Helmicks’ change places family first

Grazing sheep

Switch to multi-species grazing providing a better quality of life

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Greenville, West Virginia — Starting their own grass dairy from scratch was a dream come true for Aaron and Tara Helmick. But the dairy became a burden despite a decade of economic success.

The problem was a lack of quality of life. Aaron says he has very few memories of his second and third children before they were four years old because he was working so much that he was barely in the house.

Aaron and Tara started the low-input dairy as newlyweds in 2010 with an FSA loan and a 10-year lease on 470 acres. At first, prices were good and their seasonal management allowed a two-week vacation every year to recharge.

Then they were offered an organic contract at a good price that required a switch to year-round milking, so they made the transition in 2015. Milk prices dropped soon after, and the continuous milking made it hard to get away and even harder to maintain a healthy day-to-day life. They had doubled the herd in 2016, and were getting ready to double it again in 2018 when they realized something needed to change.

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Regenerative ag aims to go mainstream

Regenified logo

By Joel McNair

Organic and grassfed production practices have done great things for thousands of farmers and ranchers. Millions of consumers have benefited, too.

But looking at this from a broader perspective — and I think most organic and grassfed people do look at things this way — there’s a big problem here:

Very few acres are being farmed and ranched as organic and/or grassfed.

The things we want to achieve in terms of bettering people and the planet aren’t getting done. Indeed, by most reports the overall picture here is getting darker by the day.

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Focusing on quality food — and life

Cattle and sheep on pasture

Seasonality important to Jako Farm

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Hutchinson, Kansas — Quality of life is a major focus for the King family as they direct market a variety of grassfed meat and dairy products in central Kansas.

“The farm is here to work for us and not us for the farm,” explains Daniel King, who manages Jako Farm with his wife, Robyn. They took over the business from Daniel’s parents Ken and Judy in 2015.

To that end, Daniel and Robyn implement an array of time- and labor-saving measures started by his parents that include a seasonal milking schedule and once-a-day milking, nurse cows, frozen milk and more.

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Dealing with wet climate health issues

Lambs in pasture

Steps to consider when damp weather is causing problems

By Janet McNally

If you live in a damp climate, or even if you mainly deal with the seasonally heavy rain, you probably already know that wet weather can be a significant barrier to raising sheep on pasture.

Here are some common challenges, and how to cope with them.


Cold, wet weather can be a significant killer of newborn lambs. How deadly an all-day rain is depends on the temperature and wind speed.

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Why you should avoid grazing coarse stems

Farmer with sheep

Neither animals nor soils will benefit from the practice

By Janet McNally

Recently I heard a fellow grazier advocating that we should be grazing the stems of pasture forages.

His reasoning is that with the leaves gone, the stems pull energy from the roots. With no photosynthesis from the leaves, the plant cannot replace that energy. So the plant is better off with the stems gone. He admitted he was in the minority with that opinion.

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Managing the rank growth of summer

Grazing sheep with guard dog

By Janet McNally
Hinckley, Minnesota—
Years ago I was interested in trying mob-stock grazing that uses higher stocking densities and daily moves.

What held me back was knowing that at some point in early June we would face a tremendous amount of rank growth going to seed and no longer nutritious.

My approach at the time was to have sheep covering every acre in late-May/early-June, biting each plant in an effort to control growth and seedheads. Continue reading “Managing the rank growth of summer”