Producer Profile: John Jorasz, Jorasz Brothers Farm

Farm Highlights:

  • Wilson, Michigan
  • 250 cow dairy, along with dairy beef & heifers for a total of 800 head.
  • Runs 5000 acres of corn, beans, alfalfa, wheat & barley.
  • Has used the Midwestern BioAg program since the early 90’s.

Product Highlight: Liquid-Carbon Based Fertilizer 10-14-1

It all started in the early 90’s when John Jorasz stumbled across Gary Zimmer at one of his meetings. He believed that what Gary said held a lot of promise and a lot of truth. After that encounter, he took the initiative and learned more about biological farming and what he learned made a lot of sense to him; the rest, they say, is history, John has been implementing the BioAg system on his farm ever since.

This past year, John used L-CBF 10-14-1 as a starter on his corn ground. What intrigued John about this product was that it was molasses based. Molasses is a natural sugar product and is more soil friendly than other liquid starters which made it ideal for John’s management plan. John also purchased a new planter this year which could only utilize a liquid starter and he looked to Midwestern BioAg to supply him with an easy to use product to suit his needs. His new planter handled the liquid very well and also allowed him to experiment with different application rates. John settled on a rate of 10 gallons/acre placed at 1 inch beside and 1 inch below the seed. He had absolutely no issues with flow or the planter, even at higher rates; in fact next year he plans to apply 12-15 gallons/acre because of the impact that the L-CBF made on his corn. The L-CBF seemed to do a lot more for the corn and because he had no issues with the handling of this product he is looking forward to being able to apply it at a higher rate and see even more positive results.

Not a boastful man himself, John insisted that his corn was just as good as everyone else’s; but this year he did notice that his neighbors were commenting on his corn and comparing it to others insisting that there was nothing else in the county quite like it.

Feed Inventory, Do You Have Enough?

Now is a very good time to evaluate what you have and what you still need to put in storage to make it through this next year. Due to the drought of 2012, wide spread winter-kill this spring, wet conditions for planting corn and low carry-over  of feed inventories have left some challenging situations. Due to these variables harvesting the same amount of acres for a certain forage does not work. Also harvesting, storage and feed out shrink must be taken into account.

Too many times we have received calls saying “I’m out of certain forage.” Feed inventory is critical and always changing, it is something that needs to be tracked on all dairy farms. Knowing what the nutrient composition is so that there is a plan in place before you run out is important. It also helps position different quality forages to different animal groups to maximize production and economic value.

By this time you have a pretty good idea of how much hay you have and can forecast what you will be getting for the next cutting. So, how much corn silage do we need to chop? Or do we have a summer annual to harvest yet? Or do we need to seed alternative forage that we can harvest this fall or next spring?

Remember to take into account harvest and storage losses in planning your needs. Harvesting at the proper moisture along with processing and treating with inoculants to maximize dry matter recovery and digestibility is critical.

 

“Feed inventory is critical and always changing, it is something that needs to be tracked on all dairy farms.”

 

In order to do this you do need to know what your livestock inventory is. This may also be a good time to evaluate your culling parameters to control the number of animals that you have to feed. Start by looking at individual groups of animals along with their rations so you can calculate how many lbs (divide by 2000=tons) to determine your needs for each group and then multiply for length of time. Add up the feeds from each group of animals and subtract from current inventory (know what your storage holds). The result is the amount of feed that will be needed to feed your herd for the selected amount of time. Now add in harvest, storage and feed out shrink to determine the amount of additional feed needed to harvest or purchase. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your consultant can help or there are spread sheets and software programs available to track your feed.Shrink is real and something we don’t see happening. Total forage dry matter losses can easily range from 10%-20% coming from losses associated with filling, seepage, fermentation, surface spoilage along with birds, rodents and tires tracking feed. This is something every producer needs to acknowledge and take steps to reduce. It is worth taking the time to evaluate your operation and see where the opportunity lies to reduce this profit robber.

 

Time to Start Thinking About Cover Crops

As wheat harvest wraps up in the Midwest it’s time to start thinking about cover crops. The window between wheat or corn silage harvest and the end of the growing season can be a favorable time to establish a cover crop, but it is important to plan ahead and
consider your options before moving forward.

Cover crops can help to contribute, retain and efficiently cycle nutrients, suppress weeds, protect the soil from wind and water erosion, and enhance soil quality. However, to maximize the benefits you receive from your cover crop there are two main things to consider: (1) crop selection based on need and (2) seed costs and proper establishment of the crop. Selection depends on what you hope to get from the cover. Are you looking for a crop to add extra nitrogen? Or for a fast growing hay crop for extra forage? Or for a crop to break up soil compaction? Possibly there is a need for some ground to spread excess manure and a cover crop to hold on to that manure.

