Last week I spent a day helping out with Farm Tours. If you remember, Ag United and CommonGround here in South Dakota have been doing a few every summer.
And, they just keep getting better and better.
We started off the day visiting two confinement facilities. When I say confinement facilities I mean buildings where animals were housed.
Benefits of housing animals inside a building:
– Manure control
– Sickness control
– Protection from the elements (snow, rain, heat)
– Less dust
– Protection from pests (If you are a smaller animal- like a chicken)
The two buildings we toured have pits under the buildings. Which mean that the manure slides through slats in the floor and is completely contained under the building. Then, once or twice a year the manure is pumped out and spread with a liquid manure spreader. This is great for manure management and because you are pumping the manure out and spreading it on your fields it also saves on fertilizer application costs. Sustainable agriculture at its finest.
First up was a hog confinement building. I didn’t venture inside because we had quite a few women on the tour and I was more than happy to let them see everything first. Below is the Roling family in the background with their three adorable kids, who did a great job showing us their jobs on the farm!
The next building, however, did catch my eye because it was a beef confinement building. And since we raise a lot of beef this seemed more up my alley.
A few years ago we had a building collapse (click to see photos) at our place from all the snow (it was empty, remember?) and ever since then we have played with a few ideas about what to put in its place. If anything at all. So, seeing a new beef confinement up close really let me have more of an idea so that when we go to make the decision of what we will be doing in our backyard I will feel much more educated and confident.
The beef confinement was relatively new and feeding beef cattle was something new to the family so they were very honest in saying “They were still learning…” which I really, really appreciated. I had a long conversation with the patriarch of the family about the pros and cons of the building, what they fed and why they fed it, and of course the inevitable drought from last year and the crazy rain we have been having this year.
Next up we stopped for lunch at Stiefvater’s Farm. Talk about beautiful! Their shop was so clean! And decorated beautifully (as a shop can get) for the luncheon. In 2011 there was a strong gust of wind and their farm was destroyed. Flattened. It was amazing to see the pictures and see the transformation of what it is now today. It was beautiful then, and beautiful now! Thanks Stiefvater’s for hosting our lunch!
We ended the day driving just down the road and toured a Dairy facility. I was pretty excited about this one as this is the first “big” dairy I had ever been in. College classes was my last one and that one was teeny tiny compared to this one that boasts milking over 1,500 head. They have 16 employees and milk 24 hours a day! Holy Dairy!
Every day dairy cows walk into this facility, turn, back up, and stand patiently to be relieved of their milk. For you moms out there I am sure you remember the feeling of needing to be relieved. These girls know exactly what to do and how it gets done.
And of course we couldn’t leave without visiting the babies….
And the Vanwinkle family. Who coincidentally both grew up on beef farms and now are the owners of 6,000 head of dairy cows. So thankful they let us tour their farm!
I was asked to be a part of the tours to act as an “expert” in the agricultural industry. I answered questions about beef, family operations, tax terms of family farms, hormones in milk and beef, what we feed cattle, the difference between grass fed and beef fed beef…and tons more I can’t think of tonight. But, I had a great day answering questions and I enjoyed connecting with so many Moms in the Sioux Falls area!