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Curiosity, opportunity propel Husker to international championship

LINCOLN, Neb. — Growing up in Lincoln, Neb., Kennadi Griffis knew she wanted to pursue a career that would provide ample time outside.

“I didn’t want to have a desk job — that’s the type of person I am, I needed to be on my feet,” she said. “And I was interested in agricultural sciences. Going through the list of majors, I saw environmental science, and I just knew that would be something that would have me up and moving.”

Her curiosity about the natural environment and the opportunities she has found at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln have propelled the Husker to an international championship in soil judging as a member of Team USA.

Joined by team members from Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, Griffis competed in the International Soil Judging Competition in Stirling, Scotland, in July and placed first against teams from South Korea, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.

“We were confident but still surprised,” Griffis said. “We knew what we were doing, but we were also up against teams, like the U.K., that were more familiar with the soils we’d be working with.”

Kennadi Griffis listens to Judith Turk, one of her coaches, as they discuss a soil sample in the pit on UNL's East Campus. Photo by Craig Chandler/University Communication.

Griffis, a junior, got involved with the Husker soil judging team after taking a soil evaluation class her freshman year with the team’s coach, Becky Young, professor of practice in agronomy and horticulture. Judith Turk, pedologist in the Conservation and Survey Division of the School of Natural Resources, also coaches the team.

“Dr. Young talked about the team a lot in class and invited us to join,” Griffis said. “I went to one of the meetings just to check it out, and I ended up joining my third semester.”

Soon, she was getting into the soil pits on East Campus and taking additional soil classes to learn more. She added a soil science emphasis to her major. Soil judging takes a complex set of skills to determine soil health, composition and best use, and Griffis immediately enjoyed it.

“The judging is all done in the field, using standard techniques, and you learn from practice,” Griffis said.

Griffis’ first year of competition took her to nationals in Columbus, Ohio, where she placed fourth as an individual and earned her spot on Team USA. She is the first Husker to compete in the international competition.

PREPARING TO COMPETE

In preparation for the competition, Griffis spent time reviewing her soil texturing skills, often called ribboning — where water is added to a ball of soil and then pressed between two fingers to form a ribbon. Ribboning helps determine the composition of the soil.

“I practiced texturing to continue to calibrate myself, seeing how much clay and sand and salt was in the samples I had because texturing is a really huge part of the scorecard,” Griffis said.

Kennadi Griffis critiques a ribbon of soil — where water is added to a ball of soil and then pressed between two fingers to form a ribbon — as part of her class assignment. Ribboning helps determine the composition of the soil. Photo by Craig Chandler/University Communication.

Griffis and her teammates also met over Zoom a handful of times to familiarize themselves with the international soil scorecard.

Once in Scotland, competitors spent four days in classes on Scottish soils, which contain more organic matter, are sandier and have different coloring than the Midwestern soils Griffis normally works with. Team USA also had to get to know one another to become a cohesive, competitive group.

“Meeting them in person was completely different than over Zoom,” Griffis said. “It’s kind of crazy going from not really knowing people to having to work on a team together. One of the things that we did was hang out a lot after our lectures and after our practice during the day, to become friends. Forming that camaraderie and getting to know each other on a personal level helped us a lot, I think.”

The day of competition, each team member took on a task that aligned best with their strengths, and Griffis’ previous texturing practice was put to use as she was charged with evaluating color and texture.

“It was really cool to do the competition there,” she said. “You might only walk five or 10 minutes between two pits and they’d be completely different, depending on their landscape position. We saw a lot of different things.”

Kennadi Griffis places a sample into a tray for evaluation as she and fellow students in her NRES 279 - Soil Evaluation course work in the east campus soil pit. Photo by Craig Chandler/University Communication.

Over the course of a day, the team worked from pit to pit, spending about an hour at each, and their diligence paid off when they were announced as the winners at the opening ceremonies of the 2022 World Congress of Soil Science in Glasgow the following day.

It was a challenging and fun experience — one that she never expected to have.

“I really had no idea what soil judging was before I came to UNL,” Griffis said. “Now, I’ve made so many friends and connections, and those connections are really the biggest thing. I’ve already made plans to go to Wisconsin in December to see my teammates, and I’m keeping in touch with someone I made friends with on the Australian team. She’s going to come visit here.”

A degree and a heifer for three Aggie graduates

CURTIS, Neb. — In Spring of 2022, a final semester of classes at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture came with an incentive for three Aggie students.

From farms and ranches in western Nebraska, each applied to the NCTA Heifer Link project and received one animal from the campus herd.

Heifer Link was initiated about a decade ago for NCTA students at Curtis to earn a heifer and begin their herd or add to their cattle enterprise.