Many growers will be looking to fill the niche after wheat or corn silage with a cover crop that will winterkill or can be terminated easily in the fall or spring. Therefore an annual crop may provide a good fit. Summer annual legumes such as soybeans, crimson clover, cowpeas or sunn hemp can provide extra nitrogen, and will winterkill. Tillage radish can help to break up compacted layers. Sorghum-sudangrass or millet can be a good choice for producers looking for emergency forage or to simply hold on to the nutrients coming from manure applications. Cool season crops include field peas or red or white clovers. These crops may establish better as we move into cooler fall weather, although N fixation from clovers may be minimal if they are terminated the next spring. Winter rye, oats and triticale are options for fall planting as well. Many cover crop mixtures including small grains and/or legumes along with radishes may have utility; however, remember that timing of establishment is important. Seeding tillage radish after early September may still have benefits, but roots will not develop the girth commonly seen in advertisements.

 

“Remember the worn-out, but easy-to-forget adage: you get what you pay for.”

 

When deciding what cover crops to plant, seed cost is a large factor. Seed costs can be high, especially for radish or legumes like crimson clover, and many growers are not interested in investing a lot in cover crop seed. Low cost covers work just fine for some growers depending on expectations. However, if a good, solid stand is desired that is going to produce large amounts of biomass and/or fix significant amounts of nitrogen, then quality seed is important. Remember the worn-out, but easy-to-forget adage: you get what you pay for. That said, return on investment is a very important consideration, which is why crop selection should be done thoughtfully.

Establishment of a cover crop is another area for consideration. Seedbed prep can range from no-till, heavy residue situations to a clean, even surface. Nothing will reduce your return quicker than poor establishment, so the appropriate seeding method to ensure good soil-to-seed contact should be used. For instance, broadcasting into residues, even with subsequent incorporation may
result in poorer soil-to seed contact than drilling. Crop species and seed cost are important drivers when considering planting strategies. Spinning on rye is probably less risky establishment and return-wise as compared to radish or clover.

Seeding rate is another factor that must be managed correctly. Rate recommendations for cover crops vary widely. Make sure to note the germination % on the seed tag and correct for low germination, and use the seed catalog’s recommendation if applicable. Then experiment to see what suits your operation. When working with mixtures using the correct ratio of seed ensures an even stand across species. One last note is that when working with less typical crops, such as radish, be aware of herbicide plant back restrictions that may negatively affect establishment.

From the Farm of Gary Zimmer

Dear Farmer/Agribusiness person,

Spring is here again. Thanks to everyone who attended our winter meetings and visited with us at all the farm shows. We are certainly looking at a large growth in our business.

Now that land costs are so expensive, inputs are really high and prices, too, we as farmers get paid well (unless you’re buying). You can’t afford to let soil fertility be your limiting factor. I heard that over and over again: farmers all over the country are recognizing the situation and have the dollars and the opportunities to take advantage of the situation. I have also heard many times that we have all the latest modern, new technology in planting, application equipment, yet, with all these innovations, the fact is that we still use the same fertilizer materials that we used fifty years ago: NPK—all soluble, the cheapest per unit we can find, applied based on numbers, paying no attention to quality, balance, salt index, effects on soil, soil life or crop nutrition level and health. There must be something we are missing!

This being the year of Soil Health with NRCS, what does that mean? There are many points made– minimum disturbance of the soil, water infiltration, cycling of nutrients, no crust on the ground, living roots, plant diversity– those are all a part of soil health. For most farms just leaving soils alone does not fix it, that’s why zone or strip and vertical tillage is gaining in popularity. Shallow incorporation of residues and residue management is also essential. Look at the yield awards—not many strict no-tillers are winning them—there always seems to be some sort of intervention. On the other extreme, plowing every year probably won’t take you to the  next level and keep you there, either. And in all this discussion, what about minerals? Not just having them show up on a soil test but getting them in the crop. Twenty plus minerals are now known to be essential for crop production. There are also known interactions between minerals, or in other words, ratios. Other considerations on minerals include the source, where you put them,  the amount you use, following a planned program and monitoring it.

