Tag Archives: cow care

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Keeping Cows Comfy Through Cooler Temps

The crops may be harvested and the equipment put away, but there’s still plenty to do on South Dakota farms in the winter. This is especially true for farmers, like John Horter, who raise animals. John is the fifth generation in his family to grow soybeans, corn, wheat and alfalfa near Andover. He also works with his parents, wife Jaclyn and two adorable children, Dane and Raegan, to manage a cow/calf operation and a farm repair and supply business in their local community.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

With 98 percent of South Dakota farms being family owned, it’s important for farmers like the Horters to practice sustainability and excellent animal care to continue feeding families in the future. So what does a typical winter day on the Horter family farm look like? How do they keep their cows healthy during cold weather? We visited with John to get the scoop on his winter activities.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Q: What is a typical day like on your farm in the winter?

A: A typical winter day starts with checking on and feeding our cattle. We do our best to make sure they eat at about the same time every day. Once they’re taken care of, we spend time in the shop fixing equipment and working at our store. We also plan for the next growing season by reviewing harvest data to determine investments in seed, fertilizer and equipment. This type of data and the technology in our tractors help us use minimal resources to grow healthy crops.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Q: How do you keep your cattle comfortable in unpredictable weather?

A: We make a plan for each situation. If it looks like it’s going to be warm, we put down extra bedding to keep them out of the mud. When it’s cold, we feed them more to ensure they have extra energy. If it is unusually stormy or cold, we bring them closer to windbreaks for protection or inside our barns. We add windbreaks and plant trees throughout the year to give them more protection out in the pasture. We are constantly looking for different ways to keep them safe and healthy no matter the weather.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Q: How do you make sure your cows stay healthy when it’s cold?

A: We work with an animal nutritionist to put together the right diet for every season. As the temperatures fall, we adjust their diets to provide more energy to keep them warm. Cattle grow thicker hair in the winter to protect themselves against cold temps so they can stay comfortable grazing in sub-zero weather.

We also rely on our veterinarian to help us treat our animals if they get sick. When we notice an issue, our veterinarian helps us diagnose the problem and can prescribe an antibiotic through a veterinary feed directive. This ensures that we only use antibiotics when necessary and in the right doses. It helps us treat our cattle safely and as directed by law.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Q: What’s your favorite part about raising animals on the farm?

A: It’s really fun to see the way our children interact with the animals. In the summer, we all check on the cattle in the pastures together. We enjoy welcoming new calves every spring and watching them grow. It’s so rewarding to be part of providing healthy, safe and affordable food for South Dakota families.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

Hungry for Truth visits John and Jaclyn Horter Farm to learn about feeding cows and keeping them comfortable in the cold.

In a state with more cows than people, it’s easy to see why cow comfort is so important to many farmers and ranchers. Read how animal care and cover crops are helping Shawn and Kristy Freeland create a sustainable future for their Rapid City ranch.

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food. 

 

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Sustainability is a Growing Trend on South Dakota Family Farms

Sustainability is a trending topic among South Dakota farmers and families. Farmers want to take care of the soil and water for future generations, and consumers want to know the food they’re eating is grown and raised with the environment in mind.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan and Jason Kontz are no exception. Jason is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise beef cattle near Colman. Morgan recently added a few free-range chickens to the mix.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Keeping up with the demands of the animals, crops and two young kiddos can be challenging, but they make time to explore new opportunities to enhance sustainability on the farm.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

“We feel very privileged to have a role in growing safe and nutritious food for families. We’re making decisions today we hope translate to better soil and healthier crops and animals so our children have an opportunity to farm in the future,” said Morgan.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

