40 acres – 30 acres tillable, 7 acres in permanent pasture crops include alfalfa/grass hay, oats, straw, ear corn and corn silage. No insecticides ever used; over four years without any herbicides used. Insects controlled by crop rotation and appropriate crop harvest timing. Weeds controlled by crop rotation, various tillage methods (field digging, rotary hoeing, cultivating, etc.), interseeding with winter rye and red clover and fall seeding of winter rye.
We have a family sheep operation with about 90 ewes raising most of our lambs to slaughter weights. Some grain and feed supplements are purchased. We began limited rotational grazing of our ewes five years ago.
Assistance on the project was obtained from Paul Schaefer, coordinator of the Western Wisconsin Sustainable Farming Network and Marv Kamp of the Wisconsin Rural Development Center, Inc. for their encouragement and help with the field day and our neighbor, Lawerence Hulback, for the use of his Brillion Culipacker. Also assistance in selecting forage varieties for the project was obtained from Modern Agri-products of Frendale, WA. The no till seeder was rented from the Soil Conservation Service of St. Croix County, WI and letters of recommendation written by Jim Faust, Dunn County Extension Agent and Lee Milligan, St. Croix County Extension Agent.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
1. Intensive rotational grazing of our sheep has taken us a long way toward converting from conventional to sustainable agriculture. Its benefits in better land utilization, reduced need for machine harvested feed and fertilizer, etc. have reduced our purchased inputs significantly. However, it is difficult obtaining optimum production performance from the seep using the unimproved domestic forage varieties. Consequently, we are currently not fully utilizing the full potential of our pasture land.
2. In an attempt to overcome this, some selected forage varieties from New Zealand and Holland, countries which have concentrated research efforts aimed at developing forage varieties that thrive when intensively grazed, were compared for both ease of establishment and their ability to provide high quality feed.
Further observation include excellent regrowth after grazing the perennial rye grass strips (north strips) in the tilled plots with plot 2 showing the best stands at this pint apparently having overcome the allelopathic effect of the rye seeding the previous fall. The other two strips in the tilled plots showed sparse growth and regrowth but needed to be grazed due to weed pressure especially in plot 1 (fall seeded oats). The Tahora White Clover and the Puna Chicory came back very well after grazing in the tilled plot. It continued to be very difficult to detect the seeded forages in plot 3 with the exception of the Tahora White Clover.
As stated in the fact sheet, forage yield and forage test comparisons are planned for next year after the new seedings have had a better chance to establish.
We feel that the project has progressed well towards meeting the establishment portion of our goal. The forage quality and quantity comparison portion of the goal is slated for this coming summer. As a result, we don’t expect to see much affect on our farm until then and there after.
At this point, I would recommend the perennial rye grass with Tahora White Clover and Puna Chicory as the seed mixture of choice and fall seeded winter rye as a soil preparation prior to establishment to surpass weed competition.
The method we used to tell others about our project was through a field day held on July 17, 1993 sponsored by the Western Wisconsin Sustainable Farming Network and was attended by about 25 people. A less formal method was through personal discussions with other members of the Network during meetings, etc. The field day was listed in our newsletter and both County Extension Agents were made aware of the field day. They will also receive a copy of this report. I am also confident that the NCRSARE program will make this report available to other producers on a scale which we can not.