Getting cattle show ready
Lots of behind-the-scenes advance work precedes fair-time laurels

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By Taryn Lessman

Reese Anderson knows what it's like to spend the summer at the fairgrounds.
Between the Jackson County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair, over the past several years, the Jackson high school student has racked up a number of hours showing cattle.
Last year at the Jackson County Fair, Anderson exhibited the champion 4-H breeding heifer. She placed fifth at the Minnesota State Fair's 4-H beef show.
Being involved with livestock in 4-H is a family tradition for Anderson, who said her siblings also showed and also enjoyed success at both the county fair and the state fair.
The process of getting cattle show ready starts long before the fair, Anderson said. In the spring, show cattle need to be put on the right diet and start getting trained to be used to the show process.
First, the cattle need to get used to the person showing them and to get used to the environment they are in, Anderson said. Then, they need to be halter broken. Halter breaking is a multi-step process Anderson said includes teaching the calves how to walk on the halter, how to stand when haltered and how to behave during a show. In order to teach the calves how to behave during shows, Anderson leads them and teaches them how to stand correctly.
Anderson said it is important to spend time daily practicing with the cattle so they can build trust and get used to the routine.

Maker's Way Fiber Mill

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By Sirrina Martinez

Since 2021, the Maker's Way Fiber Mill in Brandon, S.D. has been serving the tri-state area and beyond, processing fiber from a variety of animals, including alpaca, llama and sheep. Some of their customer orders come from as far as Georgia, California, Montana and Idaho. Elizabeth Davelaar, who co-owns the mill with her mother and sister, Kari Davelaar and Erin Van Nieuwenhuyzen, said that the idea to start the mill came from a personal need to find a way to process her own materials.
"We started the mill because I couldn't find any local yarn in the area that I could use with the plants I was foraging and using for dye," she said. "This led me to a mill in North Dakota and I went to intern for a day. From there, I got my mom, Kari and my sister, Erin, involved. We purchased the equipment online through Facebook Marketplace and officially opened the mill in October of 2021."
The inspiration for the mill's name, Davelaar said, came from a two-fold idea.
"First, we do about 60% custom processing for people," she said. "We love to work with people to create the products that they can use or sell themselves. We make it the 'makers way.' The second part is that we are all Christians, and we believe in using natural fibers and honoring God in how we operate and make our products."
Around 60% of the mill's processing efforts consists of custom processing for farmers, and the remaining 40% of processing is done for the creation of the mill's own products to sell, Davelaar said.
At a high level view, processing animal fibers has a few steps. First, farmers will shear their animal, remove any fecal matter and vegetation that is stuck to the fiber and then send it to the mill. There, it is washed in hot water with a scouring detergent before being air dried. From there, it goes through a picker and carder, which opens up the fiber and brushes it into a more usable product. Next, all the fibers are combed into the same direction, Davelaar said, when it is run through a pin drafter. Finally, the fiber is spun into single threads and those threads are then plied into yarn.
The biggest factors that the mill looks for to identify quality wool or fiber for processing into yarn is staple length, Davelaar said. The staple length needs to be 3.5" or more. Other signs of quality fiber are a lack of "weak spots" in the fiber, and how fine it is. There are many factors, but these are the three biggest.
There are a few things that customers should consider before bringing their fiber to the mill, Davelaar said.
"We recommend that fiber is skirted well before it is brought to us," she said. "This means that all manure and vegetation is removed. Not only will this save customers money in the long run, but it also makes the best products. A good rule of thumb is if you don't want it in your finished fiber, don't send it to the mill. We do our best with every fleece we are sent, but our equipment won't get all of the vegetation out of the fiber."
Farmers who are interested in sending their products to the Way Maker's Fiber Mill should keep in mind that their lead time for processing can run eight months to a year, which is standard for the industry, Davelaar said. At this time they are only accepting a small number of new clients for the upcoming year.
Aside from selling their own processed yarn, the mill sells a variety of items on their website including knit hats, felted insoles, dried marigolds for natural product dying, felt coasters, eco-friendly dryer balls, bird nest starters and more.