Michael Comstock of Harrison, Braden Johnson of Gering, and Ryan Liakos of Bayard were three successful applicants in 2022.

Just prior to May graduation, each was awarded a heifer that had been born at campus in 2021.

“I had started my own operation right after my first year of college,” said Liakos, a diversified agricultural management major at NCTA. He received an associate of applied science for studies in crops, livestock, ag business and ag mechanics.

Liakos farms rented ground located between Bayard and Scottsbluff. He added a Red Angus breeding heifer to the family herd. They farm corn, dry edible beans, sugar beets and livestock feed. Liakos was active in campus clubs. He had earned his American FFA Degree while in the Bayard FFA Chapter.

Braden Johnson, also an American FFA Degree recipient from the Bayard chapter, is back at rural Gering, raising cattle and alfalfa with his family. He said they focus on the cow-calf herd, raising alfalfa for their use and outside sales, and are considering adding a small feedlot at the farm.

“I appreciated the classes and programs that NCTA offered me, and enjoyed the hands-on aspect with the livestock there,” Johnson said. He majored in livestock industry management.

Michael Comstock studied diversified agricultural management and received a certificate in agricultural mechanics. He ranches with his family in northwestern Nebraska, in Sioux County and they also pasture cattle just across the state line, near Lusk, Wyo.

With a goal of assuming management of his grandparents’ operation, Comstock is well versed in cattle production and helps manage their small backgrounding lot for yearlings.

NCTA students in livestock classes have hands-on responsibilities in calving, processing cattle, and all facets of production. The livestock and large animal vet technician students also can become certified in cattle artificial insemination through weekend courses at NCTA.

“During calving, we checked on the cows every four hours in a rotation with other students,” Comstock said. His calving partner was Liakos. “I enjoyed the calving and classes too.”

Participants in Heifer Link complete an extensive application, along with submitting two letters of reference from individuals in the cattle industry. Applicants are evaluated by a review committee headed by Doug Smith, animal science professor and Aggie livestock judging coach.

The donor-supported project is possible through in-kind gifts of a live animal or financial contribution to the Heifer Link fund at the University of Nebraska Foundation.

Reading cattle and kids: using the lessons from dad

Sara Shields snuck away from the hay field for a few days to work the ring in the junior cattle shows at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. She kept the ring organized and moving, something Robyn Toft, the CSF livestock events coordinator said, she does better than anyone else she’s ever worked with. She made the youngest exhibitors feel safe and made sure the judge had a good look at each calf. She appeared when stubborn steers didn’t want to move forward and stepped in to help small showmen with pushy calves stop without making a scene or a fuss. She quietly read cattle and kids all day and she’ll do it again in Denver in January. Shields said she’s the lucky one, having the chance to see a generation of livestock kids grow up and see them now as they bring their own kids to exhibit at Pueblo.

Shields is a fixture at the Colorado State Fair in the junior beef show ensuring the ring is safe, efficient, and exhibitors each have a chance to give the judge a good look at their calf. Photo by Rachel Gabel
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“I remember when Tami (Norgren) Arnold brought me Mesa in Mesa’s first year and told her I had helped her and Mesa’s dad their first year showing and the whole way through,” she said. “I don’t take that as me being dated, I just think I’m so lucky because I’m seeing some great kids. It’s been such a gift for me.”

Her first year as a National Western Stock Show staffer was her sophomore year at Colorado State University in 1989. She worked in the press room as an intern. She ran results from the ring to the office and eventually found her way to the entry office when Corinne Hummel was the livestock manager. Through the years she returned to the Yards and worked with Chuck Sylvester, Tom Stromberg, and Pat Grant, among others. She was eventually hired as a livestock superintendent, splitting her time between the Yards and the Hill. She said she wants each youth exhibitor to have a good experience and be safe.

“I know these families spend a lot of money to come to Denver, no matter what cattle they brought, they invested a lot to get them there and give them that experience,” she said. “I want them to walk away and say that Denver and state fair treated me well and we had great help and people were fun.”

Shields grew up at the base of the Sangre de Cristos on the San Isabel Ranch four miles west of Westcliffe, Colo. She learned to read cattle working with her father, Dr. Ben Kettle. Kettle, a cattleman and veterinarian, graduated from Colorado A & M in 1933. His senior year was the first year that women were allowed admittance into the School of Veterinary Medicine. She said at the time, he vocally opposed this decision. Shields said God’s sense of humor shone through when Kettle was given six girls and often had an all-girl crew to work cattle.

