Efficiency is Key at the Iowa State University Animal Science Teaching Farms!

July 25, 2016

Ben DrescherEfficiency is always at top of mind according to Ben Drescher,  ISU Teaching Farms Manager.  There are many things that the teaching farms do to be efficient on the farms.   One major area where this can be applied is the processing of the animal nutrients or manure.  Drescher says the liquid animal nutrients from the swine, beef and sheep farms go to a 1st and 2nd stage lagoon.  The solids sink to the bottom and the liquid evaporates.  These solids are then spread as fertilizer in the ISU research farm fields.  The Dairy farm and Lauren Christian farm run their manure through a liquid/solid separator and the solids are turned into a compost type material that is reused as animal bedding this process has also shown to reduce the amount of odor something that is very important when we think of our sounding neighbors.  The rest of the compost is moved to the university through the compost facility and used as amended soil for construction projects, landscaping and flower bedding across campus.   (photo:  Ben Drescher)  The Poultry farm practices composting as well and much of their compost is used on the Teaching farm pastures. 

What about food for the animals?  Drescher says hay and silage is harvested from the university farms and fed to the animals.  Day-old bread is purchased low cost from a bakery in Des Moines and fed to the cows.  Brewer’s grain is donated to the farm from an in-town brewery and that is also used as animal feed.  The beef teaching farm’s implemented a rotational grazing system that supports a cow/calf pair on .7 acres during the grazing season.  Additional cost savings were seen when Larger feed bunks were purchased and the calves are fed M/W/F instead of 7 days a week.  This saves 12-16 hours/week of tractor time which in turn saves money, wear and tear and fuel.  The Teaching farms also  work with the Ag450 class and have fenced in some fields so the cows can graze the corn stalks through the winter as an additional food source, Ag 450 is also our source for cornstalk bales which we use to bed the animals year around. 

What happens when the animals perish?  According to Drescher the animals are turned to compost or are necropsied at the ISU Vet School where their students can learn from them in class and labs.  Teaching farm animals are also the main source of product for the ISU Meat lab. They utilize them for meat processing courses in the ISU meats program and then the product is available for sale to the public.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students are hired to work the farms and the Jeff and Deb Hansen Agriculture Learning Center as they receive hands-on work in their field of study and get paid for it.  Many times this work will qualify under the Financial Aid work study program so they can receive credit for this work as well.   Drescher goes on to say the farms would like to make some improvements over the next few years and hope to run more efficiently with newer facilities.  “We are in the process of trying to attain funding to improve and rebuild some of our facilities, currently we are doing well with the current facilities but there are a number of opportunities from efficiencies, teaching and research more modern facilities would provide."  

Lambs in pasture