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CASE STUDY A Mixed Crop and Livestock Farm in Southwest Iowa: The BreDah! Farm THE BREDAHL FARM IS OCATED N ADAIR COUNTY in southwestern Iowa, 4 miles south and 2 miles east of Fontanelle and about 60 miles southwest of Des Moines. The elevation is approximately 1,200 feet. The farm com- prises 160 acres and has been in the BreDah] family since 1927 (Table 1~. Clark BreDahT began operating the farm in 1974; he and his wife, Linda, currently cash-rent it from his mother. BreDah] has rented more land nearby, usually for hay and pasture, but until recently he felt that it would not be profitable to expand further, given the prevailing low commodity prices. In 1987, however, he planned to rent 160 acres of land on a crop-share basis for grain and forage production because he believed that it would add to his net income. Like many farmers in Iowa, Clark BreDahT is an agricultural college grad- uate; Linda BreDah! teaches school full-time and, because of teaching schedules, is available for limited farming activities during most of the year and full-time farming in the summer. GENERAL DATA In some respects, Clark BreDahT farms as his father did, using crop rota- tions and strip cropping. He raises about 35 to 40 acres of corn, 35 to 40 acres of soybeans, 20 acres of alfalfa, and 20 to 30 acres of pedigreed oats for seed (the oats are sold as either registered or certified seed, depending on the opportunity). The basic livestock enterprise is two flocks of sheep. One is a flock of 40 registered Rambouillet ewes, and the other is a flock of 130 commercial ewes of Rambouillet x Finn breeding (Finnish Landrace). These commercial ewes are bred to Suffolk rams to produce three-breed crosses for the sTaugh- 266

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THE BREDAHL FARM TABLE 1 Summary of Enterprise Data for the BreDahl Farm 267 Category Description Farm size 160 acres, 300-500 ewes and lambs, 30-50 cattle, 10-20 sows Labor and All management, which is intensive because of the highly management diversified operation, is provided by the farmer. Farm labor is practices provided entirely by the family, except at haying, lambing, and shearing times, when additional laborers are hired. The farmer's wife works off-farm as a teacher. Livestock management Cattle and sheep glean fenced corn fields and feed on turnips in practices fall and winter. Marketing strategies Oats sold as seed bring double the feed price. Soybeans are sold on the regular market. Corn and hay are fed to livestock. Beef and sheep are sold on the regular market. Weed control practices The farmer uses ridge tillage, controlled burning, and rotary hoeing (both preemergence and weekly for 4 weeks). Disk cultivation is also used if weeds become a problem. Spot spraying with glyphosate or paraquat is used to control thistle or morning glory. Insect and nematode The farmer reports no problems with insects or nematodes. control Animals consume crop residues, and the fields are usually kept in a 5-year rotation. Disease control No disease problems were mentioned. practices Soil fertility The farm's typical rotation is corn-soybeans-corn-oats-alfalfa (1 or management 2 years). Turnips are sometimes planted with oats. A small amount of commercial fertilizer is applied to first-year corn after alfalfa (sometimes 20-40 pounds N. up to 30 pounds P2O5, and 30 pounds K2O, closely following university recommendations). In addition, 80-120 pounds N are applied to corn after soybeans. Manure is applied prior to planting oats. Irrigation practices None Crop and livestock Corn yield averages are about 100-120 bushels/acre; soybeans yields yield 35-40 bushels/acre. Financial performance Costs are reduced by the use of on-farm resources (feeds, nitrogen fixation, operator labor) rather than relying on purchased inputs. The farm's cash flow obviates the need for borrowed capital. Net returns from the farm are adequate to support the family during most years. ter lamb market. Some of the F x R crossbred female lambs are sold for breeding purposes, and usually 100 to 300 additional feeder lambs are purchased to finish for slaughter. As opportunities arise, the BreDahIs may purchase 30 to 50 feeder cattle annually. The swine enterprise on the farm consists of a herd of 10 to 20 white (usually Yorkshire) sows in a farrow-to-finish system. The BreDahIs move in and out of swine farming as their economic and resource situations dictate. (They disposed of a cow herd recently because the farm was unable to sustain it.) BreDah] is a careful livestock manager. He protects young sheep and

