Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Chicken Farming

For most farmers, September is a jam-packed month with finishing up hay to getting choppers and combines ready for harvest. Some may not know, however, that September is also known as National Chicken Month. For over two decades the National Chicken Council has banded together with major chicken producers in the U.S. to promote chicken sales in September. As a result, September is known as National Chicken Month. This means it might be the right time to answer the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

This past week my youngest brother Luke became a chicken farmer. Each year at Northeast High School in Goose Lake, freshman FFA members get the opportunity to take broiler chickens home and raise them until they are market-ready. Lucky for us, Luke is a part of this year’s class and now we have another species of chores to add to our list. 51 little chores to be exact. Two years ago when it was my turn to raise chickens as a member of the freshmen class, I had 50 chickens. Luke thought it was necessary to top me so he got 51. I remember I went with 50 because my older brother Todd only had 38. We always try to outdo the other siblings!

Growing chickens was one of my favorite first experiences in FFA. Being raised with a beef background it was fun to learn hands-on about how to raise something new. The biggest thing I learned was how to transport the chickens. When going to haul chickens home from the school, don’t bring the nice truck because no matter how many air fresheners you add, it will still smell like chickens as it is necessary to haul them in tubs in the cab of the pickup. And we still giggle about how many head we had in the gooseneck trailer that day we helped haul our FFA chickens to the harvesting facility. Not every day do you say you had 200 head in a little 24-foot trailer.

All in all, Iowa is a proud home to a growing broiler industry with a rapid increase over the past year due to easily accessible food sources for the broilers. Fun fact, the average American eats around 83 pounds of chicken per year. Be sure to help out your chicken eating average and the bottom lines of Iowa chicken farmers this September. Happy National Chicken Month and let's hope Luke raises all 51 to happy, healthy, finished chickens!

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Fall Time

Fall is here! Driving around the countryside you can start to see the corn and beans turning yellow and brown meaning it is almost harvest season. Farmers have been pulling out the combines and choppers to start getting everything ready because before we know it the 2019 harvest will be in full swing. Now if any other farmer’s shop is like ours at home, then at this time they have parts, tools, and everything in between all over the floor along with benches piled high of more things they claim they might need for fall. Farmers always have parts and tools everywhere. They have a toolbox in their trucks, in the garage, the main one in the shop, smaller ones in tractors and combines and even a drawer in the house that contains every odd n end thing needed to fix something in the home or it simply came in via a pants or coat pocket and is sparkly clean after taking a quick soak in the washing machine.

In a toolbox, you can always find your basics that every farmer has such as wrenches, screws, bolts, vise crips, punches, an adjustable crescent wrench along with WD 40, and of course duct tape. While those things are important, let’s talk about the other items also needed in a toolbox to fix things correctly on the farm. Before opening the toolbox on the go, remember to take a deep breath and relax because that box must also contain patience. We live in a very fast-paced world and especially on the farm, somebody needs something really fast but come harvest time it's better to fix something that is broke slowly and precisely so everything turns out smoothly. I would not want to be around that farmer as soon as that same piece breaks again and slows up the harvest for the second time. Next, that toolbox has to hold a lot of passion. This job is not for everyone and sometimes things do not turn out the way we imagined, planned, or even prepared for. Even with setbacks, I know for a fact there is no place my family or I would rather be than on the farm. That toolbox must also hold faith to tackle this job and whatever else gets thrown at you today or tomorrow.

Last but not least, remember you are a role model. Your kids or grandkids are watching and learning also. Be that great example. Take the time for teachable moments and have them help fix what is broken and get dirty too. The best lessons are often taught in the field, not in the classroom. Have a safe harvest, few breakdowns, and a full toolbox ready to fix anything.

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

ARSBC Coference

A few weeks ago I had the honor to attend the 2019 Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle (ARSBC) conference in Knoxville, Tennessee with my Current Ag Concerns teammates: Beth Lamp, Megan Clark, and Brooke Petersen. This conference shared the latest information with beef producers, veterinarians, and cattle industry professionals about the newest research in reproductive health and management of beef cattle.

This year's conference talked about efficiently managing the nutrition levels of young heifers to the use of cycling agents in cow herds. There was also a producer panel made up of large cattle producers in the Southeast region of the United States. They talked about how they utilized reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination and embryo transfers and the impact it has on their herds overall productivity.

My team members and I were lucky enough to be a part of the media team at the ARSBC Conference. As part of the media team, we worked with the American Angus Association’s personnel along with conference organizers from the University of Tennessee, Texas A&M, South Dakota State University, and more. We wrote reports about each conference session and lab sessions. It was a very eventful conference and we learned tons of new things which will come in handy this calving season.

