Craig and Joyce Benning, who live 5 miles west of Goessel, recently started a sideline business helping farmers increase the nutrient value of hay bales.
The business grew out of a discovery they made at the height of the drought in August 2012 when their cowherd needed something more than the native grass to maintain their health.
Feeding protein and mineral tubs proved to be expensive, so they searched for other means of providing the nutrition their cattle needed. That’s when they found out about a company called Anipro XF that developed a unique method of enhancing the nutrient value of low-quality hay bales. It involved injecting a high-energy corn steep supplement directly into bales and then feeding the hay to the cattle.
They could see improvement in the condition of their cattle in a couple of weeks. This led them to look into becoming dealers, which they did in October 2012.
“We experienced the benefits firsthand with our own cattle,” Joyce said. “We are the kind of people who have to believe in a product before we can sell it.”
Using a PVC pipe wand, Craig applies the half-water, half-nutrient sweet mixture to upturned big round bales. The supplement penetrates the hay and results in a feed product that is more palatable and digestible for cattle than it was before.
The nutrients include 25 percent protein (including some urea), as well as 5 percent fat and a complete vitamin and mineral package. A 10 percent protein all-natural product also is available.
The supplement can be added to all kinds of hay bales including wheat straw, CRP grass, prairie hay, brome, cornstalks, and milo stalks to help cattlemen utilize poor quality hay.
Craig noted that drought conditions and excessively wet weather as was experienced this past summer could both result in hay with reduced nutrients.
The couple said their product has been well received. They estimated they treated at least 1,700 bales in 2012.
Kyle Klassen of Lehigh utilized the product on wheat straw bales in 2012 and will again this year. He said he has been very happy with the results.
“I tried other products, and they didn’t seem to help, but the cattle ate this hay very well, and it seemed to do some good,” he said.
The Bennings own a 40-acre farm and have 80 head of Angus cows and five horses. They rent pastures for their cattle and bale hay for farmers on a crop-share basis.
Craig quit his job at Golden Heritage Foods (now Barkman Honey Co.) in Hillsboro in August to devote full-time to taking care of the cowherd and expanding their feed supplement business.
They said they’ve gotten quite a few more customers this year. Many new customers come from word-of-mouth advertising by satisfied customers.
They hold meetings in which a company nutritionist promotes the product and explains how it works. The couple works together on their farm and in their business.
“It’s a 50-50 deal,” Joyce said. “I’m outside no matter what the weather is.”
She helps feed cattle, assists with calving, and runs the pickup truck that holds the big tanks from which her husband applies the slurpy brown liquid to bales.
“It’s a fun business,” Joyce said. “ We’ve met a lot of nice people, and the company stands behind its product.”