Drawing the line using peasant wisdom

Jim VanDerPol

By Jim Van Der Pol

Kerkhoven, Minnesota — We had been talking about the new dairy factories here in western Minnesota, my friend and I. We finished adding the 4,000 cows in the first one to the 10,000 in the next one, then the 10,000 cows in the just-completed one as well as the 10,000 in the just-proposed one. That is 34,000 cows, all within 12 miles of my house.

I told my friend that the dairy factories imported young men from South America to do the work and constructed bunkhouses at the site so they wouldn’t be bothersome in the town and create a public relations problem. Then, speaking from the experience of a lifetime in dairy farming, came his question: Continue reading “Drawing the line using peasant wisdom”

Good grazing requires good handling techniques

By Steve Cote

Midvale, Idaho
— My road to high level stockmanship actually started while driving down a road in Idaho with Holistic Management founder Allan Savory. In listening to Allan, I learned that I had deeply held beliefs about grazing that were dead wrong.

I learned that overgrazing is not caused by too many grazing animals. I learned that too much rest is damaging not only to the plants, but also to soils. In humid climates, it hurts forage plant productivity and nutrition. Continue reading “Good grazing requires good handling techniques”

Conventional tactics, unconventional dairy

Farm family

Tafels combine cow comfort with no-grain feeding

Laurens, New York — Adam and Margaret Tafel do a lot of things that are considered good practices in the conventional dairy world.

They work hard at harvesting quality forages. They try to keep their cows comfortable in freestalls and tunnel ventilation. They watch body condition and feed accordingly. They’re trying to match the herd’s genetics with their farm to ensure optimum productivity and profitability. Continue reading “Conventional tactics, unconventional dairy”

Putting some numbers to cover crop benefits

Daniel Olson in field

By Daniel Olson

Lena, Wisconsin
—The benefits of annual cover crops, such as increased organic matter, soil porosity, and nitrogen creation, are well known. Over the past few years, pioneers in this field have championed “cocktail” mixes of a wide range of species, and they have achieved amazing results.

Maybe it’s my inner researcher here, but something about cocktails has always bothered me. I think it’s the idea that it seems too easy. We plant a bunch of different things with the knowledge that something will grow and quite possibly thrive. Continue reading “Putting some numbers to cover crop benefits”

Shake up your grazing!


The ‘principle of disruption’ can keep your pastures improving

by Allen Williams, Ph.D.

Progress can be a frustrating thing.

In our search for improved soil health and forage productivity, we look to certain grazing “systems” as the key to improvement. Many of you have implemented some form of intensive grazing — management-intensive grazing (MiG), rotational grazing, mob grazing or even adaptive multi-paddock grazing — in an effort to make progress in building soil health and increasing forage productivity. Continue reading “Shake up your grazing!”

The similarities of grassfed beef and dairy

Cow on pasture

By Allen Williams, Ph.D.

The grassfed beef sector has expanded rapidly over the past decade, ballooning from less than $40 million in domestic retail sales value in 2005 to $550 million in 2015. Annual sales growth of grassfed beef averaged 25-30% over the period.

Interest in “100% grassfed” dairy is also taking off, with the sector poised to experience the same exponential growth as grassfed beef. This brings up a few questions.

What can people who want to develop a vibrant grassfed dairy sector learn from the grassfed beef sector? What are the similarities? What are the contrasts? Continue reading “The similarities of grassfed beef and dairy”