Using Forage and Grazing Systems as an Alternative to Row Crops on Michigan Muck Soils

Project Overview

FNC96-155
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1996: $5,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Animals: sheep

Practices

  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: mentoring
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    Our farm is 600 acres that is in the process of changing over to total grass land and sheep production. Presently we are running a 700-800 commercial ewe flock, with plans to continue increasing ewe numbers.

    We have been practicing sustainable practices on this farm since the mid 1980’s. Some of these practices would include:
    1) Rotational grazing
    2) No till seedings of all pasture and hay ground
    3) Manure management
    4) Composting sheep manure
    5) Monitoring soils – N, P, K, and pH
    6) Forage analysis and yield
    7) Production records on our ewe flock

    Dr. Leep from Michigan State University helped with seeding recommendations. Dr. Rook, from MSU helped with forage analysis and yield. Dr. Rook also helped with ewe management. Maury Kreacher from MSU helped with the out reach.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
    John delegated 60 acres of Houghton Muck that has been drained into his gazing projections. His flock of 700-800 ewes and their lambs will rotationally graze the 60 acres and other paddocks. All the land will be seeded with grasses and legumes. Also he will build all new electric hi-tensile fences on this ground. Different species of grasses will be used in side by side comparison. He will also run small plot comparisons of grasses and legumes.

    One of the barriers of sheep and pasture management is the lack of information on their profitability. If agri-business can’t sell you a product they have no interest in you. You are on your own.

    By using open minded people that I previously named we were able to gain this information.

    We compared grass and sheep profits with other cropping programs and we were able to determine that this was our most profitable enterprise.

    OUTREACH
    I have been involved in a grazing school as a teacher, in Michigan for the last 2 years. Over 80 producers, extension people and soil and water people have taken these classes.

    In September we hosted a pasture walk that over 40 people attended.

    This winter (February 1998) I have been asked to speak at the Great Lakes Grazing Conference in Akron, Ohio. I guess 300-500 people will attend.

    We will continue to check yields and production on these pastures and make information available.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.