A Farmer's Journey with Miscanthus: Part 2

August 3, 2020 8:08 PM
Blog Post

In the interview, “A Farmer’s Journey with Miscanthus: Part 1,” we learned about Steve Schomberg and his involvement with growing miscanthus for the University of Iowa power plant. Steve has also been working with Koch Angus Farms, a cattle production farm near Letts, Iowa for the last four years. During this time, he got to know Scott Hintermiester, a herdsman for Koch Angus, who manages the day to day operations for the last two years. Steve donated some large round and small square miscanthus bales to test as bedding for their calves and cattle. 

Figure 1. Freshly laid miscanthus bales. 

Typically, hay is used to absorb cattle manure in barns. Scott used some bales of miscanthus instead of hay during fall 2019 into January 2020.

Figure 2. Miscanthus bales after 1 week of cattle use. 

He reported that the miscanthus bales were very dry and absorbent and lasted twice as long as corn bales would in the same conditions. The miscanthus bales were easier to break apart than corn bales and were easily spread with a tractor. These two photos show the difference between freshly laid miscanthus (Figure 1) and the same area after the cows had used it for over a week (Figure 2). 

Scott would like to move toward using only miscanthus at Koch Angus Farms and planting their own if economically feasible. The ISU Biomass lab focuses its research on identifying the economic and sustainable benefits of growing miscanthus. We believe miscanthus is a good alternative to traditional biomass crops, and could be widely used if it were more available to farmers. 



Figure 3. Calving barn with miscanthus bedding. 

Small miscanthus bales were also used in the calving barn (Figure 3). Calves require bedding to help keep them warm and dry during the winter. The absorbent properties of miscanthus make it an ideal choice for the calving barn. Scott does warn that it is somewhat dusty initially, but becomes less so as it is used and causes no harm to the farmers or calves.

He believes it would provide high quality bedding in open pig barns. Scott has hopes that more farmers will transition to using miscanthus bedding on their farms. His favorite part of his job is calving. He says, “I still get excited every time a cow has a calf; it never gets old!” We can see why


Photo credits: Scott Hintermiester

Product of ISU Biomass Undergrad Team