Sustainable Dairy Operation Phase 1: Convert to Grazing
Moving Toward Organic Dairy Farming
Although we feel that our project is only partially completed we actually have achieved several of the goals listed in the original grant application. We fell short of accomplishing the goals of comparison soil testing and of formally sharing information about our project through a video, extension programs and farm tours, but Mark McDonald has had many informal talks with local farmers- giving tips and sharing organic ideas. He also had the opportunity to speak for the River County Resource Conservation and Development Council Inc. office in our area, addressing our WI state association annual conference.
(Editor’s note: The objective of this project was a two phased transition into sustainable a dairy operation. Phase one would oversee the conversion to a grazing operation, while phase two would oversee the conversion to “…an on farm mini-dairy to process, package and market…” their own dairy products.)
Moved towards organic dairy farming by,
• Developing a plan for three farms to convert to grazing operations.
• Initiating sustainability by lowering input costs
• Using environmentally friendly farming practices
• Enhancing the value of the product by returning to wholesome farming methods.
The SARE grant was used for developing a sustainable plan for each farm with the objective of converting to organic production; leasing a rotivator that makes better use of sod and crop residue with its grinding and mixing action; and the purchase of lime for better immediate crop results until better top soil can be built up.
Summary of past and present practices.:
The Mark McDonald Farm used conventional farming practices – no grazing and strip cropping. – Switched to grazing practices and became certified organic in November 2003.
• Determined how to arrange pastures; pastures were arranged in multiple paddocks and grazing was controlled by using moveable leader fences.
• Worked with Midwest Bio-Ag soil balancing service and Midwest Materials for soil testing and lime nutrients.
• Anticipated facility changes: currently added on to an existing building and turning it into free stall-less free stall barn with scape ally and feed ally(no stalls yet for budget sensitive cow comfort)
• Business plan in progress –this was on hold due to a hostile law suit. This event significantly moved our focus from making exciting organic changes to mere survival!
• (Editor’s note: Plans were also developed for the other two farms to help their transition to grazing; rototilling was also undertaken.)
Russel Ruff Farm used conventional farming practices – no grazing and strip cropping. – Switched to grazing practices and became certified organic in November 2003.
Eric Bruntz Farm used conventional farming practices – no grazing, strip cropping with commercial fertilizers and chemicals- has begun grazing practices with dry cows and has found a wife who is pro-grazing and pro-organic!
We have achieved almost all of what we wanted to do with this grant as indicated by :
1) time lined developed for each farm . Organic certification already achieved by two of the three.
2) Visually noticeable improvement in animal health, lower mortality rates.
3) We no longer need to resort to desperate measures in order to compete in the free market economy.
We are still planning to do comparison testing of soil, soil erosion and increased top soil hummus.