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Serving: IA

True sustainability means you are making a profit

AJ Blair
CATTLE AND CONSERVATION: Farming near Dayton in northwest Iowa, Kellie and AJ Blair recently received the 2016 Environmental Stewardship Award from the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. “With the right system, you can farm sustainably and make a profit,” says AJ Blair.
Farm couple from Webster County honored for environmental stewardship by Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association has named AJ and Kellie Blair, Dayton, as winners of the 2016 Iowa Environmental Stewardship Award Program (ESAP). The Blairs show a dedication to the environment on their modern, diversified livestock farm and have added cattle to the farm because of the conservation benefits cattle have to offer.

AJ and Kellie are now the fourth generation on the Blair family farm, and their children, Wyatt and Charlotte, are the fifth. In 2010, they brought cattle back to the farm with a 400-head monoslope finishing barn, and in 2014, they began building a herd of SimAngus cows, as well.

The Blairs have a holistic, systems approach to reaching their goals, building on improvements until the entire process makes sense from a farm management, environmental and financial standpoint. “It’s a long-term process. Every year we do a little more. It’s hard to know what components are helping with the year- to-year variables we face, but we try to make changes that will be a benefit in the long-run,” explains Kellie.

Every aspect of the Blair farm works in more than one way to improve the farm, grow more food more efficiently, and help maintain profitability even in tough times. For example, cover crops are used on the farm for soil health, water quality and grazing cattle. The monoslope barn provides another income stream, uses corn and soybean residue as bedding, and provides natural fertilizer for the fields. The corn crop is used for earlage, and “wet” corn and ethanol coproducts are part of the feed rations.

Often times, it seems as though increased sustainability can decrease profitability. But the system the Blairs have worked out is intended to increase both factors. As AJ explains, “Production agriculture is a business. You have to make enough money to farm again next year. The hard truth is that farmers don’t care about soil health or water quality if they can’t afford to farm again the next season. So true sustainability means that you are making a profit. We do a lot of enterprise budgeting and in that process you find yourself questioning why you are creating each expense and whether it’s really necessary. And for us, conservation sits right on the table with the numbers.”

The Environmental Stewardship Awards Program is supported by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Foundation, National Cattlemen’s Foundation, Dow AgroSciences, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Pruismann inducted into ICA Hall of Fame
This year’s recipient of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association Hall of Fame award is Kent Pruismann from Rock Valley in the northwest corner of Iowa. Nominated by the Sioux County Cattlemen’s Association, “Kent is a champion for the cattle industry as a whole,” they said in their nomination letter.

Pruismann is a third-generation farmer who has been a dedicated feedlot producer in Iowa for the past 34 years. He has been a county and state ICA member for 24 years and national member for 22 years. Not only has he been a long-term member of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association but he has also been the Sioux County president, state district director and president. He was nominated to represent Iowa on the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and was selected by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to serve. Pruismann was chairman of the Freedom to Operate Committee at the NCBA Convention, and then served on the CBB Executive Committee and as chairman of the CBB Audit Committee and will serve on the nomination committee at this year’s NCBA convention.

Kent and his wife, Sylvia, have opened their feedlot to host many trade delegations and farm tours. Kent has provided his time and expertise to advocate for many important issues in Iowa agriculture including establishment of the Iowa ethanol industry, feedlot environmental stewardship, sustainability of the beef industry, beef quality assurance and expansion of export markets.

“No matter what the cattle industry asks of him, Kent responds,” says Phil Reemtsma, immediate past president of ICA. “And many in the cattle industry locally and nationally turn to him for advice and wisdom. He exemplifies the character that cattlemen and women strive to obtain: caring for family, church, community and the agriculture industry. The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association is proud to honor Kent: thankful for all the ways he has served our industry.”

Source: Iowa Cattlemen’s Association

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