One of the most interesting things I learned was in the lab at the University of Tennessee where a vet gave us some helpful advice about what to do with the cow's tail during birth. To get the tail out of the way and keep it from contaminating the delivery space, the veterinarian took a plastic OB sleeve, turned it inside out and slipped it over the tail. He then tied it to the side of a chute or a post to keep it from getting in the way when he was delivering the calf. This was new information to us and most of the producers in the room, yet a very simple and easy to use method to perform back home.

Also while in Tennessee we did tons of touring around town and my personal favorite was spending over an hour in the local candy shop, which is easily the biggest one I have ever been in. I even got to experience my first Uber ride. For those who do not know, it’s a newer version of a taxi but your drivers can sometimes be a little touch and go. Our first driver was great! He was originally from New York and could not believe we were from Iowa. We left him speechless when we told him Knoxville was a huge city and that most Iowans biggest outing is a trip to the Iowa State Fair. He was also shocked by all the foods we listed that can be found on a stick at the state fair.

All in all, the ARSBC conference was a very educational and super fun experience, especially for our young communications team. It was amazing to see and discuss how other producers in different states do things. Along with that, it was very eye-opening to see how the locals there differ from my small town Clinton County Iowa upbringing. As much as I loved Tennessee and their huge candy store, I am glad to be back home to my own herd.

~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Monday, September 9, 2019

Back to School

It’s that time of year again. The school bells are going off and big yellow buses are on the road. It is time for kids to go back to school and for some parents, it’s their favorite time of year because the kids are finally out of the house and back to a structured routine. As we flip our calendars to September, most schools have already begun including most colleges across the state. This means that summer of 2019 is officially over.

For most students like me, it is a very sad time of year because summer was an amazing adventure with great things happening each and every week. When school starts it means no more fun late-night adventures to the drive-in or spontaneous trips for ice cream after dinner. It also sadly means that all the county and state fairs have come to an end and it’s time to get those record books in order. My older brothers are back in Ames at college and are no longer around to help with chores. That one is the worst of all.

It is not all doom and gloom that school is starting however, there are also many pluses that come with this time of year. For example, I now can play the excuse “I have homework” when asked to help out with extra chores on the farm that I don’t really like. Throughout the summer, this excuse did not work, trust me I tried. However now when someone asks me “hey do you have time to go check the pasture” or “I was wondering if you got a chance, if you could stop by and pick up these parts for me?” I can easily reply with a “sorry I can’t right now, I have homework” and the request gets dropped, no questions asked.

For some, school can be miserable, but I have learned that if you play your cards right school can also work in your favor as well. I hope you all have a great September and if a student tells you they have lots of homework, I promise you they have piles and piles! ~ Kesley Holdgrafer

Farmers and Football Season

Football season is back in action. From high school Friday night lights, to college football Saturdays, and NFL Sunday games, the start of jam-packed football weekends has begun. For farmers, however they only have a couple of free weekends for football before it is time for them to be back in the fields and listening to the games on the radio from the combine seat during harvest season.

It can be argued that tailgating is the best part of football because even if your team loses the game, you can always win the tailgate. I am a huge fan of food, so tailgates are always my favorite! If you want to bring a farmer you have to use tailgating to your advantage. There is a lot of good things that can come from tailgating; from meeting up with old friends, playing games, and eating tons of great food. However, the best kind of tailgates are free ones. Tell the farmer this and they will be all excited because no farmer would ever say no to free stuff!

This past weekend I tailgated with my junior class at our home football game at Northeast High School. We grilled burgers and steaks, played bags, and had a great time in the school parking lot before the game. On Saturday, I attended the Iowa State game in Ames. My grandpa went with us to the ISU Alumni tailgate. It has been over 30 years since his last college game and it was a fun history lesson all day with his great stories.

This next weekend, Sept. 14th is the Cy/Hawk Corn Classic Showdown in Ames and I look forward to attending. Regardless of who wins the big game, between the America Needs Farmers Iowa campaign and the Farmstrong Iowa State advertising, it is a great showcase of Iowa farmers and always a fun and free tailgate put on by the Iowa Corn Grower’s Association. Hopefully, my dad will have most of the hay done and will get to go to the game with us.

All in all, I hope you have a fabulous football season along with some great tailgates and enjoy them with your farmer before he gets too busy in the field. Do not forget about the biggest game of the season this upcoming week as the Iowa Hawkeyes travel to Ames to face the Iowa State Cyclones. Place your bets early and hassle your friends who cheer for the other team. Not to be biased or anything but... Go State! ~ Kesley Holdgrafer