bringing him out lunch. She talked about walking through the pig barns and being thankful it has been dry enough to be in the field.  I had been part of all of these conversations before. I had heard these words from my grandparents. I also saw the same love and passion for her crops and animals as I had seen in my grandparents’ eyes. Because to be a farmer, you have to love it.  It is too hard to do it if you don’t love it.

That part of farming has stayed the same.  However, so much of it is different. This is where it gets fuzzy for me.  This is where I needed to learn…a lot.

In my childhood, I recall a much smaller combine.  The pigs were moved from outdoor cement pads to smaller barns throughout the year to protect them from elements.  I recall all of this somewhat – what I mostly remember is when my grandpa let me bring a baby pig into the house and put doll clothes on it.  My mother assured me she was never allowed to do such things.

So it was time to ask questions.  And let me tell you, if you have questions – Peggy and Brad are the people to ask.  They are a wealth of knowledge and so passionate. They speak about not wanting to change anyone’s mind about what they eat, but they want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to learn about what they do on their farm.  I could not agree with them more.

Brad talks with Andrea about his farm in South Dakota.

Because I could rant and rave about this amazing day forever, I decide to walk you through each part of the process – just like they did with me.

We started at the house, me asking a million questions, Peggy having a million answers.  She spoke about their mission – Sustainability and responsibility. She said “It is responsible for us to grow as much food as we can with as little effect on the land as possible.”  She also spoke about how making changes to their farm are not done without great thought. They do not just throw up a hog barn, they use local companies for concrete and equipment, as well as the companies that build the barns.  I take so much comfort knowing that people growing my food put this much thought into things like this. It means they are putting even more into my food.

Andrea watches Brad in the combine.

From the house we headed out to the field to get in on some harvest action.  I had not been in a combine since I was 5. Holy moley, have those things changed!  After talking about the field and the acres and process, Brad invited me to hop on up for a ride.  Did you know they have a computer that tells them exactly where to put what?! My grandpa did not have one of these.  Different colors on their screen indicate where weak spots in the field are and where they should use less seeds or more seeds.  They are able to mark spots that have rocks and even use their technology to decide how much of what kind of fertilizer goes where.  Yeah…that is a thing! They have their manure tested to make sure it is at safe levels and then they use certain types of their manure on specific areas of land.

Along with that computer telling them where to put what, it also measures what is coming up as Brad combines.  They know exactly how many bushels they are getting from each area. This allows them to be more specific when they plant again next year.  They work with an agronomist to make final decisions on their fields, but without this technology, a lot of resources would be wasted.

Brad shows Andrea how they use technology in the combine to farm sustainably.

Now that we covered how they built their farm, how they plant, grow and harvest their crops, we had one last stop.  The hog barn. And I love pigs. I was one happy lady to be ending this amazing day at a hog barn. This was one fancy operation.  When we entered the pig barn, we came into a small office. In the office we saw binders, pipes, rules, regulations, and a bunch of buttons (at which point I thanked God my kids weren’t with me to push).  To keep the pigs healthy – and happy – they are inside year round. They are not only shielded from the cold, but also from the heat. The barn provides them with heaters, fans, and even misters in the summer.  Peggy explained that the books were all records of each health check and walk through. They have a vet monitor their hogs and must keep very specific records for the state. This assures that hogs are being taken care of to the best possible degree.

A group of pigs on the Greenway farm.

A few questions I wanted to ask Peggy were about hormones, vaccinations, and antibiotics. She informed me no pig is given hormones, so that wasn’t something anyone needed to be concerned with.  (Check that off our list of things to worry about.) Vaccinations are something every animal on her farm gets, and they are very similar to the type we give our children.  As for antibiotics, she explained that when hogs become sick, they do treat them. But they only do this when necessary. Peggy stated “Vaccinations are something we do to keep pigs healthy.  Antibiotics are different. We do not want to use antibiotics unless we need to. They are expensive and cause a lot of added paper work.” She also went on to explain that when given antibiotics, like all other animals being raised on farms, there is a period of time where the animal has to stay healthy and the antibiotics must leave the animal’s system before being brought to market.

