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Susquehanna County Beef Farm Continues Conservation Practices for Nearly Ten Years

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Roofed heavy use area protection

Nick Holofchak was dealing with an inefficient manure storage system, poor land uniformity, and soil erosion when he contacted NRCS.

Nick Holofchak has been farming for more than 40 years on the 64-acre Holofchak Beef Farm in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The Holofchak family manages a beef herd that consists of 19 beef cows, eight finishing and one bull; the beef cattle are marketed and sold locally. They rent an additional 40 acres of hay land to feed their growing beef operation.

In 2009, Holofchak began to work with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) District Conservationist, Ain Welmon to see how NRCS might be able to help him and his farm. They worked together to develop a farm conservation plan, which identified the natural resource concerns on the farm. Holofchak was dealing with an inefficient manure storage system, poor land uniformity, and soil erosion. These resource concerns caused him to spend extra time in the field to productively grow hay.

The farm conservation plan also suggested solutions such as putting some of the land into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), and implementing pasture management, rotational grazing, a concrete barnyard (heavy use area protection), and a manure storage facility. Over the next four years, Holofchak applied for CREP to install buffers, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and DEP Streambank Fencing Program.

The CREP riparian buffers improved water quality in the streams and helped the environment. CREP provided technical assistance with NRCS, while the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and DEP streambank fencing program provided financial assistance to install watering facilities, stream crossings, and high- tensile fence. The fence protects all ponds, streams, and other sensitive areas from livestock. The installation of these soil and water conservation practices has made a huge difference in the beef cows’ weight gains and health.

In 2012, Nick Holofchak was interested in continuing improvements to his farm, so he proceeded to work with NRCS to develop an EQIP contract for technical and financial assistance to install a roofed concrete barnyard and waste storage facility. Using technical assistance provided by NRCS engineers, the roofed heavy use area protection and roofed waste storage facility were installed during the autumn of 2014. This project has eliminated the need to spread manure when the ground is frozen and improved water quality. Manure is spread when the pasture and crop plants are capable of fully using the nutrients.

In 2016 Nick applied for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) grazing and obtained a five-year CSP contract, which covered enhancement practices to establish pollinator and beneficial insect habitat, pasture annual payments, placement of hay feeding areas on low fertility soils, biological suppression, and other nonchemical techniques to manage vegetation and rotation of supplement and feeding. With NRCS assistance, Holofchak was able to identify resource concerns on his farm, as well as develop and implement a conservation plan to address the concerns. Holofchak has successfully been able to conserve and better utilize nutrients on the farm through the implementation of the roofed heavy use area protection and a roofed waste storage facility. These practices have helped to keep clean water clean by eliminating the amount of sediment and nutrients in surface and ground water.

“I could not be happier with the assistance I received from NRCS. I would encourage anyone that wants to solve resource conservation concerns on their farm to contact their local NRCS office,” said Holofchak.