For Matt Schuiteman, there is no typical day on the farm.
Schuiteman and his wife, Minde Jo, co-own AJS Farms in Northwest Iowa. Both sides of his family have been farming for five generations. He and his family live on the farm that his grandfather bought in 1948. They raise hogs, alfalfa, corn and cattle.
What is it like to be Matt Schuiteman?
A typical day starts between five and eight o’ clock in the morning, and ends (hopefully) in time to go to one of seven children’s events. It starts at the computer with checking emails, the markets, and the weather. Then, it’s time to do chores – hogs and cattle require everyday feeding and care. With 30 head of cattle and 3,000 head of hogs marketed each year, there is a lot to be done every day!
Spring is planting time on farms all across Iowa, and for the Schuitemans, it’s time to plant alfalfa and corn. Some manure application also happens at this time. Manure from livestock can be applied to soil as a fertilizer.
The summer is time to bale alfalfa and grass hay. The hay, once baled, is used to feed livestock like cattle. The whole family is involved in showing hogs and cattle, and the spring and summer are the main showing seasons.
In the fall, the Schuiteman family is busy with corn harvest as well as manure and fertilizer applications. Schuiteman applies fertilizer with a strip tillage machine, which leaves most residue on the soil surface while tilling up a narrow strip between rows. This efficient method and promotes healthy soils.
In the winter, Schuiteman hauls corn and tends to livestock. Most of the corn is either hauled to an ethanol plant or an elevator, where the grain is transported to to other parts of Iowa and other states, and usually turned into livestock feed. Most of the cows on AJS farms calve between January and April.
Regardless of the season, Schuiteman is enjoying being a farmer.
“I love seeing newborn calves and pigs. I love being in the field during the season, especially when I’m working alongside my wife, Minde Jo. I love working on the show livestock with my kids. I also love being on the computer from time to time keeping up with market and information trends,” Schuiteman says.
Every day on AJS Farms brings concern for the environment. One of Shuiteman’s biggest goals for the future of his farm is to increase his cattle herd, so that cover crops can be used as a feed source. Schuiteman uses cover crops to improve the soil as they farm, which includes raising the carbon content of the soils so they become healthier and more productive. In fact, caring for the land is of the most importance on the farm.
“I think we have to do everything we can to be good stewards of what’s been given to us, and to improve how we do things whenever possible. There isn’t much future in a farm that doesn’t pay attention to the environment and the health of the soils it manages,” Schuiteman said. Part of being a good steward for Schuiteman is incorporating cover crops. Right now, they are experimenting with cereal rye and red clover.
What is unique about Matt and his operation? Being 100% continuous corn is pretty unique in Iowa, where corn and soybeans are usually rotated every year or every few years. The Schuitemans made this choice because it increases the carbon content of the soil, can be more profitable, and provides a lot of opportunity as a feedstuff. Schuiteman then uses cover crops, like rye and red clover, to help improve soil quality. This allows the soils to stay healthy in a corn on corn rotation. The idea of feeding a cover crop to livestock is also new and innovative.
It’s safe to say that if you were Matt Schuiteman, you would be a busy guy – a day in his life would be filled with caring for his livestock, land and family.