IOWA LIVESTOCK FARMERS AMP UP FOCUS ON ANIMAL WELFARE DURING DROUGHT CONDITIONS, HEAT WAVE Print
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Laurie Johns   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:44

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – July 20, 2012 – Like many Iowa parents and homeowners, Ben Albright of Lytton set up the sprinkler on the Fourth of July. But it wasn’t for the enjoyment of his young son or for the sake of his scorched grass, it was for the comfort of his cattle. As temperatures climbed into the triple digits (again), Albright spent most of his time making sure his herd had access to shade and water.

“Even on hot holidays, farmers are taking care of their livestock,” said Albright. “It’s a 365-day, 24/7 type of job.”

This summer’s heat has caused near-drought conditions for much of Iowa; taking its toll on the crops and pastures. Livestock producers depend on both: grain for feed and pastures for grazing. Farmers are watching crop prices increase and seeing pastures dry up, so it takes extra effort to make the most of their water sources, pastures and buildings. According to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/press/cropAndWeather.asp), only 1 percent of Iowa’s pasture conditions are rated excellent, with 26 percent rated very poor. Farmers are concerned about providing enough forage for their livestock and protecting the soil and environment, as well.

Randy Dreher, a cattle farmer near Audubon, carefully manages his herd’s grazing systems, rotating the cattle among his pastures to allow the cattle to find sufficient forage and keep the areas growing and sustainable.

“I’ve worked closely with my Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) representative, setting up a system that provides many environmental benefits including increased water infiltration, reduced soil moisture evaporation and better manure distribution,” said Dreher.

Daily, Dreher measures how much forage the cattle eat, how much his pastures can supply and preparing himself to offer hay as a supplement.  Because of his close attention to managing his natural resources, he says he’s able to feed more cattle per acre than if he didn’t use such a system.

Over in Prairieburg in Linn County, Jason Russell is tending to his livestock, too, but he’s dealing with a different species and using different farming methods.

Russell raises hogs indoors, which means while the mercury climbs to the triple-digits outside, his animals have shade, water and food in comfortable surroundings. The barn is equipped with a 12-stage heating and cooling control system, sprinklers, fans and side curtains that can be raised and lowered.

“Raising hogs indoors is the right system for my family,” said Russell. “It allows us to successfully manage our resources and keep a close eye on our animals. The building is cool and comfortable in the summer and warm and dry in the winter time. It’s good for us and our animals’ health.”

Healthy animals mean healthy food. And that’s good for everyone when they go to the store to buy their favorite summer meals, including burgers and brats.

 

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