Reporting from FC Coop’s Field Trial Showcase in Iowa

fccoopOne of the biggest field day events held in Iowa each year is the FC Coop Field Trial Showcase.  We attended this year’s event near Farnhamville and had the opportunity to visit with several members of the FC Coop staff as well as guest speakers and farmers in attendance.

Todd Claussen is FC Coop’s director of agronomy.

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AUDIO: Todd Claussen (3:14 MP3)


Kent Klingbeil, the coop’s director of precision agriculture, talked about their new 1R Precision System.

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AUDIO: Kent Klingbeil (1:46 MP3)


Dave Lemke is a key accounts manager with FC Coop.

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AUDIO: Dave Lemke (3:05 MP3)


Tyler Smith is a regional sales manager with FC Coop.

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AUDIO: Tyler Smith (1:50 MP3)


Tony Moellers, a former state FFA officer, worked this summer as an intern with FC Coop.

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AUDIO: Tony Moellers (4:57 MP3)


Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer was the keynote speaker at this year’s event.

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AUDIO: Tom Hoegemeyer (4:29 MP3)


Stephan Becerra, general manager of Hoegemeyer Hybrids, talked about their relationship with FC Coop.

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AUDIO: Stephan Becerra (1:38 MP3)


Farmer Jon Halbur of Coon Rapids shared his thoughts about FC Coop and the Field Trial Showcase.

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AUDIO: Jon Halbur (4:29 MP3)


Paul Wetter, who farms near Rockwell City, gave us his impressions of the day.

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AUDIO: Paul Wetter (3:02 MP3)

The growing specialty egg market

Brunnquell barnThe egg market is changing as more consumers are looking for everything from cage-free to organic operations and John Brunnquell is moving to meet that demand.  The head of Egg Innovations, Brunnquell is contracting with farmers to build barns and supply eggs.  Currently he has 40 barns housing 20,000 hens each in Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky.  He is building 8 more this year and looks to build another 8 next year.  His goal is to have all of the operations cage-free, certified organic, non-GMO and either free-range or pastured.  That way he has the versatility to meet various consumer demands.  They market eggs coast-to-coast.

The newest barn is being built in Clark County, Wisconsin.  Like all of the facilities, the 520-by-50-foot barn will house 20,000 hens.  Two rows of colony nests with a conveyor belt run down the middle of the barn.  On each side is 20 feet of elevated, slatted floor where the feeders and waterers sit.  From there to the walls is flat floor with 25 small doors on each side to allow access to outside pastures on the sides of the building.  The pastures have dirt close to the building with alfalfa growing beyond that.  The chickens are allowed outside in the daytime as long as the temperature is above 60 degrees.  In the case of the Clark County farm, it will take three years to get the pasture certified organic so for now the eggs will be only free-range.  There are cases where synthetics have not been used on the land for three years so those operations could go organic immediately.

Egg Innovations contracts with a farmer for around 12 years.  The farmer provides the building, utilities and labor and gets about $120,000 per year for doing that.  Egg Innovations furnishes the chickens, feed and markets the eggs.  The barn is built to Egg Innovation’s specifications and the company purchases all of the equipment so the farmer gets the volume price.  Brunnquell says when you are buying for 8 barns instead of one, it makes a difference.

Brunnquell does not see the demand for specialty eggs slowing, “There’s a generation of consumers who are very concerned about the food they eat and they want to know where it came from and they want to have a sense that it is from more traditional production.”  To make sure their eggs are meeting those expectations, Egg Innovations keeps an eye on their operations.  “Last year we went through 160 on-sight audits through a variety of certifiers.”  They have full-time compliance people who work with the farmers to help them do things correctly.  “Some consumer on the West Coast is probably going to pay $6 a dozen for these eggs and she has every right to expect that some farmer somewhere in the Midwest did a great job of taking care of the animals.”

Brunnquell talks about the operation 7:08 mp3


Egg Innovations

The evolving robotic milker

Smink at the Lely assembly plant

Smink at the Lely assembly plant

The use of robotic milking machines is gaining popularity in the dairy industry.  Some see the robots as a way to keep their herd small yet not be tied to milking those cows every day.  Others see the robots as a reliable replacement for hard-to-find dependable labor.  There are farms with one robot and those with up to 44 machines in use.

Lely brought their first robotic milkers to the United States in 2000: two units were displayed at World Dairy Expo then installed at Knigge Farms of Omro, Wisconsin.  Pete Knigge had seen the robots in action in Europe and convinced his wife and son that this was the way to go.  At the urging of Lely, the Knigges replaced the original units with updated versions in 2010.  The original units were reconditioned and then resold.

Lely worked closely with the Knigges as they worked their way through converting the cows and their whole system to the robots.  One of the big challenges was finding the right feed to use in the milking stalls to get the cows to come in.  It was a long trial-and-error effort.  Today, Lely has an entire transition protocol for producers who are going to convert to robots.  Ben Smink is Farm Management Support Manager for Lely North America.  A native of the Netherlands, he moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 2008 and his current position.  “The procedure starts before they sign a contract,” says Smink.  They take potential customers to visit farms with robots to make sure they understand what is involved.  If they decide to go with robots, they start a year-long process to train themselves and prepare the cows for the transition.  “All of that is lined-up in a plan” which also involves the nutritionist and veterinarian for the herd.

Smink says the robots have proven to be a management tool that not only milks the cows but provides the farmer with a collection of valuable information to help keep the cows healthy and productive longer.


