Posted on June 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM by Iowa Corn
|Emily, Julie, Kevin & Jacob Van Manen
Last week, several business and health professionals from Iowa toured Kevin and Julie Van Manen’s farm near Kellogg in order to learn more about agriculture and farming. This tour was much more than walking through barns and seeing animals. The attendees met several farmers and were able to see firsthand how a family farm is managed. The Van Manen farm has been in the family since 1927 and Kevin’s parents are still involved in the operation today.
After learning about the history, the attendees were eager to see and learn about the hog operation. Kevin built the hog barns about seven years ago and the first hogs were put in the barn in 2006. Each of the three buildings are carefully cleaned and maintained to prevent any outside diseases interacting with their herd. For example, they make sure birds do not enter or live in the buildings. The barns are equipped with computers to control the temperatures inside. Fans are often running in the barns to keep the hogs cool and during the hot summer months a spray mist is used. Hogs don’t sweat, which seemed to amaze most attendees so that is why the fans and mist are used to control their body temperature.
Kevin receives a new group of hogs about three times each year and each hog weighs about 20-50 lbs upon arrival. Prior to receiving a new group, the barns are thoroughly cleaned. Cleaning the feed lines, water lines, ceiling fans and floor takes about 80 hours, for just one building. All three barns have to be cleaned in about four days in order to be ready for the new herd. The cost to raise one hog is around $200 and Kevin has around 3,200 head. Depending on the cost of feed and any vaccinations needed to treat diseases, Kevin could be at a loss once the hogs are sold. The hogs are sold when they reach 80 lbs.
|Kevin talking about the corn and soybean fields.
After touring the hog barns, the attendees saw the corn and soybean fields, up close and personal. Kevin explained that soybean fields are mostly grown for livestock feed. The attendees were interested when Kevin explained that Hellman’s mayonnaise contains soybeans, which are grown in Iowa. The manure from the hog barns is used for fertilizer on the fields. Kevin said, “It’s the best fertilizer a farmer uses because it’s all natural.” Some attendees were concerned with the amount of chemicals that are applied to the fields but Kevin explained that his fields are tested for nitrogen levels to prevent runoff into rivers and streams. Farmers drink the same water so keeping the chemical levels to a minimum on their fields is important.
|Emily & Jacob Van Manen with their sweetcorn fields.
The Van Manen’s also have a home grown garden. The garden is managed by Jacob, who is Julie and Kevin’s son. Once the carrots and tomatoes are ready, Julie will can them. Julie said, “It’s great to enjoy fresh vegetables during the winter months.” Jacob and his sister Emily also manage seven acres of sweet corn. This year they have six plantings but due to the wet spring the sweet corn will not be ready until the end of July. Many of the attendees wondered about the difference between regular corn and sweet corn. Sweet corn has more sugar and is a lot sweeter than field corn. Field corn also gets taller with larger ears. Kevin assured them that if they bit into an ear of field corn they would soon realize the difference
During lunch the attendees were able to talk with CommonGround volunteers Suzanne Shirbroun, Stephanie Essick and Katie Olthoff. Katie talked about the 60,000 turkeys that her family is raising at any one time. Those in attendance were very interested in the $3 million investment required from her family to get the turkey barns up and running. The Olthoff’s built five turkey barns, which use tunnel ventilation. This type of ventilation allows the barns to stay properly regulated throughout the year. To learn more about the Olthoff’s turkey farm, visit her blog
|Ventilation used on the turkey barns.
During the discussion several questions were brought up about antibiotics. Katie and Kevin both explained that minimizing the amount of antibiotics used is important because they too eat the food they raise. At times, antibiotics are used as a preventative measure because the farmers want to stay ahead of potential herd diseases. Kevin and Katie raise thousands of hogs and turkeys and keeping them healthy is their number one priority. It’s more cost effective to stay ahead of the diseases rather than having a disease affect the entire heard. To learn more about Katie, Stephanie, Julie and Suzanne, visit their social links below.Stephanie Essick
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/iowafarmlifeKatie Olthoff
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/onthebanksofsquawcreek
Blog: www.onthebanksofsquawcreek.comSuzanne Shirbroun
– Blog: suzannecommonground.blogspot.comJulie Van Manen
– Facebook: www.facebook.com/julie.vanmanen.3
Kevin also raises 140 holstein cattle, mostly steers. The cost to get one ready for market is around $1,300-$1,400. He used to be a dairy farmer so having the Holstein breed reminds him of dairy cows. The herd seemed extremely calm but Kevin said, “Each one is hand fed for the first eight weeks after they are born so that is why they are so calm.” The corn they are fed is mixed with DDGS (a by-product of ethanol production), corn stover, oat hulls, soybean hulls and pellets made from biofiber. The percentage of mixture can range anywhere from 13-15 percent, depending on the size of the cattle. The manure from the cattle lots is composted and spread onto the fields in the fall.
The last stop of the day included the calf barns, whi
|The baby calves enjoying their afternoon meal.
ch seemed to be the highlight of everyone’s day. The Van Manen’s travel to western Iowa near Harlan, in their calf mobile as they call it, every morning for at least two weeks. They bring home 10-15 new calves each day until they reach 140 head. The calves are fed one quart of milk, three times a day along with dried feed. Seeing the calves being fed in the afternoon assured me that they enjoy the milk a lot better than their feed. Each of the baby calves are kept in their pin for about eight weeks, then they are released to the larger lots. I was amazed to see a newborn calf drinking from a bucket but Kevin explained that some of the calves are only a day old so they don’t know any difference. The professionals in attendance included:
- Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Director, IA Dept. of Public Health
- Dr. Sarah Francis, Assistant Professor/ISU Nutrition Extension and Outreach Specialist
- Nicole Bruce, Director, Live Healthy Iowa
- Kim Abels, Director, Iowa Games
- Clarence Hudson, Director, Iowa Sports Foundation
- Abbie Brekken, ISU dietetics intern
- Vickie Strosahl, IA Dept. of Public Health
|Iowa CommonGround volunteers and the business and
health professionals who attended the farm tour.
More photos from the event are available on Flickr