BELVIEW, Minn. – It turned cold and windy at the end of January when Cody Nelson gave his producer report.
The National Weather Service had issued a blizzard warning for Renville, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties for Jan. 24. Northwest wind gusts of 35-45 mph were observed with widespread blowing snow and wind chill values of 25-35 below 0.
Cody’s cows were safely staying in 90 acres of woods and meadows at the Bar N Cattle Company ranch. Tucked into the Minnesota River Valley, the farm site was protected from most wind. The cows stayed clean and dry.
“I’m doing chores about once a week right now,” he said. “We’ve got our little stuff – show heifers get fed every night. There’s five minutes of chores daily that are just quick and easy.”
In terms of the cowherd and the replacement heifers – the chores entailed making certain every animal had access to thawed water and feed.
The late January, early February feed regime for the cowherd was setting out nine big round bales per week. The bales were placed throughout the 90 acres in locations where they were not placed before. Cody doesn’t want to get too big of a pile of manure so that it has to be hauled out – he wants the cows to spread it themselves.
“What I’m trying to do is have these cows strategically spread their own manure for me, so I don’t have to do that,” he said. “We’ll calculate out how many pounds – we know how much the bales are and how much the hay weighs. I can set out enough bales for the week.”
The replacement heifers are fed hay, and they are staying in a four-paddock system close to the house. The bales are set in bale feeders (to prevent wastage) out in the paddocks. The heifers are moved from paddock to paddock with access to water. These paddocks were grazed until July 6, and then had the rest of the summer to regrow.
Coyotes were a concern in January, as they were in many areas. A pack was up by the house before 4 a.m. one day when Cody was getting ready to head out to meetings, and he worried about the family’s dog, an Australian Shepherd, named Husker.
Cody ran outside with the rifle and shot in the air. The coyotes scattered, but so did the Nelsons’ dog. After calling and calling for Husker, Cody finally went inside to get ready for the meeting in Fargo.
Then Melanie called for her, and Husker came out of the dog house right away, whimpering like she had done something wrong – which, of course, she hadn’t.
“We’ve not had any issues with coyotes coming after the cows, but we have noticed they are coming closer,” Cody said. “You can definitely hear them, and it does seem like they are coming closer than they were before.”
As the owner and founder of Soil RX Inc., Cody attended many meetings throughout January. He had just returned from the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition conference, held in Brookings, S.D. on Jan. 22-23. This group focuses on soil health principles for cropping production.
“Although I’ve heard a lot of the speakers several times, you get a couple new ideas all the time,” he said. “I really believe every farm should try something new on a percentage of their acres every year.”
He learned that Fortune 500 companies will spend 2-3 percent of their resources on research and development. Cody suggests successful farms need to do the same. For someone who farms 1,000 acres, trying something new on 20-30 acres makes sense, he said. Cody is seeing a great interest from farmers who are thinking about making that investment in cover crops, which also happens to be his personal business as a soil health consultant that he started on Jan. 1, 2019.
“I think part of why I’m getting some of this business is because they see I’m staying in touch with soil health,” he said. “I want to stay engaged, and that is the best way to stir up activity.”
Soil RX Inc. held their own meeting at Clear Springs Cattle Company, near Starbuck, on Jan. 8. Over 90 people attended, and Cody was so appreciative for the great turnout.
“There was a great turnout, a lot of very, very good questions were asked,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people are figuring out how important this soil health movement really is, and how hungry they are for more information.”