Smink talks about the process 7:44 mp3

Vermeer unveils continuous round baler

Vermeer CRB

Vermeer unveiled a continuous round baler (CRB) last week.  Developed in conjunction with the Lely Group, the concept machine has two chambers allowing one bale to be wrapped, tied and ejected while another is being formed without stopping.

Phil Chrisman demonstrated the baler behind the Vermeer plants at Pella, Iowa.  He says they have been working on a continuous baler concept for years and now technology and hydraulics have made it possible.  They will continue to refine the machine so an official launch date is yet to be determined.

Chrisman talks about the baler 3:04 mp3

From research to new products

Becknology Days_corn_plot_webBecknology Days not only showcases Practical Farm Research, the three day event every August provides Beck’s customers the opportunity to learn about new technologies, the latest research and new products.

When it comes to their growth and what the Atlanta, Indiana based seed company brings to farmers, Beck’s Vice President Scott Beck says they’re fortunate to get direction from several sources.

Audio: Scott Beck, V.P., Beck’s Hybrids (6:05 mp3)

Good growing year at Renk

Rick & Alex with one of their dealersThe corn and soybeans on the Renk Seed test plot at Sun Prairie, Wisconsin look very good this year.  Plant geneticist Rick Batty says they are especially excited about the new varieties they have in the plot.  He says when they add a new variety they strive to improve yield, agronomics and stress tolerance.  Batty says the extreme conditions of the past three years have been a good test of which hybrids can survive and thrive.

Batty talks about the process 5:19 mp3

On the soybean side of the plot, Alex Renk says the recent rains are just what the crop needs to really fill things out.  The cooler weather this summer has been ideal and pest problems have been minimal.  He also talks about the growth of the company including the expanded facilities at Sun Prairie.

Alex talks about the soybeans 6:14 mp3

Jeff Renk 2014

Jeff Renk is product manager for the company, he says farmers really need to take a look at the new varieties being introduced each year.  There is a lot of research and development going into each variety and it pays-off.  Given the drop in corn prices over the past year, some may be considering reducing input costs by not using some traits, Renk says that is a decision to be made by each farmer but cautions “if you want to control insect pressure, you have to have it.”  Another tool that farmers may consider is higher populations but again, that is a decision to be made on an individual farm basis.  He also notes that the hybrids that have come through the extremes of the last three years “will stand the test of time.”

Jeff talks about the business 9:19 mp3

Farmer ingenuity

Shuter Soil Health Solutions_Cover Crop Seeder (2)_webMike Shuter, who not only farms near Frankton, Indiana, he’s also designing and custom building cover crop seeders.

At Becknology Days near Atlanta, Indiana, Shuter Soil Health Solutions had on display one of the seeders with a 120 ft. boom that Mike designed and built using a Miller sprayer. They also have designed a self-contained 90 ft. unit that can be switched from the sprayer, to a seeder.

Audio: Mike Shuter, Shuter Soil Health Solutions (4:55 mp3)

Ohio State scientist on the resurgence of interest in gypsum

Dr. Warren Dick

Dr. Warren Dick

One of the speakers at the recent Midwest Soil Improvement Symposium in Manhattan, Kansas was Dr. Warren Dick, soil scientist and professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University.  Dr. Dick discussed the history of gypsum use and research on gypsum’s impact on crop performance.  Following his presentation, we visited with Dr. Dick about what’s behind the resurgence of interest in gypsum for crop production.

AUDIO: Dr. Warren Dick (7:28 MP3)

Discussing the benefits of gypsum

GYPSOIL founder Ron Chamberlain (on the left) visits with Brownfield's Ken Anderson

GYPSOIL founder Ron Chamberlain (on the left) visits with Brownfield’s Ken Anderson

The focus of the recent Midwest Soil Improvement Symposium in Manhattan, Kansas was on research and practical insights into using gypsum in crop production. One of the speakers was the founder of GYPSOIL, Ron Chamberlain, who now serves as director of gypsum programs for the company.

As an agronomist and through his extensive experience working with crops and soils, Chamberlain developed the belief that soil structure was a major contributor to crop success or failure and identified the benefits that gypsum could bring in establishing proper soil structure.  Chamberlain starting working with gypsum in Indiana in 2002 and founded GYPSOIL in 2006 to help bring those benefits to farmers across the Midwest.

Brownfield visited with Chamberlain about the benefits of using gypsum.

AUDIO: Ron Chamberlain (5:50 MP3)

FC Coop’s annual Field Trial Showcase is August 21st

fc coop AgronomyStrong logoFarmers Cooperative (FC) Company, Iowa’s largest farmer-owned cooperative, will hold its annual Field Trial Showcase event August 21st at its field trial site in Farnhamville.

Todd Claussen, FC’s director of agronomy, says the 175-acre Farnhamville site is critically important in demonstrating and evaluating production inputs.

“It’s broken down into 17 individual demonstration blocks that help us demonstrate and evaluate and basically ‘ground-proof’ the products and the inputs that we make recommendations for to grow crops on your farm,” Claussen says.

“These are hands-on, real-time, farm-applicable crop production inputs that we feel are important.   They’re not snake oil, they’re not pie in the sky—they’re things that should be and could be utilized on a regular basis.”

This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Tom Hoegemeyer of Hoegemeyer Hybrids.  He will discuss how corn has evolved over the last 100 years.

The even is open to the public.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.  For more information, go to the FC Coop web site.

AUDIO: Todd Claussen (2:10 MP3)