Field & Feedlot

Field & Feedlot is a monthly newsletter of current educational topics written by Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach specialists in Northwest Iowa.

Apps Help Manage Data for Dairymen by Fred Hall

Plan Now to Donate Extra Garden Produce this Summer by Margaret Murphy

Learning at a Recent Pork Seminar by Dave Stender

Soil Fertility on Newly Rented Farmland by Paul Kassel

Archived Issues


Apps Help Manage Data for Dairymen

Fred Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist

At the Dairy Direction programs in December, I asked dairymen if they used a smartphone or tablet; about half did and the number of apps on their phone ranged from 0 to 15.

I’m a asking the same questions at the Dairy Days in Eastern Iowa and finding about the same results.

I explain apps are designed to provide easy access to information — data from somewhere else or data you have loaded during recordkeeping. I make a point to remind producers that we have been doing this for years. I have nearly thirty years of the cattlemen’s “red-books” in a box under my desk at home. I’ve recorded how much rain fell, calving dates, breeding dates, chemicals sprayed on fields and even phone numbers for nearly every feed salesman and mechanic that ever did business with us.

Whether you go to the App Store for an Apple product or Google Play for an Android, you have lots of choices. I ask myself, what do I really need to have the app do? Do I just want to track the butter and cheese market or find the cash price of corn at locations within 20 miles of home? Or do I want an app that will record the information I need when applying a restricted use pesticide? Knowing how you will use the information from the app is vital to picking the right one.

Equally important is knowing the information is correct and current. Apps from Extension Services, USDA, and the state departments of agriculture are reliable; sometimes apps from the local feed store or farm store is better at promoting their own products than supplying researched-based information.

The issues of battery usage and data usage will quickly get your attention. Some apps keep working in the background all the time, even when you aren’t using them. They’re pinging the internet and using motion sensors, all of it draining the battery. Feature-rich apps like Facebook and Google Maps fit into this category. User controlled apps like Netflix and Snapchat also burn battery life, but you control turning them off and on. You can generally check what apps are using the most power by clicking on your battery icon before you charge the phone and comparing the graphs.

It’s not surprising that many of the “battery sapping” apps also hog data and for exactly the same reason- they are running in the background without you even knowing it. It’s a pain, but toggling off cellular access for any app is possible. Always accessing available wi-fi removes the data usage from your phone, so it’s my first move whether it’s at the office, motel or Casey’s. If I see they have free wi-fi, I’m on it.

Whether you use a phone or a tablet, one of the things I find most useful is record-keeping in the field. Farm Logs and Field Records are both easy to use and Evernote lets me jot down random notes so I don’t have to depend on my memory.

At one of our first meetings, a producer introduced me to MileIQ. He had been through an audit and had to document business mileage. MileIQ records each trip you make, and gives you the ability to classify it as business or personal plus at the end of each month you have the option to receive an email printout of business mileage.

For dairymen, I have loaded Cow Manager, PCDART, Dairy Cents, and Hay Price Calculator. All are interactive requiring information from the user. Cow Manager requires communication with ear tags and PCDART uses information from dairy record

If you have an app that you find especially useful, please let me know about it. I’m working on a directory of dairy apps to help producers find apps that are useful.

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Plan Now to Donate Extra Garden Produce this Summer

Margaret Murphy, Horticulture Educator and Regional Food Coordinator

It’s February and garden plots are nowhere to be seen but gardening is on the mind. At last count, I have close to a dozen different seed catalogs sitting at my desk. All with beautiful photos of wonderful produce I want to grow. So it usually happens that I grow more than I need. Many gardeners produce more vegetables than they can or want to use. If this next growing season you canned, frozen or given away all you can, another option would be to donate extra produce to a local food pantry.

Hunger in Iowa is real. In Iowa, one in eight people and one in six children struggle with hunger ( A food insecure person is without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity can put people at higher risk for chronic disease, it can affect mental health with increased anxiety and aggression. For children, being food insecure has been shown to impair academic development.

Home gardeners can play an important role to help make healthy foods more accessible in their communities by donating fresh fruit and vegetables to area food pantries. 

If you are interested in donating produce, a few things to keep in mind—grow popular, well-known varieties that are hearty and will store and transport well. Food pantries have asked for green beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, potatoes, zucchini, beets, melons, onions, and carrots.

Also, not all food pantries can accept fresh produce due to lack of space or refrigeration to store fresh vegetables for long periods. Talk with pantry staff to confirm they take fresh produce and, if yes, ask for the best times to deliver. Plan to deliver the produce as most pantries are small with limited staff and/or volunteers and cannot do pickups. Work with the pantry staff on the front-end of planning your pantry donations from the garden to ensure a successful partnership.

