Myron has worked on the 150 acre dairy farm since childhood. In 1978, Myron and I purchased the family farm, livestock, equipment, land and buildings.
Since that time we have made improvements, capital investments, and farmed a totally “conventional system”. In 1992, we began rotational grazing our livestock on 60 acres. At present, we have about 100 head of cattle, mainly consisting of registered Brown Swiss, a few Holsteins, and “cross” dairy cattle.
With the help of a SARE grant received in 1993, we completed the project of building paddocks on our entire farm, plus an adjoining 50 acres of rented land. We also have a water system installed supplying water in all paddocks. The farthest the cattle have to walk to the water supply is 600 feet. Most of the paddocks have a maximum distance of 400 feet to water.
We have moved the heard to a mostly spring freshening dairy in 1995, but have now spread the freshening time back over a seven month interval. The reason for reversing the trend was because there was a drastic increase of work for that three month period, milk checks were to small during winter months, and by again spreading the freshening time, we were better able to maximize the spring and fall high growth rates of pastures. For us, this is the method we will continue with at this time.
It is our goal to “fine tune” our rotational grazing system, to keep our expenses at a minimum, profits at a maximum, protect the environment and ground water, and share our knowledge, experiences, successes as well as failures, with as many people as possible. This includes continuing to farm “organically”.
We have maintained a relationship of having our farm open to non-agricultural visitors as well.
These include: hosting the Portage County Twilight Meeting, three years of touring high school exchange students from Germany, sponsoring the Portage and Wood County 4-H Cattle Judging Teams, a tour groups of 95 people form Switzerland, having the kindergarten class from a local school come to see the “real thing” on the farm, being one of three farms used to produce a new updated video by the Brown Swiss Association for world wide distribution, small tour groups from France, Germany and Switzerland.
We have also had the field days/pasture walks as part of the central Wisconsin Grazing Network, had student from the University in Stevens Point tour that were taking summer classes in the Natural Resources Department in 1995.
For 1997, we have already been asked to sponsor two University class tours for explaining “grazing” in May and September, hold our annual pasture walk in June, and if all goes well, have a farm tour/outing for 50 Japanese students in August from the University that will be taking summer courses as exchange students.
It has always been a pleasure for us to share our life experiences, knowledge, success and failures with those interested in learning.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
Construct and repair raceways/lanes which were eroding and causing injury to cattle hooves and to improve quality and legume content of pastures.
Since rotational grazing is relatively new in the United States, there was limited information available or work done on permanent land bases that we came across. Numerous sources were used. Our research involved many telephone calls to county agents, land conservation people, farmers and talking to companies handling supplies/materials we finally used.
We had four main areas identified which were worked on, and the “barnyard exit” area we were able to obtain cost-sharing from a county LCD program for 75% on that area.
Improving legume content of pasture has been successful in some soil types with frost seeding methods and no till drilling in legume seed at various times of the growing season. We chose to experiment with top seeding in early May after all frost was out of the ground using the ATV and spin seeder with excellent results.
At the minimal cost of purchasing the spinner seeder and seed, no physical labor or other expense was involved in reintroducing or increasing “clover” legumes into the pastures. The red and ladino clovers grew well. By the end of August the clover in some areas were 10 to 12 inches tall. This method reportedly does not work as well with establishing grasses or other legumes. In our situation, we have plenty of grass coming in to the paddocks.
Process on Lanes:
The barnyard exit: this involved extensive excavating, replacing with fill and road mat as a firm foundation base. A layer of geotextile fabric, with a PVS pipe for water diversion placed on top of the fabric covered by road mat of 6 to 8 inches and la final layer of 6 to 8 inches of limestone screening. The land is crowned with a trench of channeling waster way.
On hill one and three Myron filled in areas and washouts with a tractor and loader, with the other hand working on filing and leveling done by Myron and Jamie, to make all areas smooth for the next layer. We then chose to go with “crushed black top” for a crowned 6 to 8 inch layer.
We decided to try this material on the recommendation of the excavating company. The reasons being it was less expensive than the road mat/fabric/limestone section. Also to have the comparison to see which would hold up better.
The crushed black top should have a long durability factor to withstand erosion forces as hoof, machine traffic and rain.
Hill two, the same beginning process took place making the area smooth for the second layer, which consisted of 6 to 8 inches of road mat, geotextile fabric, and a top base of 6 to 8 inches of limestone screenings.
The lanes have about a ten inch crowned surface. This is in hopes of keeping rain off and not forming channels or ridges in the newly constructed bases. Also at the top of hills, small berms or speed bumps are constructed to further help divert water from rushing down the lanes in times of heavy rain.
We did not use wood by products because the areas were to steep and wood would have washed down the hills with heavy rains.
In flat areas of slight inclines wood by products could be used. This material can be obtained free or at a low cost from local paper mills.
Several farms in the Marathon County area have tried 3M Dust which is a by product from making roof shingles. Although the material will pack to form a hard base, it is reported that when “dry” summer season conditions occur, the 3M Dust becomes so dusty you can not see cattle walking, just a big cloud of white dust. With concerns of health – ours and the animals – we decided not to use this material.
The LCD officials advised us against going with just plain limestone screenings on top of a smooth lane surface because it would probably erode form heavy rains.
The crushed black top is a by product. When roads are torn up to be replaced, the black top is then crushed and hauled off to a gravel pit where it is later sold fro other projects.
Contact people at various stages to answer questions, calculate, give lists of companies and resource people include:
– Dave Ankley, Andy Hager, John Cockrell – UWEX Agents
– Mark Mrozinski, Lyle Guralski, Greg Galbraith, Tom Buchholz, Bob Eader and Rick Adamskio – farmers
– Bill Ebert and Steve Ortle – Well Head Protection Program
– Paul Daigle, Tom Garso, Keith Widdel, and Jake Bourquet – Land Conservation Departments and ASCS office.
The troublesome land areas and barnyard exit area now have excellent permanent bases – using a couple different methods to see how each will hold up. The “water diversion” seems to be working well channeling water off the lanes.
We expect only a few hundred dollars maintenance will be required each year to keep the lanes in good condition.
With the top seeding of clover legumes into the pastures, we had excellent results re-establishing the legumes using three to five pounds of seed per acre. From our research, grass or alfalfa would not “catch” as well the clover did.
Our project has worked well in all area. It can be of use in both grazing and conventional farming systems. Due to the excellent grazing network system in Wisconsin, this information will be readily available to anyone seeking it. Also, anyone is welcome to tour our farm if needed.
Hand out reports are mailed to networks to furnish details.
Our field day was September 18, 1996. Our tentative 1997 schedule was listed earlier in this report.
January 19, 20, 21 1997 are the dates of the Wisconsin Grazing Conference to be held in Steven’s Point. This is the fifth annual conference. It always hold great opportunities for sharing information as there are approximately 650 people in attendance.