Farmer Spotlight: Organic Nutrients Boost Iowa Farmer's Soil Health

posted on Thursday, August 1, 2019

Organic Nutrients Boost Betten’s Soil Health  

Not too many years ago, swine manure was just a waste product. Today, farmers like Brandon Brandon standing next to his farming equipment Betten value the organic nutrients that swine manure provides to boost soil health and crop production.  

“Manure adds organic matter and micronutrients to the soil,” said Betten, a cattle, corn and soybean producer who farms near Jolley in northern Calhoun County. “It’s also a more economical nutrient source than commercial fertilizer.” 

Finding the right solutions to make his farming sustainable appeals to Betten, who farms with his father, Brian. “There are so many ways to reach the same end goal of staying in business and growing your operation. It’s all about finding out what works for you.”  

The Bettens value the role that livestock plays in Iowa to help young people get started in farming. Their livestock operation includes backgrounding cattle.  

“I take them from 400 pounds to 800 or 900 pounds before they go to feedlots in Iowa,” said Betten, a 2002 Rockwell City-Lytton High School graduate who studied criminal justice at Iowa Central before returning to the family farm 13 years ago. “I like the challenge of getting young cattle off to a good start and keeping them healthy.”  

More than just manure  

While Betten focuses on cattle production, he has worked with Iowa Select for more than four Brandon and his right hand manyears to haul liquid manure from several area swine barns and inject it into fields where he raises corn and soybeans.  

 “We follow a manure management plan to protect the environment,” said Betten, who is raising his two young children on the farm with his wife, Holly. “We also work with nutrient management specialists to make sure our plan is updated at least once a year.”  

The plan specifies everything from the manure’s nutrient content to the maximum amount of manure that can be applied to the land. While Betten could hire a custom manure applicator, he prefers to handle it himself.   

When it’s time to apply swine manure in the fall, the manure is hauled from the swine barns in a Houle liquid manure spreader. The manure is then injected into the soil and covered up by disc blades on the applicator.  

“This helps control odor,” Betten said. “It also keeps the manure from running off the land, although our fields are pretty flat, so this isn’t a big issue.”  

Being a good neighbor and serving the community are important to Betten, a long-time member of the Calhoun County Farm Bureau board and the Calhoun County Cattlemen’s organization. He appreciates how Iowa Select is community-minded, too. “They are very professional, easy to work with and friendly.”  

A team effort like this is valuable, he added. “Livestock production makes a lot of sense for Iowa,  because hogs and cattle eat the corn we grow, and they provide nutrients to help grow healthy crops. Agriculture also provides a lot of jobs that keep Iowa’s economy growing.”  

Brandon standing next to his cattle herd