Dr. Ben and Bet Kettle. Courtesy photo
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Kettle showed registered horned Hereford carload bulls at the National Western Stock Show and was, she said, a thought leader for the agriculture industry. He was an integral part of the research into brisket or high-altitude disease at CSU, something she discovered when she was a student there writing about the topic. Dr. Tim Holt, renowned for his work to develop and perfect PAP testing in high altitude cattle, told her she should ask her dad about his work as a part of her research. She said Dr. Kettle was humble and had never mentioned the role he had played. She said her dad was a fine man and taught his children the importance of giving back.

Shields and her dad, Dr. Ben Kettle. Courtesy photo
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She said she and her sister always showed home-raised steers from the genetics her dad worked to develop, improve, and keep in the front of cattlemen’s minds when it was time to purchase quality herd sires.

“I loved and was so humbled I got to show the cattle my dad raised and if I could win showmanship and stand in my weight class — you know I was never going to beat a show steer with a straight-bred Hereford steer — but if I could hang in there and make the champion drive and if I could win showmanship every time, that was where my heart was,” she said.

The lessons about reading cattle that she learned from her dad are the ones she said helped her during her showing career, and they’re the ones she uses in the ring helping young cattle exhibitors at CSF and NWSS. She said she has a soft spot for the kids who, like she did, know their steers from hours of putting in the work at home as a family. The steers, she said, show her which of them know their kids and the like.

Dr. Kettle’s Hereford breeding program can still be seen on the San Isabel Ranch. Photo by Sara Shields
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When Shields graduated from CSU she found her way to Nebraska to work for the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association. One fall when she was home helping, she said her dad flipped a bucket over, lowered himself to sit on it, and told her he had waited a long time for her to come home so he could sit back and allow her to preg check heifers. Working together, he continued to teach her how to best time rotational grazing by listening to the ground and watching for subtle signs of early sickness in cattle, and always reading them.

When he and her mom, Bet, who she said was a spitfire, were ready to slow down her dad called her in Nebraska to tell her he needed “a little calving help.” He knew, she said, she never wanted to leave the ranch, so the opportunity was exciting. Dr. Kettle had five children from a previous marriage, Bet had three, and together the couple had two more daughters, the youngest was Sara. She said she never felt entitled to return to the ranch and communicated with all of her siblings about the possibility. She returned to the ranch with their support and blessing and has been there since. Dr. Kettle and Bet have both passed away now, both having left their signatures on the ranch and the state’s cattle industry.

Dr. Kettle and Bet Kettle both left their signatures on the state’s cattle industry. Photo by Sara Shields
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The house she and her husband, Mike, live in is the home she grew up in. Her living room is the original log cabin that her great grandpa built after immigrating to Colorado in 1869. He filed his homestead claim in 1872.

The San Isabel Ranch is west of Westcliffe at the base of the Sangre de Cristos. Photo by Sara Shields
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“I got to be the kid out of 10 children to come home and be in the very house I grew up in and try to hang onto that deep traditional set of roots,” she said.

The Shields still have some Hereford cross cows, though they were forced to pare down in 2017 during an exceptionally dry year. Mike worked for about 20 years next to Dr. Kettle, selecting bulls and building upon the foundational herd that signaled back to his years campaigning bulls in the NWSS Yards. Selling the purebred Hereford herd to survive dry years was a difficult decision, she said, and it was the same year she said Mike was called to pastor the local cowboy church, something she said they didn’t see coming.

“I knew that was the Lord asking if we were going to make this ranch our idol, or would we go where you’re being called and He would let us stay where we had been since I was a little kid,” she said.

That call to the church wasn’t a new chapter in Mike’s story, though. Shields said when Mike was born, complications prompted the doctor to ask his dad, Mike Sr., to choose whether he should save baby Mike or his wife. He hit his knees and promised to go wherever he was called if only both would be spared. At the time, she said Mike’s parents were trying to purchase a ranch in Utah. He was, instead, called to pastor a little church in Evergreen, back when it was still a ranching community. He managed a ranch in that area and spent over 40 years leading nondenominational churches in small communities.

Mike and Sara Shields. Courtesy photo
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Mike found his way to Nebraska while his dad was pastoring a church near Bassett, and went to college there on a basketball scholarship. Even though Bassett was in her territory while she was working for Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association, the two didn’t cross paths until she had returned to the ranch in 1995. At the time, Mike was working for an implement dealer, and they crossed paths. Several years later, he was managing a ranch just a few miles south of the San Isabel. She said he was dealing with a set of sick calves and made his way to the ranch to seek out Dr. Kettle’s guidance. The rest, she said, is history and all a part of God’s plan.

There are still a few purebred horned Herefords on the ranch, though these days, they’re primarily Angus and Red Angus back to Red Angus bulls. Customer yearlings and a hay operation round out the San Isabel.

