Published Dec 5, 2014

Livestock farmers put their thinking caps on!

By Meghan Filbert


I asked farmers to bring their ideas to the livestock program planning meetings and they did just that! In mid-November, I traveled to every corner of Iowa to visit with livestock farmers. 29 farmers attended one of five brainstorming sessions and almost 200 ideas were generated for future PFI programming and outreach. I now have plenty of fodder that will keep me ruminating for the next few years!

There were several topics that came up again and again. Here’s a list of ideas that were of high priority to the attendees:

1. Grazing cover crops. Farmers are interested in continued cover crop programming and research. Specifically, how can grazers partner with row croppers to plant and graze cover crops?

2. Bus trip to Burleigh County, ND. Almost everybody wants to visit Gabe Brown’s farm. There was talk of traveling to Neil Dennis’ farm as well.

3. Meat marketing. Farmers want to learn more about meat pricing, direct versus wholesale and ethnic/religious markets.

4. Non-GMO feed. Consumers are asking for non-GMO fed animals and livestock producers want to respond.

5. Grass-fed beef genetics. Grazers are interested in breed selection and genetics for grass finishing cattle.

6. Apple cider vinegar. There is interest in how to make and use ACV in the diet of all livestock species.

7. Water management. Farmers want to learn about water retention, minimizing runoff and maximizing infiltration for pasture productivity.

8. Livestock handling. There is interest in a handling workshop, facility design and bringing in some experts to speak on this topic.

I’m privileged to have had the opportunity to listen to farmers discuss their interests and needs. We will be preparing for our 2015 field days after the annual conference, so keep an eye out for more localized events on the topics listed.

I should mention that each meeting was followed by a pasture walk in below freezing temperatures. Despite the weather, we saw some amazingly lush pasture and discussed winter feeding and watering strategies. Thank you to the hosts who invited us to their farms!

Not able to make a meeting? I’d like to hear if these ideas are in line with your priorities. If you have additional ideas for field days, speakers, events or on-farm research, please send me an email. Let’s keep this brainstorming session going


Cattle grazing corn stalks near Akron.


Curious cows on fall pasture.

Curious cows on fall pasture.