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.
APRIL 2018

Northwest Iowa Farm Labor Conference set for April 17 by Fred Hall

Spring Lawn Care by Margaret Murphy

Learning from the Midwest Animal Science Meeting by Dave Stender

Crop Planning for 2018 by Paul Kassel

Archived Issues


Northwest Iowa Farm Labor Conference set for April 17

Fred Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist

Sit down with any Northwest Iowa livestock producer - dairy, swine, beef or poultry - and the topic of labor is sure to surface in the conversation.

According to Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist Fred Hall, everybody has the solution for how agriculture can find and keep a dependable labor force, but each has a perspective for the solution that often doesn’t recognize or jive with the issues identified by employees or employers.

To help identify those issues, Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach Dairy Specialist Fred M. Hall and Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life Lori Hayungs have worked with retired ISU Sociologist Dr. Jan Flora to develop a survey for employees and a survey for employers. Hall and Hayungs are asking farm employees and employers to identify the issues that they believe are most important to bringing employees and employers together for mutually beneficial arrangements and strong communities.

These surveys should tie together the needs of each - employers and employees - and build a framework for programs that will help stabilize the workforce and build community. Surveys have been circulating the area with help from local churches and farm groups.

The distribution and completion of these surveys is all leading up to the Northwest Iowa Farm Labor Conference on Tuesday, April 17 at the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County office in Orange City.

Employer Track: The employer track registration will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the program starting at 9:15. Speakers will discuss what community means to immigrants, consistent management practices for people, animal welfare, and creating community for employees in Sioux County.

In addition, all attendees will be asked to complete the employer survey during the noon lunch. Employers who are not able to attend, but would still like to share their opinion may also complete the online form which can be accessed at Once completed, email the survey to

Employee Track: The employee track will be presented in Spanish and will run from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on April 17. The evening will start with a light dinner, and the program will start at 6:15 p.m. The discussion will focus on how immigrants understand community, and how employers can build consistent management practices for people that protect both employees and supports animal welfare. All employees will be asked to complete a survey. Proctors will be available to assist, if needed.

Pre-Registration: Neither the employee or employer program has a registration fee, but pre-registration is required to ensure that enough meals are provided. Pre-registration can be made by calling the ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County office at 712-737-4230 or emailing Questions and/or more information can also be requested by calling or emailing Hall.

return to top


Spring Lawn Care

Margaret Murphy, Horticulture Educator

Spring is the time to thwart crabgrass from taking hold in your lawn. Crabgrass is an annual grass that germinates from spring to mid-summer. The seeds begin to germinate when soil temperatures reach 55 to 60 degrees F. A pre-emergent herbicide can be used to prevent the growing of crabgrass.

For successful crabgrass control, timing is everything. Pre-emergent herbicides should be applied when soil temps (at a 2 inch depth) are about 55 degrees F. Typically, that’s when you see the bright yellow flowers of forsythia or start to smell the lilacs in bloom.

You can check with a garden center or nursery for commonly used herbicides. Remember to always read and follow the instructions carefully. For more information on weed control, view or download Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach publication, Weed Control in Home Lawns (

Spring is also a good time to aerate your lawn. Aeration relieves soil compaction. It improves air and water movement through the soil and stimulates bacterial decomposition of thatch. Plus, it can increase root growth and improve fertilizer uptake.

For lawns with well-drained soils, aerating once a year is usually fine. Lawns with heavy, clay soils and those with heavy foot traffic may benefit by being aerated twice a year (April and September) to prevent soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow metal tubes or tines that remove plugs of soil does a better job at reducing compaction than a spiked-type aerator. The soil should be moist for best results. 

If you are noticing thin areas or bare spots, you can do some early spring seeding. Rake over the area to be seeded to clear out any dead grass. Then roughen the soil to a depth of about a half an inch or so. Spread the seed liberally and cover with a thin layer of dirt. In order for the seeds to germinate, they must have good contact with the soil. Water lightly, as needed, to keep the soil surface moist until the seedlings are established. Note: Avoid applying pre-emergent herbicides in areas you are trying to reseed. These chemicals will inhibit the growth of the grass seed. Apply the pre-emergent well after the grass seed has sprouted.

For yards that have difficult shade areas, try 100% fine fescue grass seed. For more information on selecting a seed mix for the lawn, view or download ISU Extension and Outreach publication, Selecting a Grass Species for Iowa Lawns (

If your repeated attempts to get grass to grow in areas with shade have failed, consider planting shade-loving ground covers, hostas or other perennials. To learn more about dealing with shade areas, join me at the Hull Public Library on Saturday, April 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. as we discuss options for shade and the use of ground covers.

return to top


Learning from the Midwest Animal Science Meeting

Dave Stender, Swine Specialist

I recently attended the 2018 American Society of Animal Science Midwest Meeting in Omaha and had the opportunity to listen to swine research reports and symposia.

Over 500 scientific papers and symposia were presented. Some highlights from the meeting will be briefly summarized in this article. 

For the past few years, the swine industry has been discussing what is called gut health, and the different scenarios related to it. Gut health sometimes refers to stress or heat impact on the animal. Gut health deterioration in that case refers to opening up what is called ‘tight junctions’ in response to heat, allowing for the absorption of harmful passage through the stomach lining. A healthy stomach lining is relatively thick and very efficient in absorbing needed nutrients, as well as providing some level of immunity from disease. At weaning, a 25 percent atrophy of the lining is common because the piglet is transitioning from milk to solid feed. Studies are investigating ways to keep the stomach lining healthy during stressful challenges in a pig’s life. 