Peggy gives Andrea a hug at the end of their tour.

And this ends my tour.  I have to say, I learned a lot.  I am not only taking away exceptional pieces of information for my own children, but so much for the families I work with as well.  I feel prepared to offer suggestions and answer questions about the process of our foods and what the best choices are for the children I provide feeding therapy for.  I also encourage any parent – with any questions – to go straight to the source. Farmers are the only people that know how the food is being produced. No one else. So, when in doubt, ask a farmer.

It was so amazing to see everything that has changed in the past 20 some years since I last rode in a combine and played with a baby pig.  What was even more amazing was to see that the love a farmer has for their farm hasn’t changed a bit.

Andrea Boerigter smiles with her two sons.

About Andrea Boerigter 

Andrea Boerigter is a mom, wife, pediatric speech, language, and feeding therapist, owner of Bloom Indoor Play Center, and blogger.  Andrea grew up in small town Iowa where she was fortunate to watch her grandfather and uncles farm as well as participate in 4-H showing pigs.  She is passionate about helping families bring peace and knowledge to the dinner table through feeding therapy and education. Andrea spends every spare minute she has exploring the world with her children, Hank and Gus.  Andrea currently lives in Sioux Falls but takes her children back to that small town Iowa life any opportunity she has.

Website: www.thespeechmom.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/thespeechmom

South Dakota Farm Animals Hungry for Truth

Fall in Love With South Dakota Farm Animals

Many South Dakota farmers would say their favorite part of farming is working with their animals. Local farm animals are well-loved by their owners, which shows in the quality of the eggs, milk and meat they create for your family.

Take the happy cows at Marty Neugebauer’s farm, just north of Dimock. Marty’s farm is one of four dairies that provide the milk to make Dimock Dairy’s delicious assortment of cheeses, curds and spreads South Dakotans love.

Marty knows delicious cheese comes from happy, comfortable cows that are fed a healthy diet. Most of South Dakota’s 117,000 dairy cows enjoy a protein-rich diet of soybean meal, 31,000 tons of it each year to be exact. This nutritious feed typically comes from GMO soybeans. Both GMO and conventional crops are nutritionally equal, and planting GMO seeds allows farmers to grow food more sustainably by using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.

 

Picture of cows from Marty's farm

 

Cows aren’t the only animals living the sweet life on South Dakota farms. Jamie and Brian Johnson raise chickens and Angus cattle on their soybean, corn and wheat farm in Frankfort. Chickens eat a diet of soybeans, corn and grains with added vitamins and minerals. This protein- and calcium-rich diet helps them laying healthy eggs for your favorite meals.

 

Boy smiling and holding chicken

 

Treating animals right means treating the land right, too. Pig farmers Peggy and Brad Greenway keep their pigs comfortable in a high-tech pen that ensures the animals have a constant flow of fresh air and are fed just enough fresh, nutritious feed. These advancements help them use the right amount of water, feed and land to keep their pigs healthy and reduce their environmental footprint. The Greenways aren’t the only pig farmers practicing sustainability. In the last 50 years, pig farmers have reduced their overall carbon footprint by 35 percent.

 

Woman with pigs in barn

 

At the end of the day, farmers appreciate having a best friend with them through it all. The farm wouldn’t be the same without the family dog. Spending time with their favorite pooch makes the work more enjoyable.

 

Man fist bumping dog

 

Farms just wouldn’t be the same without the animals that give us safe and healthy food. Find out more about how ranchers sustainably care for their cows with a visit to Shawn and Kristy Freeland’s home.

