I love the Farm Progress Show. Within three days, I get to see more new products and ideas than I do the rest of the year.
Just try walking the show grounds without getting excited about this industry. Your chest just puffs up with pride. When you're part of an industry that feeds the world every day, it’s contagious.
I love it even more when I see new ideas implemented on a successful farm. This evening, I witnessed just such a scenario at beef producer (and Wallaces Farmer Master Farmer) Bill Couser’s Nevada, Iowa farm. Couser has implemented numerous sustainable and economical practices on his farm.
For instance, he recently added capacity to his finishing operation. He chose a sloped-roof building. When you walk up to it, it looks a bit odd. It has a 26-degree roof with a deeply bedded section that starts about one third of the way back from the feeding trough. The roof is angled to take advantage of winter sun, yet minimize the effects of the summer heat. During this summer’s 110-degree-F days, it was only 90 degrees F back in the bedded area. Very cool.
Couser is also involved in a corn stover feeding program in partnership with John Deere, ADM, Monsanto and Iowa State University. He takes delivery of ground stover and blends it with a mix of water and calcium hydroxide.
Monsanto’s Steve Peterson says the key is letting the feed marinate for five to seven days. During that time, the pile will heat up to 150 degrees F as the calcium hydroxide breaks down the bonds in the cellulosic material, which makes it more digestible. From there, it’s blended into the feed ration, where it replaces a significant portion of corn.
According to university trials, the value per finished steer on a typical corn finishing diet was $90 per head. Peterson says with the stover blend, the value goes up to $118 per head. As corn pushes toward $8 per bushel, the economics are even better. Plus, the stover feed blends well with DDGs, which add the protein component of the ration, Peterson says. The calcium-hydroxide-treatment process also works with cover crop residue.
When CEOs and presidents stand behind a podium and talk about feeding and fueling the world, ag editors dutifully take down their comments and report them to the farm community. When you can actually see these concepts working, it’s incredible.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when folks toss around global population numbers. But, when you see someone like Bill Couser integrating food and fuel in a sustainable manner, you begin to realize, “Hey, we can do this.” And that is why I absolutely love the “Super Bowl of Ag.”