Another interesting, but complicated topic was the summary of work being done with enzymes. One example is an enzyme called phytase, which is valuable to the pig industry. Corn has high levels of phosphorus, an expensive macronutrient essential to the pig for bone strength and physiological processes; however, the phosphorus in corn is unavailable to the pig and reduces growth. Adding the phytase enzyme to the diet makes the corn’s phosphorus available for pig digestion. This increases growth rate, allowing more soybean meal inclusion (which reduces cost), and increases absorption (improving feed conversion) of nutrients such as iron and zinc. 

Energy measurement for diet formulation is in transition. Simple measurement of energy is no longer used. The scientists have formulas that now account for how the energy is used.  Some energy is not digested, some is not metabolized, some is lost in heat, and energy used for growth can be measured. Different feedstuffs have different energy available which is evaluated for feed formulation. For example, soybean meal has a high energy content if it is used for protein synthesis of muscle; however, extra protein from the meal can be broken down inefficiently for energy use.

Corn byproducts from ethanol plants are good feedstuffs for swine, but have some issues that are being studied. Varying levels of energy between different ethanol plants should be considered. Oil content in the dried distiller’s grain solubles range from 5 to 12 percent and the relative energy value to corn ranges from 80 to 108 percent. Research suggests using the oil content to estimate the energy value.  

Oxidation processes in the pig were also discussed. Oxidation is necessary for normal animal functions such as energy production. However, stress events can produce free radicals in excess that can damage DNA, proteins and lipids. Anti-oxidants are being studied to help maintain pig health. Vitamin E and C are examples of antioxidants. Other antioxidants showing promise include selenium and essential oils. 

Meat quality is also impacted by oxidation. The color pigment in meat is changed in the presence of oxygen from purple to red. A longer term color change in pork is from red to gray, and this is also from oxidation. The meat is safe to eat, but no longer appealing in a retail meat case. Another example of oxidation is the fat in a meat product, especially bacon. Oxidized fat has an off flavor that is referred to as rancidity. More polyunsaturated fat oxidizes more rapidly, making the product much less desirable to eat. 

The final paper I will summarize is a paper that infected PRRS into a feed dough ball and fed it to pigs. Interestingly, in that paper the pigs did not get PRRS from the infected feed.  The conclusion of the paper was that the risk of spreading PRRS in feed was very low.  

return to top


Crop Planning for 2018

Paul Kassel, Field Agronomist

Field work and planting will begin in the next few weeks. Take some time this spring to make a crop plan for each field. This might seem like a confirmation of the obvious – but the planning process can help to reduce mistakes during the busy spring months.

Write down each crop input and field activity for each field. A written plan will force you to double check crop inputs – for example -  herbicide rates and total herbicide needs. The intent of this plan is to get all the info recorded for each field on one piece of paper. Consider an electronic copy that can be shared on a smartphone or a tablet. It is important to get a copy of this to each person involved your operation.

For each field plan, consider:

  • Field name, legal description and/or GPS coordinates
  • FSA field acres and FSA number
  • An FSA field map
  • Previous crop
  • The amount and analysis of fertilizer/manure
  • Nitrogen rates for corn fields
  • Planting rate
  • Herbicide applications
  • Insecticides and/or fungicides
  • Planned restricted use pesticide applications
  • Hybrids – herbicide tolerance, corn rootworm (CRW) traits varieties – include maturity, soybean cyst nematode (SCN), Sudden death Syndrome (SDS), etc.

Some additional thoughts for your field plan include the following:

  • Consider placement of varieties. Did you purchase an SCN resistant and/or SDS tolerant variety for fields that are adjacent to fields that had SDS last year? It is difficult to predict SDS occurrence, but starting with SCN/SDS varieties will help.
  • Record your use of Restricted Use Products (RUP). Atrazine, Balance Flexx, Corvus, Aztec, Fortress and others are restricted use. A copy of ISU publication ICM-1 Integrated Crop Management and Pesticide Application will be useful for RUP record keeping. Note that Engenia, FeXapan and Xtendimax are now RUP products for 2018. There are additional record keeping requirements for the application of these products.
  • Are dicamba resistant/Roundup Ready Xtend (RR2X) soybean varieties part of your crop plans for 2018? If so, check with your neighbors on their plans for location of their herbicide resistant varieties. The knowledge of RR2X varieties in adjacent fields may help with the decision process in terms of the timing of dicamba applications.
  • Double check your nitrogen rates. The Corn Nitrogen (N) Rate Calculator ( can help fine tune N rates.
  • Double check the fertilizer value from manure. A copy of ISU publication PMR 1003 might be useful.
  • Farmland that is new to your operation may have low soil test levels. Make plans to soil test if you did not get it soil tested it last fall. Consider fertilizer if soil test levels indicate a need – especially if soil tests are very low or low.
  • Consider your use of corn rootworm insecticides or traits on corn that follows soybean. There is not a reliable way to predict rootworm damage when corn follows soybean. The decision to protect corn against rootworms when corn follows soybean likely depends on your tolerance of corn rootworm damage/corn lodging at harvest. If lodged corn is something that cannot be tolerated, consider the use of rootworm insecticides or corn rootworm traits.

return to top

Share |