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Bigelow Family Farm field day will highlight DIY water and corral systems for cattle, pigs

WINTERSET — Livestock infrastructure such as housing, watering and corral systems are essential components of most livestock farms – but the costs of purchasing equipment and having it installed can quickly add up. Some farmers, however, are saving money by doing the work themselves.

Jake Bigelow is one such farmer. He and his wife, Crystal, raise 40 Hereford-Angus cattle and four Hereford sows at Bigelow Family Farm near Winterset. Livestock are pastured and fed non-GMO corn, and all are born and finished on the farm. Jake rents 100 acres of pastures, and helps his father farm 300 acres of row crops.

To save money, Jake has built or installed several custom cattle and pig watering systems. He and Crystal will highlight these do-it-yourself solutions at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Friday, Aug. 24, from 2-6 p.m., near Winterset (1854 275th St., about 10 miles southwest of town).

The event – “DIY Watering and Corral Systems for Cattle and Pigs” – is free to attend, and will include a potluck meal. Bigelow Family Farm will supply brats; guests are asked to bring a side dish to share. RSVPs are appreciated for the meal to Debra Boekholder, debra@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661, by Tuesday, Aug. 21.

After dinner, guests are welcome to camp at nearby Pammel State Park (1818 Pammel Road, a few miles north of the farm). The field day is sponsored by North Central SARE and Riverside Feeds.

At the field day, Jake will show five styles of cattle and pig watering systems that he installed himself, each fed by different water sources, and discuss their pros and cons. He will also show five different cattle corral set-ups, pointing out problems spots and what works well with each one; highlight different bands of chutes and head gates he recommends; and showcase old grain bins that have been converted into finishing barns for pigs.

“We hope guests will learn about building and installing economical watering systems and corral set-ups, and learn from the mistakes we have made,” Jake says. “We’ll talk about the modifications we have made to the corral systems to make them more efficient in handling cattle.”

While attendees will travel on hayracks to different pastures, guests should be prepared for some walking at this event.

Directions from Winterset: Head south on U.S. 169 and go 5 miles to 270th Street. Turn right (west), go 2 miles to a T intersection and turn left (south) onto Carver Road. In 0.25 miles, turn right (west) onto 275th Street and drive 1 mile to the white house with a yellow barn on the south side of the road.

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