Grazing, organics and high milk production

Heckmans target quality forages, both grazed and harvested

By Martha Hoffman Kerestes

Yorkshire, Ohio — Thomas Heckman used to graze because he had to for the organic market. Now it’s part of the system that makes a 23,000-pound rolling herd average, sometimes without the need for a protein supplement.

Thomas and Jamie Heckman and their family milk 105 organic purebred Holstein cows and manage 340 acres. Sixty-five acres are in pasture for the dairy herd, 250 are for hay and row crops, and around 25 acres are for grazing young stock.

Top-quality forages
Thomas used to graze just enough to meet the organic grazing minimums, but with local land values at $20,000 to $25,000/acre, he’s started managing for more grazed dry matter to get the most out of each acre.

These days he feels he’s getting a good value, with 60% of dry matter intake coming from pasture from April through June and 40% for the rest of the grazing season, going as far as November when there’s enough pasture growth.

To see this article in full, order the specific back issue you are interested in. This article appeared in the October 2023 issue of Graze.