That’s where Midwestern BioAg comes in. We have been doing this for over 25 years, fertilizing all kinds of crops in all kinds of situations. BioAg got started growing better quality forages for dairy cows. Healthier, with more minerals, better digestibility and, if you fertilize for quality, you can’t stop the yield. We have blended and manufactured fertilizers with a whole new approach. We keep the pH down, have homogenized blends, add carbon, buffer them, balance not only the nutrients but solubility, from readily available to timed release for season long availability. We have also watched the salt levels, keeping them low so they can be placed in a row or zone being both friendly to roots and soil biology. For the last several years we have also been working with liquids, using molasses as the base and adding feed grade nutrients to it. This ‘row support’ fertilizer not only feeds soil biology but also gets the plant off to a great start, growing much better root systems. This year we are working on adding packages to the row fertilizer using root stimulants, unique plant extracts, chelated trace elements and biology—certain selected organisms to assist the plant. This fertilizer (nutrient) soil supplementation started out with looking for the minimums or limiting element, knowing it took a certain level of many nutrients to grow a good healthy crop. We at MBA just took this to a new level, always improving on the source and delivery. We also recognize that farming is a system, and it requires healthy soils.

We do need to deal with the physical and biological components of soils, as well as the chemical. I spent time at my winter meetings addressing ‘Constraints.’ What is keeping you from getting a higher yielding, healthier crop? If there are such limiting factors (and I’m sure there are for 95% of all farms I have ever visited) that you could eliminate and by doing so raise the bar to the next level of crop resiliency, quality and yield, why wouldn’t you? The question is, how do you find the constraints and how costly is it to remove them?

Give Midwestern BioAg a call; with the help of one of our consultants evaluate your farm and put together a better balanced fertilizer program (don’t forget plant exchangeable calcium).

Here’s hoping for a great growing season!

Kind regards,
Gary Zimmer

The Right Equipment for the Job

“Better farming through better soil” is what Midwestern BioAg is all about. But MBA has another principle that has always been a key part of the company’s business — providing the best possible customer service. And over the past year, as MBA has grown and expanded, each of the company’s locations has updated and improved its delivery and application equipment. This substantial investment in equipment, and staff, will keep MBA’s service as top notch as its products.

Floaters and spreaders have been added to the application equipment fleet at MBA’s headquarters in Blue Mounds, WI over the past year. Two additional floater application units aid in timely delivery and efficient application. The new units offer new technology capable of more precise, efficient applications. Three of the new floaters can, for example, apply two products in one pass across the field. “Customers can be assured that we have the right equipment to perform the task,” says Wisconsin operations manager Duane Siegenthaler.

MBA’s Utica, Minnesota operation has had several major fleet additions and updates. Delivery equipment updates include a new fertilizer tender trailer and along with a belt trailer plus a semi-tractor. They provide “flexibility” and the means to “respond quicker to customers,” noted Travis Mathison, Minnesota’s operations manager. Three spreaders have also been added to the fleet, two Chandlers and an adjustable wheel track fertilizer spreader, for more nitrogen spreading in the spring and sidedressing on larger, taller crops. For delivery of smaller batches of MBA’s L-CBF products, a pair of 1,300 gallon liquid trailers, with pumps and meters, round out the fleet improvements. Finally, inside the facility, a new mixer was installed last fall that is more efficient. “It will cut down on loading and blending time and turn the trucks around quicker,” Mathison added.

 

“This substantial investment in equipment, and staff, will keep MBA’s service as top notch as its products.”

 

A semi-tractor and belt trailer, purchased this year by Midwestern BioAg of Iowa, is providing the Monticello, Iowa operation with “more control of our deliveries,” notes MBA-Iowa president Bob Yanda. This is in addition to an upgraded floater which “has more horsepower, and gets more acres done in a day. That gets us to the customers’ farms quicker.”

Bio-Ag of Michigan has increased its customer service capabilities with several equipment purchases in the past year. A new two bin truck provides increased capacity for use within Michigan and an air max custom applicator offers improved spreading coverage. “We can serve the needs of all farms large or small, CSAs to golf courses,” says Matt Neumayer, BAM general manager. “We are focused on serving Michigan state-wide.” BAM also provides fertilizer to customers in Ohio, Indiana and Ontario, Canada as well. Leasing an additional semi and van trailer for bag deliveries has created the opportunity to provide better, faster delivery service to that area, combined with a new Chandler 8-ton spreader to improve spreading services. Another addition is a gas-engine Chandler 8-ton spreader for special use in Indiana. Updating and adding the necessary equipment, Midwestern BioAg is committed to quality customer service.

Are You Ready to Put Cows on Pasture?

I think we are all ready to see green grass and be done with winter. But are our pastures ready? Now before the ground thaws (unless sloped) is a good time to fertilize or apply soil correctives to the paddocks that didn’t get tended to last fall. It is time to check fences,  and as it warms and greens up, water lines, lane condition and pasture stand. Evaluate the stand, how did it come through the drought and winter? Are there bare spots? Are the species desirable with diversity of both cool and warm season grasses along with some legumes? Do we need to inter-seed into an existing stand or does it need a complete renovation? Maybe we need to consider putting in an annual crop that can give us some fast, high yielding forage.

