Tag Archives: animal feed

Prairie Hay Chores…

Last week the Feed Yard Foodie family (actually Matt, our foreman Doug, and I) took care of the yearly accumulating of our prairie hay bales. We bale extra prairie hay during the summer in order to have for horse and cattle feed in the winter months.

Matt and I prefer to engage our *free labor* in the form of our daughters to help with the manual labor associated with throwing small square hay bales, but this year all three girls were gone. It’s a good thing that Matt and I remain fit and strong…

The weekly video up on YouTube from Feed Yard Foodie comes in the form of “How do farmers feed their animals?” and recaps our afternoon building muscle to ensure that our animals have winter feed 🙂

Happy Summer from our farm to your family!

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Filed under General, Video Fun on the Farm

Small Squares…

I have always loved horses.  As I little girl, I had a typical infatuation with the big beautiful animals.  I dreamed of one day having my own.

Matt and I moved to Nebraska more than 15 years after my first horse ride as a vacationer in the mountains of Montana.  As an adult, I put the dreams of having my own horse on hold for another nine years after changing my address to the Cornhusker State.  I had set my sights on learning how to manage a cattle feed yard, and that was no small task for the East Coast urbanite.

"The Boys" and I...

“The Boys” and I…

My favorite farmer grumbled quite a little bit when I brought “my boys” home the summer of 2006.  He worried that caring for them would add too much to my work load.  In addition, he lamented the amount of feed that was required to keep the boys in good shape.

Over the years, Matt has mellowed toward the horses.  He now affectionately calls them my “knot heads”, and does a great job growing the feed that they need.  I graze them on grass in the summer, and an alfalfa field in the winter.  When the winter weather gets especially cold, I supplement the boys with alfalfa dehy pellets and baled prairie hay.

We put the prairie hay up in small square bales that weigh 50-60 pounds.  Gathering the bales and bringing them home is always an interesting chore!

One of the places that we grow prairie hay grass is on pivot corners where we must grow a dry-land (non-irrigated) crop...

One of the places that we grow prairie hay grass is on pivot corners where we must grow a dry-land (non-irrigated) crop…

8 small square bales of prairie hay waiting to be picked up and placed on a trailer...

8 small square bales of prairie hay waiting to be picked up and placed on a trailer…

The tractor and hay implement picks up the sets of 8 bales and places them on the trailer...

The tractor and hay implement picks up the sets of 8 bales and places them on the trailer…

Megan and Matt helping to place the bales...

Megan and Matt helping to place the bales…

The pile got pretty high!

The pile got pretty high!

The horses will be well fed this winter, and some of this hay will also go to the feed yard...

The horses will be well fed this winter, and some of this hay will also go to the feed yard…

Baling prairie hay (grass hay) that we are unable to graze allows us to make good use of our resources.  Prairie hay is great feed for both horses and cattle.  It also provides a way for our farm to make a sustainable cycle.

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Filed under Farming, General

My Haymaker…

My Haymaker and his trusty side-kick…

Cozad, Nebraska is rumored to be the “alfalfa capitol of the world”.  Our school mascot is “the Haymakers”.  As our name demonstrates, we are a rural farming community.

The home field…

My husband is a Haymaker through and through.  Not only did he play football on this field and set records on this track, but he is a “professional haymaker” on our farm.

Matt’s school record in the 200 meters held for 21 years until a new dynamo runner broke it last year…

So, outside of being Cozad’s team mascot, what exactly is a Haymaker?

In farming language, hay can mean many things…In my husband’s vocabulary, hay means alfalfa and a haymaker is an alfalfa farmer.  Alfalfa is a perennial legume plant that can be harvested for 5-8 years after planting.  It is a high protein forage (17-19%), and has an excellent amino acid profile.  In other words, alfalfa provides the essential amino acids that animals require, but can not synthesize on their own.  It also has a high level of soluble fiber which is important for animal digestive health.

The leaves provide the protein and the amino acids—the stem provides the fiber…

Because it is a legume, alfalfa takes the nitrogen out of the air and makes it available to the plant so that no nitrogen fertilizer is necessary for its growth.  When the alfalfa dies, it also leaves residual nitrogen in the soil which helps to fertilize the next crop.  My husband starts harvesting mature alfalfa about the 1st of May and hopes to get four cuttings (harvests) of the plant during the growing season which ends in October.

This is a swather–which is the machine that cuts the alfalfa. It is like a big lawn mower and places the cut alfalfa in windrows (strips) down the field.

After the cut alfalfa has laid in rows on the field for several days (which allows the sun to dry it), the chopper picks up the alfalfa, cuts it into small pieces, and deposits it into a truck.

The chopper is really big which allows it to pick up and chop up to 50 feet of cut alfalfa…

The trucks transport the cut up alfalfa from the field to the alfalfa dehydration plant where it is further dried and compressed into animal feed pellets.

The alfalfa dehy pellets are both easy to store and easy to ship…

While I feed some of Matt’s alfalfa (in the form of big bales instead of pellets) at the feed yard, much of what he grows and dehydrates is shipped to feed animals all over the world.  From cattle to chickens to horses to gerbils to zoo animals—alfalfa is a great animal feed.My haymaker has traded his football and track shoes for work boots, and has become a true alfalfa farmer…

A hurdler and two distance runners…The legacy continues!

Our girls are loyal Cozad Haymakers and have their eyes locked on one day holding their own track records—Matt and I hope that one of them will also set their sights on transitioning from a Cozad Haymaker to an alfalfa farmer to continue our family tradition…

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The Mission Statement…

My husband, Matt, took courses at Tuck Business School as a part of his M.S. graduate degree in Engineering Business.  As an undergraduate psychology major, I always found the “team building” information that he brought home from his business classes interesting.  I remember one day when he brought home ideas and information about developing your company’s Mission Statement.

Engineer-Businessman-Farmer-Daddy...

I hold weekly crew meetings at the feed yard in an effort to improve our communication and team work.  We often talk about what our priorities are and how we hope to best achieve them.  I am a believer in taking the time it takes to do all of the little things right and I place a huge emphasis on details as my guys and I care for our animals.

Every once in a while, at one of our weekly meetings, I will ask my guys “What is our goal?  What do we do here?”  Two of my three guys will roll their eyes and mutter something about having a woman psychologist as a boss lady, but my foreman invariable rises to the occasion and remarks: “We focus on doing all of the little things right because it makes a difference.  We focus on quality care and we get good results.”  YES!

Although I have never taken the time to develop an official written Mission Statement, it is something that I often think about.  I have a sign posted along the highway that runs just south of the feed yard—it has distinct Mission Statement components to it…

Generations of caring hands make a promise which allows for a sustainable legacy...

The past few posts have revolved around environmental stewardship and how Matt and I use the resources on our farm to not only produce beef but to provide long term sustainability for our land.  While growing crops and grass, feeding cattle to provide beef, and maintaining a healthy nutrient value to our soil are all integral pieces to this sustainability; there are some other pieces of the puzzle that are necessary to live up to the promise on my sign…

*Utilization of grass land to convert inedible human nutrients into human food…

*Use of co-products from other industries to feed to the cattle to increase efficiency and limit waste…

*Paying close attention to details in cattle care to ensure both animal comfort and feed efficiency performance–Revisiting mental, emotional, and physical fitness as it relates to cattle well being and how that impacts the environmental footprint of the farm…

We will look at each of these components next week with the help of my two favorite blondes!


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Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General