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268 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE swine In the livestock housing facilities and follows the best sanitation practices to prevent diseases. He also uses veterinarians frequently and win use any medication recommended for sick animals. However, he does not routinely use subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics in the animal feed. Protein supplements, prepared by the local cooperative, are fed along with home- grown grain. The various rations are determined according to extension service recommendations. Climate The climate of Adam County is typical of southwestern Iowa subhumid and continental, with cold winters and hot, humid summers. The maxi- mum mean daily temperature in July and August is 85F. Average annual precipitation in nearby GreenfielcL (9 miles northeast) is 33 inches, mostly in the form of rain; 70 percent of the annual precipitation falls in the months of April through September (Table 2~. The wettest months are between May and September, each with about 3 to 5 inches of rainfall. One year out of 5, the area will experience maximum daily temperatures of over 95F in May and June, 99F in July, and 97F in August. TABLE 2 Normal Monthly Temperatures and Precipitation at Greenfield and Corning, Iowa Normal Temperature (OF) Normal Precipitation (inches) Month Greenfield Corning Greenfield Corning January 19.4 19.3 0.89 0.90 February 25.6 25.2 1.21 0.92 March 35.7 35.1 2.33 2.14 April 50.7 50.0 3.34 3.15 May 61.9 60.9 4.11 4.06 June 70.9 69.8 4.72 4.55 July 75.6 74.8 3.69 4.09 August 73.3 72.6 3.96 4.90 September 65.0 63.9 3.87 4.28 October 54.3 53.1 2.32 2.33 November 38.7 38.3 1.47 1.58 December 26.3 26.2 0.87 0.89 Average annual 49.8 49.1 Average annual total 32.78 33.79 NOTE: The BreDahl Farm is 9 miles from Greenfield and 25 miles from Corning. The normal monthly temperature is the average of the normal daily maximum and minimum temperatures for that month from 1941 to 1970. The normal monthly precipitation is the average of the inches of precipitation for that month from 1941 to 1970. SOURCE: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1980. Climates of the States, 2d ed. Detroit: Gale Research Co., Book Tower.

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THE BREDAHL FARM 269 PHYSICAL AND CAPITAL RESOURCES Soil Adair County soils were formed under the area's native vegetation, tan prairie grass. The terrain varies from nearly {ever upland ridges and bottom- land to moderately sloping uplands. The soils are moderately well-drained to poorly drained silty clay loams mostly formed on loess deposits. As water percolates down through the soil's loess mantle, it reaches a relatively impermeable paTeoso] developed in glacial till. Water tends to move along this less-permeable material and seeps out along the hillsides leading to areas that are usually too wet to till unless drainage tile is installed. The topography of the BreDah! Farm is moderately rolling. The predominant soil type on the farm is Sharpsburg silty clay loam with less than 5 percent slope. Sizable acreages of relatively flat Macksburg and Winterset soil series are present along with Nira silty clay loam on the steeper slopes (5 to 9 percent). Average expected corn yields under excellent management on these soils range from 148 to 161 bushels per acre. The area's corn suitability rating (CSR), which is based on yield and intensity of production, ranges from 69 to 95with 100 being the best in the state. Poorly drained upland Clearfield silty clay loam and CIarinda silty clay loam have CSR values of 50 and 30, respectively, and are not under row-crop cultivation. Likewise, the poorly drained alluvial Colo-Ely silty clay loam complex is not usually row-cropped. The farm's soils are classified in land capability classes 1 through 8, depending on the decree of stone and other land-use canabilitv factors. ---rip = -- - - -on 1 ~ ~ _ ~ _ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ . , . . ~ . Fewer than zu acres ot the term are In up.. Department ot Agriculture poll Conservation Service (SCS) class 4, which has up to 13 percent slope. This land is used as permanent pasture by the BreDahis; under conventionally tilled row crops, this class of land would incur erosion probably exceeding 30 tons per acre per year. Even land with only 5 to 9 percent slopes would sustain excessive erosion if it were in continuous row-crop production. BreDahT said that when his father bought the farm in 1927, it was run down and not very productive. This led him to use strip cropping and crop rotations. Today, much the same type of crop rotational system is being used. In the most recent soil survey of Adair County, the BreDahT Farm was found to be one of the few in the county on which the soils were not classified as moderately to severely eroded. The farm is not irrigated, but there are four shallow weds for household and livestock use. A pond was constructed in 1974 with the help of the SCS and the local Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) office. ASCS shared the costs of building the 1-acre pond and buying the grass seed needed to establish a permanent vegetative cover around the pond. Clark BreDah! approves of terracing in instances in which nothing else will work; but on most of his crop acreage, he feels that he can get the same

