Monday, March 11, 2013

Week 21 (February 4, 2013)

I started Week 21 on Tuesday by heading to Paradox Farm by Battle Lake Minnesota.  I know I have a lot of friends from Wisconsin who think they live in God's Country but I tell you what, the area around Battle Lake also has a claim to that title.  The first thing I did when I got to the farm was to head down to the Winter Greenhouse to see how things looked.  Which I would have to say looked pretty good.  There was an abundant supply of salad greens growing which we later enjoyed for lunch.  There were also trays of fodder to be enjoyed by the cows, goats and chickens.

Winter Green House trays of salad greens

New trays of salad greens being started
 Next task was to sample some of the various bales of hay for nutritional content.  The process is a lot like taking soil borings when sampling soils in engineering.

Taking a core sample from a bale of hay to test nutritional content

You mix three representative cores in bag
Then randomly grab a sample to send to the lab. 

After the sampling the hay we cleaned seed for sprouting for fodder and then I had an opportunity to show off my highly overrated barn cleaning skills.  Here I am cleaning out the used bedding from the chicken coop.

Even more fun than shoveling the bedding out of the coop was
driving the skidsteer to spread the bedding out in the pasture.

 Then it was back to the greenhouse to start sprouting some new trays of fodder.

Trays of fodder at various stages of maturity.
The dairy goats really like the fodder as did the cows and chickens
On Wednesday morning I was fortunate enough to be invited to return to the Back 9 Ranch.  There the owner Steve let me tag along while they completed morning chores feeding the 800 plus head of cattle they were raising on the ranch.  The Back 9 Ranch was mentioned in my Week 10 post, when we were doing pregnancy checks with Dr. Prieve.  Wednesday's visit allowed me to observe how their operation works in the winter.  Steve the owner was a wealth of information.  Everything he was doing had a purpose.  The mistake I made with this visit was that I did not bring my notebook with to record the knowledge Steve was imparting on me.  When Dr. Wika reads this post and finds that out it will probably result in a grad deduction.  Observation of your surroundings is a common theme in all of the SFP program classes.  I did however take some photos and video of the morning.  Also, even though my memory is fading in my old age I do remember much of the visit as it was very interesting.
Feeding TMR to feed bunk

These cattle are being fattened up in the feedlot for market.  The process is also called finishing.  They are being fed a TMR which stands for Total Mixed Ration.  The truck has a built in scale and mixer, so they can get each component of the feed ration to the exact proportion needed to provide the nutrition needed to finish the cattle for market.  The feed ration consists primarily of beet pulp (which is a byproduct of the sugar beet industry) and distillers grain (which is what is left from corn after making ethanol).

Our next stop was at one of the fields where they were out wintering cattle.  Last year this field was a corn field, that Steve used for crop residue grazing on the corn stocks to extend his grazing season.  Now he has the field divided into two paddocks on which he alternates feeding the feed ration consisting of chopped hay (see video) and a separate area of sugar beet pulp.  They vary the location where the the feed is placed each day in each paddock to better distribute the manure on the field.  Then they also rotate paddocks every other day.  The system is similar to rolling out bales of hay in the winter or bale grazing (although it probably has better manure distribution than bale grazing).  When the truck came to lay out the beet pulp, he drove to the far end of the field and it was hilarious watching the cattle gallop at top speed after the truck.  They really like the sweet taste of the sugar beets.

Feeding ground hay

Feeding sugar beet  pulp

As exciting as the visit to Back 9 was Thursday got even better with yet another bonus free lecture from Dr. Prieve.  This one was on ruminant anatomy, specifically the cows reproductive system.  For this lecture we dissected a cow uterus and also got to learn about and practice artificial insemination referred to as AI).

working on a cow uterus
discovered a calf embryo

AI proved to not be an easy task
We finished up the week with Sociology of Ag., Grass Based Livestock Systems and Farm Marketing and Business.  All of which will have to wait for a future post.

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