Colorado cow doc, rancher featured in new NatGeo show

A reality show featuring large animal practitioner Dr. Lora Bledsoe, her husband James, their Frying Pan Ranch and the Australian Shepherd working dogs they raise has debuted before a national audience. The show, In the Womb: Animal Babies screened Sept. 21 on the National Geographic channel and is also now streaming on Disney.

Brumby’s pups steal the show in In the Womb: Baby Animals. Photo by Casey F. Kanode
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The show follows the pregnancies of an African lion, elephant, meerkat, and Bledsoe’s working Australian Shepherd female, Brumby. Bledsoe said media, especially on this scale, can be an excellent tool to bridge the gap between urban and rural audiences.

Brumby, a working Australian Shepherd on eastern Colorado’s Frying Pan Ranch. Photo by Casey F. Kanode
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Bledsoe is a graduate of Colorado State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and has a mobile large animal practice in eastern Colorado. Her expertise as a breeder and a veterinarian is showcased in the show.

Brumby, James, and Lora Bledsoe on eastern Colorado’s Frying Pan Ranch during filming for NatGeo’s new show In the Womb: Baby Animals. Photo by Casey F. Kanode
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The filming itself took place in 2020, which posed a number of challenges, including bringing crew members to Hugo, Colo., from Turkey. The hours filming were long, she said, but the images produced are amazing. The crew used drones to capture aerial footage of the Bledsoes and their canine crew working cattle, which was something the horses and cattle were not accustomed to. They were also able to capture footage from cameras mounted on Brumby and the other working dogs, an event the dogs didn’t always appreciate.

“They really went above and beyond as far as the production value in the shots,” she said.

WORKING DOGS

Bledsoe said she hopes the show will give urban viewers a feel for the skill and value working dogs bring to a ranch.

“They may assume our dogs are like their dogs, companions and part of the family, which our dogs are, but they also bring a huge value to our operation as working partners,” she said. “We would have to hire more hired men if we didn’t have our working dog group. They really are talented in working with cattle and cowboys and horses and making it all come together.”

She said the show will also give viewers a glimpse into the value and importance of the breeding program to produce quality working dogs. While those in production agriculture are familiar with breeding programs, more urban audiences may not realize the nuances of purpose-bred animals.

“It really is incredible to see a purpose-bred animal doing the job they’re bred to do,” she said.

K-State extension plans seven forage and management meetings around Kansas

COLBY, Kan. – Forage and cattle management considerations for this fall and into the next year will be the emphasis of a series of meetings planned across the state to help producers make decisions given limited on-farm forage production and high feed costs.

“Many producers have already culled and weaned earlier than normal to decrease forage demand and going forward, additional adjustments may be needed for the fall and winter” said Sandy Johnson, K-State extension beef specialist.

Forages that have been grown may have issues with high nitrates and prussic acid, which can be deadly if mismanaged. Many may need to use unfamiliar feedstuffs with unique management considerations.

Meeting topics will include feedstuffs and projecting forage inventory needs, management strategies to avoid nitrate and prussic acid poisoning, considerations for feeding cows and backgrounded calves with limited forages and health concerns. Topics will be covered by various beef team members depending on location.

Meeting dates, locations and times are as follows:

Sept. 26, 6 p.m., Cherryvale Community Center, 123 W Main St., Cherryvale, KS 67335. RSVP to Wildcat District office (620) 331-2690, or Wendie Powell wendiepowell@ksu.edu

Oct. 4, 6 p.m., Marlow-Leitz Memorial Building, 902 Grand St., Alma, KS 66401. RSVP to Wabaunsee County Extension office (785) 765-3821, or Shannon Spencer spspencer@ksu.edu

Oct. 5, 5:30 p.m. (CT), American Legion Hall, Bird City, KS. RSVP to Sunflower District office (785) 332-3171, or Heather McDonald hmcdonald@ksu.edu

Oct. 6, 5:30 p.m., Agricultural Research Center-Hays, 1232 240th Avenue, Hays, KS. RSVP to Cottonwood Extension District office (785) 628-9430, or Alicia Boor aboor@ksu.edu

Oct. 10, 6 p.m., Inman Community Center, Inman, KS. RSVP to McPherson County Extension office (620) 241-1523, or Shad Marston smarston@ksu.edu

Oct. 11, 6 p.m., Severy Community Building, Severy, KS. RSVP to Greenwood County Extension office (620) 583-7455, or Benjamin Sims benjam63@ksu.edu

Oct. 13, 6 p.m., Grainfield Extension Office, 230 Main St., Grainfield, KS. RSVP to Golden Prairie Extension District office (785) 673-4805, or Kelsi Wertz kjwertz@ksu.edu

More information is available online at KSUBeef.org.

