FARM: Soil Conservation
Eisenhower directed Nevins to begin improving the soil on his farm. Adams County agricultural agents and members of the United States Soil Conservation Service became frequent visitors to the farm. Using items such as the core sampler and soil sample bag pictured, the agents collected cross-sections of the soil across the farm fields. The samples were sent to laboratories where the soil was analyzed, and a plan created which directed the amount and type of fertilizer to be applied, if lime needed to be mixed in, and the type of crops best suited for that particular field. Pictured is the crop plan for the farm from 1956-1957. Modern farming techniques were also employed, such as contour plowing to control erosion using the tractor and plow pictured, and crop rotation to avoid depleting the soil of nutrients. Eisenhower believed in producing feed and marketing the livestock that consumed it, rather than selling the grain itself. He said anything leaving the farm left on the hoof.
General Nevins kept up the dairy operation throughout 1951 and 1952. The dairy cows purchased from the Reddings did well, but it was soon found they had never been tested for brucellosis, a disease that caused contagious abortion. Prompt testing found the herd infected and six had to be destroyed. From then on, all involved with the Eisenhower farm knew the importance of testing and monitoring cattle health, using many of the items pictured.
Eisenhower and his partners wished to improve the Angus breed overall and worked toward producing high quality pure bred cattle. Their operation received two big boosts in 1956. First, Ankonian 3551, a huge but gentle Angus bull, came to reside on the farm. As principle herd bull, he sired a long line of prizewinning offspring. Second, Bob Hartley joined the farm as herdsman. Hartley was a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a fine eye for cattle and a bright outlook on the new operation.
Breeding pure-bred cattle was much more than just turning a good bull loose in a field with cows. Each animal was studied for its best characteristics and bloodlines were traced back at least 3 generations before determinations were made on particular matches. When the cow was in heat, she would be brought to the breeding shed on Farm 2 and confined in a breeding chute for insemination. Herdsman Bob Hartley used the calendar book pictured to keep track of the breeding records during 1960.
At first, breeding was conducted naturally. Soon artificial insemination was employed. Semen harvested from suitable bulls was stored and transported in small ampules, such as those pictured, before being injected into the waiting cow. The new technology opened up a wider range of prospective matches.
Promising calves were separated from their mothers at four months old and received special attention to prepare them for the show circuit. Kept in sand-floored pens in the show barn, the show cattle were fed a premium feed of hand-mixed grains, cooked barley, sugar beet pulp, molasses, and supplements to encourage growth. A small herd of Holstein dairy cows kept on the farm provided young calves with the opportunity to nurse on high quality milk. Each animal and their pen were kept thoroughly clean, with daily brushing and a weekly bath. In warmer weather, the farm staff sprayed the cattle with cool water and turned them out in the pasture in the evening.