HANCOCK, Minn. – Two parents, five kids, and one dog living on a farm equals lots of activity for the Boon family.
How do they keep their kids busy? One way is basketball. John and Jen Boon commissioned Don Boon, the standby handyman, to put up an old basketball hoop on the outside of their shop’s sliding door this past summer. The kids had a great time learning to shoot baskets. This winter, the kids have practiced dribbling around the big furnace in the middle of their open basement.
So, with COVID numbers going down and school activities resuming once again, Abigail and Shae joined the elementary girls basketball team.
They were having a lot of fun.
“It gives them a chance to get out and do something with their friends,” Jen said. “At this point in the season, they wish they could have been playing for a while with tournaments already set up. Their season is slowly coming together.”
John serves on the school board for Hancock Public Schools. He was happy to see the second half of February was filled with basketball practices and games, FFA events, book fairs, and more.
Out in the feedlot, John and Don stayed busy feeding the finishing cattle.
The Boon’s 540-14 HD Roto-Mix staggered-rotor feed mixer kept running without a hiccup during the cold days below 0 degrees in mid-February.
Each separate commodity used in the cattle total mixed ration has its own storage area near the monoslope feedlot. Cornstalk bales are used to form important windbreaks around the feedlot, while strawbales and haybales are stored under roof whenever possible.
“We just try to keep those bales dry whenever possible to create quality feed without spoilage,” Jen said. “Generally by the end of the year rotation they’re gone.”
The TMR mix starts with loads of corn earlage scooped up by the Mustang 708 articulated front loader, Jen said.
“The amount of commodities that’s added is based on cattle weight, and is regulated by a scale on the mixer,” she said.
Cracked corn and shredded grass hay/wheat straw are added. On a monthly basis, the hay and straw are custom-ground by Topline Ag out of Appleton, Minn., and stored in a commodity shed.
“Our corn stalks are used primarily for bedding,” she said. “There are other farmers that do grind up cornstalks for feed, but we don’t as long as we have enough hay and straw.”
Form-A-Feed mineral – delivered once a month or every other month – is added too.
“We try to get it in bulk, about 18 tons at a time,” John said.
The mineral supplement is unloaded from a semi through a roof chute into an open-faced shed. This allows John to bring the Mustang close up to the shed to pitch old-fashioned style – by shovel – into the bucket. About 200-250 pounds of mineral are added for each batch of TMR.
Distillers are added to bind the TMR together.
For a birds-eye view of the mixing process, John lifted Jen and this reporter up in the Mustang loader to see the workings of the commercial feed wagon that is operated with a tractor.
The 540-14 mixes about 11,000 pounds of feed in one load. According to Roto-Mix materials, this mixer’s rotor lifts feed up to side augers that move feed from end-to-end for thorough mixing.
“We really like that feed wagon – how fast it mixes,” John said.
Next, it is time to feed the cattle. John drives along the concrete bunks and delivers high quality feed. Each pen has bunks both to the north and south of the barn, so John unloads feed on both sides. This gives the cattle more space for eating.
“This group of cattle filled out nicely,” he said. The winter was almost ideal with no real big swings in temperatures. Throughout February, the days were growing longer and the sun was feeling stronger.
The Boons use cornstalks to form quality bed packs in each pen. The cattle all had plenty of hair, so there was no danger of getting cold.
“They look pretty comfortable laying in there,” he said. “I might try to sell them in the next couple of weeks. We’ll see if there is a good bid out there.”
John added that he is occasionally asked about their monoslope barn. Cattle producers are interested in ideas for designing a successful facility.
“What we advise when we are asked how large to build is that anyone can manage a large barn in sunny 70 degree weather,” John said. “But what can you handle if you’re the only one on the farm during a three-day snowstorm? What can you handle doing everything yourself?”
Two weeks of sub-zero temperatures will quickly point out any livestock building’s shortcomings. Frozen water is no fun and reduces livestock production. Rain events are another challenge that require precise design features, and extreme heat requires plenty of water and shade.
John recommends: “Whether it’s an open feed yard or a barn, build what you can manage by yourself in the extremes.”