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270 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE soil conservation benefit at a lower cost by using no-tilIage and ridge-tiliage systems for row crops along with strip cropping. Another reason for his preference for these methods is that terracing interferes with some farming operations and is costly on these soils. Buildings and Facilities The BreDahIs have a good set of outbuildings, barns, and feediots. The barn, built in the 1950s, is 48-by-54 feet with a hayloft. Two open-front pole sheds (60-by-34 feet and 60-by-36 feet) complete the major general-purpose buildings. The farm is completely equipped to handle pig, sheep, and cattle raising. Corn is picked and stored as ear corn. Because the entire farm is fenced and cross-fenced, after the harvest, cattle and sheep can be turned into the fields to consume crop residues. Machinery BreDah! has been able to keep his equipment costs to a minimum. He estimates that the current market value of all his equipment would be approximately $25,000. He has two tractors (a 1967, 65-horsepower model and a 1966, 45-horsepower model), a 4-row no-tiliage planter, a 4-row disk cultivator, a grain drill, a rotary hoe, a disk, and a plow. His newest piece of equipment is a 1980 square baler with hay mower, rake, and hay wagons. He uses a 2-row corn picker to harvest ear corn. His corn is stored in corn cribs because both harvesting and drying are less expensive and storage is simpler using this method. Much of the ear corn is ground on the farm and fed to livestock both by hand and in self-feeders. MANAGEMENT FEATURES Crop Rotation The BreDahl Farm's crop rotation usually extends over 5 or 6 years, consisting of a corn-soybeans-corn-oats-alfalfa sequence. Sometimes alfalfa is kept for 2 years. Turnips are sometimes sown with the oats. By growing alfalfa for 1 or 2 years for hay, BreDah] said that most of the nitrogen (N) needed to raise corn (100 pounds N or more per acre) is supplied by the legumes in his rotation. He may add 20 to 40 pounds N with phosphorus and potassium fertilizer to sod ground going into corn, depending on the results of annual soil tests. Generally, 80 to 120 pounds N in the form of anhydrous ammonia is side-dressed on corn after soybeans. Soil Fertility Soil tests are generally in the high to very high range for potassium, and up to 30 pounds of potassium (K2O) are applied per acre to maintain these

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THE BREDAHL FARM 271 levels. Phosphorus usually tests in the medium range, but is increasing. Up to 52 pounds of phosphorus (P205) per acre are applied from all sources (manure and fertilizer). Soil pH is maintained between 6.5 and 6.9. Soil fertility additions closely follow university recommendations. Feedlot manure is spread on the soil following soybeans or corn in the rotation and before the field is planted to oats. In the BreDahls' operation, it is most convenient to spread the manure at this position in the rotation because it interferes less with row-cropping activities. Packed manure left on the soil surface interferes most with the use of a ridge-tillage planter and the cultivator. Most of the fields in the rotation receive manure once per rotation, that is, every 4 to 6 years. The manure from 300 to 500 lambs, 30 to 50 cattle, and up to 250 hogs is typically spread over an area of 20 to 30 acres each fall and spring. BreDahl tries to avoid lodging by the careful selection of oat cultivars following soybeans; he also plans to windrow the seed oats to alleviate this problem. The farm's corn yield in 1985 was 140 bushels of corn per acre, the highest yield ever obtained. Average yields are generally in the 100- to 120-bushel range, except in 1977, when a drought reduced yields to less than 20 bushels per acre. BreDahI's ASCS corn base yield in 1986 was 107 bushels per acre, down 3 percent from the previous year. The county average corn base yield is 96 bushels per acre per year. All of the corn is fed to livestock; it is shelled for sheep and hogs but ground with the cob for feeder cattle. The farm has had less success producing soybeans, which average 35 to 40 bushels per acre. In 1986, however, a farm record was set at 45 bushels per acre. The soybeans are sold on the open market, and the oats are sold for seed, which brings nearly double the market price. Soybeans and alfalfa are fertilized minimally. The nitrogen supplied by the soybeans and manure is adequate to make an excellent crop of oats. Yields over the last 10 years have ranged from 65 to 100 bushels per acre per year. Turnips are often planted as a second crop on some of the oat acreage. After the oats and straw are harvested in July, BreDahl typically disks the ground, broadcasts 4 to 5 pounds of turnip seed along with 50 pounds dry N per acre, and then disks the ground again, lightly. (This practice is also used on government-diverted acres.) BreDahl prefers the standard garden variety of purple-top globe turnips, although he has tried other varieties. He has learned that both oats as a sole crop and turnips as a sole crop do better than if seeded together. Seeding the crops separately also makes the turnip pasture more timely: it comes to maximum production beginning, in late September and sometimes lasts into the new year. Government-diverted acres on the BreDahl Farm typically are on the ground previously planted in soybeans. Thus, instead of planting oats on all the soybean ground, some of the land is set aside to qualify for govern- ment support payments. Set-aside land is typically seeded with a cover crop of turnips prior to the end of June, and the oat acreage is planted in turnips as soon as possible after harvest in July.

