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Rotational Grazing Affords Easy Profits, Less Work When Mimicking Nature

By: NRCS Field Staff, Brown County, Wisconsin

Tom Krueger, of Denmark, Wis., with his herd of Herefords enjoying their new lifestyle on pasture. Photo: Tivoli Gough

Tom Krueger, of Denmark, Wis., with his herd of Herefords enjoying their new lifestyle on pasture. Photo: Julia Hager.

Tom said he and his wife are 100 percent on board with natural grazing.

Tom said he and his wife are 100 percent on board with natural grazing. 

This month, we’re highlighting 12 important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and future. NRCS’ mission is to conserve the full range of natural resources, but soil health is our foundation. And it’s the first conservation gift that we’re going to highlight. And without soil, we couldn’t celebrate with food. We encourage you to give the gift of conservation this season!

“I was doing a lot of work for nothing,” explains Tom Krueger, landowner of 155 acres in Denmark, Wisconsin. Tom’s prior routine raising cattle on a lot required a minimum of a half hour feeding time every day.

In fall 2015, Tom came into the NRCS office initially interested in starting to graze some of his idle ground. That conversation about rotational grazing triggered his curiosity. Tom did what not many people do—he got educated. He took it upon himself to attend multiple pasture walks and even the Wisconsin Grassworks Grazing Conference.

Grazing with Nature

It was here that Tom had his light bulb moment, “hearing that soils guy (Ray Archuleta) talk about how grazing was like farming with nature just made it all click for me,” Tom confessed.

With assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Tom was able set up the entire infrastructure of fence and water for his rotational grazing pasture system.

Rotational grazing is a process whereby livestock are strategically moved to fresh paddocks, or partitioned pasture areas, to allow vegetation in previously grazed pastures to regenerate. This leads to healthier cows and healthier pastures.

Since 1990, his beef cattle were raised in a lot at his brother’s place down the road. When asked if he’s noticed any change in workload since converting to a rotational grazing system for his beef herd, he scoffed in bewilderment.

“It’s like the cattle aren’t even out there,” Tom said. “I’ve spent 15 minutes feeding them in a week!”

Cutting costs and time on equipment maintenance, such as a silo unloader and manure spreader, is a big plus. With this change alone, Tom said he and his wife are 100 percent on board with natural grazing. 

The Kruegers have roughly 55 acres in permanent pasture. Around 35 of these acres were formerly cash crop. Tom sees no sacrifice here either, saving two weeks a year picking stones, slashing costs of fertilizer and saving time by not having to fix parts on old equipment.

Farm to Table

Tom currently has 15 Hereford cows, with plans to expand to 20 cow-calf pairs. Tom’s grass-fed beef is a sought after commodity, with buyers finding him instead of the other way around. But for now, he plans to sell to a meat shop in Milwaukee. With a higher price per pound than conventional beef, Tom is pleased with his new rotational grazing system.

A couple years into retirement, this low maintenance farming lifestyle has promising prospects for Tom, affording him time to pursue his many other hobbies. Rolling through his pastures on the four wheeler, he looked at the ripe and full apple trees sculpting the edge of the woods. “I made a great pie with the soft ones last week,” Tom said. 

Read more stories on the gifts on conservation here.