One out of three ain’t bad

Onan cows

Onan’s irrigation system pays its way even if wet years outnumber dry ones

Amherst Junction, Wisconsin — Most of Paul Onan’s milking cows are contentedly grazing lush pasture at high noon with the mercury heading toward the upper-90s. It is a scene many a midwestern dairy grazier would pay a lot to duplicate in this terrible summer of 2012.

And Paul has paid more than a little. More than $12,000 for a well and a 10-horsepower submersible pump. Equipment valued at more than $10,000, although most of that cost was covered by a government grant. About $500 worth of electricity used during a period of four weeks, with much more to come should the dry weather continue. Close to an hour’s worth of daily labor to move equipment, plus the usual hassles involved in fixing the broken parts that come with anything mechanical. Continue reading “One out of three ain’t bad”

What we’re learning about dairy mobbing

By Cheyenne Christianson

Chetek, Wisconsin—As most of you know from my previous articles, over the past two years I have taken steps toward “mob” grazing — especially with the non-milking cattle. We went through a multi-year drought and, as I analyzed my farm, its growth patterns and fertility levels, I realized we needed to take some steps to offset the next drought. With our sandy loam topsoils and pure sand subsoils, we were drying out too fast.

I felt we needed to do something to capture more of those big dumps that seemed to be the source of most of the rain we did get — things like trampling more organic material to provide a soil mat that would retain more moisture, and feeding the soil life that builds humus and organic matter, became top priorities. I am intrigued by the concept of soil biology releasing tied-up nutrients in the soil. Over the years I have applied some trace minerals, rock phosphate and high-calcium lime, and have done some foliar feeding. However, a truly sustainable/organic farming system should be pretty much self-sufficient, and it appears that mobbing may make that goal more possible. Continue reading “What we’re learning about dairy mobbing”

Small-scale irrigation offers alternative

Steve Guell would rather graze than feed more grain and hay

Waupun, Wisconsin—How much should a small-scale dairy grazier with limited acreage spend to ensure that his cows have full grazing through all those dry spells? If you have just 30 cows and maybe 40 or 50 acres of pasture, what would it be worth to keep that forage green and palatable straight through a long growing season — even in a region with enough rainfall to supposedly do the job?

How about $14,000? Continue reading “Small-scale irrigation offers alternative”

A self-sufficient, competitive no-grain dairy

Sixty-five cows, 100 acres and no input purchases required

By Nathan Weaver, Canastota, New York — If you read Joel McNair’s column last month, you are expecting this article.

I do not greatly disagree with the presentation on heavy supplemental feeding, and the numbers presented from the featured farms are impressive. I do not expect these on-farm financial situations to change drastically and suddenly. Continue reading “A self-sufficient, competitive no-grain dairy”

Measuring, monitoring and managing

Charles Fletcher uses pasture probe to improve bottom line

Purdy, Missouri — Especially when you’re feeding the stuff, most of you closely monitor the bunker, silo, bin, mow, bag, baleage line or whatever else holds the stored feed. Probably you aren’t quite as intense in keeping track of your inventory of growing pasture. With any experience you just know what’s out there, and do fine without making things more complicated.

Charles Fletcher isn’t out to convince you that you’re wrong, but he’s sure that what he’s doing these days is right for him. Thousands of dollars in extra annual profit right. Continue reading “Measuring, monitoring and managing”

Advisors: flush season grazing plan

This month’s question: What’s your flush-season grazing plan?

Jon Bansen– The period of spring flush is probably by far the most important to manage correctly for a successful grazing season.

An error we made the first couple of years grazing was always chasing over-mature grass. This led to a loss in milk production and a slowing of grass growth after the spring flush due to the plants getting too far into their reproductive stage (setting seed). This slowdown led to more milk loss after the flush. Continue reading “Advisors: flush season grazing plan”