For example, they use no-till for growing all crops. No-till is just like it sounds: not tilling the field after harvest. By leaving plant stalks and roots in the ground, they keep the soil in place and enrich it with organic content and beneficial bugs. Over time, healthier soil translates to nutritious and productive crops.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Another way to improve soil health is through cover crops. These are crops planted before or after harvest that can increase organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and limit pest and disease issues. Morgan and Jason are planning to start using cover crops this fall. First, they need to test the soil to determine the right mix for their fields.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Their commitment to doing the right thing for the environment extends to the cattle barn. The deep-pit beef barn safely collects manure from cows in a large pit through grates in the floor. Then they apply the manure to their fields using a tanker truck and a drip line. Precision technology allows them to apply the right amount of fertilizer per crop, per acre.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

According to Morgan, this is a perfect example of sustainability and recycling because they’re using waste to precisely fuel plant productivity.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

“We want to be able to come full circle on our farm. We like that we can apply manure to feed our crops and then we use those crops to feed our cattle,” she explained. “Sustainability is more than a trend on our farm. It’s something we plan to continue growing for the future.”

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Did you know that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, the size of the farm doesn’t matter? Test your knowledge with this blog on the truth behind five sustainability myths.

Morgan + Jason Kontz Family Farm Hungry for Truth sustainability

Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food. 

 

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.

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.

A Look at High Tech Animal Care

Cattle have been part of Reiner Farms since the family homesteaded land near Tripp, South Dakota, in the 1880s. According to Marc Reiner, who is the fifth generation to run the family business, animal care is a priority and an important part of raising quality meat. As you can imagine, the way Marc cares for his animals today is very different than how his grandfather did. He’s gone high tech, which is especially helpful during calving season.

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“It all starts with selecting the right genetics,” says Marc. The Reiners raise Simm-Angus cattle. They choose genetics for good maternal abilities and performance that will produce the lean and high-quality cuts of meat consumers demand.

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Just like with humans, preparing for a new, healthy calf begins with the health of the mother. Marc uses an ultrasound machine to verify pregnancy and the stage of pregnancy so he knows when to expect a cow to give birth.

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Proper diet and nutrition is important during this time. Marc feeds his cows a balanced blend of hay, silage, and soybean meal made from crops grown on his farm along with vitamin and mineral packets to keep them healthy. He also vaccinates them to prevent major diseases like scour. Vaccinating the mother passes the antibodies along to the calves so they are protected at birth.

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Marc not only personally interacts with his cows, he also uses cameras when he’s not around to monitor animal comfort throughout the year. He can watch them from his TV screen, computer and mobile phone. This is especially helpful during calving. As a cow nears the end of its pregnancy, he can bring it closer to the barn and watch for signs of distress. It’s key to have shelter with controlled temperatures for cows to use during bad weather since calving starts in February.

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“Cows have great natural instincts and can usually handle giving birth without assistance, but sometimes we have to step in,” says Marc. When that happens, he’s happy to have his family and employees by his side. “Calving can be an intense time. It takes teamwork to keep the newborns safe.”

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After a calf is born, the most important things are its first meal and spending time indoors to grow healthy and strong so it can join the herd. Marc continues to monitor its weight, provides a nutritious diet and vaccinates as necessary until it’s time to be harvested. Beef cuts are sold to restaurants and grocery stores for South Dakota families to purchase and enjoy.

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For Marc, that cycle of growing food and feeding people is one of the most satisfying things about being a farmer. “We feed our animals the crops we grow on the farm and enjoy eating the meat from the animals we raise.”

Read more about how farmers and livestock specialists use technology to raise healthy animals:

How do farmers properly care for their animals?

Career Profile: Meet Amanda, Livestock Specialist

Cooking and Family are at the Center of this South Dakota Farm

Todd Hanten would put his wife, Monica’s, cooking up against anyone’s in a contest. She’s been honing her skills on their Goodwin, South Dakota farm for about 30 years.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why my employees continue to work here. They enjoy Monica’s cooking,” jokes Todd.

Monica and Todd enjoy a meal together.

The Hantens both grew up on farms and developed strong ties to the land. In fact, Todd’s family has lived on the same farm for more than 100 years.

It’s obvious they love the lifestyle, which includes growing crops and caring for their 900-head of cattle. They encouraged their children, Brittany and Brock, to spend a few years working off the farm with the hope that someday they may return to continue the family legacy. It should also come as no surprise that they get asked questions about the food they grow and how they care for their animals.