Hungry for truth meat tips

Top Meat Tips From Uncle Ed’s

When Ed Munce started cooking for family events, he had no idea it would eventually turn into a full-time business grilling up some of the best meat in Sioux Falls. The requests started innocently enough. With 11 brothers and sisters, there were plenty of holidays, backyard barbecues and weddings to keep them hopping. By 2001, Ed and his son Matt grew their hobby into a retail store and catering business.

Today Uncle Ed’s is anything but typical. The high-quality food keeps people coming in for more. Each week, 500 to 2,000 people flock to the store buying everything from 40 flavors of brats to Iowa chops, St. Louis ribs, smoked pulled pork and their number #1 seller: rib-eye steaks.

Matt and Ed buy their meat from a USDA-certified vendor in Iowa that sources animals from several U.S. farms. Since South Dakota is fifth in the nation for raising beef cattle and ninth in raising pigs, it’s likely the meat they purchase is raised by local farmers and fed a balanced diet of corn, soybeans vitamins and minerals. Soybeans are especially important to the growth and health of livestock because they provide the protein that builds strong, lean muscle.

Ed and Matt feel comfortable purchasing meat that’s been given a healthy start with soybeans. From there, it’s in their hands to create the foods people crave.

“We’re a unique business because we do most of the processing and crafting ourselves. It’s really a labor of love,” explained Matt. “We are passionate about giving people the very best.”

At Hungry for Truth, we’re all about making sure you have the right intel for food shopping success. We asked Matt to share some tips to help you select the best beef and pork for your next meal. Hint: If you head over to Uncle Ed’s, they’ve already done your homework.

Choose Quality
The USDA grades beef using quality standards to determine whether it falls into the prime, choice or select category. All are safe to eat, but prime and choice lead the race in terms of marbling and overall taste. Typically, you find the grade on the package or by asking someone behind the counter. Uncle Ed’s only sells the upper end of choice and prime cuts of beef.

For pork, only the highest grade is sold in stores so expect top quality no matter where you shop.

Age to Perfection
Just like most of us, primal cuts of beef are better with age. Three to four weeks can mean the difference between eating steak that tastes like a piece of shoe leather and beef that melts in your mouth. Look for the packing date to choose cuts with some age that are dark red in color. This is different than the expiration or sell-by date, so if you can’t find it or aren’t sure where to look, talk with the expert behind the meat counter.

Pork is easy since fresh is best. Look for pinkish color and use the sell by date as a guide. You can eat pork one to two days past the sell by date, but freezing is the best way to make it last longer.

“Marbleous” Flavor
Fat is flavor. Marbling refers to the lines of fat running through beef, and it’s key to flavor and tenderness. The best cuts of beef and pork have a mix of marbling and muscle.

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to learn more about how South Dakota soybean farmers raise the animals that produce your favorite meats:

A Look at High-Tech Animal Care

Meet Livestock Specialist Amanda

What Do Chickens Eat?

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Cover Crops Boost Sustainability on the Johnson Family Farm

Jamie Johnson doesn’t like to use the word sustainable to describe her family farm because taking care of the soil is just part of doing business. Like many South Dakota farm families, Jamie and her husband, Brian, are committed to using environmentally friendly practices like rotating crops, practicing no till and planting cover crops. They know the choices they make today have a big impact on the future of their farm and neighbors.

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“It’s important to me to use the best practices for our kids and the families who depend on us for food,” said Jamie. “Healthy food comes from healthy soils. We can’t deplete our resources if we want our children to continue eating safe and healthy food.”

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Jamie grew up on a ranch in Nebraska raising Angus cattle. She met Brian during a college internship, and they were a perfect fit. Soon, she found herself moving to Frankfort, South Dakota, to join Brian and his parents – Alan and Mickie – on their family farm. After 12 years of marriage and four kids, they are the fourth generation to take on the daily duties of running the farm.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

This includes growing soybeans, corn and wheat, expanding their herd of Angus cattle and keeping their four chickens happy and healthy. Thanks to Brian’s parents who began practicing no till in the 1980s, the Johnsons had a sustainable foundation when they began experimenting with cover crops.