For Chapman-Nesseth, showing sheep a family tradition

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By Taryn Lessman

For Sylvia Chapman-Nesseth, it was only natural to get involved with showing sheep.
Her dad showed sheep as a kid, and her grandpa and uncle raise sheep.
And with 10 years of showing under her belt and a lengthy list of awards, including several purple ribbons at county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair — as well as a ninth-place finish out of 500 at the Aksarben Stock Show in Nebraska — Chapman-Nesseth is following in her family’s footsteps.
Chapman-Nesseth said the preparation for show season starts long before the summer shows. January is when sheep are purchased, and April is when she starts working with the sheep.
"Once April rolls around, the first thing we do is halter break them, which is just teaching them how to lead on a halter," she said.
The sheep exercise on a treadmill every day and are walked as practice for shows.
Throughout the process of getting sheep show-ready, and during the show season, the sheep have "protective leg wraps on their leg wool," Chapman-Nesseth said. The leg wraps get changed once per week and the leg wool gets washed, blow dried and conditioned weekly.
In addition to caring for the leg wool, Chapman-Nesseth said the sheep are sheared monthly and before shows.
"On show days, sheep get a fullbody wash and are blow dried," she said. "Conditioners are applied all over and leg wool is brushed out and set with a special hairspray for sheep."
Chapman-Nesseth said the biggest challenge she faces with her sheep is their stubbornness, which makes it difficult to teach them new things. However, she gets to spend time with her dad throughout the process, which is her favorite part.

The season of planting is upon us

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Sirrina Martinez
Multimedia reporter

With spring beginning March 19, area producers are preparing to begin another season of planting. An unusual winter may leave many inside and outside of the industry wondering what the season will bring.
Devin Hulstein, a certified crop advisor with Beck’s Hybrids in southwest Minnesota, said that some farmers may begin planting soon to try out March beans and that, if the weather holds for the first week of April, there may be a lot of planters moving in the fields.
One common misunderstanding, Hulstein said, is that planting before the insurance date on April 11 will put a farmer at risk for losing insurance on that crop.
"You only lose the replant part of your policy," he said. "Your coverage stays the same. I also like to remember we live in Minnesota and the weather can always change quick. I don’t think any farmer would be opposed to a wetter second half of March."
The drought and warm winter the area has experienced could potentially bring a few troubles for the upcoming seasons, Hulstein said.
"If the topsoil stays dry even germination can be a problem," he said. "A seed needs to take up roughly half its weight in water to germ and get the ball rolling. The other matter is root worm. Root worm has been an increasing concern the last couple of years."
The weather can help with this issue in a couple of ways, Hulstein said. When water sits in the spring or fall it can kill some root worm eggs, this is something we haven’t had recently. On the other hand, a deep frost can do the job as well, he said.
"I usually say if people are starting to get nervous about water pipes freezing you can count on decreasing the root worm population," he said. "That’s another issue (deep frost) that we haven’t had the last two years. I recommend using a planter-based insecticide if possible."
In drought conditions, selecting the right variety of seed hybrid is key, Hulstein said.
"Corn can handle drought pretty well as long as it gets a few timely rains," he said. "A couple in early season and then a nice rain around tassel, usually middle of July or so, and then one during grain fill is key. Soybeans are pretty tough and resilient as well. August always makes or breaks soybeans. They can be the nicest looking soybeans you’ve ever seen, but a dry August will ruin them."
The opposite is also true, Hulstein said. Beans can be dry and shorter through June and July and looking tougher, but an August with ample rain can set and fill a large amount of pods.
There are some seed hybrids that are more drought tolerant than others, Hulstein said, including a seed from Corteva called Aquamax, and another from Bayer called Droughtgard. Although seed dealers are perhaps seeing a little more attraction towards them and sales increasing, that doesn’t mean they are the right choice for everyone.
"The number one thing is still the right hybrid for the right farm," he said. "And the highest drought tolerance score is not always that hybrid."
In terms of changes and trends the seed world has seen over the last few years, the newer germplasm and genetics being used today have "wowed a lot of people," he said.
"The amount of heat and lack of rainfall we’ve had three years in a row now and been raising decent crops for the most part yet has surprised a lot of farmers each year I think," Hulstein said.
His advice for producers going into planting season, he said, is that it is always easier to do it right the first time.
"I always like to see 24 full hours of nice temperatures to get that seed started," Hulstein said. "So if there is a cold snow or rain coming and you are questioning to go start that next field, if the snow or rain is 24 hours away or more go for it. If it might start when you finished the field, come back to that field when it is fit again."