Todd gives his dog a high five.

A view of the cattle on Todd and Monica's farm.

They point out that it’s great to have so many choices when it comes to food. Despite operating a dairy for many years, Monica says she occasionally enjoys almond milk. However, she also understands how having so many choices, labels and terms on food packages can be overwhelming.

During trips to the store, Monica checks nutrition labels and seeks out foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar. She’s learned over the years that words like “natural” can make something seem premium or healthier, but that it contains no real value. “Hormone-free chicken” is another example. Hormone use is not allowed in poultry at all, so there’s no reason to pay extra for that label. She and Todd have also done their homework on GMOs and feel they are safe and healthy for people and animals.

“We choose to grow biotech crops because of the science in the seed,” explains Todd. “Seeds with these traits allow us to grow more food on the same amount of land in difficult weather conditions like drought. Many times, the traits help us grow crops in more sustainable ways, like using less products to control insects and weeds.”

Todd on his farm.

Todd driving a tractor on his farm.

Cattle on Todd and Monica's South Dakota farm.

The Hantens have seen the benefits firsthand. They know that, in addition to the agronomic value GMO crops offer farmers, there are also direct benefits for consumers, like soybeans with an increased nutritional profile or non-browning apples that last longer. They put food with genetically modified ingredients on their own kitchen table with pride.

Monica and Todd encourage people to ask questions and have conversations with farmers about how their food is grown. One great resource for those who live in South Dakota is the Hungry for Truth initiative and its website hungryfortruthsd.com. It features farmers and families who can help separate fact from fiction when it comes to food, animal care and farming.

Todd and Monica smile outside of their home.

Cattle on the family's South Dakota farm.

“It’s an opportunity to learn more from real farmers,” explains Todd. “We enjoy having honest conversations about these topics because we all eat, we all care about our families, and we’re trying to do our best to make healthy choices when it comes to food.”

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.

South Dakota livestock farmer Neal.

Do I need to worry about antibiotics and hormones in my food?

When it comes to antibiotics, hormones and food, we hear a lot of questions. Are they safe? Why do farmers use them? Do all livestock animals receive them? Farmers are the experts when it comes to taking care of livestock, so we asked local farmer Neal if we need to worry about antibiotics and hormones in our food.

“We give antibiotics to our animals when they are feeling sick, just like when people are feeling under the weather. Everything is prescribed by a veterinarian, and we follow strict guidelines set by the FDA,” said Neal. “When it comes to hormones, some farmers use them in cattle and sheep to produce leaner meat by helping the animals convert their feed. The use of hormones is also highly regulated, and it’s something we take very seriously.”

Learn more about this issue:

• Your Questions Answered: Hormones in Livestock

• All You Need to Know About Antibiotics

Have questions for Neal? Leave them in the comments below.

Cupcakes from Oh My Cupcakes! on the Hungry for Truth table.

Across the Table – Perfecting the Cupcake

Across the Table is back! For this episode, we’re sharing how to make your favorite cupcake recipes even better with tips – like how to choose the perfect butter and the best way to frost your cupcake – from the one and only Melissa Johnson, our host and the owner of Oh My Cupcakes! in downtown Sioux Falls.

We’re also on location with local farmer Annelies Seffrood of NorSwiss Dairy to learn more about raising healthy dairy cattle and where we get the butter for our delicious cupcakes. Annelies says she gets a lot of questions about hormones in milk. “All foods have naturally occurring hormones in them. They’re in everything we eat,” she explained. “In fact, the head of cabbage you chop up to make coleslaw has more hormones in it than the glass of milk you drink with your meal.”

You can also watch the video HERE to learn more from Melissa and Annelies about dairy products and baking tips. Check back for the next episode when we feature a healthy alternative for summer dinners on the grill and talk to a local dietician about the best ways to prepare and handle food safely.

