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Students watch pigs do the work

By Jane Ver Steeg

Most fences keep livestock out of the cornfield: Dordt agriculture students David Posthuma and Kerri Ewald have put up fences to keep them in.

This fall, seniors Posthuma and Ewald developed a directed agriculture study project and received a grant to feed twenty feeder pigs to market weight. Their swine group was free to roam in a small, unharvested cornfield, where a diet of fresh ear corn was supplemented by protein supplements and trace minerals. A second comparison group of twenty pigs with the same genetics are being fed in traditional pens at the farm of Dan Wilson from Paullina, Iowa, a pork producer and member of Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Posthuma and Ewald

Posthuma and Ewald

The concept of allowing hogs to graze and directly harvest a corn crop is not a new one, say the Dordt students. But they had to go back to the 1920s to find studies on the efficacy of this method of pork production.

Posthuma wrote up the project grant proposal and originally submitted it to the Iowa Pork Producers Association. The IPPA forwarded the proposal to the Iowa State University Extension State Sustainable Ag Program, who deemed it a worthy project and awarded a $995 grant to the project.

Upon completion, Posthuma and Ewald will write up an economic analysis of the activity, comparing the growth rates of the two groups and noting the differences in expenditures and profit margin.

Posthuma noted that the grazing method of corn harvesting saves on mechanical and storage costs, as well as building expense, manure handling, and some management time. They are using an intensive grazing method to make certain that as much ear corn as possible is harvested, adding about one corn row per day by moving an electric fence.

They bought the feeder pigs at 110 pounds and will feed them to a market weight of 260-270 pounds.

Mike Schouten, Agriculture Stewardship Center steward, is assisting the students in administering the grant funding, which was primarily used to purchase fencing and hog equipment that will remain at the ASC for future ag student projects.

David Posthuma is from Brandon, Wisconsin, and is taking an emphasis in agri-business. Kerri Ewald is from Smithers, British Columbia, and has an emphasis in animal science.

Other emphases offered by the Dordt Agriculture Department include plant science and ag missions. Dordt College also offers a two-year associate’s degree in agriculture, a pre-veterinary program, and an engineering science major with an emphasis in agriculture.