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.

July 2020

July Roundup for Beef Producers by Beth Doran

Concrete Inspection for Livestock Buildings by Kris Kohl

Corn Rootworm by Paul Kassel

2019 Crop Remarks and 2020 Crop Update by Gary Wright


July Roundup for Beef Producers

Beth Doran, Beef Program Specialist

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) Payments– Applications will continue through August 28, 2020 and may be initiated by calling the Farm Service Agency at your local USDA Service Center. Payments are for ag producers who faced price declines and additional marketing costs due to COVID-19. Some of the covered commodities include non-specialty crops (corn, oats, soybeans, etc.); various classes of cattle, swine and sheep; and wool. Visit for additional information about CFAP.

Changes in Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) Insurance– USDA’s Risk Management Agency will implement changes to the LRP insurance program for feeder cattle, fed cattle and swine starting this summer. Changes include moving premium due dates to the end of the endorsement period and increasing premium subsidies for coverage levels above 80 percent. Those with an 80 percent or higher coverage will get a 5-percentage point subsidy increase. Further information may be viewed at

Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Trainings Resume in NW Iowa– Major packers still require a current BQA certificate from feedlot producers selling market-ready cattle. The following five workshops will be offered to help producers renew an expiring certificate or acquire a new certificate. Dates and locations are as follows:

  • July 9, 7-9 p.m., Spencer, 4-H Exhibits Building, Clay County Fairgrounds. RSVP to 712-262-2264.
  • Aug. 4, 1-3 p.m., Orange City, ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County, Basement Meeting Rooms 2 & 3. RSVP to 712-737-4230.
  • Aug. 5, 10 a.m.-noon, Orange City, ISU Extension and Outreach Sioux County, Basement Meeting Rooms 2 & 3. RSVP to 712-73-4230.
  • Aug. 11, 10 a.m.-noon, Rock Rapids, Forster Community Center. RSVP to 712-472-2576.
  • Aug. 26, 10 a.m.-noon, Le Mars, Convention Center (Lower Level). RSVP to 712-546-7835.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, preregistrations will be taken in the order received until room capacity is reached. Preregister no later than the Friday before the workshop you plan to attend. Walk-ins will NOT be allowed. Safety measures will include social distancing, face masks (your own or one will be provided), hand sanitizing stations and materials/refreshments at each chair.  Participants should not attend if they do not feel well, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of the workshop. Those unable to attend a workshop may complete their training on-line at

Silage for Beef Cattle Webinars– Disruption in the availability of ethanol co-products has renewed cattle producer interest in corn silage. Corn silage is an excellent feed supplying both energy and roughage, but it requires management in growing, harvesting and feeding. This is the focus of a webinar series sponsored by the Iowa Beef Center, University of Nebraska Lincoln and Lallemand on the following dates:

  • July 7 – Silage production and the impacts of dry weather and limited water
  • July 14 – Making silage under adverse conditions
  • July 28 – Tips and tricks for silage pile construction
  • Aug. 4 – Silage feeding, management for beef in the current environment

All webinars will be 12:30-1:30 p.m. Participants must sign up for each webinar at

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Concrete Inspection for Livestock Buildings

Kris Kohl, Ag Engineering Specialist

Summer is a great time to do a thorough inspection of your concrete in confinement buildings. Start with a thorough cleaning of the building so you can see everything, especially the beams and bottoms of the slats.

The changes in feeding pigs high distiller’s grain diets have led to higher sulfur contents in manure which is resulting in higher hydrogen sulfide levels in livestock buildings. When this gas is combined with moisture in the building it becomes sulfuric acid (which is battery acid) that is very corrosive to steel. Cracks in the concrete allow the sulfuric acid to rust the rebar, destroying the properties of reinforced concrete. The rust molecule is much bigger than the iron molecule it replaces, and it will continue to break the concrete away from the steel like frost heave in the winter. Concrete has very high compressive strength but low-tension strength so the rebar is placed where the tension loads are high, but because it is subject to corrosion, it must be protected with 2-3 inches of concrete. If the rebar moves during the pour it can get close to the edges where it will begin to rust.

When inspecting, look at each beam column joint for cracks. Cracks along the length of the beams and slats indicate that the steel rebar is starting to rust and corrode and should be replaced by the next term of the building. Cracks that are radiating up at an angle from the column beam corners indicate a concrete shear failure and will result in a catastrophic failure without much warning. The joints of the beams need to be in the middle of the columns. Most of the failures that have been observed occur when beams are not centered above the column. Because most beams are a standard 10-feet long, one error in column placement often results in a whole row of beams being off center, which leads to multiple failures.

Slats are the easiest to inspect because they are easier to see. Cracks along the side and bottom of a single slat indicate that the rebar is corroding, and the slats will need to be replaced within a year or so. If several slats are showing the same cracks, the situation is more critical and should be replaced as soon as possible. 

Well maintained concrete should last the lifespan of the building. The current situations with higher loads from heaver pigs reminds all of us why we should expect the unexpected.

