Overall, I really enjoyed this trip. For being the inaugural trip we had a great group of people! If this is offered again next year I will be going! My favorite stop on the tour was 4K Farms. Being able to get hands-on at the farm was definitely beneficial. My least favorite stop on the tour was touring UNL’s football stadium. However, I did like touring their Ag and animal sciences campus. I am definitely considering UNL for grad school. This trip also helped me have a better idea of what I do and don’t want to do once I graduate.
The last couple stops on our tour were Claas Combines and Union Pacific. We started the morning at Claas Cobines. We toured their assembly factory. They receive all their parts from the main factory in Germany. Then they assemble and customize for the customer at the factory in Omaha. The lexicon combine is the most popular in the U.S. Their other smaller machines are more popular in other European countries. It would have been nice to hear more about the history of their company, but the lady in charge of customer relations was out of town.
The last stop of the day before heading to the airport was Union Pacific. An OSU Alumni works here so Matt was able to get us a meeting with the executives. I didn’t realize the wide variety of products they transport.
Today is the second to last day of the tour. This morning we went to their feedlot operation. We watched how they mix all of their feeds for the specific pens. They use big dump trucks that have mixing blades inside to ensure the feed thoroughly mixed before speeding it to the pens. Next we went to the east Campus where their Agricultural college is located. We toured their Agricultural Sciences building, animal science building, and tractor testing lab and track. We also tried a simulation in their commodities trading room. That was pretty interesting but I would definitely need more information about that fully appreciate that program simulation. Our tour ended at the ice cream shop on campus. It is managed and produced by their Food Science Deoartment. They buy the milk from local dairies since they only have about 15 dairy cows. To end the day we toured the football stadium. That was pretty cool! Tomorrow we visit Claas Combines and Union Pacific.
Today we visited 4K Farms in Redoak, Iowa. This farm is a hog breeding operation. It is the home of the famous boar, Hillbilly Bone. While we were here we were able to watch the process of semen collection from Hilton, the son of Hillbilly Bone. Then we went back to the lab to examine the sperm count on a slide under the microscope. Kirk, the owner, told us that he puts extender in the semen to make the life span last longer and also get more samples out of the total amount. He uses a 1:1 ratio of semen and sperm. Next we went to the gilt pen where he watched the process of artificial insemination. I’ve never been able to experience this process before in a real life situation. It was interesting to see the gilt who was in heat sprint over to the other side of the pen once the boar arrived (in a trailer cage attached the tractor). As soon as she reached the fence, as close as possible to the boar, she was in standing heat. Shortly thereafter Kirk sanitized the vulva and gave her a shot of oxytocin to increase the fertilization chances. After that demonstration we went to the farrowing crates to see the piglets….and hold them of courses! Who doesn’t love a cute little piglet!? After that we went to the nursery where they keep the freshly weened piglets who are getting acclimated to a grain diet. At each stop Kirk was extremely thorough with his explain of each demonstration and the processes for each stage of life on the farm. He was very knowledgable and I enjoyed listening to him.
The last stop of the day was a fun, light-hearted one…we went to the zoo! It was fun to see the exotic animals and have a relaxing afternoon in Omaha.
The first stop of the morning was Shatto Milk Company. They produce regular milks, flavored milks, ice cream, cheese curds, and butter. My favorite flavored milk of theirs is Cookies N’ Cream. The runner up was their traditional chocolate milk. Some of the other milk flavors included banana, coffee, cotton candy, root beer, and chocolate peanut butter. They milk about 300 cows per day. The calves are weened immediately and are bottle fed. They also mentioned an interesting technique they utilize when the calves are separated from the heard. A bucket of oats is kept in their pen for them to become familiar with and play with until they are actually ready to eat oats and leave the bottle feeding. I’m not as knowledgeable about the dairy industry so I found that to be an interesting practice. We toured their facilities and we’re given the opportunity to get a closer look at their barn where the heard is kept when not being milked. We also had the chance to ask the farmer questions about their operation, which was separate from the traditional tour the public gets.
The last stop of the day was at Schweizer Orchard. They own orchards for commercial production of produce and vegetables as well as 400 acres of U-Pick production. It was interesting to get the Missouri perspective on a U-Pick operation since they are not nearly as common as they are in Oregon. They mainly grew apples (quite a large variety), but also grew peaches, berries, pumpkins, squash, and a few other produce items. The owner mentioned that the insurance liabilities for a U-Pick establishment is insane. And the amount of lawsuits per year on their land almost makes him want to close down the U-Lick portion of their orchards. I enjoyed being able to tour their U-Pick orchard and taste their native Apple, the Jonathan. It was delicious!