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“We’re the experimental farmers you hear about who aren’t afraid to try new things,” said Jamie. “I believe in lifelong learning, embracing new practices and being open to change. Nothing stands still in farming so we have to be good at adapting.”

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For the past eight years, those experiments have yielded good crops and healthier soils. They even use cover crops to feed their cattle for part of the year to give the pastures a rest.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“We use two types of mixes for our cover crops. One is for grazing and includes radishes, turnips, millet, and sorghum sudangrass. Our cattle eat it, and it’s also good for the soil,” said Jamie. “The other mix includes radishes, vetch, and lentils. We plant it in rows with our planter after harvesting wheat. The precise placement of our cover crop in rows is a great way to prepare the soil for planting corn the next growing season.”

They typically plant the cover crops in early August and let them grow throughout the fall until they freeze.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Sustainable practices also help the Johnsons reduce their use of pesticides.

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“We do still spray to control weeds and insects, but we noticed that the more we keep our ground covered, the less issues we have. We only spray when necessary and are careful to use just the right amount,” she said.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops
hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Spending a little less time in the field means more time for the other chores that pop up. According to Jamie, there’s always something to do, but the work is her favorite part of farm life.

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

“I know it sounds strange, but I love the work,” said Jamie. “I love that we all do it together as a family. We all want to be here raising cattle, producing healthy crops, and working together. No matter the season, there’s always something to look forward to.”

hungry for truth south dakota farming agriculture organic conventional gmo non gmo family farming soybean cattle animal farming locally raised meat grain fed grass fed sustainability cover crops

Did you know South Dakota farmers and ranchers lead the nation in enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read about their efforts and dig into the sustainable practices Jamie uses on her family farm.

What Do Chickens Eat?

With a name like “laying hen,” you might think the chickens at Dakota Layers near Flandreau, South Dakota, are just sitting around all day. Well, technically, they are, but they have a pretty important job that requires them to stay off their feet. The 1.3 million hens are responsible for laying more than 90,000 dozen eggs each day (at full capacity), which means they need healthy food to fuel their bodies.

According to Brandon Gibson, manager for Dakota Layers, there’s a science to keeping hens happy and consistently laying high-quality eggs. It all starts with what they eat. No off-the-shelf feed brands will do for these ladies. They get their own special blends delivered right to them daily, which requires teamwork up and down the ag supply chain.

Brandon works with poultry nutritionist Stacey Roberts at Provimi North America Inc. to select the right mix of feed. “Feed is formulated to meet each flock’s needs. It’s adjusted weekly based on egg production, age of the hens and how much each one is eating,” she said. “We’re very precise. In fact, the hens eat better than I do.”

The foundation of the feed for Dakota Layers’ hens comes from corn and soybeans grown by farmers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that is processed locally into meal. Other ingredients depend on what the hens need to be healthy.

So what do chickens eat? Let’s take a look:

  • Soybeans. Soybean meal is about 15 percent of the feed mix and provides hens with important proteins and amino acids they need to lay nutritious eggs.
  • Corn. Ground corn is an excellent source of energy for the birds and contributes to the yellow color of the pigment in the egg yolk. Corn contributes more than 50 percent of the feed mix. The next time you crack open an egg with a vibrant yellow yolk, you know the chicken enjoyed a diet rich in corn.
  • Distillers grains. In addition to ground corn, chickens also eat corn in the form of distillers grains – 5-10 percent of the mix – which is a byproduct from creating ethanol. It turns out corn that doesn’t become a renewable fuel is a great source of nutrition for animals.
  • Calcium, vitamins and other minerals. The remaining ingredients in chicken feed, about 10 percent, are the same vitamins and minerals you take in a daily multivitamin. The only exception is vitamin C, which is a deficiency unique to humans. One mineral that’s especially essential to hens for egg laying is calcium because that’s what eggshells are made of.  

