WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – With winter feed costs being so high these past few years, extending your grazing season is economically important, and profitable.
And that takes planning, said Jim Gerrish of the American Grazing Lands Service, keynote speaker at a two-day grazing conference Oct. 20-21 in Williamsport, Pa.
The event was coordinated by the Project Grass effort.
Think it through. Planning how you extend your grazing season is important, whether grazing off corn stubble, stockpile grasses, brassicas, or other measures, Gerrish said, “but you must plan ahead.”
“The cost saving by not feeding hay, or supplements for just one month by extending your grazing season goes into your profit column.”
Just another employee. Gerrish advised considering your livestock as employees. And this employee should be able to rustle his own grub, produce a healthy baby every year, wean a healthy offspring every year, stay healthy without much fuss, and stay in your herd at least 10 years.
And that also means producers need to cull (fire) any livestock employee who can not follow the job description.
Outstanding graziers. Five farmers were honored during the event as Outstanding Graziers: Daniel Komarinski of Fayette County, Pa.; Arnold Greenawalt, Clarion County; Ted Miller, Perry County; Louis Hawley, Susquehanna County; and Randy Balthaser, Berks County.
Komarinski of Farmington, Pa., recently installed a grazing system with cost-share funds from Project Grass and EQIP. He converted approximately 60 acres of continuously grazed pasture into a rotational grazing system with a balance of woodlot and cropland.
In addition to fencing pasture, Komarinski also fenced some cropland to be used to extend the grazing season when needed.
He currently grazes approximately 25 head of dairy replacement heifers.
The watering system includes a pressurized system from a well source, complete with pressurized tank and permanent troughs, in which the whole system can be drained in winter months.
Komarinski is also vo-ag instructor at the North Fayette Vo-Tech, and his class participates in the Project Grass Grassland Evaluation Contest annually.
Komarinski is also an active member of the Fayette County Grazing Group.
Arnold Greenawalt has worked consistently the last five years as a grazing dairy producer to reduce soil erosion and develop wildlife habitat by installing a variety of conservation practices on his farm in southern Clarion County.
These practices include stream bank fencing and crossings, animal trails and walkways, spring developments, barnyard stabilization and prescribed grazing.
Ted Miller, Icksburg, Pa., has a dairy herd of 60 head of crossbred cows (Holstein, Jersey, Friesen, Swedish Red) averaging around 16,000 pounds milk/year. The ration consists of pasture (or baleage if needed) and a minimal amount of supplemental grain fed during milking.
One of his major goals is to feed as little stored forage as possible through the grazing season, maximizing dry matter intake from pasture. He also works to maintain less than a 13-month calving interval, and selects cattle that maintain excellent body condition in an outdoor year-round environment.
Louis Hawley, Susquehanna County, runs a seasonal dairy soon to be certified organic. The Hawleys also run a beef operation.
Crossbred cows are milked in a homemade New Zealand style parlor. Seasonal breeding starts the milking year around April 1 with twice daily milking until Nov. 1 when only a morning milking is performed. The entire herd is dried off on or before Feb. 1.
Bunked forages are fed in early spring and late fall. Dry hay and bale age are offered for winter-feeds.
In most years small plots or edge paddocks are planted for dry periods or extended grazing. Plantings have included corn, sorghum, turnips, Swedes and stockpiled grasses.
The Hawleys’ beef operation is managed in the same fashion as dairy with a few small differences. Paddocks are larger for weekly changes.
Randy Balthaser operates a dairy operation in Bernville, Pa. He currently uses approximately 45 acres for night-time grazing of their 100 Holstein cows.
His permanent pastures consist of orchard grass, smooth brome grass and perennial ryegrass, but he likes using sorghum-Sudan grass to provide summer forages during the summer months.
Balthaser’s grazing system consists of 2-acre paddocks with water provided in each paddock through the use of an above-ground pipeline.
Most notably, the Balthasers recently installed a 750,000-gallon concrete liquid manure storage and tunnel ventilated tie stall barn.
Lifetime award. John Hudak, USDA NRCS soil scientist, received the Project Grass Lifetime Achievement Award for his support and help with the PA Project Grass Youth Grazing Evaluation Scholarship Contest and the PA Project Grass Statewide Conferences.
The conference included a tour of Dave Johnson’s organic grazing farm near Liberty, Pa.
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