Steve: Managing Nutrients for a Sustainable Future

posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Steve in front of a spreaderAs a fifth-generation Iowa farmer, Steve Simms believes diversification is essential for long-term success.

“When my grandparents were farming, diversification meant growing various crops, plus raising cattle and hogs,” said Simms. “We follow that same principle, but with different revenue streams.”

Today, Simms, his wife, Cindy, and three sons, Matt, Ben and Brandon, run a unique family farm—corn, seed corn and soybeans for row crops; a tiling business; finishing 20,000 pigs; growing, flaming, detasseling and picking seed corn; and hauling manure for a variety of clients, including Iowa Select Farms.

“I bought my first manure tank in 1999, primarily to haul from my buildings onto my own acres,” shared Simms. “I wanted to be able to agitate, pump and inject manure for the most efficient management of both the buildings and the nutrients. Once I got the system down, the business grew from there.”

Simms’ manure-hauling business, Injectsom LLC, now includes six Houle manure tanks, three sets of pumps, agitators and auger loaders, and nine tractors to power them all. A flatbed trailer serves as a mobile service center, hauling fuel and a repair shop. Their proximity to several Iowa Select Farms finishing farms means the whole outfit has been able to grow. Safety is of utmost importance to Simms.

“All of our employees are very cognizant of the importance of safe practices in every trip we make, every day.”

For example, a five-gallon pail of water and a scrub brush is a mandatory fixture at the load stand to allow drivers to clean the slow-moving vehicle sign of every tank each time it is filled. From the basic scrub bucket to the most advanced technology, Injectsom ensures the highest safety standards, biosecurity and precision agriculture are met for each load.

Inside each tractor, a flow meter allows drivers to deliver the prescribed number of gallons per acre, and a Raven Sprayer Control calibrates the dose as the tractor speed changes. Five years ago, Simms retrofitted all of his tanks with a custom-manufactured, no-till bar with a vertical-till feature that accomplishes injection in 30-inch rows with minimal soil disruption. “All of the farmers appreciate this system because it preserves moisture and leaves most of the crop residue intact,” said Simms. In addition to minimizing soil disruption, another benefit of injection is the reduction of odor.

As a farmer, Simms recognizes the value of hog manure as a highly effective agronomic tool. “It is a more economical nutrient source than commercial fertilizer and improves the organic matter in the soil,” he said. “Plus, it’s a great system for Iowa—grow corn, raise pigs, apply nutrients and repeat.”

Simms values the precision with which Iowa Select Farms instructs their application rates, locations and timing of spring and fall dispersion. “They provide us with a detailed plan, and we follow it,” he said. “In every field, they only prescribe what the plant will take up. It’s a very agronomically and environmentally sound set of standards.”

In addition, Simms is a licensed manure applicator, and every Injectsom LLC employee completes annual training to be a certified applicator. They take their jobs seriously, and Simms said he could not operate the business without his devoted staff. “I have guys who have been with me 8, 12, 15 years,” he stated. “You simply can’t put a price on that kind of experience, longevity and loyalty.”