Follow up to Conservation Summer Camp #4: Regenerative Agriculture
Our fourth and final Conservation Summer Camp Lunch Zoom on Aug. 28 featured a drone tour of Brattset Family Farm and a presentation on regenerative grazing with farm owner and WiWiC Conservation Coach Kirsten Juracek. Nearly 100 people attended the virtual event on the topic of Regenerative Agriculture, and Kirsten was joined by Dr. Nicole Tautges, an agroecologist from the Michael Fields Agriculture Institute. The chat was lively and jam-packed. Here we provide the resources contributed by Kirsten and Nicole, and the chat questions with answers provided by our WiWiC conservation coaches and other conservation experts. You can also re-watch the video HERE on the Michael Field Agricultural Institute YouTube Channel.
Resources/ Links from the Chat
Please email email@example.com with questions or if you'd like help with a Conservation Plan or a Grazing Plan
Kirsten’s farm: http://www.brattsetfamilyfarm.com/
Link to Michael Fields Agricultural Institute: https://www.michaelfields.org/
Here’s more info on Kernza: https://mailchi.mp/2693a636cd70/the-crumb_june-6-2021
Regenerative Organic certification: https://regenorganic.org/
Summer Camp series that has info on weed control and cover crops. https://www.wiwic.org/post/video-of-wiwic-summer-camp-lunch-2-build-healthy-soil
NRCS Contacts/ Offices:
Click on this link, then click on the map, it should give you all local NRCS offices
To easily find the local NRCS office: https://www.farmers.gov/ and then scroll down and click the service center locator.
https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/wi/contact/local/ is also a great service provider finder.
CRP - Conservation Reserve Program
A guide to Grazing:
Questions from the Chat for Kirsten Juracek:
Have you considered a paddock or two of native warm season grass for use during the hot, drier summer months?
Yes I have, We have a CRP Prairie that we may graze once the CRP contract expires. I do not currently feel that planting a warm season grass prairie would be cost effective for forage production on our farm. It would be fun though! The seed is very expensive, I would want it to develop for 3 years before grazing it, & it would only provide feed for a short time. When the cool season grasses are managed correctly (ie leaving 6 - 8 inches of residual when removing the cattle) the cool season grasses do just fine all year as long as we get some rain.
What species of grasses and forbs are common in the pasture? Specifically, are there any native grass species and/or native forbs for pollinators?
Land (12 acres) put under CRP which is planted with grasses, forbs and pollinators. Planted with big bluestem, little bluestem, switch grass which are great for prairies. Pastures are planted with cool season grasses and legumes because those produce well here. The pastures are assessed every fall for what is present and what is going away, and to have that balance of grasses and legumes. Seeding for them would be a little bit of orchard grass, broom grass, timothy, red clover, and alfalfa. In SE Wisconsin, a great time to interseed would be the month of August as also spring.
How long have you (Kirsten Jurcek, Conservation Coach) rotationally grazed?
About 15 years.
Have your pastures been affected by the drought this year? Do you feel that your regenerative practices provide some protection for the ongoing climate changes?
This season has been a dry year in SE Wisconsin. When rotationally grazed, the animals, after the first graze, leave a lot of forage behind. That helps protect the soil, keeping the soil cooler and leaving deeper roots into the soil. With just 3 inches of rainfall, everything is coming back in August. Rotational grazing is truly a resilient system. It also helps with carbon sequestration. Having larger amounts of organic matter in the soil is helpful in times of sporadic rain as the soil soaks up every drop of water instead of running off.
Do you soil test? Do you find your soil P is increasing or decreasing?
Solid testing on the Brattset farm is done every four years. The farm is under a Nutrient Management Plan and they follow the regulations. Every 5 acres needs to be sampled every four years. If your farm is eligible to be under the EQIP program, they also require that solid samples are taken regularly. Organic matter has gone up. Brattsett farm does fertilize when they intercede the pastures, since they are taking off the farm. It is a 100% sustainable system. Also having the legumes balance the grasses help the fertility.
How does a grazing plan interact with a conservation plan?
The grazing plan will be recommended within the conservation plan if you have livestock on your farm. The conservation plan (CP) is the overall plan for your farm, and the grazing plan is a plan specific to your soils, livestock and overall goals. .
We only have 2 pastures. What should we look for to know when we need to rotate?
You can easily build paddocks within your pastures with polywire and step in posts. An animal will eat or trample 3-4% of their body weight in dry matter forage per day which is the basis for the calculation we use in paddock sizing. We move our animals every day, I’d recommend moving them at least every 3 days.
Nicole Tautges (Agroecologist, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute):
How is kernza for weed suppression?
It is important to get it started well for good weed suppression. There are some great resources at kernza.org.
Can Kernza be used as a buffer system between fields and waterways?
Yes, it can. Minnesota is already doing this. There is also this request to NRCS to consider it as a conservation practice/ strategy.
How can we try to grow Kernza on our land?
You have to get a license for growing Kernza, please reach Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
My sense is that the seed for Kernza is not yet widely available. Is that accurate?
Yes, you need a license to grow it, and then seeds can be purchased.
How do you recommend getting rid of thistle which seems to be rapidly spreading?
Thistles is such a problem in organic systems, its control should be taken up at the right time. Sorghum sudan grass has been reported to control thistles. Control through mowing and adding cover crops or other crops to suppress its new growth works. Mowing of thistles should be at the right time, before it stores energy in its underground parts.
Is sudan grass an annual?
Yes, Sorghum Sudan grass is an annual forage grass.
Best source to purchase legumes and rye grass? Annual or perennial rye?
There’s a variety of seed companies that you can work with/order from. Annual rye is used in a cover crop scenario, as it is desired to terminate over winter. Perennial rye is a common improved pasture grass.
Is rye the preferred cover crop in corn fields in Wisconsin? Seems like it is hard to get it growing after the corn is harvested in the fall.
Research is underway for interplanting rye in corn at V1 to V3 so that they grow right after corn harvest. Rye as a winter cover is often used in WI, but it is tricky to get it established after harvest before freezing.
Also if you have a grazing plan already can you add a conservation plan?
Can it be grazed?
It depends on your situation. Please contact NRCS conservationists in your county.
How late can you plant sorghum sudangrass in Wisconsin?
It depends on your goals - We've planted sudan grass in August, but it didn't get as tall as it would have if planted earlier.
Native prairie was made up of three main families: legumes, composites (sunflowers, asters) and grasses. Bison and wild deer and antelope thrived on prairie. I wonder how cool season grasses and legumes compare nutritionally.
Cool-season species GENERALLY have higher forage quality than warm-seasons. But that doesn't necessarily mean they are always better for cattle. Cool-seasons tend to deliver more energy per fiber unit.