“Since hens typically lay in the morning, the shell is the last thing put on at night while they sleep. Large particle limestone is really important to make sure it’s a good shell,” said Stacy. Just in case you’re wondering, it typically takes just over 24 hours to make and lay an egg.

Once Brandon and Stacey settle on the feed formula, she sends the recipe to Darren Ponto at New Vision Co-op in Worthington, Minnesota, for testing, mixing and delivery. He makes sure they check each ingredient to confirm its quality before blending the feed.

Since New Vision is the sole feed provider for Dakota Layers, Darren is also in charge of making sure it gets there on time. New Vision Co-op hauls approximately 3-5 trucks of feed per day, five days a week with each load weighing approximately 31 tons! A missed or late delivery could throw off the egg laying schedule and ruffle the feathers of those hungry hens.

The next time you grab a carton of Dakota Layers’ eggs at Hy-Vee in Brookings or eat a bronco omelet at the Phillips Avenue Diner in Sioux Falls, consider the precision that keeps the hens behind those eggs happy and healthy. There’s no time to “lay” around when it comes to feeding a hungry flock.

 

Want to read more farm-to-table stories? Here are some journeys from the farm to your fork.

Milk’s Journey from Farm to Shelf

Meet the South Dakota Women Bringing Midwest Cuisine to the Big Apple

The Well-Traveled Soybean

Obsessed with Dimock Dairy Cheese? Get the Scoop On How It’s Made

June may be dairy month, but if you’re anything like us, cheese is a year-round obsession. In South Dakota, Dimock Dairy is known for some of the best handmade blocks, curds and spreads you’ll find anywhere.

The journey for these delicious cheeses starts seven miles northwest of Dimock on Marty Neugebauer’s farm. Marty grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle in addition to operating a dairy. He started selling milk to Dimock Dairy in the 1980s as a junior in high school when he his mother Anita expanded the family farm. When his mother retired in 1998, his brother Darin joined the operation. Marty knows dairy products don’t get any better than what’s right down the road.

Today, his family business is one of four family farms selling milk exclusively to Dimock Dairy. He’s proud to support a local business and enjoys knowing their products get their start on his farm. He claims their butter is the best ever made with the aged cheddar a close second.

Milking Process

Marty gets going every morning at 5:15 a.m. Before bringing the cows in around 6 a.m., he sanitizes the milking equipment and pipes to make sure the milk is clean when it reaches the bulk tank. Keeping things clean is Marty’s number one priority so he can send the best quality product to town.

He brings eight cows into the barn for milking at a time. Each cow goes into the same stall on the same side of the parlor every day. According to Marty, “Cows need routine. If you change anything, they won’t give the same amount of milk. Keeping them comfortable and happy is important to milk production.” He sanitizes the cows before attaching the milkers, which suction right to the cow. The milkers are equipped with a sensor to detect the flow of milk and stop pumping when the milk stops flowing.

Marty says cows have their own unique personalities and pump different amounts of milk. They can provide anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds per session, and it only takes about five to eight minutes to milk each cow. After the milkers shut off, they detach automatically and he disinfects the cows so they’re clean. Within 15 minutes of coming inside, the cows head back outside for the day.

Next, the fresh milk flows into a receiving jar and is pumped through a plate cooler to reduce its temperature by 20 degrees within seconds. It is then collected in a bulk tank where it’s chilled to 38 degrees F until a Dimock Dairy bulk milk truck picks it up.

Marty repeats this process at 4:30 p.m. every day. It takes three hours to sanitize and milk about 90 cows each morning and afternoon. In between milkings, he takes care of his beef cattle, tends to his crops and completes other tasks on the farm. “There’s always something to do,” Marty said.