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272 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE TABLE 3 Adair County Estimated Soil Losses Under Various Tillage Methods, 1986 Percentage of Cropland Prepared Estimated Soil Loss Tillage Method Corn Soybeans (tonslacre/year) Conventional (plowing) 41.6 23.0 15-20 Mulch tillage (chisel plowing) 45.7 75.4 12-15 Ridge tillage, strip-cropped 1.5 0.2 4-6 No tillage 11.2 1.4 4-6 SOURCE: R. BreDahl, Adam County extension director, communication, 1986. v ~ ~ ~ - ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ _ _ Tillage anti Planting Methods BreDahI's row-crop planting methods alternate among no tiliage, ridge tiDage, and some moldboard plowing. Using his 4-row planter with 38-inch rows, Clark BreDah] plants 32 rows of corn or soybeans in eight passes. Then he plants the same-sizect strip with alfalfa or oats. His fields are planted, therefore, in approximately 100-foot-wide strips. His disk cultiva- tor matches his planter. Depending on weather conditions, he may plant corn without tiliage into an alfalfa meadow after kiDing the legumes with (2,4-DichIorophenoxy) acetic acid (2,4-D) (applied at a rate of ~ to 2 quarts per acre) in the spring when the plants are 6 to ~ inches tan. A residual herbicide is usually applied at this time as wed. If this system is used, BreDah! does not cultivate the ground and returns to the fielc! only to harvest the crop. A side-dressing of fertilizer may be applied at planting. Alternatively, and preferentially, the alfalfa is plowed under in the spring, and weed control is by cultivation. After two cultivations, a ridge is formed that win be used to ridge-plant soybeans without tilIage the following spring. According to the Adair County extension director and the district soil conservationist, less than 13 percent of the corn and 2 percent of the soy- beans in the county are grown using either no-tiDage or ridge-tiDage sys- tems, even though these systems result in a significant reduction in soil loss (Table 3~. Clark BreDahl maintains organic matter in the soil through crop rotation, by incorporating the crop residue left by his livestock and by the addition of manure. Weed Control By adjusting his cultivator disks, BreDah! can create a ridge and cover weeds and crop residue. His ridge-tillage planter then levels the ridge and plants the seeds in the newly opened soil. In this fashion the corn gets a head start on the weeds. The rotary hoe is used 3 to 4 days after planting, before the crop has germinated and before weeds are visible. The same

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THE BREDAHL FARM rat r -- - 273 Procedure is repeated once or twice, weather permitting. The rotary hoe does its best work netore tne weeds emerge, destroying them before they break the surface. If weeds become a problem, two pairs of disk hillers are set on the cultivator, one behind the other (one pair to throw the soil away from the plant and the other to move it back). The cultivator shields are always kept in place because even fairly large corn and soybean plants can be damaged or covered completely by the soil moved by the disk hitters. BreDahl is not philosophically opposed to using herbicides, but he uses them sparingly, mainly on corn that has been no-tilled into alfalfa. His primary contention is that on an operation the size of his farm, mechanical weed control is just as effective and considerably cheaper than chemical weed control. The reduced risk of pollution is considered a side benefit. PERFORMANCE INDICATORS The BreDahl Farm is less than half the size of the average farm in Adair County (337 acres), but Clark BreDah] maintains that it is not the size of the operation that is important, but what is left after cash costs are subtracted. Careful cost containment is a characteristic of the BreDah! operation. A local farm management tax consultant, who handles a few hundred farms in the area, indicated that in one year recently the BreDah} Farm was in the bottom 25 percent of the area farms in terms of gross sales, but in the top 10 percent in terms of net income. The successful operation of a farm like the BreDahIs' requires a high degree of managerial ability, a quality the BreDahis seem to have. Their management strategy has been to minimize risks and to pay off all debts. They appear to have accomplished both goals. Recent sales of some of their beef and sheep herds, as well as feeder pigs, have eliminated their