Beyercrest Farm Makes Transition to Organic and Grazing
Richard and Sharon Beyer’s herd of Holsteins have an outstanding record of success. As Registered Holstein Breeders, the Beyer family achieved a rolling herd average 30,000 pounds of milk per cow. However, when their son Rory came back to the farm after college and began to participate in management, he recognized that in order to support two families it would be necessary to make some adjustments. After doing some research and visiting with other farmers Rory concluded that a change to organic milk production with forages from pasture providing a majority of feed might help the family meet their goals.
The Beyers utilized available local resources while making the to organic dairy farming. Dan Gunderson and John Zinn of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service(NRCS) and Dean Thomas of the Root River Watershed Project assisted the Beyers in planning for the transition to organic farming and grazing. According to Rory Beyer, “Gunderson and Thomas worked with us through all the different versions of the grazing plan. They were both very patient with us and got answers to our questions along the way.”
The Beyers evaluated different pasture layouts using aerial photo maps from NRCS. “The maps helped our family to visualize how we were going to convert our crop ground into pasture, how we would subdivide it and how we would water the cattle.”, said Beyer. “The entire planning process with NRCS took us two or three years to come up with the fence layout.
Making the transition from feeding cattle stored feed at a feed bunk to having the cows graze required gaining new skills on the farm. This type of transition from conventional to organic farming can be costly because during the transitional period organic feeds which are more costly than conventional feeds must be fed while the pay price for the milk remains at the lower conventional price.
According to Beyer, “receiving financial assistance from NRCS for the some of the pasture seeding, fences, and watering system was important to making a successful transition. There was a big learning curve involved in transitioning cattle from stored feed to pasture feeding but I think we have done that now with the help from a nutritionist who understands how to supplemental feed dairy cows on pasture.
Sharon Beyer said that her son Rory has enjoyed learning about grazing their dairy cows on pasture. This change in management has led to an improvement in our dairy herd health and an overall improvement in our quality of life since making the change.
For more information regarding grazing on pastures in Minnesota please contact John Zinn, Minnesota NRCS State Grazing Specialist by calling 507-289-7454.
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