Cow Comfort and Nutrition

For many dairy farmers like Marty the key to good milk production is keeping cows comfortable, giving them plenty of access to water and feeding them a nutritious diet. While Marty’s cows eat mostly distillers grain made from corn and silage, many dairy farmers in South Dakota also feed theirs soybean meal. Did you know there are approximately 117,000 dairy cows in South Dakota that eat 31,000 tons of soybean meal each year? Good thing soybeans are the state’s second largest crop.

Dimock Dairy Delivery

Every other day, approximately 10,000 pounds of milk leaves Marty’s bulk tank to take on a whole new shape and flavor. We’ll explore how Marty’s milk becomes the delicious cheese at Dimock Dairy in part two of this blog so stay tuned.

What about the gallons of milk you find at the grocery store? Ever wonder how it gets from the farm to the shelf? Read about its journey.

Hungry for Truth and Dakota Layers

Buying Local is Easier Than You Think

Buying local is a great way to support family farms and businesses, and it’s why so many South Dakotans look for local products when shopping. The great news is you don’t have to look hard to put locally grown food on your table. It’s in the aisles of grocery stores, shelves of downtown shops and stands at farmers markets. No matter where you choose to buy your food, it’s likely you are purchasing a product with local roots.

Marc Reiner is a farmer who grows soybeans, corn, wheat and alfalfa near Tripp. His family has been raising cattle since they homesteaded the land in the 1880s. They also raise pigs.

“Everything we feed our animals is grown on our farm,” says Marc. “The hay, silage, soybean meal and corn is all grown here. My family enjoys eating the meat from the animals we raise and the products we grow.”

Marc Reiner Hungry for Truth SD

Marc’s family sells his crops, pigs and cattle to local grain and meat processors. They transform the soybeans and corn into nutritious animal feed and the animals into choice cuts of beef and pork served in restaurants and sold in grocery stores across South Dakota and the U.S.

Though he doesn’t know where all the food products grown and raised on his farm end up, he knows that farmers throughout the nation no matter the size have the health and safety of consumers in mind.

Dakota Layers is an example of a business serving South Dakotans that purchases feed made from locally grown soybeans. The family-owned operation located north of Flandreau processes and packages 90,000 dozen eggs each day! It purchases 10,000 tons of soybean meal annually to feed its 1.3 million hungry hens. You can purchase their eggs at South Dakota grocery stores. Some local businesses, such as Oh My Cupcakes! in downtown Sioux Falls and Royal River Casino in Flandreau use their eggs for baking and cooking.

Soybeans to egg journey Hungry for Truth

So the next time you’re looking for locally grown foods like eggs, pork, beef or chicken, don’t stress if you don’t see a label. There’s a good chance it has a local connection or was grown by a farmer who has your family’s health and safety in mind.

Love learning about local? Milk is another food that has South Dakota roots. Read about its journey farm to shelf.

Career Profile: Meet Amanda, Livestock Specialist

Amanda Eben is a livestock specialist who works with farmers every day to ensure the health of their animals. Amanda and her husband are active in each of their family farms, helping with their corn, soybeans and pig operations. We sat down with Amanda to learn more about her career and how she connects food and farming every day.

HFT: Tell us a little bit about your career path.

Amanda: My career is in the field of animal health. I work at an animal practice in Pipestone, Minnesota, which is a veterinary clinic but also a swine management company. I work within the swine team, where we help pig farmers get the right products they need to care for their animals. That includes everything from boots to vaccines to coveralls.

Amanda working in the pig barn.

HFT: What does a typical day look like for you?

Amanda: A typical day for me involves traveling throughout the Midwest – mainly South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska – to meet with our pig farmer customers. Some days I spend in the clinic, consulting with farmers to decide what products they need to keep their livestock comfortable and healthy.

I love working one-on-one with farmers to make sure their animals get the best quality care possible. If they have a question or a problem I can help with, the feeling I get is incredibly rewarding. I do what I do in order to help farmers do what they do.

Amanda working with piglets.

HFT: What motivated you to become a livestock specialist?

