The new shepherds on the block

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This time of year Nikki and Rueben Sprung bring a new definition to parenting. For four months starting in January, they tend to their flock of sheep and care for newborn lambs.

The job isn’t for the faint of heart as they work around the clock to keep everything in order. As days stretch into nights, they proficiently work to keep the sheep fed while always watching the health of newborn lambs. All while also taking care of their cattle and hogs.

“We’re good together,” Nikki said about working with her husband on a daily basis.

”To work with your best friend and your spouse is great,” Rueben added. “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.”

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Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Exploring the Envirothon


Okay, here’s a test for you. What is Limnology? What is the state criterion for dissolved oxygen in Iowa’s warm water streams? What is thermocline? What is the Parent Material for Sharpsburg soils?

Are you stumped?

A group of high school students from across Iowa correctly answered those questions and many others from aquatic, current issues, forestry, soils and wildlife categories during the 2016 Envirothon held at Spring Brook State Park near Guthrie Center.

The Envirothon, sponsored in part by the Iowa Soybean Association, is a team competition for high school students. It challenges the students in their critical thinking skills by working as a team to conduct hands-on investigations and answer written questions concerning environmental issues in five categories.

This year fifteen high school teams competed at the 20th Annual Iowa Envirothon State Competition.

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Story and photos by Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

ISA directors meet with Chinese officials

Kirk's China
ISA directors are wrapping up a 12 day mission to China to learn more about this important market (imports 60 percent of all the soybeans imported in the world) and to strengthen new and long-term relationships.
So far we have met with two of the largest private soybean crushers in the country as well as with two of the large state owned soybean import companies (COFCO and ChinaTex).  Even though China already has overcapacity in soy crushers (perhaps as high as 40 percent more than they need), we heard of several new plants in the works.  We toured one new crusher that will be in full operation later this month.
We also spent several days visiting aquaculture farms in east Central China using the Intensive Pond Aquaculture (IPA) technology.  IPA technology was introduced to China three years ago in a project funded by the Iowa Soybean Association.  IPA involves installing channelled raceways that use flowing water to improve the overall water quality, remove fecal matter and dramatically increase overall productivity.  From the initial demonstration three years ago, there are now more than 1,000 of the IPA’s in use across China and this is anticipated to explode in the next 3-5 years.  Key for soybean farmers?  More soybean meal and soy concentrates in the feed for the fish.
We have also received market reports by the China based U.S. Soybean Export Council staff as well as from officials from the Agricultural Trade Office of the US Consulate office in Shanghai.
In all of the meetings, near consensus that demand for imported soybeans will continue to increase, but at a pace slower than in the past.  Growth is going to continue to be driven by the increase for soybean meal in pork, poultry, eggs, fish, shrimp and to a lesser extent dairy.
By Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association

Calving season a 40 year journey


After glancing at the TV one last time Duane Ohnemus pulled the laces of his leather boots tight. The TV is the first thing he glances at when he wakes up this time of year and the last thing he sees before going to bed. While most of America is watching the morning news or a recorded mini-series, Ohnemus is watching a live feed of cows in his barn.

Ohnemus and many other farmers and ranchers across the country are in the midst of the 2016 calving season —a two to three-month process that demands constant attention and braving harsh weather..

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By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager
Calving season

Millions announced for water quality

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A wave of support to help with water quality and flood risk challenges will soon be making its way to Iowa thanks to federal dollars. Governor Branstad announced a $97 million federal grant recently during a press conference at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines to help communities battle ongoing flood issues.

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Farmers see how U.S. soybeans power aquaculture

A rain-drenched southern Mexico couldn’t dampen the spirits of 50 soybean leaders that toured Regal Springs Tilapia farm last week. The group was in Villahermosa for an all-encompassing deep dive into the world of aquaculture with presentations from U.S. Soybean Export Council – USSECexperts and top researchers from around the world.

The pinnacle of the trip was a tour of Regal Springs. Regal Springs produces 30,000 pounds of fish out of two lakes each year. The secret ingredient to the success of their business is the soybean meal used in the formulated diets of the fish. For more about the tour watch this video.

By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Aquaculture tour shows power of the soybean checkoff

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Tim Bardole, ISA director from Rippey, feeds a pen of tilapia at the Regal Springs Tilapia farm in Mexico.

United States soy meal is finding an ever expanding market south of the border thanks to aquaculture.

This week about 50 growers, state soybean staff and United States Soybean Export Council (USSEC) employees spent the week in Villahermosa, Mexico learning about existing opportunities and future expansion of the industry.

“We’re here to help show the soybean farmers in the U.S. where their checkoff dollars are being invested, how they are being invested and ultimately where much of their soybean meal ends up,” Colby Sutter, marketing director for the global aquaculture program with USSEC, said while leading a tour at Regal Springs Tilapia. “It’s crucial to be able to see first-hand how relationships have been forged in international marketing programs where ultimately we are creating a preference and demand for U.S. soy.”

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It’s calving season!

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This healthy calf was relaxing in a pasture within two hours of being born on a farm near Milo. Many farmers across the state will be keeping watch and working around the clock to make sure that the cows and calves are healthy. The calving season usually stretches for several months through some of the harshest weather Iowa can dish up. That makes it, even more, important for farmers to keep a constant watch on the herd regardless of frigid temps, rain, sleet or snow.

By Joseph L. Murphy, ISA member communications manager