Moes’ green feedlot earns eminent farmer honor
September 20, 2017
John Moes doesn't follow by the rules when it comes to ranching and farming. Instead, he implements technologies that have turned his feedlot into one unlike any other in eastern South Dakota. For such practices, John was named Eminent Farmer/Rancher by South Dakota State University Colleges of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Education and Human Sciences. Tom Varilek of Geddes has received the same honor as Moes, and June L. James of Hazel and Gwenn Vallery of Nisland were each named Eminent Homemaker during a Sept. 15 award ceremony.
John, along with his family, has created what he refers to as a "green" feedlot. Through his life-long career raising beef cattle, he has utilized technology at his Florence feedlot that many in his field aren't even aware of.
"We're always looking to tomorrow to find new technology, to see what works, and what doesn't work," he said. "In 2011, we expanded to a 1,999-head facility. We've got pasture to raise livestock, and we were feeding a lot of Holstein steers at that time. We don't have many of them left, we've got to keep going with what works."
Moes Feedlot has shifted focus to raising Certified Angus Beef, which can be achieved and made more efficient by several technologies allowing for refined synchronizing to within a 21 day period and culled cattle based on quality.
"We've been working with George Perry on synchronizing. We breed three groups of 100 head of cows in three different weeks in the month of June," John said. "We put CIDRs in one group, pull it out of the next. If you breed 300 head of cows in three weeks, and you get 50 to 60 precent bred in day one, then we get another 35 to 40 percent in the next heat cycle, we can have 90 percent bred in 21 days. The technology is there."
By tightening up his breeding period, his calving period is also lessened, allowing for more pounds gained by calves born earlier. Artificially inseminating cows, as John does, is common practice in ranching, electronically identifying calves is less so.
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"We also use EID tags on all the calves and do DNA testing with George. We're getting longevity in our cows," Johns said. "Thirteen years ago, when we started with George, at that time, we were culling because they were open cows. Now we're culling for disposition or bad udders or they're not as good of a cow. We've got the technology to get carcass data back on our calves, so we cull for quality grade instead of having a cow freshener. We've got 60 to 64 percent Certified Angus Beef which brings $4 to 5 more per hundred pounds when they're CAB."
His facilities revolve around two mono-slope barns measuring 80' by 360', that can hold up to 900 cattle, and 60' by 210', that can hold up to 500 head, as well as outside pens and 1,000 acres of grain and forage crops.
"Ten years ago, I didn't think we would be as big as we are. It's just kind of grown," Moes said. "We have the facilities to feed cattle efficiently. One reason we went in the direction we did instead of grain farming, we've got a passion for the livestock. You can expand a feedlot, but you can't always find more farm ground."
That feedlot is considered one of very few "green" facilities, and the buildings maximize heat in the winter and keep cattle cooler in the summer.
"We don't let any runoff run down the sloughs; it is all contained in our facility. We're trying to have good neighbors and be good neighbors. By containing all of our run off on the feedlot, we can be that," he said. "We have kind of a good track record where you can show someone how good it can be and still produce beef at an efficient level. The production level is at the point where we can afford to do it and have a good quality product."
The mono-slope barns are situated east to west, allowing for sun to pour in the open south-facing wall in the winter and cattle are shaded in the eastern South Dakota humid summer.
Many local groups and classes are welcomed to tour the facilities annually, including an SDSU cow-calf producing class of 60 on Tuesday.
"We open it up for people coming in to see what we do and help promote agriculture," he said. "We help in the community and help 4-H. A lot of it is promotion of what we've got and our way of life. We're a family operation."
John's son Bryan helps in the day-to-day operations and his daughter Amber Gaikowski is bookkeeper for the farm.
"It took a good wife to get me this far," John said of his wife Donita.
"The Eminent Farmers Award is a great honor for my dad," Gaikowski said. "He has put his heart and soul into the operation he has. The farm started with only 12 head of cows, and now is a successful cow/calf operation of 350 head alongside of a feedlot with 1,999 head. My brother Bryan Moes has also been a great addition to the operation after returning to the farm three years ago. My father has instilled in all of us kids a tremendous work ethic which I hope to pass onto my children."