One-shot rations come north

Glenn Moyer finds high-fiber feed aids milk production, profits and labor efficiency

Mercersburg, Pennsylvania — Profits, both per-cow and total farm, are way up at Cove Mountain Farm, the American Farmland Trust’s dairy grazing showcase for the Northeast. Per-cow milk production in the seasonally calved herd peaked 11 pounds higher this spring compared to a year earlier, and production was holding at a much higher plane this summer despite a long stretch of hot weather. Cow body condition is much better, and conception rates have improved markedly compared to those of a couple of years ago. The amount of labor required to produce 100 pounds of milk has substantially declined.

And Glenn Moyer, who has run Cove Mountain’s dairy on a lease basis since the operation’s beginnings nearly six years ago, is very happy these days. Continue reading “One-shot rations come north”

The ABCs of streambank grazing

Ralph Lentz promotes the benefits of mixing cows and creeks

Lake City, Minnesota — To Ralph Lentz, the answer to the question of whether stream banks should be grazed is as simple as A-B-C.

In Ralph’s case, the cliché is literally true, and plain as day. Over the years he has divided his farm’s stretch of Sugarloaf Creek into three distinct sections that have become famous within the Upper Midwest’s soil and water conservation community as “A, B, and C.”

“C,” the furthest downstream, was fenced off and planted to several hundred trees in 1967 as part of an approved Soil Conservation Service (now National Resources Conservation Service) conservation plan that was supposed to be expanded to the entire one-third mile length of this streamside property. Continue reading “The ABCs of streambank grazing”

Setting up the gestating sow system

By Jim Van Der Pol, Kerkhoven, Minnesota — Hogs fit on grass farms: It is up to the grazier to decide how.

In our combination crop and livestock farm, the hogs are a better market than the elevator for the field crops. Hogs also provide a good balance in the cropping scheme through their ability to use anything from hay to grass to barley or rye, plus a healthy dose of crop residues. The cropping part of our farm, about 160 acres, is aimed at producing hog feed and bedding. The grass part of our farm, also about 160 acres, was until last year dedicated to sheep and hogs. This year the sheep (just a few, for our marketing business) will be bought in for the summer, and replacement dairy heifers have been added to the farm. Continue reading “Setting up the gestating sow system”

Intake more important than quality

And other thoughts from 20 years of grazing research

Jim Gerrish has learned a thing or two about grazing during some 20 years of poking around pastures.

For many years Gerrish has been the lead researcher at the University of Missouri’s Forage Systems Research Center at Linneus, which is generally recognized as the premier grazing research facility in the Midwest, if not the entire U.S. The FSRC has run a large number of trials attempting to measure forage and beef cattle performance—and how they interrelate—within a wide variety of grazing systems. Gerrish and his family also graze beef stockers and run a cow-calf operation on 260 acres in northern Missouri. Continue reading “Intake more important than quality”

You, too, can have a parlor

He’s planned them. He’s built them. He’s milked in them. Vance Haugen thinks you should consider a low-cost milking parlor.

By Vance Haugen, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin — Whether you manage 20 cows or 200 – and whether you graze your cows or not – New Zealand-style “swing” parlors are certainly worth considering. These parlors offer a lot of milking efficiency at a relatively low cost and with less physical labor than milking in stanchions, which fits well with the grazier mentality. I’ve seen some brand-new swing parlors that do a wonderful job of milking a lot of cows at far lower costs than conventional American “low-line” facilities.

But what really intrigues me is the idea of putting such a parlor in an existing building — usually a stall barn. There are tremendous savings to be found in using existing walls, current milking equipment and “pre-owned” iron. Continue reading “You, too, can have a parlor”

The art of grazing

No one produces milk cheaper and easier than Art Thicke. No one ignores grazing fads more than Art Thicke. Is there a link here?

Art Thicke believes that too many graziers have lost sight of what really makes grazing work

La Crescent, Minnesota — How does any grazier — especially that segment with “what works” and “what doesn’t” cemented firmly into his or her mind — deal with the success that is Art Thicke?

Though you may or may not buy all or even very much of it, the grazing success formulas are out there for all to see. Plant the latest and greatest. Fertilize it heavily. Graze it every couple of weeks. Build a parlor and milk a lot of cows per labor unit. Go to a mixed ration, and shoot for high per-cow production. Or, if you don’t like that stuff, make up for your so-called “backward” production ideas by gaining a higher price through organic certification and/or direct marketing. Continue reading “The art of grazing”