A Kernza research update

Cows grazing Kernza

Grain and grazing combo a work in progress

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Kernza continues to gain traction as a perennial grain crop, with about 2,400 acres grown in the U.S. today. Kernza is the trademark owned by The Land Institute for intermediate wheatgrass varieties (IWGs) developed for grain harvest.

But long before it was selected for that use, IWGs were being used as forages. A number of studies have been done recently on utilizing Kernza both ways. Since the last article in Graze (February 2020), more data has become available on the topic.

One such trial was conducted by Alan Kraus of Clean River Partners in cooperation with Jacob Jungers and others at the University of Minnesota, along with southeastern Minnesota farmers Kaleb Anderson and Dan Honken.”

Continue reading “A Kernza research update”

Filling a meat processing niche

Barn addition

Siverlings decide on-farm plant makes sense

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Bloomer, Wisconsin — When the butcher shop that had been processing all of their pastured beef closed, Jared Siverling and his wife, Vanessa Klemish, had two options. One was trying to squeeze the 30 steers they annually finish into slots at the remaining two small facilities in the area.

The other was to start doing their own processing.

Jared and Vanessa chose the latter, in part because they wanted more control over the quality of the processing and packaging they feel is an important part of delivering the best meats to their customers.

“One of the biggest frustrations is to take a beautiful animal raised with a lot of love and care and some really good, high-quality feed, and then not control the vital processing step,” Jared explains. “Every farmer is fighting for processing slots, and opening a processing plant is a way to grow an additional revenue stream while adding value to the community.”

Continue reading “Filling a meat processing niche”

A grassfed dairy dream come true

Hand on pasture

Bachmans making good progress on expensive land

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Rittman, Ohio — In this day when a lot of people have given up on the idea, Greg Bachman might offer inspiration to those who want to start dairy farming without access to a family farm or lots of money.

Greg didn’t grow up on a dairy farm. But early on he decided he wanted to dairy as he watched his grandfather and then his uncle milk cows on a small farm that was eventually certified organic.

He thought the barn door might be closed when his uncle retired and sold the property. Yet even without access to a family farm, and in the face of high-dollar land — prices are $15,000 to $20,000/acre these days in this populated area of Ohio — Greg didn’t give up on his dairy dream.

Four years of employment in the construction business confirmed to Greg that working for someone else wasn’t a good fit for his personality.

Continue reading “A grassfed dairy dream come true”

A wholesale option for marketers

Cows grazing

Bone-In Food aims to get good food to more people

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Hillsborough Twnshp, New Jersey – Demand for alternative foods may be growing rapidly, but not all producers of such foods are capable of selling everything they produce on their own.

For those sorts of people in this part of the world, Bone-In Food is providing a premium wholesale outlet. Farmer and direct-marketer John Lima sells up to 10% of his production through Bone-In.

“I think what they’re doing is great,” John says. “They’re reaching out to a lot more people who normally wouldn’t come to our place. For instance, a lot of older people who don’t have the ways and means to come to our store.”

For founder Ron Mirante, Bone-In Food is a way of fulfilling his long-term goal of getting wholesome food into the hands of busy people who want to eat well. For some 40 farmers, Bone-In offers another market opportunity outside of current direct or wholesale channels at better-than-wholesale prices.

“I’ve always wanted to contribute,” Ron explains. “I had a hard time working just to make money. I wanted to be more involved in the growth and progression of a better future.”

All Bone-In suppliers follow “organic-like” practices, although some are not certified. All animals for meat, dairy and eggs are pastured, and most beef and dairy cattle are 100% grassfed.

Continue reading “A wholesale option for marketers”

Cutting back, but making more

Cows on pasture

de Jongs changed their lives with grassfed and branding their milk

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Slocomb, Alabama — Jan and Rinske de Jong did large-scale conventional dairy, and it didn’t go well. They’ve gladly traded it for their life today on a smaller certified organic grassfed herd milked once a day for the farm’s Working Cows Dairy brand.

Jan and Rinske bootstrapped their conventional dairy in southeastern Alabama, starting with just $5,000 in 1985 when they emigrated from The Netherlands.

By the turn of the century they’d grown to 750 confinement cows milked three times a day on 600 purchased acres. But the farm was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the constant workload was unsustainable.

It wasn’t working
Something needed to change. The de Jongs chose to go smaller and find a niche market for their production. Milking about 250 cows for Horizon Organic beginning in 2009, things looked better.

But Horizon terminated the contract two years later, saying there weren’t enough other organic dairies in the area to make it a viable route.

Jan and Rinske had three options: stop dairying, go back to conventional, or start bottling milk. The latter looked like the best choice.

Continue reading “Cutting back, but making more”

Making milk without the grain scoop

Grazing cows

Five cuttings, TMR, frequent paddock shifts work for Barkmans

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Fresno, Ohio — While it might seem surprising coming from a forage-only dairy farmer, Ervin Barkman finds winter the ideal time to make milk. Winter production peaks at 52 lbs./cow thanks to top-quality baleage, grassfed-adapted genetics, and lush fall grass when many fresh cows are getting started.

After a decade without the grain scoop and seven years of getting a premium for it on the CROPP/Organic Valley Grassmilk route, Ervin wouldn’t go back to feeding grain. Improved cow health and longevity along with better financials make grass-only dairy an easy choice for his situation.

Butterfat for the predominantly Fleckvieh herd runs around 4.2% (but has been up to 4.8%) and protein 3.2%. Total milk shipped comes to about 12,800 lbs./cow in about 295 days in milk.

The key to these numbers is excellent grazed and stored forage.

“It’s all about forage,” Ervin explains. “Dry matter intake is very important. If you have good forage and you keep it in front of the cows, there’s no reason you won’t have good dry matter intake. And the more dry matter intake you have, the more milk you’re getting.”

Continue reading “Making milk without the grain scoop”