Milbocker Farm is 400 acres – 100 cow/calf pairs, controlled rotational grazing using 93 acres-10 paddocks. Hay is the only crop raised.
Walkers 80 dairy cows-55 acres of controlled rotational grazing-16 paddocks. Other corps includes hay on the 420 acre farm.
On the Milbocker farm, we began rotational grazing in 1991. In 1993 we started to interseed existing grass pastures with clovers.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Our goal was to improve our pastures to carry on e cow/calf pair per acre, in the past we were using 3 acres to raise on cow/calf pair. We began our research with soil tests and fertilization to bring out soils up to a moderate level.
Our first method of interseeding was using three levels of Phosphorus. 114, 226 and 333 pounds of actual P was applied in half acres strips in existing grass pasture to see if we could trigger resident clovers. We did not see any natural emergence of clover. Although the existing stand did thicken in the test strips.
Our second method was a repeat of the first, no tilling red clover into the half acre strips. The results were disappointing. The red clover emergence was not noticeable better than the area where no P was applied.
The third method was no tilling red clover into three levels of applied cow manure. Six, twelve, and eighteen ton per acre in half acre strips. The high level strip showed about twice the emergence of red clover over the lower level. The manure helped hold the moisture in the light sandy soils.
Our fourth method was using the Aerway, chain harrow, and broadcasting red clover in one pass. This was done using three levels of P and three levels of manure on a very sandy paddock. Because of the dry weather this was a failure.
In the fifth method, we broadcast red clover using the Aerway and chain harrow, in a paddock where the cows had been feed hay over the winter. This was on better soils and had great success.
The sixth method was no tilling and broadcast in a mix of trefoil, ladino, and red clover in a unfertilized paddock. The half that was no tilled had twice the emergence over the broadcast area.
Our research was carried on with a joint effort form the Otsego Soil Conservation District, NRCS, and MSU. OSCD soil technician was involved in soil samples, species count, acreage measurement, photography, and data collection. Jacque Korn of NRCS provided technical assistance in species selection and supervision of soil technician. Jack Middleton of MSU Extension organized the entire promotion of the field day, pasture walk, and slide documentation. Dr. W. Moline was the speaker for pasture walk and provided in the field technical advice for the entire project. Dr. Ben Bartlett was a speaker for the field day addressing forages and their economics. Dr. Rich Leep identified forage species and the importance of interseeding clovers and grasses for maximum production.
The success of interseeding clovers in grass pastures is measured by our farms ability to support one cow/calf pair per acre. Where it used to take three acres five years ago.
We are pleased with the increased production. Taking samples of interseeded pasture versus non seeded yielded a 100 percent increase of forage on a dry matter basis.
We learned what a big part clovers play in producing forage economically, and how essential soil tests are.
It has more than doubled our production of pounds of meat raised per acre.
Our identified barrier is depleted sandy soil and dry weather. By winter feeding our cows in our grazing paddocks we are increasing organic matter in our soil, which will aid in water retention. Also the introduction of orchard grass with clovers yields better in dry weather.
The advantage of interseeding grass pastures is returning low producing land inexpensively into a profit making venture. The disadvantage is Mother Nature (drought), and it takes two years to see a substantial improvement.
Interseeding clovers is a very worth while practice, if approached with soil tests, seed selection, and proper grazing management. This project can have a huge economic impact on cow/calf or back grounding farms. It is an inexpensive approach to increasing forage production and profits. Interseeding is an environmentally accepted practice versus conventional tillage, which can cause wind and water erosion. These farming practices are sociable acceptable because of the absents of pesticides, conventional tillage, and large amounts of fertilizer.
Our research supports the use of the no till drill as the best method of interseeding under most conditions.
We held one field day and one pasture walk. The field day was attended by over 100 people, 3 implement dealers, and resource people from MSU. The pasture walk was attended by 15 people with Dr W. Moline from MSU sharing his expertise as they walked the paddocks at both farms. Both these events were featured in local papers. Michigan Cattlemen’s Association choose the Mibocker farm as a stop for their summer round up tour, approximately 150 people toured the paddocks. We have documented our project with a slide presentation, which was shared with about 25 farmers in a neighboring county. This slide presentation will be available for MASA (MI Agricultural Stewardship Association) annual meeting and any further events that we are asked. We will be participating in future pasture walks as a resource person. We will also share this information with beef producers in Northern MI, which we have been appointed to the advisory committee.