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Farmin’ Friday: First snow, trip to North Dakota, simple feed cost analysis


 First Snow

It snowed about an inch on Tuesday, but it melted by the afternoon. We are still combining corn, so they had to wait until about 5 pm to start harvesting for the day. It snowed an inch on Wednesday too, and they had to wait until evening to start again.DSCN7378

It is possible to combine corn with snow on the ground, but it needs to be about 20 degrees or colder. If it is any warmer, the snow will melt and “plug” the combine. John tells me that they try to avoid combining in snow if possible, because snow is very abrasive and hard on the equipment. Who knew fluffy, puffy white snow would be hard on a big ol’ combine?DSCN7382

Harvest of Knowledge Conference

Today, I am speaking at the Harvest of Knowledge conference in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The organizers planned a full day of speakers for this agriculture-focused women’s day out. I’ll be speaking at noon about fixin’ up our farmhouse and sharing the So God Made a Farmer’s Wife poem. Each of the ladies gets a copy of the bookmark version of the poem. I can’t wait to spend the day with them.


What are we feeding the heifers? 

We started feeding the Red Angus heifers a mix of cracked corn and pellets. (She’s thinking…Uggggg, stop taking my picture while I eat. Don’t you know that’s rude?)photo 1The feed was delivered to the farm from the local grain elevator. It costs us $.08 per pound. The price of cattle feed fluctuates based on the current price of corn. It makes for interesting dynamics between farmers, cattle feeders and ranchers. Sometimes, when one is making money, the other is losing money.

We ordered a mineral tub to help meet the heifer’s nutritional needs. It’s sort of like a human taking a multi-vitamin and protein supplement. To eat this, they lick the brown stuff. When full, these tubs weigh about 225 3

Here is the heifers’ current diet and feed costs:

  • Free choice (this means, as much as they want) access to soybean field that was recently harvested, $0
  • Free choice access to long stem grass hay, $150/ton
  • Mineral tub, $94
  • 3-4 pounds per head, corn and pellet mixture, $.08/pound

This brings us closer to the all-important number that every cattle woman ‘oughta to know about her cows or livestock: the cost per head, per day. As easy as it may sound, this number is hard to track. I have not added in the water bill, electric bill (for heating the water), or any of our time. Most cattle people love cows and hate keeping records, so they don’t keep track of their time. Some say, “I don’t keep track of my time because I already know–way too much!”

I probably won’t track my time, but we do have a general idea. It’s important to know our expenses, because it will help us determine if the heifers make a profit or not.

There’s a few things a simple feed cost analysis misses. We can’t put a dollar sign on everything. There is no way to calculate the feeling of being grounded because these animals depend on us for daily care. When I was planning for my trip, I asked John if he could feed the heifers while I was gone. It is nice to know that someone, or 42 red-headed somethings, would notice even if I was gone for just one day.




  1. Morgan

    My horse LOVES mineral tubs – I think it’s her favorite part of riding through the cattle field!

    • Sierra Shea

      OMG! I bet she does, it is probably hard to get her away from them!

  2. Fra Schnarre

    Thanks, Sierra, for writing about life on the farm. I wish I had done the same 40+ years ago.

  3. Derina

    Great article we have had cold weather here in MO but I have not seen any snow yet. I guess with John feeding the cows makes up for you making meals to feed the guys in the fields right? What a good husband. 🙂

  4. Laurel Wilson

    Hi Sierra,

    What a farm wife you are! You do programs about farm living, Know how to figure input and output for your herd, and do a mean fall arrangement–even dusted by snow.

    Keep up the good work.


    • Sierra Shea

      Thank you Dr. Wilson! Guess what I got in the mail this week?? Not one, but two copies of GRIT magazine. Thank you very much for the subscription. I really enjoy the articles in the magazine. There is one about making cheese. I’d really like to try this someday. It looks hard but fun!

      • Laurel Wilson

        hi sierra,

        i am glad you got grit. i think their readers would be interested in your work. excuse poor grammar–i had my other shoulder fixed on tuesday.



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Hey, I’m Sierra Shea! I am so glad you are here. 

Where do I start with writing to introduce this blog? At the beginning, I suppose: I’ve been writing on various platforms online since 2013. I started blogging shortly after moving to South Dakota.

I am a mother and a maker at heart. I’m so grateful to be married to John and mother of three: Joslyn, J.D. and Jesse.

I am a self-taught decorator and designer. I am a brand new shepherdess and a Spiritual Director.

I love living in South Dakota, even though the winters & the wind can be a near-daily struggle.

Blogging is a grounding force in my life and it helps get me out of my head, unstuck and moving in the directions I always hoped I’d be going!