Field day highlights custom grazing

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CASSADAGA, N.Y. – Doug and Colleen Aldrich of Cassadaga, N.Y., recently hosted a grazing field day at their farm. Farmers from New York and Pennsylvania attended.
Custom grazing. The Aldriches began custom grazing heifers and dry cows two years ago. They own and operate 100 acres of open land at their main farm, where two hoop barns have been constructed, and another 100 acres at a nearby farm.
Doug Aldrich grew up at Aldrich Farm near Fredonia where he milked approximately 32 cows in a standard barn. Later, his family built their milking parlor and restaurant.
Colleen came to this area as a foreign exchange student from New Zealand. The dairy system used by the Aldrich family seemed strange to her. She was used to more grazing.
It is with this background that she noted, “Now I have a little bit of New Zealand here.”
New barn. The Aldriches look forward to custom boarding cows over the winter, as well. The new hoop barn will make this a reality.
Plans are to house at least four groups on a bedded pack with an outside feeding area.
Their rotational grazing system came with a lot of hard work and patience. The land, when they acquired it, was full of multiflora rose. Some was pulled out, some was simply mowed repeatedly.
Meat goats were also used to clean the pasture, which has a view of Lake Erie on clear days.
Aldrich tried frost seeding clover on his native grass pastures. This year, he also planted BMR sorghum-sudangrass.
Tom Frederes, from Western New York Crop Management, commented on the frost seeding. The idea is to seed before the last frost. However, if there is more frost, it will not damage the seed.
While he readily admits his fields still need lime to bring the pH to the level to raise better forage, Aldrich was pleased with both the frost seeding and the sorghum. The combination has made a balanced ration for his heifers.
Satisfied customer. Beginning in May of this year, Glen Moss, a grazier from near Angola, N.Y., brought 12 heifers to be boarded and pastured. Moss is pleased with how the heifers that were born in October and November 2006 are growing.
In addition to the pasture, the animals are supplemented with 2 pounds of grain per day. Feeding the grain means Aldrich sees the cows every day.
The Aldrichs had a cost-share project with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to help with the installation of perimeter fencing and a lane. They have a high-tensile electrified fence around the perimeter and electric single strand to separate the paddocks.
He has worked with the Natural Resources and Conservation Service on the environmental side.
Improvements. A well was drilled near the first barn constructed. The Aldriches have run more than 1,500 feet of 1-inch black plastic pipe with quick couplers between the well, the lane and the paddocks.
Aldrich built his own system that allows him to roll the hose around the barrel to move it efficiently. The well that supplies water pumps 8 gallons per minute. That has been sufficient to meet the demand of the cows.
There are also dry cows on the pasture, but the groups are not integrated. Each group is moved to keep up with the constantly growing grass.
The Aldrichs purchased 37 meat goats that they graze. The goats are rotated every five to seven days to new pasture to help control internal parasites.
Admittedly, there has been a learning curve with the goats.
Aldrich commented, “Do not underestimate the value of fresh air and grazing on pasture.”
Aldrich took crop hay off in May before the grazing started. He also baled the sorghum from the other farm and seeded it back.
Biosecurity concerns. One farmer voiced concern about animals from different farms being housed together. Biosecurity is an issue as more and more farms are conscious of it.
This farmer had trouble with bovine viral diarrhea. He was concerned about the exposure of his animals during the boarding process. Aldrich commented on that, saying the animals could be kept apart easily the way he grazes and with the construction design of the barn.
As they get into the process of wintering over cattle, some things may need to change. Aldrich is committed to making it worthwhile for the producer.

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