Purina was way better than I was expecting! I learned so much about the research and development of animal feed. The Equine center had a treadmill for horses which helps them monitor endurance and study the feed diet. The dairy center had a milking parlor set up that allows them to have a cow leave once it is done and have a new come in for milking. As opposed to the traditional style of waiting for the whole side to be down before releasing back to the barn. The companion and small animal center housed their backyard chicken division and soon to be deer enclosure. They had deer feed focused on the protein that enhances their antlers to grow bigger and branch out more. They also have fish feed that helps fish, such as bass, grow bigger and faster during their quick digestion process. Their cattle center was empty when we got there because they just sent their heard off to market. They explained how the research and development works when they do have a full heard to work with and study. I really enjoyed touring their facilities. It definitely peaked my interest and is somewhere I could picture myself working.
To end the day we toured Mizzou’s ag and animal science facilities. It was interesting to see different layouts and operation practices. The best part was their glow-in-the-dark pigs! They use this to signify which pig has the specific gene they are studying. Today was a great day!
Today we went to the top of the arch, the riverboat tour, and Monsanto’s research facility in Chesterfield. I have been to the arch before but haven’t been to the top. That was awesome! The riverboat tour was pretty cool but not quite as informational about the history of St. Louis as I was hoping for. Touring Monsanto was awesome! I enjoyed learning more in depth about the specifics of modifying the genes in plants and how that works. I didn’t know very much about it, mainly just what the media has portrayed about GMO and BT to be. Monsanto showed us their seed chipper which I had never heard of before. It was first created for their soybeans, but they now have it available for quite a few other seeds. The machine takes a sample of the seed for genotyping to see which one is the best production. They also showed us their PacBio machine for gene sequencing. I wasn’t aware of how new this type of technology is. This machine looks at all the genes within the DNA and helps researchers analyze and narrow down specific sections and traits. We also toured their greenhouses, in-house engineering department, research labs, and their growing chambers. Their growing chambers can replicate any climate in the world to help them better understand growing conditions around the world and adjust their production accordingly. Overall, Monsanto is definitely a company I would be interested in come Spring when I graduate.
I’m finally in St. Louis! I arrived yesterday, the 7th. Everyone else is arriving here today. Fortunate for me, my mom is a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines so I was able to get a free ride here, however I fly standby so that means if there isn’t room…I don’t get on. My plan was to ride the Alaska flight today at 10:00am with the majority of everyone else, but that flight filled up pretty fast so I flew out yesterday. It’s about 12:30pm as I sit here and write this so I’ve got some time to kill before everyone gets here. I’m going to explore downtown St. Louis a little. It reminds me of Downtown Portland just with less coffee shops. They have more hotdog and BBQ stands. It smells delicious!
I’m looking forward to going to the sheep dairy and how that operation works. I’m interested to here what their clientele base is like. I didn’t realize that a sheep dairy was a thing. In general, I’m looking forward to going to all stops on the tour because these operations are all operating in the Midwest and are going to have different operating standards than us on the West Coast.
I can’t forget, the Cardinals game tonight and the Budweiser factory tour tomorrow are going to be a blast! You can’t go wrong with a classic American combo…beer and baseball!
During Spring term of 2015 I was sent an email from my adviser about an upcoming meeting. Attached to the email was a flyer announcing the opportunity for a 2-credit week-long field trip to the Midwest entitled National Ag Tour 2015. My first thought after I read the flyer, SIGN ME UP. I love to travel and I’m an Agricultural Science major so it was the dream combination for me. I remember during the first meeting Matt asked those of who might be interested in the tour to give him our contact information so he can stay in touch and give us updates and later on, finalize numbers of attendees for the trip. Pretty much everyone – and by pretty much I mean 99% of everyone– at the meeting gave him their contact information because we were a definite yes for the trip just from looking at the flyer and attending the first meeting. Props Matt. Oh ya…and did I mention that all the students going are girls? I can already tell this trip is going to be one for books. Memories will be made and knowledge will be gained.
The weeks have flown by since the initial information meetings. As of right now there are exactly 19 days until September 8th, the commencement of the 2015 Midwest Ag Tour. But, who’s counting..? I am excited, to say the least, about this tour. I am a born and raised Oregonian. The only agriculture exposure and knowledge I have is Oregon based. Our brief, but dense visit to the Midwest will help expand my knowledge of agriculture. I am looking forward to receiving our finalized tour schedule and, of course, I am looking forward to the tour!
Check back for updates throughout the trip!