The source is the horse, of course

Horse manure gets a bad rap. Not only because it is, well… manure… but also due to a reputation for weed seeds when used on pastures, fields, gardens, etc. A pair of related Colorado companies — Colorado Manure Hauling (CMH) and Richer Lands Compost — is looking to change that perception by becoming one of the only, if not THE only, business combination in the country to perform the hauling and composting of equine waste to create a high-quality compost for commercial and residential use. While other businesses compost horse manure, they blend it with other organics. It is believed that CMH and Richer Lands Compost are the only ones to use equine waste as a single-source for their final product.

“We’re the only operation that I know of that has a 100% feedstock — with no diversity of that source — composts it and then sells it,” said Jonathan Whetstine, compost manager of Richer Lands Compost. “We own the hauling and now the composting. We are full circle with no middle men.”

A Colorado Manure Hauling truck and loader clean up a horse property in Elbert County. There has been such explosive demand for their services, that CMH owner Roger Whetstine believes they could easily expand from their current five trucks to eight full-time trucks and drivers in the near future. "If I had eight trucks right now, I would be happy," said Whetstine with a laugh.

Jonathan and his father, Roger Whetstine, man the helms at both companies. Roger runs the CMH manure hauling side and Jonathan heads Richer Lands Compost. The duo began horse manure hauling in 2014 after purchasing a client list, but it was desperation that led them to create Richer Lands Compost. As the old saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

“We hit our third truck, hired a third guy and got hauling,” said Jonathan about how their hauling business was growing fast to keep up with increasing demand in their region (south to Hwy 24, north to Watkins, east to Kiowa, and west to I-25, and including Castle Rock, Sedalia and Cherry Hills in Denver). “(A landscape company) just piled it for us, but they ran out of room. We were there four times a day, each truck, so it was a constant supply and they had to keep up with us.”

SCRAMBLE TIME

Once that facility stopped accepting, the Whetstines had to scramble.

“Before we started composting, I was looking all over the country and asking (other manure haulers), ‘okay, what do you do?’ recalled Roger about juggling massive demand for hauling equine waste with a scarce supply of dumping locations. “Every one of them, the No. 1 issue was where are you dumping it? We had kind of seen it coming, but it came a whole lot quicker than we were ready for.”

Faced with the possibility of closing their business despite a waiting list of customers, Jonathan explored commercial composting as a means to solve their dumping issues and create a saleable product. While the long term was positive, the initial obstacles seemed overwhelming.

Jonathan Whetstine pushes a thermometer into an unfinished horse manure compost row to demonstrate the row's heat temperature and the science behind using the windrow method for Richer Lands Compost's equine waste. "We are using science," said Whetstine. "We are regulated, we have a full process. So that historical data of 'horse manure is bad' is not true."

“We had discussed composting at that point and it was too much,” said Jonathan of regulations and expenses. “I read this big rule book from the Colorado Department of Health and I was just like, we don’t have $2 million to build a site. I was thinking we were done.”

But where there is a will, there is a way. Forging ahead, he found U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency guidelines that provided hope.

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY

“I learned some rules that changed the game,” Jonathan explained. “We are considered agricultural feedstock, so we are registered under the USDA, (which is) a whole different game. I now had an opportunity.”

Seizing that opportunity, the Whetstines carved out acreage to receive the equine waste and set up commercial composting. They began with the tried and true windrow method, using a large Aeromaster turner and following scientific guidelines to cook and cure the windrows into finished compost. Included in those regulations were mandated sampling and testing protocols.

Roger Whetstine, left, started Colorado Manure Hauling in 2014 after purchasing the client list. From humble beginnings of hoping to provide an income for his family and his son Jonathan's family, the Whetstine's have experienced enormous growth and are currently up to five trucks hauling horse manure (four of their own plus a subcontractor) and a new composting business that is also undergoing rapid expansion. "What we have found is that there is a bigger demand... than what we anticipated," Roger said in December of 2021 as he worked at loading up and hauling away horse manure for a client in Elbert County, Colorado.

“I have to test it and send in samples to the lab,” said Jonathan about testing the compost as well as protecting nearby surface water. “I have to look at my lab results and look at my parameters.”

Fast forward several years from their scrambling start and they are now producing a compost that is lab tested at less than 1% weed and seed germination and selling to commercial landscape clients like long-time Parker, Colo., companies Hughes Landscaping, Inc. and The Sod Guy.

Showing the scale of what they are already doing on their initial four-acre operation south of Elbert, Colo., Jonathan Whetstine stands in front of a finished pile of horse-manure compost that Richer Lands Compost will sell to both commercial and residential customers.