Plenty to consider as farmers weigh early planting

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By Justin R. Lessman

Brian Hefty is ready to plant corn.
Well, maybe not, but it sure seemed like he could be on yet another unseasonably warm day late last month as he spoke with farmers at the Jackson Farm and Home Show in Jackson.
"I'm ready to plant today," Hefty joked with farmers. "It looks like April out there. The snow's gone and, in a lot of cases, the ground is thawed."
Hefty, CEO of Baltic, S.D.-based Hefty Seed Co. and cohost of Ag PhD TV and Radio — not to men- tion a fourth-generation farmer — served as a keynote ag presenter at the annual farm and home show in Jackson on Feb. 24. As part of his presentation, he discussed early planting — specifically, putting corn seed into the ground when soil temperatures are at around 40 degrees.
"There is a good chance a lot of people will plant real early this year," Hefty said.
The first rule of early planting, Hefty said, is to not do so before the crop insurance date. Secondly, the soil can be cold, he said, but it must be dry. And third, he added, farmers should plant corn hybrids recommended for 40 degrees.
Jeffrey Strock, University of Minnesota professor of soil, water and climate at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, said Hefty is not alone in eyeing an early plant date this year.
"Growers have been discussing the possibility of early planting this season," Strock said. "While we don't really know what March and April will bring, it may be pos- sible if the current trend holds."
Like Hefty, Strock said there are certain constraints placed on how early farmers can actually plant based on crop insurance. That said, he added, conditions could be ripe for planting small grains, spring wheat and oats.
"For growers that plant cover crops like rye, this could be a spring where they grow rapidly, so management will be important," he said.
Despite all the talk of early planting this year, Hefty and Strock said, Mother Nature will still have the final say.
"We know the weather is fickle," Strock said. "Wait five minutes; things are likely to change."

Seed sales provide diversification

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by Kyle Kuphal

With each new year, come new seed products with traits to meet producers’ needs.
Trent Johnson, owner of Prairie Winds Seeds in northwestern Murray County, said one new product released by Bayer this year is the V4P, which targets pests such as corn rootworm. He said corn rootworm is a common problem, especially when planting corn on corn.
“A corn on corn situation where guys are corn on corn a lot, they’re gearing up to deal with disease pressure like that — beetle pressure or corn rootworm,” Johnson said.
Johnson sells Beck’s seed and said the company’s products are constantly changing and evolving based on new issues.
“They’re constantly trying to stay industry leading in new traits, new products, new treatments to deal with environmental and disease issues,” he said.
Among the traits available in hybrid seed is one that seems particularly relevant due to the drier than usual weather in recent years — drought tolerance.
“Those have definitely shined over the last three years,” Johnson said.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of Feb. 6, most of southwest Minnesota remained abnormally dry or was experiencing moderate drought conditions. Johnson said producers remain focused on yields, however, and they’re selecting seed designed to maximize yields, along with some drought tolerance.
“Drought is a concern, but there’s always the hope for moisture, so I think that’s kind of taking the lead,” Johnson said.
He, like many, is hoping that this year brings more moisture. If the old adage about precipitation 90 days after fog holds true, he said, they could get their wish this spring.
Whether it’s the weather, pests or something else, when it comes to farming, Johnson said, every season presents a new challenge.
“I think that’s why, as farmers, we’re just always gearing up for a challenge,” he said. “There’s always something new. There’s always something that happens in that time frame that you need to get your work done.”
Johnson knows that well through personal experience. Between him, his dad, Rick, and his brother, Jonah, they have a cow/calf operation, raise hogs, and grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa. He added seed sales to that mix in March of 2022 when he started Prairie Winds Seeds. He’d also been involved in precision planting before entering the seed business.
“I enjoyed that, but knew I wanted to be more at home, on farm, be more involved in my own operation,” he said.
Johnson said he’d thought about selling seed before, but hadn’t found the right company. Then a former colleague approached him, who worked with Beck’s, and said he thought Johnson would make a good seed dealer. Johnson looked into it and decided it was the right decision and the right company.
“They’re a good company,” he said. “They stand behind their products, stand behind their dealers, stand behind their customers.”
He said that kind of support and a desire to help farmers succeed is important.
“Farmers want to feel like somebody cares about us and appreciates what we’re doing for the world, for the community,” Johnson said. “A company that backs something like that is huge, to me.”
Johnson sells corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and cover crops including cereal rye, turnips and radishes. His customers are in southwest Minnesota and into southeast South Dakota.
Johnson’s wife, Nichole, does photography and works part-time for Visit Marshall. The couple has three children, ages 2 months to 5 years.