Through our Livestock Program, we work with farmers to conduct on-farm research, hold pasture walks and field days, and host educational events based on priorieties identified by our livestock farmer members.
Practical Farmers’ Livestock Program encompasses producers of all sizes and scales, from backyard chickens and bees to large-scale beef, hog and poultry operations. Many are graziers, using rotational grazing, forage stockpiling, cover crop grazing and the introduction of perennial and native forages into the landscape. Through the Livestock Program, we seek to help members become more profitable and sustainable in their operations by organizing events and conducting research based on member input and priorities. Current research and demonstration projects focus on grazing management; swine nutrition and production, livestock health, and recordkeeping. We also plan workshops, farm tours, and invite speakers to answer questions on alternative management systems, grazing strategies, and other topics of interest to our members.
Livestock Enterprise Budgeting
Livestock Enterprise Budget Fact Sheet can help you calculate anticipated profit or loss, break-even price, and return to labor and management.
Field days and pasture walks
PFI members host many field days with grazing topics every year. In 2013, there were field days on improving perennial pasture, high-tensile fence building, grazing dairy cattle, and more. In addition, PFI graziers hosted pasture walks featuring high-density grazing, grass finishing beef and winter grazing.
PFI has seven grazing clusters in different areas of Iowa, with over 100 cluster members from diverse grazing operations participating (including beef, sheep, goat and dairy producers). Initially the members of each cluster met several times a year as a small group, but at the request of many cluster members we now make all cluster events open to everyone. The clusters serve as networking groups for graziers within a geographic area.
Niche pork is pork with attributes that appeal to certain market segments, meaning customers who want something different. These are known as niche markets. Certified organic and humanely-raised are examples of niche pork. The reason niche products are important is that otherwise farmers need to compete based on price. That treadmill leads to things such as bigger farms and towns without people. Iowa is known as the largest producer of pork in the country. Many PFI members raise and market niche hogs as a strategy to remain viable. Since 2001 Practical Farmers has had a focus on helping niche pork farmers succeed.
Approximately 30 percent of Practical Farmers of Iowa’s beginning farmers want to have a poultry operation as a part of their farm business. Poultry operations are a great source of extra income for any farm business because of short turnaround time, and a fairly low capital investment requirement.
Practical Farmers is continually increasing our poultry programming, which started in 2009. The first research project was a comparison of broiler breeds raised on pasture. In 2010, Practical Farmers of Iowa is pursued a nutritional composition trial to assist farmers with marketing pastured poultry. Results were published in 2013.