debt. Currently, they do not borrow for operational costs and do not owe money for equipment. Data were not available for a detailed analysis of the farm's financial performance. The BreDahis report, however, that they have internalized most of their operational costs by minimizing purchased inputs and by reducing interest expenses for the farm to zero. They provide all of their own labor except at lambing and haying time; they hire custom shearing of the sheep this item represents about two-thirds of their $1,600 annual labor bill. The variety of livestock raised on the farm provides market ani- mals and income throughout the year. In addition, because the farm is cross-fenced, the BreDahIs can make use of poor or damaged crops and crop residue as feed sources instead of letting the crops rot in the fields. Clark BreDah] reports that in 1986 the average cash rental for corn land (row cropland in general) was $66.00 per acre in Adair County. The Bre- Dahis, on the other hand, pay $50.00 per acre (to Clark BreDah1's mother) for the whole farm they rent. Given that barely half the farm is planted with corn and soybeans, however, this appears to be a fair rental charge. Although he has participated in the government's commodity support

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274 ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE programs, BreDah] feels that the family farmer would be better off without them. He concludes that these programs have encouraged farmers to con- vert to a monocrop culture without livestock and that they have greatly reduced the number of farm families. He does not think that his own family's way of farming would be as feasible for a farm 10 times the size of their farm and spread out in various locations. He does feel, however, that by eliminating price supports, farmers with a good managerial strategy eventually could be better off. The BreDahis' crop rotation system of 1 or 2 years in alfalfa, 2 years in corn, 1 year in soybeans, and 1 year in oats and possibly turnips has minimized purchased farm inputs of fertilizer and pesticides while main- taining high roughage production. Similarly, the alfalfa, whether plowed under or no-tilled, provides nearly all the nitrogen required by the corn crop. In addition, cattle and sheep glean the corn fields, thereby reducing the need for supplemental feeding and minimizing volunteer corn problems in the subsequent crop of soybeans. The farm's actual costs of production in 1936 (land and cash) were $1.52, $3.10, and $1.39 per bushel for corn, soybeans, and oats, respectively. The double crop of turnips provides an excellent feed source for the BreDahis' sheep enterprise. Animals can begin grazing the turnips in 60 to 80 days, but they obtain optimum dry matter after 90 days. Both cattle and sheep have been grazed on the crop, but sheep tend to be more efficient, wasting less of the forage. The turnips provide a complete ration for sheep as well as 80 to 85 percent of their water consumption. The turnips are grazed from mid-September through early winter. When the turnips reach full growth, three-quarters of the root will be aboveground. The sheep first eat this part of the root and the vegetative top and then graze the turnip down and cup out the tap root below the surface. The holes left in the soil after grazing fill with water, snow, and ice, which help to hold soil moisture and prevent runoff. The BreDahIs have run up to 200 ewes for 10 days on an acre of turnips that is, 2,000 ewe- days per acre. More commonly, they average 1,400 to 1,500 ewe-days per acre. Clark BreDahT estimates that this method provides maintenance at a current cost of less than $0.04 per day per ewe. The BreDahis' system of farming could be used by others but only so long as such farms (1) diversified their operations enough to raise the livestock and to take advantage of all crop roughages and (2) maintained a small enough operation to be managed properly. The system works most effec- tively when a farm is in one contiguous unit and cross-fenced. Careful budgeting and management are also essential to success in operations such as this. The family's financial goal, although not always achieved, has been to make a living from the farm and to save Linda BreDahI's teaching salary. This case study illustrates that, given the required management skills and a conservative investment strategy, a family can still make a living today on a 160-acre diversified farm in Iowa.