Grassfed aiding dairy quality of life

For Bontragers, the money is the same, but lifestyle is better

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Shipshewana, Indiana — The simplicity of grassfed organic dairy is one of the biggest reasons Chris and Nora Bontrager and their family aren’t planning to go back to their regular organic days.

Three years into grassfed, Chris, 32, says income is about the same with grassfed organic as it was with conventional organic, as grassfed’s higher milk price makes up for its lower milk production.

He sees the big advantage with grassfed as being the time, equipment and input savings from not growing and feeding ear corn and corn silage. Not buying a protein grain supplement and fertility for the corn also helps. He appreciates spending more time with his family and working in the garden or around the house. Or fishing.

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Making a go of 100% grassfed dairy

Just two years in, Lambrights see solid progress

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Wolcottville, Indiana — Grassfed organic dairy is working well for Alvin and Miriam Lambright of JerZ Acres.

Only five years into their dairy career and just two years after they began shipping milk to a no-grain market, the Lambrights are showing solid financial results while milking a herd of 40 Jerseys fed almost entirely from 80 acres of good northeastern Indiana ground.

Alvin’s Jerseys are producing 10,000-11,000 lbs. of milk that averages 5.3% butterfat in the winter. Calves are fed whole milk for just over four months, leaving about 9,600 lbs. for shipping as JerZ Acres moves from Horizon Organic to CROPP/Organic Valley’s Grassmilk program this fall.

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Keeping a farm in the family

Family in front of barn

Corse family using grazing to maintain 152-year legacy

By Martha Hoffman
Whitingham, Vermont
— For the past 152 years the Corse family has milked cows in south central Vermont.

Today, Leon Corse, his wife, Linda, and their adult daughter, Abbie, are doing their best to continue that legacy with organic-certified management tailored to their farm. And they’re helping others begin their own legacies through participation in the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a program aiming to bring new dairy farmers into the industry.

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Controlling flies organically

A lot of little things are needed to do the job

By Hue Karreman
Flies happen. And controlling them on organic farms is an ongoing challenge. There are lots of spray products that help, but none seem to work as well as farmers would like.

Flies are parasites, and thus make the most of any situation. Almost all common parasites, external and internal, thrive in warm and moist conditions, so we need to keep those two factors front and center when thinking about fly control.

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Fodder interest sprouting all over

Watering trays of barley sprouts

But sprouting carries plenty of costs, complications and labor

Whitesville, NY—For centuries farmers around the world have been sprouting grains and feeding the green material to their stock, usually with spotty success. The 1959 edition of Frank B. Morrison’s venerable publication Feeds and Feeding referred to “clever promoters” making “extravagant claims” about the benefits of various hydroponic systems for growing green fodder from seeds. U.S. livestock nutrition experts are generally skeptical about the potential benefits of sprouted fodder, although most withhold official judgment because almost no studies have been done here due to its rarity.

Mat of sprouted barley.
Photos: A. Fay Benson. A mat of sprouted barley, ready to be tossed in a mixer or torn up for feeding.

Or at least until now it was rare. The onset of high grain and forage prices and growing interest in no-grain feeding programs has produced at least a mini-boom of interest in producing green fodder from the seeds of small grains. Articles about farmers employing fodder systems to produce greenery for everything from chickens and geese to beef steers and dairy cows are showing up in alternative agricultural outlets — often with accompanying advertising from companies selling such systems. Some farmers have reported spending a few hundred bucks to provide greens to their poultry, while others have paid six figures for commercial fodder production systems capable of producing much bigger volumes for larger dairy herds. Continue reading “Fodder interest sprouting all over”

No grain, but 15,000 pounds of milk

Langmeiers do the job with great forage and well-hydrated calves

Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin — Jim Langmeier and his sons — Joe, Mike and Keith — are humble people who don’t pretend to be doing everything right. Spend some time visiting with these guys, and talk turns to concerns about disappointing milk solids tests, mistakes made with hay crops, and yearling heifers that aren’t up to par. The Langmeiers acknowledge they have a lot to learn about grazing and overall management of permanent pastures.

Says Jim, “We aren’t doing anything special.” Continue reading “No grain, but 15,000 pounds of milk”