Amanda: That’s an easy one. On a daily basis, I get to work with pig farmers who remind me of my dad. He is a farmer and the very reason I fell so deeply in love with livestock and agriculture. He taught me the importance of respecting and caring for animals, whether it’s a pet in your home, or livestock in the barn.

Piglets pose for the camera.

HFT: What is the best part of your job?

Amanda: The best part of my job is the people. The pig farmers I work with feel like family. I enjoy learning about the history of their farms or how they got involved in pig farming, but the best part is when I get to know their families and they get to know mine. I value those relationships because those are the kind of people I want to work for. They make it easy for me to strive to do the best in my career.

Amanda collects data at the pig farm.

HFT: Tell us more about the pigs. What do farmers do to take care of them?

Amanda: The main three factors are shelter, food and health. Unlike the past, pigs today are raised in well-ventilated, comfortable, climate-controlled barns where they stay cleaner and are kept away from predators, flies and the environment. Most farmers work with animal nutritionists to set up strict diets, which are high in soybean meal, the number one source of proteins for hogs in South Dakota.

When it comes to health, just like people, if animals get sick, farmers give them antibiotics to help them get better. Antibiotics can also prevent infections so the animals stay healthy. According to government regulations, if an animal receives antibiotics, the meat from that animal cannot enter the food supply until the medicine has fully passed through the animal’s system.

Amanda poses with a group of piglets.

HFT: What is your educational background?

Amanda: I have a B.S. in animal science from South Dakota State University, but most of my hands-on experience comes from growing up on a pig farm and working on a swine farrowing farm where mother sows have baby piglets. I also picked up experience and exposure to the industry through my internships at Ralco Animal Nutrition and Pipestone Systems, where I now work.


As an animal specialist, Amanda works with farmers every day to ensure that their pigs get the highest level of care and comfort. Healthy livestock means healthy food and Amanda plays a major role in making that happen with pigs across the Midwest. Do you have questions for Amanda? Leave them in the comments!

Milk's journey from the dairy farm to the grocery store.

Milk’s Journey from Farm to Shelf

Do you ever wonder how your gallon of milk got to the grocery store? Milk goes through several steps before you can find it on the shelf. It might surprise you that many dairy products start out not far from home. Dairies are in all 50 states so it makes it easier to have locally produced dairy products in your grocery. Even those without a “local” label often start within driving distance of your kitchen. For example, when you pick up a gallon of milk from your local Hy-Vee, it’s likely coming from within a 60-mile radius of Sioux Falls. Let’s take a look into the journey your gallon of milk takes to get to your local grocery.

Before your gallon of milk can be enjoyed, dairy cows must produce the milk. Most dairy cows are milked twice a day. The milk is then cooled in a large storage tank on the farm and, within 24 hours, it is taken to a local processing plant in an insulated truck that keeps it cold. For example, a dairy farm in Garretson may drive their milk 55 miles to a processing facility in Brookings.

After a short road trip, the milk arrives at the local processing plant and is tested for safety. Dairy farmers and milk processing plants want to ensure the milk they deliver and use is safe. Next, the milk goes through a process called pasteurization. Pasteurization kills pathogens with heat and is just another step to ensure the milk is safe for consumption. After pasteurization, milk is packaged and sent 60 miles to grocery stores in Sioux Falls and beyond.

Isn’t it interesting to know that the entire farm-to-shelf trip for a gallon of milk can take only two days and 115 miles? The next time you’re at the store, remember that cows right down the road likely made that milk that is in your shopping cart. Local farmers and processors work to bring that gallon of milk from the farm to your home quickly and safely every day.

Check out this great video about milk’s journey.

How do farmers properly care for their animals?

“On our farm, animal care is the top priority,” says Peggy Greenway, farmer from Mitchell, South Dakota. She and her husband raise hogs and always look for ways to improve conditions for the animals on their farm. Watch the video to find out what big changes they made to improve the comfort of the animals on their farm.

