By Tony Kryzanowski
LG Pumping keeps fleet current as farms grow in size
By Tony Kryzanowski
The combination of operating a top-of-the-line manure drag hose system and experience has helped LG Pumping LLC of Osmond, Neb., evolve over the years into an undeniable success. By offering good service and keeping its fleet current, the company has earned a lot of repeat business, and the phone rings regularly with new customers.
The company, owned by Ray Gubbels, Marvin Krienert, Steve Lind and Jason Gubbels, has seen growth in its fleet occur in tandem with growth in the area’s agricultural sector.
There are many 1,000- to 2,500-head dairy farms in that part of the American Midwest. Hog barn sites can sometimes have as many as 10,000 head finishers. LG Pumping has noticed a trend over the years where the single barn owner is becoming quite scarce.
“The facilities are definitely getting bigger,” says Jason Gubbels. “Everything new being built is mostly deep pit manure storage and giant sites.”
Today, an individual farmer or a group of farmers may operate as many as 20 barns. So, it makes it much more convenient and economical to hire a custom applicator to apply the manure from several barns at one time. What has helped drive business growth at LG Pumping is simple economics. For many farms, it just makes more financial sense to have the manure custom applied than to do it in-house.
“Everyone used to have a tanker wagon, and they used to haul their own manure,” says Jason. “When they are spending two weeks to empty a barn that we can empty in one day, it gets to a point where, in doing it themselves, the cost analysis just doesn’t balance out. We’re in, we’re out, we’re clean, and they don’t have any of the risk anymore.”
LG Pumping also has several larger dairy customers with as many as 5,000 head in some cases. Because the company is larger and well equipped itself, working with these larger farms has evolved into a bit of a niche business for the company.
On average, the company pumps about 480 million gallons of manure annually, and business is split between about 50 percent dairy farms and 50 percent hog farms. Demand for its services continues to grow steadily each year. LG Pumping provides its services within about a 500-mile radius of its home base, going as far as South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, and central Nebraska. It averages about 30 employees. Its busiest times of year are in the spring from early March to mid-May and then in the fall until about mid-December. The team continues to work hand in hand with Lind-Gubbels, Inc., a grain handling and construction business, as employees will sometimes move from one part of the agriculture business to the other, as needed.
“We have years and years of experience in the agriculture business,” says Jason. “This is my dad’s 40th year. He started constructing buildings and grain facilities, and they still do some of that.”
About seven years ago, LG Pumping spun off from Lind-Gubbels, Inc., an agricultural services business founded by Rich Lind and Ray Gubbels, later adding partner Marvin Krienert. LG Pumping – created by Marvin and Ray – added partners Steve Lind and Jason Gubbels one year later.
It was during those years when Lind-Gubbels, Inc. was building large hog facilities that Ray noticed there was a growing need to dispose of the manure being generated by them. He recognized a business opportunity, started the custom manure application business, and has never looked back.
“They started with a small PTO pump and pipe and traveling guns and it slowly progressed over the years to where it is now, with all our tractors operating GPS tracking systems, umbilical manure application systems, and all the bells and whistles,” says Jason. “It’s been a progression from humble beginnings to about as nice as you’d ever want it now.”
LG Pumping’s partnership with Hydro Engineering as its primary drag hose equipment supplier has allowed it to develop a fleet that helps the company deliver quick and safe pumping services. It is able to pump hog and dairy manure from lagoons as far as five miles for land application.
By working closely with farmers and agronomists, LG Pumping ensures that the right amount of manure is applied per acre according to the farmer’s nutrient management plan. The attitude among farmers about manure’s value as an organic fertilizer is helping to drive business growth at the company.
“A driving factor is that the cost of commercial fertilizer is going way up,” says Jason. “So while the attitude used to be to get rid of it by land applying the manure, it has gotten a lot more involved now. You had better know what’s in the manure, how much the farmer can use, how much to apply, etc. There’s no waste any more.”
He adds that the cost of farming is so high now that customers want to know exactly what they are getting for nutrient value from the manure.
“With our GPS mapping and the way we sample, it’s just been a plus for our customers,” Jason says. “It’s helped them maximize the value of what they can get out of that manure.”
Providing professional advice on how farmers can fine-tune their manure applications to maximize nutrient uptake by crops is one area where the company wants to improve on its service because it has recognized a definite need with some of its customers. LG Pumping is considering hiring a crop consultant or agronomist to provide this service to its customers, if needed and requested. In terms of application rates based on the type of crop, that varies considerably, often depending on where the company is working. The biggest determining factors are crop types and plant needs. LG Pumping can offer good advice now on application rates based on the likely nutrient content in their manure, given the size of a farm lagoon and the type of farm. Having an in-house agronomist/crop consultant will help the company and customer become even more precise in matching application rates with crop requirements.
The company uses manure drag hose application systems exclusively to minimize soil compaction during land application and has developed its own no-till toolbars to allow it to maintain consistent incorporation even when tractors are turning around during field application.
LG Pumping has developed traveling units that consist of the typical items they will need on site. Each consists of a field tractor equipped with GPS tracking and a flow meter, a secondary lagoon agitation tractor, and a third lagoon/hose reel tractor that provides support as needed as the manure is being pumped and applied. Each traveling unit comes to the site with a quarter-mile of drag hose and one-and-three-eighths miles of eight-inch main line hose.
“We’ve got 30 miles of hose, so we can pull in whatever we want for additional hose if we need it,” says Jason. A typical service call will require main line hose laid from one-half to three miles.
Their field applicator tractor fleet is almost exclusively 8285 John Deere tractors equipped with GPS monitoring and Krone flow meters. They are connected to their no-till application bars or injector bars, supported by hose reels, and drag hoses linked back typically through a series of pumps to the farm lagoons or deep pits. The engines and pumps are John Deere engines with Cornell pumps. Overall, the company has about 27 tractors in its fleet, and they are equipped with low compaction tires.
LG Pumping will typically use 8130 or 8230 John Deere tractors on the lagoon site for operating both Balzer and Houle liquid manure agitators.
At least one agitator, booster pump, air compressor and lagoon pump travels with each unit, as well as a utility trailer with a welder, tools and parts to support the pumping unit.
The company will have as many as eight pumping units on the go at the same time during its busy season.
Jason Gubbels says he believes what differentiates LG Pumping from its competitors is the consistent investment the company has made back into the business over the years as well as its adoption of a professional attitude when performing a service call, which includes keeping the customer’s neighbors happy.
“We try to make sure when our employees arrive on site that we have tractors, pumps and equipment that are going to perform when we need them,” says Jason. “We also have outstanding people that work for us that understand the equipment, understand the fields, and they know a lot of customers one on one. That’s been a big part of generating our repeat business.”
The company plans to continue to work on the leading edge of the industry, with a good example being the VMI lagoon dredger the company invested in a few years ago, and uses to dredge the bottoms of lagoons for some of its larger dairy customers.
“That’s been a developing area for us, going to these big sites where they have monster-size lagoons, dredging out the bottom and being able to go directly to the field with the application,” says Jason. Hydro Engineering helped them develop a giant chopper pump located on the lagoon bank to handle all solids captured from dredging before the manure is land applied.
LG Pumping also continues to work on its no-till coulter for use on the company’s 40-foot applicator.