WALTONVILLE, Ill. — Perry and Cary Hottes utilized the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to develop an 18-paddock grazing system for their cattle herd.
“We started in 2006 with EQIP to build the perimeter fence,” Perry Hottes said during a pasture walk on his farm that was held in conjunction with the Heart of America Grazing Conference.
“We built 20 miles of fence and we have 5,000 feet of two-inch water line,” the cattleman said. “I did that myself and the only thing we custom hired was the winter feeding station that was built in 2016.”
The 50-cow herd is Angus and Angus-Simmental cross. “Our heifers are bred AI after they are checked for pelvic development,” Hottes said.
“Our cows run with the bull and we have some cows that are ready for embryos,” he said. “You don’t want to put them in heifers, you want big, mature cows, so we have 24 frozen embryos to put in.”
The pastures on the Hottes farm are MaxQ novel endophyte fescue with ladino and orchardgrass. “I usually put fertilizer on in the spring with one pound of ladino and four pounds of red clover if I cut hay because I want to put back what I took,” he explained. “I make hay because I’m trying to be good for winter and I don’t like buying hay.”
The water lines for the grazing system are connected to eight waterers. “I have a turnoff valve at the well and another one in the fencerow because it is important that you can turn each waterer off,” Hottes said.
When installing the waterers, the cattleman put down fabric covered by two-inch rock and lime. “If I was going to improve this, I would put down eight-foot of concrete around the waterer so there wouldn’t be dug out spots,” he added.
For the winter feeding station, Hottes built the area up two feet. “I wanted it to be dry and drain,” he said. “I have a six-inch pipe that drains from the gutters and goes into the pond.”
“The idea of a winter feeding station is not a shelter for the livestock but to control runoff from your feeding area,” said Matt Bunger, state grazing land specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“The building is meant for usage for three months a year although there are times it’s going to get used more,” Bunger explained. “The cattle come into the building, feed and then go back out to the pasture.” Choosing the site for a feeding station is critical, the grazing specialist noted. “If it is placed on a flat area, that can cause a mud problem outside even when there’s 20-feet of rock and fabric installed,” he added.
Hottes uses a feed wagon to provide hay for his cattle. “I like the bale feeder because I can move it out of the building, push the manure out and pull the feeder back in,” he said. “The cattle have access to the five-acre pasture and I usually put corn stalk bales out there.”
“Keep the water a distance away from the building, 50 to 100 feet,” Bunger advised.
“I think it’s a good idea to keep the water out of the barn, that way you’re not making it soupy,” Hottes agreed.
Hottes markets heifers through the Greenville Livestock Auction.
“Thanks to my wife and COVID, we developed a new marketing plan this year and we’re finishing our steers for freezer beef,” the cattleman said. “We are selling quarters, halves and whole carcasses.”