With indoor facilities, farmers can better monitor animals’ health, keep them from harming each other and manage their diet more precisely. Also, sick animals can be kept separate from others. Housing situations for all livestock vary slightly depending on the species. Each species has their own needs, but warm, comfortable shelter is a priority for all farmers to ensure their animals’ health and safety.

Peggy says they are very pleased with their decision to the switch to indoor housing. When they kept their pigs outside, they spent a lot of time bedding them down with straw and cleaning pens out by hand. It was difficult to keep them dry and warm in the winter. When they are safe and comfortable indoors, Peggy knows they are providing the best care for their animals.

Read more from Peggy:

What I’m Up to This Winter (Part Two)

Peggy on her farm in South Dakota.

Harvest is complete. The weather is getting colder, and there’s snow on the ground.

Although farmers aren’t out in the field every day like they are throughout the warmer months, farmers are busy running their farms the whole winter, too. To find out more about what winter looks like on a South Dakota farm, we asked Peggy Greenway, a South Dakota farmer, to share her thoughts in this guest blog.

Our pigs are housed indoors in climate-controlled barns so they are comfortable and content all year round. We used to have our pigs outside in the winter and had to spend a lot of time bedding them down with straw and cleaning things out by hand. It was very difficult to keep them dry and warm during the winter. We’re pretty darn happy they’re indoors now and knowing they’re comfortable.

Because the pigs are comfortable, we don’t need to adjust anything in their feed to give them more energy to keep warm. However, We do change their rations about every other week for the six months they’re at our farm, adjusting for their dietary needs based on weight and age.

Click the following links to read PART ONE and PART THREE of Peggy’s series. Have questions for Peggy? Leave a comment to hear back from her directly.

What I’m Up to This Winter (Part One)

Peggy holds a piglet on her farm.

Harvest is complete. The weather is getting colder, and there’s snow on the ground.

Although farmers aren’t out in the field every day like they are throughout the warmer months, farmers are busy running their farms the whole winter, too. To find out more about what winter looks like on a South Dakota farm, we asked Peggy Greenway, a South Dakota farmer, to share her thoughts in this guest blog.

On our farm, we raise pigs and cattle, and we grow corn, soybeans and wheat. Though our active crop farming is done for the season, our livestock chores remain seven days a week, 365 days a year jobs.

We keep our cattle outdoors, so the winter weather makes a big difference. Their thick coat of hair keeps them comfortable, so since corn harvest, we’ve had our cows grazing out on corn stalks. The stalks provide nutrients, and the cattle’s manure provides fertilizer for our fields. We move them from field to field, bringing them closer to home as the temperatures decrease. When we have a big snowfall, like those nine inches we had earlier this year, we supplement their grazing with hay and silage. This gives them more energy to keep warm.

Although the cattle are out grazing all winter, we provide them with shelter from the cold and snow. The tree belts and four hoop barns close to our home protect them from the wind. For the most part, they’ll stay out and meander around the pasture. If the snow gets really deep, we might scrape some snow off a big area in the lot or pasture or lay down some straw to give them a dry place to lie down.

The calves from last year have been weaned since early October and we feed them in a large lot at another farm we rent. We sell those calves in January and another farmer will feed them out to market weight. We work with an animal nutritionist to make sure we feed our calves exactly what they need to keep them happy and healthy as they grow. That ration consists of ground hay, corn silage, modified wet distillers grain and some vitamins and minerals

When the cows start calving in late February, we keep them in the closest pasture to the farm or in the lots by the buildings for extra protection and so we can easily check on them several times a day.

If it’s really cold outside, we’ll warm the calves up and dry them off in the heated barn, and then they can go back outside with their moms where they have access to hoop barns for protection.

Click the following links to read PART TWO and THREE of Peggy’s series. Have questions for Peggy? Leave a comment to hear back from her directly.