Lastly, be sure to use best practices with regard to food safety while in the garden and when getting the produce washed, bagged and delivered.

For more information on varieties to grow for donation, download the free ISU Extension and Outreach publication Top 13 Vegetables to Donate to Food Pantries at the extension store (

Feel free to contact me if you have questions on growing food for donation. You can reach me at the ISU Extension and Outreach—Lyon County Office at 712-472-2576 or

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Learning at a Recent Pork Seminar

Dave Stender, Swine Specialist

Education is the business of Extension and learning new ideas that I can share with Northwest Iowa swine producers is important. This year, the Iowa Pork Industry Center team got the opportunity to travel to Canada to participate in the Banff Pork Seminar. It was a worthwhile trip with many new ideas and technologies discussed.

The highlight of the seminar for me was the talk from a former news reporter that now helps companies and individuals communicate with press when undesirable events happen. Truth and facts are not enough when dealing with tough emotional consumer issues, according to Jeff Ansell, keynote speaker. As a news reporter, he was trained to get interesting/controversial quotes from emotional interview situations.  When welfare or environmental accidents happen on an operation, the response should be honorable, empathetic, accountable and forthcoming, said Ansell.

The new technology session focused on sensors and mentioned nanotechnology, in-barn straw choppers, concrete construction tips to save power-washing time and more. The consumer skepticism of modern production practices was a session topic, and reaping profit by selling doubt about the safety of the food we eat was an interesting discussion. One of the breakout sessions discussed early pig care, explaining that the newly weaned stomach becomes a less efficient digester if the pig is not eating. Another noteworthy comment from Joel Spencer of JSB United (now United Animal Health) is that sick pen pigs are sometimes fed the wrong diet. Small pigs in the sick pen should not be fed a pre-weaning high milk diet, according to Spencer. The stomach needs phase two or three feed depending on the age of the pig. The high milk product feed could be more helpful to disease organisms than the pig. A phase two diet can be gruel fed just as effectively as a pre-wean diet. Key to successfully starting a weaned pig is day one feed intake, continued Spencer. 

One last workshop I would like to summarize for you is the labor workshop. We learned about a new personality testing and profiling tool called the Keirsey Sorter. It categorizes personality on characteristics like easy going, a doer, cheerleader type, rule keeper, spontaneous, etc. One other benefit from the conference was the team building time spent with Iowa Pork Industry Center staff making plans and sharing ideas for the future.  

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Soil Fertility on Newly Rented Farmland

Paul Kassel, Field Agronomist

The first order of business would be to have the farm soil sampled. Collect soil samples on a 4 to 10 acre grid. Check for phosphorus, potassium and soil pH. New farms are notorious for low levels of soil test P or K where previous operators may have anticipated a change in farming plans and applied low rates of P and K. As the new tenant, you have a choice – apply the recommended rate which will build soil test levels of P and K, or proceed slowly.

Agronomists at Iowa State University have generated recommendations based on long-term soil fertility research.

Soil test levels in the very low category for phosphorus will receive a recommendation of 100 lb. per acre of phosphorus fertilizer or P2O5for one year of corn grain production. About 60 lb. per acre of that P2O5will be used by the first-year corn crop and about 40 lb. per acre will help to create higher soil test levels in the future.

Similarly, very low levels of potassium will receive a recommendation of 130 lb. per acre of potassium fertilizer or K2O for one year of corn grain production. About 40 lb. per acre of that K2O will be used by the first-year corn crop and 90 lb. per acre will help contribute to higher soil test levels in the future.

The research at ISU would show a slight yield advantage for application of the 100 lb. per acre of P2O5and the 130 lb. per acre of K2O – but many farmers may not want to incur this cost during the first year of the lease. In this case, applying crop removal rates of P and K will nearly optimize yield potential but will not increase soil test levels.

Soybeans would benefit from fertilization also. Research has shown soybeans will respond to P and K fertilizers if very low soil test levels are present. Consider an application of 40 lb. per acre of P2O5and 66 lb. per acre of K2O if soil tests are in the very low category – to optimize first year soybean yields.

Soil pH may need some help also. Consider liming to a pH of 6.0 for soils in Northwest or West Central Iowa (where high pH subsoils occur). Soil pH should be corrected to a pH of 6.5 in parts of the state where the subsoil is acidic. The soybean crop will be the main beneficiary of the corrected pH. Consider an aglime application of 1,500 lb. per acre of ECCE where input capital is limited and soil pH is less than 6. Soil pH will not be corrected with this partial rate, but the yield potential will be temporarily restored.

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