“It is fantastic,” praised founder Kurt Hughes, who now contracts with Richer Lands Compost. Although Hughes was initially skeptical of a horse-based product due to its historic reputation, he is a happy customer. “No problems whatsoever,” Hughes continued. “A lot of people that do horse manure, they just throw it in a pile and leave it there for four or five years, and it still doesn’t look as good as if you roll it, cool it, add water to it, and the different things they do to make it very nice.”

CONQUERING THE CITY MARKET

The horse-based compost also had to pass strict metro ordinances.

“There are a lot of cities out there like Aurora and Denver and Castle Rock that you have to have certified compost to install in some of these yards,” added Hughes. “They sent it to them and we sent it to them (and) they both came back and said that is beautiful stuff to use in our cities. That is a big step right there.”

Richer Lands Compost owner and manager Jonathan Whetstine, right, talks to an employee while the tractor creeps ahead during the turning of horse manure compost windrows. An Aeromaster turner is attached to the tractor and not only completely turns over the windrow, but also applies moisture and nutrients to the windrow while it does so.

For 2022, CMH and Richer Lands Compost are expanding the compost side of their business, already procuring land and developing it with contractors and the county government. While compost does not narrowly target soil deficiencies the way chemical fertilizer does, the Whetstines believe their product can fill a long-term need arising due to shortages and skyrocketing fertilizer costs reported in the news today.

“It is a full circle look at growing,” said Jonathan as he acknowledged the scale issues for large farms to use compost. “It is hard to treat large farms with compost, (but) compost isn’t just bringing nutrients; it is also creating a home for everything that helps plants flourish — the microbiology, the fungi. Not only do you want the immediate benefits, but you want a long term house to where things come in and grow and benefit the plants. It is a long game.”

That long game also includes helping horse owners understand their equine waste is a boon versus a bane.

Multiple windrows in various stages of cooking and curing are lined up in the current four-acre Richer Lands Compost property in Elbert County Colorado. Richer Lands Compost will be expanding operations in 2022, already procuring more property where it will start with 16-acres set aside for composting horse manure brought in by its Colorado Manure Hauling sister company. "When we get the bigger spot, we can bring in more manure," said Jonathan Whetstine. "We still need to hire more trucks and sell more compost, but from what I have seen in this market and economy, it is not going to be an issue."

“To haul off manure helps the horse community,” said Jonathan. “It helps keep good neighbors, it helps everything and we want to keep horse people here because we like that mentality. In the future, when we expand, we will be accepting horse waste. If people haven’t budgeted for manure hauling, they can bring it to our location for a less expensive dump charge. For a bigger barn that already has employees and equipment, if they have a way to transport it, just bring it over for a smaller dump fee. And maybe we can help alleviate the environmental pressure of having their horse manure pile up on their property. So there are all kinds of ripple effects. And it is all just horse!” he summed up with a laugh. “It just kind of proves the power of the horse.”

For more information on CMH and Richer Lands Compost, telephone is (303) 646-4879, emails are Coloradomanurehauling@gmail.com and Richerlandscompost@gmail.com. On the web at www.Coloradomanurehauling.com, and they are also on Facebook and Instagram.

The business name and number on the cab of Colorado Manure Hauling's trucks also include the good-natured logo "Only a good friend takes your crap."

12 Nebraska counties designated as primary natural disaster areas

This secretarial natural disaster designation allows the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters through emergency loans. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts. FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, these counties suffered from a drought intensity value during the growing season of 1) D2 Drought-Severe for 8 or more consecutive weeks or 2) D3 Drought-Extreme or D4 Drought-Exceptional.

Impacted Area: Nebraska

Triggering Disaster: Drought

Application Deadline: Dec. 19, 2022

Primary Counties Eligible:

Blaine, Knox, Nance, Dundy, Loup, Pierce, Hayes, Madison,Platte, Hitchcock,Merrick, Red Willow

Contiguous Counties Also Eligible:

Nebraska: Antelope, Cherry, Hall, Perkins, Boone, Colfax, Hamilton, Polk, Boyd, Custer, Holt, Rock, Brown, Frontier, Howard, Stanton, Butler,Furnas, Lincoln, Thomas, Cedar, Garfield, Logan, Wayne, Chase, Greeley

Colorado: Yuma

Kansas: Cheyenne, Decatur and Rawlins

South Dakota: Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Yankton

More Resources

On farmers.gov, the Disaster Assistance Discovery Tool, Disaster Assistance-at-a-Glance fact sheet, and Farm Loan Discovery Tool can help you determine program or loan options. To file a Notice of Loss or to ask questions about available programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