Thank you to Hy-Vee and Oh My Cupcakes! for their support of Across the Table and the Hungry for Truth initiative.

 

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.

South Dakota farmers in a field with their cattle.

All You Need to Know About Antibiotics

Antibiotics can seem like a scary thing. More and more, we see labels on our foods saying “No Antibiotics” or “Antibiotic Free.” What is the scoop on antibiotics in meat products? Why do some farmers use antibiotics? Are foods without the “antibiotic-free” label safe to eat? Should you seek out foods with those labels? Read on for answers to those and other questions.

Why do farmers use antibiotics? Just like when we get medicine prescribed by a doctor when we’re under the weather, an animal may be given antibiotics when it’s sick. Certified veterinarians care for these animals and make sure they get the proper medical treatment. To allow for a full recovery and keep other animals from getting infected, the sick animal is removed from the herd and is sometimes treated with antibiotics.

Administering antibiotics to animals is not something farmers take lightly. Treating sick animals is expensive, and farmers make sure their animals are only given antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian, following strict guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Are foods without the “antibiotic-free” label safe to eat? Even after an animal has returned to health, the process of monitoring antibiotic use doesn’t end. To make sure these antibiotics are not present in our food, the animal cannot enter the food supply until the drug is no longer present in its system. The FDA enforces a strict withdrawal time specific to different types of animals.

Even before food hits the shelves, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control routinely test milk and meat to make sure producers are complying with the standards they have set. You can feel confident the food on your dinner table is safe to serve your family, with or without an “antibiotic-free” label.

Should I seek out foods with the “antibiotic-free” label? Now that you have the facts about antibiotics in meat products, the choice is completely up to you. Knowing that either choice is safe, you can rest assured that you’ll be making the right choice for you and your family.

Marc with his daughter and one of his cows on their South Dakota farm.

Caring for Livestock in the Summer

On hot summer days, we all need to find ways to cool down. Like us, animals also need to avoid the heat. Luckily, farmers are there to help them out.

Meet Marc: He’s a South Dakota farmer who raises beef cattle, pigs from wean to finish and has a cow-calf operation. In this guest blog, Marc shares his perspectives on caring for animals in warm weather and why things like electrolytes and cooling misters are so important when the mercury soars.

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In the summer, we make changes to how we care for our animals. The warm weather affects them just like it affects us. With cattle, one of the most important things we do is make sure they have shade and access to good, fresh drinking water. We want to make sure their feed is balanced, stays fresh and doesn’t sit out in the warm sun for too long. If we have a large group of animals coming in, we will make sure to put electrolytes in the water. Providing them with plenty of fluids, vitamins and minerals to get through the stress of the heat is necessary.

Our hog barns are mechanically ventilated. As it warms up during the day, we increase ventilation. When it gets above 80 to 85 degrees, we run misters that will kick in on a timer to give the hogs enough water to cool down.

We always make sure to check on our animals throughout the day. If we have to move the animals, we’ll check the forecast and move them on a day that’s a little bit cooler. If we have a situation where we have to haul those animals on livestock trailers or trucks, we make sure we do it early in the morning when it’s cool outside. Especially when it comes to hogs, we’ll put sprinklers on them and provide plenty of ventilation.

I have been farming my entire life, and I have seen farming make huge strides with improving the efficiency, sustainability and safety of what we do. The biggest changes I’ve seen are housing and technology. All of our barns are controlled by computers and software, which is technology that’s getting better and helps us fine-tune what we do. It gives us that ability to manage our animals’ health and comfort level better than we used to so we can precisely meet our animals’ needs.

Though the summer presents different challenges for raising our animals, I am proud to say that their comfort and safety is always our No. 1 priority.tech

Spring: A Time of New Beginnings

With spring in the air, farmers are in the middle of calving season. We checked in with John, a farmer from northeastern South Dakota to ask him what it’s like.

HFT: Tell us about your farm and your family.
JOHN: With my family, I grow soybeans and corn and raise beef cattle. My wife, Jaclyn, and I have a 4-year-old son, Dane, and new a baby girl, Raegan.