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Corn Rootworm

Paul Kassel, Field Agronomist

Corn rootworm damage may be evident by late-June. Erin Hodgson, ISU Extension and Outreach Entomologist, offers the following advice.

  • Check a few areas in the field for corn rootworm damage.
  • Dig an 8-inch cube of soil around the corn plant.
  • Break apart the root cubes over a black garbage bag – the off-white colored larvae will show up in contrast to the black background. Or, you can place the root cubes in a five-gallon pail of water. The larvae will float to the top.

There is not a good threshold to determine the amount of rootworm feeding damage; however, if you find more than three larvae per plant, that is cause for concern. The following are some field situations where it is good advice to check for rootworm damage:

  • Hybrids with Agrisure RW, Herculex CRW, Yieldgard Rootworm or other rootworm transgenic traits are performing as expected.
  • Corn following soybean fields that do not have rootworm insecticide treatments or corn hybrids with transgenic rootworm traits. This is referred to as extended diapause of the northern corn rootworm.
  • Corn on corn fields with corn rootworm insecticide and/or transgenic traits.  Check for the general performance of your management treatments.

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2019 Crop Remarks and 2020 Crop Update

Gary Wright, Farm Management Specialist 

Though the crop year 2020 is well underway, let’s speak to some final thoughts regarding the 2019 crop year. WASDE continues to show only estimates for the 2019 crop year harvest results, mostly because (a) for government program purposes, the 2019 marketing year does not end until August 31, 2020; and (b) northern plains (SD, ND and MN) harvest results are still subject to slight adjustment. Notwithstanding, a couple hangovers must not be forgotten:

  • Crop Size/Supply: Corn: estimated at approximately 7 percent below (approximately 1.0 billion bushels) the record 2016-17-18 harvests; Soybeans: with lower production of approximately 871 million bushels (~ 20 percent), soybean ending stocks are approximately half of the 2018 crop year;
  • Moisture – harvest conditions resulted in higher moisture levels for stored corn; and
  • Lower Prices/Demand – trade/tariff challenges (largely China/soybeans) and COVID-19 adversities, including softer ethanol use, have contributed to below operating breakeven prices with projected ending.

Grain marketers will be seeing the weighty corn and moderately bullish soybean ending stocks which contributed to the USDA keeping their earlier-projected marketing year corn and soybeans average per bushel at $3.60 and $8.50, respectively. While watching closely grain quality, producers must continue to look for small pre-harvest price boosts and/or a narrowing basis from local users to afford 3-5 cents. When cash flow projections demand, the 2018 farm bill did afford an appreciation to the corn ($2.20) and soybean ($6.20) per bushel loan rates at a lower cost of capital.

Unlike 2019, the 2020 crop year mostly offered good reported planting outcomes in Northwest Iowa due to satisfactory weather patterns. As current crop weed management practices are finalized, keen marketers should consider for 2020-21:

  • Corn Ending Stocks – with trendline yields returning, the 2020 corn carryout is projected to exceed 3 billion bushels; season-average USDA prices are projected 40 cents lower ($3.20/bushel); and
  • Soybeans Ending Stocks – following a 16 percent production increase over last year (568 million bushels) and modestly optimistic demand forecasts, the soybean carryover is projected 30 percent lower (175 million bushels); USDA still cut their projected season-average price 30 cents to $8.20/bushel.

Grain marketing strategies are recommended similar to last year, looking for even modest price appreciation or basis move gains. Even when on-farm storage is available, strongly consider further legging-into pre-harvest sales. Research shows that long-range farm operations’ success is more likely when developing and following a marketing plan. When borrowed capital is required, the USDA commodity loan rate seems to offer best option.

Decision-Making 101

Certainly, $5 corn and $10 soybeans, $125 fats and 90 cent hogs would make ag decisions easier. The below remarks are shared in light of commodity market outlooks. In every respect, the themes below focus upon two key elements: accurate records and the factors for which you have control.

If you read my regular blogs, you may recall seeing links to Ag Decision Maker ( If you need help applying any of the over 300 templates, please call and let’s talk. In light of tighter overall margins, it is very important for the producer to gain a sufficient understanding of their own by-enterprise, operating break-evens.

In the meantime, be looking for upcoming ISU Extension and Outreach Farm Management Specialist meetings. Your objective research-based Iowa land-grant university remains open for the best in education. Twelve sessions in Northwest Iowa are scheduled from Aug. 4 to Aug. 19. Critically important topics will include:

  • Farmland Leasing Arrangements – cash lease rate analysis for the tenant and landowner
  • Farmland Valuation Trends – ISU Extension and Outreach, USDA, Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and Iowa Realtors
  • Costs of Farming – Operator or Custom

Though most of the readers, will quickly give up government assistance to competitive markets, at these meetings we’ll also review most-recent net farm income results and projections, including the impacts from USDA programs tied to COVID-19 economies. I hope you will consider attending these educational offerings. Contact me or your county ISU Extension and Outreach office for more details.

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