Wingard Farm: A Showcase for Conservation
Sunrise Club Calves is a cow/calf operation located in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. The business, owned by Paul and Beth Wingard, specializes in producing club calves, which are calves purchased by 4-H and FFA members to be shown as their project animals. The farm consists of 125 acres of grass/clover pasture and about 25 acres of woodlots situated on gently rolling hills. The farm has four ponds and is crossed by several small streams.
Grass is the major crop produced on the Wingard farm. Pasture is intensely managed for increased productivity, profit, and environmental benefit. Management intensive grazing also reduces fuel and time used making and feeding hay and clipping pastures, and allows an increased stocking rate. In a good year, there will be surplus hay which may be marketed.
In addition to grazing, the Wingard’s have implemented many other conservation practices over the years. In fact, Paul and Beth have installed various practices since they purchased the farm in the 1970’s. Fenced stream corridors keep cattle out of riparian areas and provide wildlife food and cover. Stabilized stream crossings made from concrete hog slats prevent soil erosion and down-stream sediment loading. Ponds are fenced to keep cattle out. Goats graze embankments to control weeds and brush. Woodlands, stream corridors, ponds and lush pastures supply food and cover for a wide range of wildlife including birds and fish. Buffer areas along streams keep nutrients from entering streams during the grazing season.
Livestock are provided drinking water in each paddock with a combination of pond and spring fed tire waterers, and a pressurized system using buried and above ground pipelines to supply hydrants and portable troughs. The waterers allow for more even grazing and manure distribution, and to eliminate traffic damage in laneways.
The Wingards have worked diligently with conservation partners such as NRCS to implement these various conservation practices. In 2000, stabilized stream crossings were installed through the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP). In 2004, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) was used to build a concrete feed pad and manure stacking area to reduce soil erosion, preserve pasture forage, collect manure and improve winter conditions for the cattle. A fenced and vegetated filter area below the manure storage prevents nutrient runoff to streams. Included in this project was the stabilization of an area surrounding the feed pad using geotextile and crushed limestone. A nutrient management plan and a prescribed grazing plan were also developed.
Other conservation partners include the Clarion County Conservation District, Northwest and Southwest Pennsylvania Project Grass, Pennsylvania Game Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to the Wingard’s, “Our goal is to manage pasture, hay, and cattle to achieve maximum returns with minimum inputs, and improve the environment in the process.” The conservation practices they have implemented have not just preserved the farm’s natural resources, but have improved them, and increased overall efficiency and productivity.