Courtesy of the Iowa Food and Family Project
Fourth generation farmers, Marty and Steve Schwers, raise cattle on their family farm in New Vienna. The brothers have been farming together in Dubuque County since 1989. Marty and Steve’s father previously farmed on the same site.
After transitioning out of the dairy business in 2000, Marty and Steve began to build feedlot facilities on their farm that are now home to about 2,700 head of black angus cattle.
In 2014, they added a 1,080-head cattle barn to their operations. The design of the barn always allows the cattle outdoor access and protection against inclement weather. Additionally, the Schwers brothers installed rubber mats on the slats and an irrigation system for increased animal comfort.
The new slatted, monoslope cattle barn is an example of how modern livestock buildings enhance animal care and provide environmental safeguards. The Schwers contain everything from the cows, so no contaminants enter waterways.
“The decision to build the new barn allowed us to expand our feedlot operation while bringing all their cattle back to the home farm site,” Marty Schwers explains. “We can keep a close watch on the animals and provide individualized care year-round.”
The cattle are fed one time a day. Using technology, the Schwers mix custom rations of hay, corn silage, distiller grain and liquid protein depending on the cattle’s maturity level. Throughout the year, the brothers work closely with a nutritionist and a veterinarian to ensure animal health across the lifespan, as well as feed efficiency and meat quality. In addition, their veterinarian takes care of all the paperwork for the livestock, which requires documentation for every vaccination or treatment a cow may receive.
“The Schwers farm is the true definition of sustainability,” says David Rueber, who has worked as the operation’s nutritionist for the past 15 years. “The cattle are raised on a pasture, where the land couldn’t be viably used for something else. Cattle are the ultimate recyclers and thrive on feed components that don’t have another significant use. Then the manure is used for fertilizer. It all comes full circle.”
Once the cattle reach market weight, nearly 90 percent are taken for processing at Iowa Premium Beef in Tama.
At the Schwers Farm, they make 12 batches of feed every morning. From start to finish, it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to feed the cattle. All corn grown on their farm is for feed. In fact, 80 percent of their cows’ dietary needs are met with what they grow right on their farm!