Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not: The Feed

When my husband Steve and I bought our farm we were able to store our cattle feed ingredients in structures that allowed for as little waste as possible.  Those initial structures were put into place by Steve's grandfather and uncles as they sought ways to cut down on feed waste with better storage and proper handling.  We utilized those bins, bunkers and wooden fence line bunks to continue a tradition in agriculture that seeks to responsibly use resources in a way that allows for little or no waste.

This photo shows how Steve's grandfather fed the cattle hay in the 1950's.  He did
save some feed by keeping the hay on the outside of the pen but, we've come a long
way with nutritional research, genetics and better pen design to help cattle thrive.

I was a brand new farmer in the early 1980's with much to learn.  Growing up in the middle of the heartland with cornfields all around was not enough to fully understand the spirit of the American farmer.  I was drawn to the farm to utilize my experience as a veterinary technician to help with the health care for our cattle.  However, I lacked an understanding of growing, storing and utilizing the crops we would grow.  I would like to share with you a few things I have learned in regards to reducing as much waste as possible from the corn crop we produce each year.

During the early years on our farm I learned how to be a mom, too!  Our son,
Scott, is swinging in front of the house Steve's dad grew up in.  This was our
home for many years until the structure needed to be replaced for safety reasons.

Every late April thru the month of May planting season hits northeast Nebraska. Fields are prepared using less tillage, fertilized (with our feedlot manure), and seeds are carefully chosen to thrive in their designated fields.  The soil type, climate and topography allow farmers, like Steve and I, to grow corn well as partners with Mother Nature's natural resources.  On our farm we hold all of the water from the feedlot in a holding pond so those nutrients can be used on our growing corn instead of going into streams.  The humid summers of Nebraska help those corn plants thrive as they seemingly grow overnight. When football season arrives we begin our corn harvest.

This pivot is taking water from our holding pond that has nutrients like
nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus as well as many micro-nutrients and
giving it to the corn plants to thrive on.

Some of our corn is chopped when the moisture of the corn is around 25%.  We can chop the whole plant with the ear and make corn silage.  We can also chop only the ear with the cob and leaves to make earlage.  When we choose to make earlage we are allowing more of the plant to remain in the soil to help build up organic material.  Our crop consultant helps us decide between silage and earlage by taking soil samples so we can monitor the soil health.  As the corn is chopped it is delivered to a cement bunker for storage.  The material is packed, covered with plastic and sealed down with tires.  By carefully storing the silage in this manner we are able to maintain consistent quality with very little waste.

The chopper blowing silage into a truck.

The truck dumps a load for Steve to spread and pack.

A covered silage pile eliminates spoilage by keeping the rain
and snow out.  Raccoons can tear holes so sometimes you will
see duct taped patches as winter turns to spring!


The rest of our corn is harvested with a combine.  Generally farmers wait until the moisture in the corn is under 16% so it stores well in metal bins.  We also have dryers in some of the bins if the corn needs to be dried down.  It is important to the farmers we buy corn from to prevent waste by monitoring the corn in the bins for moisture throughout the storage period.  On our farm the bins storing the corn are located near the rest of our feed storage area for efficiency and waste prevention.


We use a payloader to put different ingredients on the feed truck.  The rolled
corn is to the left, our distiller's grain are next and then ground hay is
next to that.  We keep our ingredients out of the rain and snow to manage waste.

Storing our corn and other feed ingredients properly helps us show respect for the environment by reducing waste.  Utilizing cement structures like bunkers and fence line feed bunks allow us to store, mix and deliver quality feed to our cattle so those cattle can provide quality protein for us to eat.  Those cattle also give us numerous by-products including manure that can be used to nurture future corn plants for feed.


This is a sharp contrast to the photo at the top!  We have cement bunks to provide
nutritionally balanced rations for the cattle to eat.  They also have a cement
pad on the inside of the pen to keep the eating area free from mud.  A scale on
the feed truck makes sure each pen gets an exact amount so every speck is eaten.


My experiences as a farmer continue to grow as innovative ideas help us take better care of the land, the water and the cattle.  A very important piece of that innovation is reducing waste while maintaining quality allowing us to be more sustainable in the use of resources for food.  In my next blog I will talk about reducing waste on the consumer side and how we can all participate in responsibly using our resources for food production.


This is a Peruvian roast beef recipe that our daughter, Emily, has made for us.
Emily was a missionary in Chimbote, Peru.  When we visited her we saw more
beef heart on the menu then a dish like this.  I would highly recommend the
  "Estofado de Res" (Stewed Beef) versus anticucho (beef heart).  The ability to
export products like the beef heart, tongue and stomach improve our sustainability.


 Estofado de Res (Stewed Beef)

 Ingredients:

 2.5 lbs beef (chuck roast), cut in about 2” pieces
Salt, pepper, and cumin
Vegetable or olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped finely
1 T. chopped garlic
3 carrots, cut in small cubes or slices
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 T. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
¾ c. cooking wine
1 c. peas
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut in halves
3 bay leaves

1.     Heat oil in a pan. Season beef with salt, pepper, and cumin. Place in oil and fry over medium heat until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

2.     In the same pan, cook onion until soft. Add garlic and carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaves, and wine. Mix and bring to simmer. 

3.     Add meat. Cover and cook about 1 ½ hours.

4.     Add potatoes and peas. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

5.     Remove bay leaves. Serve with white rice.


Enjoy!  Let me know what you think of this recipe.   

"Peruvian food is so simple yet amazingly flavored with their traditional spices" L'Wren Scott

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Peruvian food is so simple yet amazingly flavored with their traditional spices. L'Wren Scott
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lwrenscot441140.ht

3 comments:

  1. It is great that you shared your experience. You used innovative ideas to increase productivity and cultivation of land. The pictures are amazing. Looking forward to reading your next blog!

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  2. Thats a good idea to re-use the waste for something good. I am glad to hear your story as i always wonder to have a home on side areas where i have cattles and pets. You had a beautiful life.

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