Crop Tour Day 4

John Deere and Nichols Farms

Today we travelled to Des Moines to visit the John Deere manufacturing plant. Once arriving we were given a guided tour from retired John Deere Employees on a tram. Throughout the plant we were able to see how different pieces of machinery are built and put together. At this plant cotton pickers and strippers, seed drills, sprayers and tillage equipment are all built and assembled and it was interesting to see how that process is done. An interesting fact to point out was that John Deere recently built their sprayer building to be environmental friendly, which means everything inside the building is electronic, as in no gasoline or diesel engines.

In the afternoon we travelled to Nicholas Farms in Anita, Iowa to learn about genetics in cattle production. We had the pleasure of talking to Dave Nicholas, the owner of the farm whose grandparents originated from Denmark. Here we learned about Dave’s past and his start into the cattle business at only age 9 when he bought his first calf for $100. Throughout the years Dave told us that he had a goal to buy a farm a year, which is no small feat. To date, Dave has over 700 head of Angus, 350 head of Simmental and 100 head of South Devon. They produce about 1100 calves a year that are then sold for their superior genetics. Nicholas farms was ranked 7th in breed stock in the USA.

Nicholas farms were one of the first farms to try new technologies and this has lead to their superior genetics and genetic profiles that they have for their cattle. Along with the use of genomic testing, Nicholas farms also uses ultrasound to determine marbling within the animals. There are 85 different genetic information sets per cow that they test for in order to maintain their brand of the best genetics. When producers purchase a cow they are also receiving all the genomic data that is associated with that cow. The use of this genetic information on farm has allowed Dave and his farm managers to select for specific traits that are favourable as well as to remove a genetic defect from their herd as well as all potential carries. Dave was very adamant that we understand that he believes in being honest and upfront with his customers and that word of mouth and reputation hold a high standard in not only the cattle business but in life.

Not only does Dave and his employees believe in upholding a reputation for his farm but also as a member within his community. Everyone at Nicholas farms is very active in their communities and Ross was even mayor of his town at one time. A one liner that I am not sure I will ever forget that Dave told us was that “It’s not what you gather, it’s what you scatter”.

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