DENISON, Iowa — The way Dee and Randy Kruse harvest corn is something of a family tradition.

“We’ve been doing it for a long time,” Dee said.

Their two-row New Holland corn picker belonged to Randy’s dad. Dee’s father still picks corn on the ear, but other than him, Dee said she doesn’t know of anyone else in the area who still harvests that way.

Dee and Randy still pick corn on the ear on their operation near Denison because it’s a cheaper and more efficient way to feed their cattle.

Grinding corn on the ear provides feed from the corn and roughage from the cob.

“If you feed straight shell corn, then you have to feed hay or something else along with it because cattle need roughage to keep their rumens going,” Dee Kruse said. “When we grind the cobs, it gives roughage for the cattle, so it’s a lot less expense for us to do.”

She said storing and grinding ear corn would not be as efficient for large cattle operations, but it works well for their 14-head operation.

“Luckily, we still have our corncrib up, so that’s where it goes,” she said.

Corncribs on most other farms have been torn down so the ground could be farmed or to be replaced by machine sheds. Loading the corn into the corncrib requires a corn elevator instead of an auger; the elevator has to be moved around, and heavy chutes have to be attached to direct the ears of corn into the corncrib.

A downside to harvesting the old-fashioned way is that the technology is starting to disappear.

Parts for the corn picker are becoming harder to find.

“We go to a junkyard and hope they have the corn picker there and the part isn’t gone already, but most of the time it is,” she said.

The same is true of the elevator.

“You don’t find many of them around anymore either,” Dee said.

Picking and storing the corn involves a lot of manual labor.

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Dee said. “It’s not for the wimpy.”