Sheep add value to organic crop rotation

Ontario family shows they can cut costs, add income on tillable land

By Janet McNally It has always been my contention that sheep in the Grain Belt should be a part of a mixed crop and livestock farm. In most parts of the world, sheep are not the only enterprise on tillable cropland. They are employed as integral components of cropping programs by assisting with weed control and soil fertility, and in marketing crop residues.

Photo: Janet McNally. To smooth the weaning process, the Boettchers set up a temporary pen and chute, and allow lambs to play there for a few days before they’re sorted. Son Martin is in foreground.

With the right approach, sheep are a very profitable addition to such farms. Modern agriculture has encouraged mono-cropping, with fertilizers and farm chemicals replacing livestock as crop management tools. Mono-cropping livestock has been a growing trend as well. Continue reading “Sheep add value to organic crop rotation”

For organic dairy, no grain—no problem

Amos Nolt relies on top forages, barley baleage and chicken manure

Shiloh, Ohio — Try, if you will, to poke holes in this formula for an organic, grazing-based dairy in the eastern Corn Belt:

1. Feed the dairy herd pasture, dry hay and (in a dry year) baleage for five to six months per year. Calves are the only animals getting grain during this time.

2. Grow no corn, buy no corn, feed no corn to milking animals. Invest nothing in corn-specific equipment or infrastructure. Continue reading “For organic dairy, no grain—no problem”

Organic needs to do what people think we’re doing

By Jim Munsch — There is an ongoing struggle within organic dairy about the direction of the industry’s production and business models. The debate seems to center on whether or not the details of systems to produce milk should be strongly influenced by customers.

Grazing is central to the struggle. All advertising, packaging and commentary from organic milk marketers show cows contentedly munching grass on pasture, even though not all organic milk comes from farms where grazing is important to the production system. Continue reading “Organic needs to do what people think we’re doing”

Organic forum: What are you doing to reduce supplementation costs?

Kathie Arnold — My response to the growing cost of supplementation is to focus on improving the quality and yield of our pasture and hay crop to reduce the need for grain. That is playing out ina three areas: harvest management, seed selection, and focusing more on fertility.

With all of the recent research showing increased energy levels due to the reduced time baleage and haylage sits in a windrow respiring, we are trying to do “hay in a day” whenever possible. Other than pasture, haylage is the main forage for our milking herd. We mow in wide swaths with crushing rolls backed off as far as possible, as research has shown that leaving the stems whole facilitates quicker drying for baleage and haylage by allowing more moisture to flow up the stem and out the leaves. Crushing only seems important when we want to dry the crop all the way down for dry hay. Just prior to chopping, the cut hay is merged after having had the benefit of more sun and air exposure given the greater surface area in the wide swaths. Continue reading “Organic forum: What are you doing to reduce supplementation costs?”

Well-fed, no grain organic Holsteins

Chetek, Wisconsin — Cheyenne Christianson has a simple answer for grazing-based, organic dairy producers besieged by escalating costs for purchased grain.

Don’t feed any.

While he doesn’t recommend that everyone follow his route, Cheyenne hasn’t fed a kernel of grain for nearly six years. And he is making no-grain work under what would seem to be less than ideal circumstances. Continue reading “Well-fed, no grain organic Holsteins”