Success Stories | Pennsylvania


Andrew Batdorf. Andrew Batdorf, a dairy farmer in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, along with his wife Saraetta and four children, decided to live on their McVeytown farm for a few years before making any major changes to the farm operation. He saw an advantage to learning the lay of the land and how the cows would move from the barnyard to pastures. He wanted any changes to be easy for the cows, himself and his family. Little did he know that his prudence would inspire him to adopt an innovative use of a windmill to save on electricity costs and provide water for his cows in the far paddocks. The proximity of his buildings to the stream is both a drawback and an advantage. The likelihood of barnyard manure and soil from the adjacent steep fields entering the stream was an issue for the Batdorf family. On the other hand, the existence of the stream made the farm eligible for Farm Bill programs to help keep it clean.

In 2004, the Batdorfs's concern for the environment led them to work with Pennsylvania'ss Department of Environmental Protection's Chesapeake Bay Program to install a stream crossing with hog slats, and to buffer and fence the stream. The Mifflin County Conservation District planted native plants in the buffer and maintained it for the first year. Then, after developing a grazing plan, Mr. Batdorf applied for Project Grass cost-sharing in 2005 to install pasture fence, a waterline and hydrants to provide water for his cows in the existing pasture on the far side of the stream. Project Grass is a cooperative effort by local farmers, county conservation districts, and other partners with assistance from the USDA agencies to improve agricultural productivity in Pennsylvania. Particular interest is in grasslands, small farms, energy efficiency, marketing, and environmental quality.

Andrew liked the system so well that he decided to convert his cropland to pasture. His farm is hilly and steep, so contour strips had been installed some time before the Batdorfs bought this farm. Since he could see that the contours made walking to paddocks easy for the cows, Andrew decided to have cattle walkways constructed to follow the contour. There was also need for a feeding pad, fence, water lines, watering facilities, and pasture seedings for the expansion. Andrew and NRCS soil conservationist, Mary Smith, developed another Conservation Plan to incorporate all of his new decisions, and he decided to apply for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost-share to help him accomplish his goals. He worked with NRCS civil engineering technician, Bill Stidfole, to complete the contract and engineering designs for the system.

With the 2006 EQIP contract, he didn't know how much he would do in the first year, but decided to get started. Not only did he start, but he finished most of the contract in 2006. He installed 10,354 feet of permanent 5-strand perimeter fence, 21,121 feet of permanent 3-strand interior fence, 4,100 feet of pipeline, 12 frost-free hydrants, 12 watering facilities (150 gallon watering troughs), 3,372 feet of animal trails and walkways, 46 acres of pasture and hayland planting, 95.5 acres of prescribed grazing, 0.5 acre of obstruction removal, 0.2 acre of heavy use area protection (concrete lot with curbs) for a feeding pad and grass filter area to handle rain run-off, and, last but certainly not least, a 475 foot drilled well, well pump, and windmill pumping plant with a 10,000 gallon water holding tank. This was a late addition to the contract, after much consideration, suggestion and questioning of the feasibility by Andrew. As it turns out, this was not only a great idea but a very practical addition to the contract because of its location.

Windmill. When the wind blows, the 12 foot blades on the windmill move to catch the energy and rotate to pump water from the well. The 40 foot tall windmill is at the highest point on the farm and pumps water (at approximately 5 gallons per minute) to the holding tank nearby. From the holding tank, water is fed by gravity to fill the troughs in the paddocks. It produces 40- 70 lbs of pressure and no electricity is used or needed. Any water pumped to the tank in excess of capacity is returned to the well. Since the water is never exposed to air, it remains uncontaminated. The tank, which is inset on a concrete pad, stores one week's reserve of water in the summer, before it overflows back into the well.

Andrew felt that the contour strips, which were already on the farm when they bought it really helped for the layout of the new pasture system. He is pleased with how well everything works on the farm. "I really like the cattle walkways," he says, "they make it easy to move the cows between paddocks and to the barn (for milking). (Because of the work done in 2006), we'll be able to use the new pastures more intensively this summer." Andrew attributes the success of the installation of his practices to all of the contractors, who worked on the project, and the coordination of their efforts to complete the job efficiently. He can't say enough good things about the professional work done by Appalachian Fence, Matt's Excavating, and Ed's Pumps and Windmills.

The Batdorfs would like to finish the 2006 EQIP contract this year, including seeding 4 acres of Switchgrass warm season grass for both grazing and wildlife benefits, installation of a water line access road, and the development and implementation of a nutrient management plan and comprehensive nutrient management plan. Then, to solve some road runoff onto their barnyard, surface water and manure storage issues, they would really like to work on the farmstead areas. They have plans to put up barn spouting, stabilize the barnyard feeding area, and construct a manure storage facility to contain manure and surface water. They also need about 500 feet of additional cattle walkways in their pasture.

Offering advice to other farmers, Andrew says, "Don't be afraid to break the habit of doing things the way you have always done them. If you need help, and programs are available, working with the government doesn't mean that you will have to do things that are unreasonable. The agencies work with you to enhance your operation and protect natural resources." Andrew cites the benefits of intensive rotational grazing practices: improved cattle health, ease of operation and management for him and his family, environmental and wildlife enhancement, the protection of the stream, and a cleaner watershed. The Batdorfs are in the process of converting to an organic operation and plan to be 100 percent organic by July 2008. They feel that the improvements they made this year have enabled them to move in that direction more easily. Andrew is especially thankful for the support of his family during all of the installation work. Without the help of his wife Saraetta, their daughter and three sons, he would not have been available to oversee the construction of the conservation practices. They have been a great help feeding and milking the cows, and doing the regular barn chores. Although Andrew credits the contractors and NRCS with the coordination of installation, he spent a lot of time deciding on what was going to work best for this farm. If he had jumped into making changes immediately, he wouldn't have had time to learn and think about other options. His patience and prudence allowed him to make some wise decisions about the natural resources on his farm, and that is what conservation is all about.