Trichomoniasis Special Focus Area rescinded by Wyoming Livestock Board

During the Wyoming Livestock Board meeting held March 16 in Lyman, Wyo., the board rescinded Board Order No. 2017-01 that defined the Trichomoniasis Special Focus Area #1 in southwest Wyoming and required annual Trichomoniasis tests of all bulls in that area that were not still nursing their dams. Trichomoniasis has not been detected in Wyoming since the fall of 2016 while the number of bulls tested has remained roughly constant since 2011. Ranchers operating in the Special Focus Area believe that Board Order No. 2017-01 enabled them to successfully get Trichomoniasis under control in that area and is therefore no longer needed. The Special Focus Area included all of Uinta County, most of Lincoln County, and Sweetwater County south of I-80. The order, a map showing the Special Focus Area, and the Wyoming Trichomoniasis Rules are available at https://wlsb.state.wy.us/public/animal-health in the “Animal Health Rules” section under the picture of the brockle-faced calf.

With Board Order 2017-01 rescinded, the Special Focus Area is now subject to the general Wyoming Trichomoniasis Rules specified in Chapter 15 and Import Rules specified in Chapter 8. In summary, those import rules require negative Trichomoniasis tests for all non-virgin bulls and all bulls 18 months of age and older to enter Wyoming. The Trichomoniasis rules require a negative test for all non-virgin bulls and all bulls 24 months of age and older to either change ownership (including lease) or turn out for breeding on communal grazing allotments. Ranchers on a communal grazing allotment can exclude their bulls from Trichomoniasis testing requirements by submitting a written exemption request to the Wyoming State Veterinarian signed by all participants in that allotment.

“We are extremely proud of our veterinarians and producers who have worked diligently to resolve the Trichomoniasis issues in southwest Wyoming,” added Dr. Hallie Hasel, Wyoming State Veterinarian. “Our Wyoming Chapter 15 Trichomoniasis Rules will continue the needed vigilance to aid in prevention of future outbreaks.”

For further information regarding Trichomoniasis rules in Wyoming, please visit the website, https://wlsb.state.wy.us/public/animal-health, or contact the Wyoming Livestock Board office directly via phone, (307) 840-1389, or email, lsbforms-applications@wyo.gov.

Nebraska woman volunteers with local FFA chapter on trips to national convention

Each October, Miqui Sheffield takes a week out of her life for the youth of Nebraska.

Eleven times since 2006, the Farnam, Neb., woman has volunteered with the Eustis-Farnam High School FFA program, transporting youth to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

It all started in 2006, when she and her husband Mark volunteered to drive, as their youngest son, Randy, was on one of the FFA teams that had qualified for nationals.

And after their sons had graduated, she continued to travel with the team as chaperone and driver.

It’s a 13-hour trip from Eustis to Indianapolis, and by the time the school vans hit the Lexington, Neb., exchange, the kids are studying. Chad Schimmels, the FFA advisor for the school, has each team ride together, so they can study as they travel.

Cell phones come to the front of the van, Sheffield said, and students alternate their study for an hour on, a half-hour off, and so on.

Eustis-Farnam FFA had four teams qualify for the 2008 National FFA Convention; Miqui Sheffield, middle row, far right, was one of the chaperones. The four teams were Agronomy, Marketing Plan, Food Science, and Meats. Photo courtesy Miqui Sheffield

HELPING COACH

Not only is Sheffield a driver, but she’s a surrogate coach at times. Some years, Eustis-Farnam has more than one team qualify for Nationals (in 2021, two of the chapter’s teams qualified: the Food Science and Technology team and the Agronomy team). With only one advisor, Schimmels works with one team while Sheffield steps in to help the other team, listening to their presentations and asking questions similar to what the judge might ask.

Sheffield is quick to point out that other sponsors also help. Schimmel’s wife, Angie, is an assistant coach and travels with the chapter. Other sponsors and chaperones do as well, depending on the number of students who qualify for the national convention. The volunteers step in, attending coach’s meetings and escorting students while Schimmels is busy with another group.

When Sheffield’s not helping students, she’s scouting for road construction, to make sure the route to and from competition is clear. She also shuttles students between the two convention activity locations.

The youth usually leave on the Sunday before competition starts and stay in the Quad Cities area the first night. Schimmels has activities planned for them: visiting a meat processing plant, walking through the University of Illinois fields, to identify plants, and other things that relate to their studies. They arrive on Monday, and spend all day Tuesday, one hour on, a half-hour off, all day, studying. The kids are down there to compete, Sheffield said. “There are fun things for them to do after they compete.”

Her younger sons, Bryan and Randy, (she and Mark have an older boy, Kyle) benefitted from their involvement in FFA. Both boys attended junior college on meats judging scholarships, with tuition and books paid for. “To me, I can pay back the FFA program with my time.”

She’s also seen what involvement in FFA does for kids.

