In southern Minnesota, most farmers grow two types of crops – corn and soybeans. With all the crops grown, where do our crops go?
Why do we grow corn and soybeans?
Market access is THE most important factor in determining what crops we grow. Crops with no markets make no sense to grow. In southern Minnesota, we have an abundance of markets for soybeans and corn, which is mostly for livestock feed or ethanol.
Hog manure is an important aspect of feeding hogs corn and soybean meal. It is utilized and incorporated (plow) into the soil as a natural nutrient replacement—a great way to use a byproduct, previously thought of as a waste product.
Not only do we think manure is superior to commercial fertilizers, but the cost of manure is less as well. We test both soils and manure to help us determine the proper amount of nutrients needed. We don’t want to waste manure by applying too much nor do we want to apply less than we need because the manure is next year’s plant food. As you can tell, manure is a highly prized commodity and an asset. I literally put the value of manure applied to our cropland on my balance sheet.
So, Where do Our Crops Go?
We have multiple markets available. I see two ethanol plants and one soybean processing plant from the front porch of my house. All three are within 10 miles of our house. We are fortunate with not only the markets available but also how close they are to where we live.
Let’s start with soybeans. We plant soybeans on approximately a quarter of our acres. After harvest, they are either stored in a grain bin or sold directly (via truck) to Cenex Harvest States – a soybean processing plant. CHS processes soybeans into soybean meal, which is used for livestock feed. Soybean oil is extracted from the soybean to make food and industrial products such as soy oil and plastics. The decision to store or sell at harvest is price dependent.
We plant the remainder of our acres to corn. During harvest, most corn kernels have excess moisture that needs to be removed. We accomplish this task by using a corn dryer. If the stored corn has too much moisture, the corn will rot and spoil during storage. Rotten and spoiled corn has no value.
Approximately one-third of the corn we harvest is used for pig feed. We have an on-farm feed processor. Our farm is a little unique in that we make our own hog feed. Many other hog farms have their feed made by a local coop. We like the idea of feeding our own corn because we know where the corn came from.
Corn = EthanoL
The other two-thirds of our corn crop is sold to Valero. Valero is an ethanol plant that is located approximately six miles from our farm. Valero produces ethanol and grain distillers. Grain distillers (or DDGs) is what is left over after the ethanol is extracted from the corn and is used in livestock feed. We sell to Valero because we like the idea of a renewable fuel source and think it is important for the environment.
We are fortunate to have good markets available and we don’t take them for granted.