HFT: What is calving season?
JOHN: Calving season is the time of year when all of our mother cows give birth to baby cows, which are called calves. Most farmers in our area calve in the spring but a few producers calve in the fall months.

HFT: What do you do during calving season?
JOHN: During calving season, we closely monitor the cows to make sure their needs are met. On our farm, we check them around the clock every two to three hours, depending on the conditions. Some operations calve indoors and some calve outdoors. We calve outdoors in the pasture when conditions are good. When inclement weather happens, we take precautions to make sure the new calves are well taken care of. Oftentimes, during storms, we are with our cows around the clock. Not only do they have to be fed just like any other day, we want to monitor the cows to make sure their deliveries go smoothly. If a cow is having complications, sometimes we have to help her or call a veterinarian. We also closely monitor the newborn calves to make sure they are nursing and are healthy.

HFT: How do you make sure your animals are cared for properly?
JOHN: We want our cattle to be as comfortable as possible so we make sure they are fed a balanced ration prepared by an animal nutritionist and provide clean bedding and protection from the wind. We vaccinate our cattle and keep a close eye on them to make sure they stay healthy and comfortable. In inclement weather, we bring the calves and their mothers into barns to keep them warm and dry.

HFT: How does raising livestock relate to soybeans?
JOHN: Livestock are big consumers of soybean products. Feeding cattle and other animals high-quality soybean meal and other products keeps the animals healthy and happy. The waste from animals can also be spread on farmland to produce high-quality nutrients for crops such as soybeans and corn.

HFT: What is the most important thing for consumers to know about raising livestock?
JOHN: Healthy and comfortable livestock produce the highest quality food for your family. As a farmer, it’s very important to me that my animals are well taken care of. Farmers take great pride in setting high standards for raising their livestock, just as they do when raising their own families.

John's son smiles with a young calf on the family's farm.  John's son poses with a small calf inside a barn at the family's farm.  John's son snuggles up to a calf in the field.  John takes a selfie with a calf on his farm.

Farmer Blog: How Cattle Keep Warm in the Winter

Morgan is a first-generation farmer along with her husband in southeastern South Dakota. They grow corn and soybeans and raise cattle on their farm. Livestock are the largest consumers of soybeans, and South Dakota’s livestock farmers always do their best to ensure the animal’s comfort. Read her guest blog to find out how cattle handle the winter weather.

This time of year, it’s hard to not get up every morning and check the temperature before getting dressed for the day. Growing up in the Midwest, it seems temperatures can change drastically overnight. We can go from a blizzard warning to 50 degrees in a matter of hours. At the coldest temperatures, a lot of people bring their pets inside to keep them warm.

When it comes to feeding hundreds of cattle, we can’t really just bring them inside and let them stay cozy in our laundry room for the night. Luckily, livestock are pretty good at preparing themselves for harsh winters. Cattle will spends months before the winter hits eating, eating and eating some more. They put on weight and will continue to do so through the wintertime. Just like humans tend to eat more during the winter, so do cattle. Not only are they putting on weight, but they are also growing thicker hair on their hides to help them keep warm.

This past year, our family had an amazing babysitter staying in one of our guest rooms while she finished her last year of college. She doesn’t come from a farming background, so she asked tons of questions while living with us and was always willing to help out when it came to checking on our cows during calving season. She loved the babies! One of the questions she asked once it started to get cold was whether the cattle get cold or not. I explained that they tend to fatten themselves up and get extra hairy, but showing her seemed like a good teachable moment, so I whipped out a few ingredients in our kitchen and proceeded to “demonstrate.”

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To see how I showed her how cattle stay warm in the wintertime, check out my blog, Stories Of A First-Generation Farm Wife.

Learn more about Morgan and her husband in our Meet the Guest section: https://hungryfortruthsd.com/dev_flm_hft/#/page/23/topics/meet-the-guests/. Check back on the blog for more guest posts from South Dakota farmers.

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of Stories of a First-Generation Farm Wife.