Opponents of livestock production may obsess about smell, but having livestock in Iowa adds jobs, puts money into local economies and delivers needed protein to the world's dinner tables – and with help from Iowa's corn growers, livestock producers are achieving those benefits with environmentally positive practices.
Livestock in Iowa doesn't "stink" for local stores and businesses. In a single county like Sioux, cattle sales alone contribute more than $103.4 million annually, and across the state livestock sales total more than $8 billion.
Livestock production is critical to family farms, too. Did you know that 98 percent of all Iowa farms are family farms? In fact, many young adults find raising livestock the best way to come back to the family farm. That maintains Iowa's farm sector, which supports one out of every four Iowa jobs and supplies nearly $15 billion to the state economy each year.
Livestock still single largest market for corn
Livestock production has always been essential for Iowa's corn farmers – it's their single largest market. The Iowa Corn Promotion Board (ICPB) and Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) believe that raising livestock in Iowa makes even more sense today. For example, booming ethanol production offers cattle feeders a supply of new feed ingredients that can make Iowa's cattle industry more profitable than many other states.
In Iowa, livestock producers and corn growers are often one and the same, making it easy for corn growers to reap the benefits of manure as a natural fertilizer and to feed their own grain back to their livestock. In both instances, the livestock-corn partnership gives growers more flexibility to manage input costs and market output effectively. Twenty-three percent of Iowa's nitrogen needs for crops are currently met by manure instead of non-renewable natural gas.
Livestock and ethanol go hand-in-hand
Adding the coproducts from ethanol production to the equation offers farmers even greater flexibility and an ability to maintain the cycle of sustainability by feeding livestock, which produce manure to fertilize crop production and make more corn available for livestock feeding or ethanol processing.
Farmers who only have crops often work with their livestock-producing neighbors to capture the benefits of manure. That's possible because of the training and environmental planning that go into manure management. Out of Iowa's 89,000 farms, only 2,200 farmers and 1,200 commercial applicators are certified to spread manure in Iowa.
Livestock producers must also have manure management plans that are approved by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. These plans determine how and under what conditions manure is collected, transported and applied. Properly used, they prevent over-application of manure based on individual field conditions.
Manage smell and improve air quality
So what about the "stink" in manure? The ICGA and ICPB work with livestock groups, Iowa State University, and the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers on multiple approaches to manage smells and improve air quality. Some approaches already in use include proper siting of new livestock facilities, air treatment with bio-filters, and the use of wood chips and tree plantings to treat and disperse odors. Meanwhile, research continues to develop answers like feed corn that can decrease odor levels in hog manure.
"Iowa agriculture is changing and evolving with the bio-economy. We emphasize practices that are environmentally friendly and take into account animal welfare and our non-farming neighbors," said Roger Zylstra, chairman of the ICGA/ICPB's Animal Agriculture and Environment Committee and a livestock and corn grower in Jasper County.
"When you look at the economics, the chance to encourage younger generations in family farming, and the natural cycle of sustainability, I think there are plenty of benefits to wipe out the 'stink' some people find in Iowa's livestock."
For more information on how Iowa supplies corn for food and fuel, call Iowa Corn at 515-225-9242 or go to www.iowacorn.org.
Each year, the ICPB and the ICGA encourage all Iowans to recognize the contributions of Iowa's corn producers by celebrating September as Corn Month. The ICPB works to develop and defend markets, fund research, and provide education about corn and corn products. The ICGA is a membership organization, lobbying on agricultural issues on behalf of its 6,000 members.