Standing on solid ground
08-28-2019 in Article
WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – August 28, 2019 – Marty Schwers knows cattle. He and his brother, Steve, sell around 4,000 calves a year from their feedlot near Luxemburg, in northeast Iowa, just a 10-minute drive from the Mississippi River. Livestock farming is a passion for them, part of their heritage and they want to do it right.
That’s why Marty called the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) in 2014 when he wanted to grow his farm. He planned to put 1,000 head of his 2,600 head under roof with a deep pit monoslope barn.
Although he was confident he met all of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) rules and regulations, he didn’t want any surprises down the road.
“I knew a few things,” says Schwers. “But CSIF knew a lot more. Kent knew all the rules.”
Kent Mowrer, CSIF Senior Field Coordinator, made an on-site visit and gave Schwers a self-assessment to complete, as well as a reference to an attorney to help navigate any legalities in his building project.
“The assessment went well,” says Schwers. “Kent showed us a few areas we could improve upon, and they were easy fixes. Mowrer also showed him how to use the DNR website to identify his soil type and access other needed information.
“I can’t say enough good things about the experience,” says Schwers. “He got us going in the right direction.”
Once the project was complete, Schwers submitted to a DNR inspection and passed with flying colors.
Schwers also partnered with CSIF to host an open house, inviting the community in to see the improvements for themselves and learn more about beef production in semi-confinement.
Schwers didn’t face neighbor scrutiny the way some livestock producers do. Most of his neighbors are engaged in agriculture. But he does believe keeping the place neat and clean gives a good impression and wards off issues.
“I was surprised when we posted the needed legal notices that many in the community didn’t know how many head of cattle we had on site,” says Schwers. His feedlot sits on an 8-acre plot of his 400-acre farm. Schwers Brothers LLC rents another 1,000 acres and custom farms around 1,300 acres from plant to harvest.
In addition to Steve, Marty’s two sons also help in the operation. Spencer, at age 19, is attending Kirkwood Community College working on his Beef Production Management degree. Mitchell, 15, is also showing an interest in farming. Schwers says his career decisions are his to make.
They grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, rotating crops and planting into no till fields. “We sell beans and buy more corn,” says Schwers, “to keep the cattle fed.”
Accommodating the next generation may take another expansion. He sees the possibility of adding another 500 head capacity to the monoslope. “That will probably be enough, given our workload with the rest of the farm,” says Schwers. They also have a full-time farm hand.
He says he will definitely call CSIF when the time comes. “I know they will be up on the changing laws and be able to answer our questions to help us do it the right way.”
Do it right. Do it with confidence.
Schwers says knowing he is following the rules gives him confidence he might not otherwise have had. He is considering some other changes and has no qualms in approaching the DNR for information and advice.
“Some folks are concerned that if they ask the DNR for advice, they will open themselves up to scrutiny,” says Schwers. “But if you’re doing things the way you should, you have nothing to fear.”
The DNR agent has been out to review his farm, offering pointers, options, and providing literature.
“My experience with them has been if you are open with them, they know you’re trying,” says Schwers. “There’s no need to make life difficult for yourself if they’re willing to work with you.”
The DNR is known to refer farmers to CSIF for advice, using them as a valuable resource for farmers.
“My advice to anyone looking to change their livestock set-up is to call CSIF,” says Schwers. “Building our monoslope barn to expand our feedlot was almost a life-changing experience. We had our questions answered without any major issues and were able to use that information to figure out what we wanted. When you do things the right way, it benefits everybody. That’s what makes livestock production succeed.”
The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy. The non-profit, non-partisan organization aids farmers at no cost. CSIF does not lobby or develop policy. Farmers wanting a helping hand can contact the coalition at 800.932.2436 or visit supportfarmers.com
(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield).
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