A Eustis-Farnam FFA chapter member covers her face in surprise when she is awarded first place in the nation in the Food Science competition in 2006. It’s a moment Sheffield cherished and it reminds her of why she volunteers: “to see the kids realize how well they’ve done at nationals is priceless.” Photo courtesy Miqui Sheffield

“It’s such a tremendous experience. FFA changes their world in ways they would never have experienced without it. These kids deserve to be there.”

The youth consider her a friend. She’s been invited to graduations and weddings and loves getting to know them.

But it all comes back to what FFA can mean to a student.

“I know how important it is for the kids to get that experience, and I want to be a part of it.”

At the 2021 National FFA convention, Eustis-Farnam had two teams finish in the top 10 nationally. The Food Science and Technology team (Karissa Hodge, Natalie Malcom, Creighton Hecox, Skyler Oberg) finished in fourth place, and the Agronomy team (Grace Schimmels, Maggie Walker, Dallas Weitzel, Madison Woehrle) finished in sixth place.

Former Nebraska volleyball standout owns horses and loves to ride

Most people think there are no similarities between horses and winning college volleyball teams.

But not so for former Nebraska volleyball player Lindsay Wischmeier Peterson.

The Lincoln, Neb., native played for the Huskers for four years, including 2000, when the school won its second of five national titles. And now she serves as director of operations for the Husker Volleyball program.

And she has horses. She admits, with her busy work schedule and four sons, there’s not much time to ride. But when she does, she loves it.

She got her own horse in sixth grade, and started riding in 4-H, on play days, and for pleasure around the family farm near Burchard. By the time she was in college, there wasn’t much opportunity to ride.

RETURN TO LINCOLN

After graduating from Nebraska, Peterson spent two years coaching, one in Virginia and one in Colorado, before returning to Lincoln to work with the Husker team.

“That’s one of the first things I did,” she said, when she returned to Nebraska, “was to find a place (near Lincoln) to get my horses here so I could ride more often.”

Barrel racing gives her a chance to fulfill the competitive spirit that sports used to fill. She doesn’t barrel race much, mostly at local jackpots. When the Covid pandemic slowed things down in 2020, she was able to barrel race more.

She and her husband Ty have four children ranging in age from 2 years old to 8. All four enjoy horses and riding. The family just bought a 20-year-old horse this winter, with “more whoa than go,” Peterson said, “so that I feel comfortable with my boys riding in the arena with me, while I’m riding.”

Riding and horses are a great way for her kids to build confidence. “So far, they’re liking horses and that makes my heart happy. And I can use that as my excuse to my husband, for having the horses.”

There are plenty of similarities between volleyball and horses, Peterson said. Both involve physical balance. “With horse riding, you have to have great balance and a sense of feel. That translates to the volleyball court, and movements that strengthen your core and your balance.”

Emotions are another commonality between the two. Trusting your teammates is important when playing volleyball, and the trust between a horse and rider is important, too. Not being scared of what might happen is another lesson shared by both disciplines.

“Horses can sense fear, and if you’re scared, they’re going to be scared. It’s the same with your teammates. They can sense if you’re scared. At Nebraska, there’s a lot of expectation and pressure, and it’s easy to have fear.”

WORKING HARD

Both require hard work, too. “You have to work (at riding). You can’t expect your horse to perform if you don’t ride frequently. It’s the same with volleyball. You’re not going to be able to perform if you don’t work at it.”

Recently, she sold a horse to Nebraska head volleyball coach John Cook, who knew how to ride prior to buying the animal. After watching the television series, “Yellowstone,” his desire to ride was reignited. He sometimes comes out to ride at Peterson’s place. “He’s grown to appreciate the outlet” that horse riding provides,” Peterson said.

Lindsay Wischmeier Peterson played volleyball for Nebraska from 1999-2002 and is now the director of operations for the Nebraska Volleyball program. A horse rider, she loves the connection she feels with them while riding. Photo courtesy NebraskaVolleyball

As director of operations, Peterson is responsible for a variety of tasks at one of the winningest college volleyball programs in the nation. She handles team travel, budgeting, coordinating tournaments and camps, and assisting visiting teams. During her stint as a player for the Huskers, she was a former Husker volleyball captain and one of the greatest defensive players in school history.

With her busy work schedule and four boys, she doesn’t ride as much as she’d like to. But she has plans for retirement.

“I always joke with my husband that when I retire, instead of traveling, I’m going to get a nice trailer and load up my horses and go.”

She wants her sons to soak up the lessons that can be learned from a horse.

“There are a lot of life lessons and things you can learn in a relationship with a horse.”

Horses “are incredible animals. I really enjoy the connection that you can have with them.

“They’re an outlet for me. I find great peace getting on a horse and riding.”