The fallacy of ‘feeding the world’

Allen Williams

Most grain isn’t going to people

by Allen Williams
When you ask American farmers what they are doing on their farms, they will often tell you they are “feeding the world”.

This is stated with considerable pride. We feel we are doing the world a huge favor through the sacrifices we make as farmers. We are continuously told that by some not-too-distant date there will be 10 billion mouths to feed, so we have to ramp up production even more. Continue reading “The fallacy of ‘feeding the world’”

How a sorghum-sudan mix saved our summer

Daniel Olson in field

By Daniel Olson

Every so often, you need a win. You know what I mean: just when you feel like the elements and the elected are conspiring against you, by some stroke of luck and timing you actually get it right and have an uncontested success.

That’s what a sorghum-sudangrass mix was for us last summer. We were very fortunate, because we had bet big on it by planting about 250 acres of the stuff. It rewarded us by yielding incredibly well, giving us some good grazing and a bunch of feed for the winter. Continue reading “How a sorghum-sudan mix saved our summer”

What to tell environmentalists about cows

Latest research shows that good grazing is good for the planet

By Allen Williams and Russ Conser

Somewhere along the road, cattle got a bad rap. Just when the fear that eating animal fats will kill you appears to be fading, concern is growing that cattle are intrinsically bad for the planet.

So, it’s refreshing to see some countering truth peek through the clouds of fear in a brand new scientific paper from Michigan State University, “Impacts of soil carbon sequestration on life cycle greenhouse gas emissions in Midwestern USA beef finishing systems” (Stanley, et. al., 2018). Continue reading “What to tell environmentalists about cows”

Doing what it takes to build soil health

Breitkreutzes up their game with covers and grazing

Redwood Falls, Minnesota — Most cash grain growers in the Upper Midwest run big equipment across thousands of acres of GMO corn and soybeans and maybe — just maybe — feed out some of those crops to feedlot cattle or confinement hogs. Often it doesn’t get much more complex than that.

Things aren’t quite that simple at Stoney Creek Farm. Over the past 20 years, Grant and Dawn Breitkreutz have converted a conventional crops and cattle farm into a multi-faceted enterprise that is one part experiment, two parts flexibility, and several parts complex. Continue reading “Doing what it takes to build soil health”

For love of trees

A Wisconsin dairyman sees advantages to planting them in his pastures

By Dylan Paris

Platteville, Wisconsin — Don Austin just likes trees.

Over the past 30 years the veteran dairy grazier has planted hundreds of them along property boundaries and interior fences, next to cattle lanes and in the midst of pastures.

Oaks and elms, cottonwoods and weeping willows, apples and apricots, walnuts and hazelnuts — Don has planted all of these and more during a grazing career that dates back to 1987. “Weed” trees volunteering along fence lines are allowed to grow if Don feels they’re serving a purpose. Continue reading “For love of trees”

Book review: The Art and Science of Grazing

By Joel McNair

Seldom do I write reviews of books that have to do with grazing. Too many espouse particular points of view that apply only to a certain subset of grass-based farmers. Others are fluffy tomes that aim to affirm readers’ beliefs of what’s right and wrong. More than a few are written mainly with the idea of selling products and services. Too many are full of hype about some purported new revolution in grazing-related management.
Sarah Flack’s The Art and Science of Grazing (Chelsea Green Publishing) avoids all of the above. In this book, Sarah, a grass farmer and well-respected grazing consultant, offers perhaps the best all-around grazing manual since Bill Murphy’s Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence, first published about 30 years ago. Probably this is not a coincidence, as Sarah once studied under the University of Vermont grass master. Continue reading “Book review: The Art and Science of Grazing”