Alfalfa hay fields also need to be evaluated; you should sample six random areas of each field.

The guidelines for stems per square foot are as follows:

1. More than 54 stems: no yield reduction.

2. 40 to 54 stems per square foot: keep the stand, but expect some yield reduction.

3. Less than 40 stems: consider replacing the stand because yield reduction will be significant.

It is also a good idea to dig up some plants and split the root lengthwise to evaluate the crown and tap root. You want to see a nice white or cream color. In a healthy stand you should have fewer than 30% of the plants showing discoloration or rot of the crown and taproot. Moving cows to pasture As with all feed changes, dairy cows especially high-producing cows, need to be adjusted to pasture slowly. Ideally this change in diet would take place gradually over a week’s time to reduce the chance of off feed problems, bloat and a decrease in milk production. Hungry cows should not be allowed to go on pasture. Feed cows first, turning them out to pasture full (include some dry hay in this). Start by allowing one hour of access to pasture the first day and increasing the time allowed on pasture each consecutive day.

Lush growing pastures are usually high in potassium and low in magnesium, so be sure that the diet you are feeding your cows is over 0.32 % magnesium to reduce the risk of grass tetany (magnesium deficiency). Early spring and well managed pastures are high in crude protein, and low in effective fiber, averaging well over 20% protein. Cows may even consume a higher level if they are selective grazers. High quality pasture provides too much degradable and soluble protein raising the blood urea levels which is reflected by a higher MUN level in the milk. So it is important to balance the cow’s diet with some starch from grain and or corn silage to optimize rumen fermentation. Based on trials and research that I have seen, I think that you should strongly consider feeding a 1:4 grain to milk ratio to support production over 60 lbs and maintain body condition.

 

“The farther the cows have to travel for water the less they will drink and milk production will suffer.”

 

Provide adequate Sulfur, plus RUP (bypass protein) along with highly digestible fiber by-products such as soy hulls or beet pulp to enhance rumen fermentation and maintain milk production and components. Grazing cows also have a higher maintenance need because of the added activity of grazing and moving from barn to paddock. Adding products like Generator Elite, Generator Ultra or PYK would be beneficial. Let’s not forget water which is an essential nutrient needed for all animals. The farther the cows have to travel for water the less they will drink and milk production will suffer. Ideally clean water (I stress CLEAN: i.e. cleaned daily) should be available within 200 – 300 feet at all times, with a maximum travel of 500 feet.

If providing free choice minerals on pasture, locate the mineral feeders between the water and feed supply A dairy cow generally grazes for 6 – 9 hours per day. Because of her need to ruminate and rest she seldom grazes over 9 hours per day. The number of bites per minute does not vary much, ranging from 55 – 65 bites per minute. Thus dry matter intake from pasture is controlled by the size  of the bite, which is directly related to the stand height and density being grazed. One study of forage intake on rye-grass showed that in the spring, when the growth was very lush, cows averaged 60 bites per minute over an 8 hour period and were able to consume 31.7 lbs of dry matter daily. In the fall, cows averaged 65 bites per minute over 9 hours of grazing and were only able to consume 19.6 pounds of dry matter.

During the hottest months, cows will not graze during the hottest times of the day (late morning and afternoon). You may have to consider changing your schedule to allow cows to graze during the early morning and late evening hours. Provide shade or keep the cows in and feed them TMR during the heat of the day along with providing fans and sprinklers to reduce heat stress.When to move animals can be a little tricky and you get better at it with time. You need to look at what is happening daily (a tape measure or  pasture measuring stick is helpful). How much are they eating? Look at the next paddock, look at the previous paddock and consider the weather and growing season. At some point you may have to skip a paddock (make hay on it) to get the animals back on more nutritious forage. As a general rule, do not graze below 4 inches. This protects the growing point of grass, and also leaves more leaf area to capture solar energy and increase photosynthesis. This allows faster recovery without depleting reserve carbohydrates.  With more canopy there is less drying out or baking of the soil. Another benefit with leaving a higher crop is that you have less parasite infestation possibly reducing the need for dewormers. The key to maximizing profitability in a grazing herd is the amount of high quality forage where intake is maximized along with supplemental concentrates being fed, and supplementing other forages when pasture quality or intake is limiting.

For help in feeding a well managed and balanced diet or planning your fertility needs, see your Midwestern BioAg Consultant.

Be Prepared for 2013

“Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Anyone who has served in the military or emergency services (police, fire, EMS) understands the importance of this statement and how it influences their training and preparation. This philosophy breeds traits like resiliency, adaptability, and perseverance. The drought of 2012 taught us that our soil must be prepared for challenges, stress, and less than ideal growing conditions. A healthy, resilient soil can adapt to those stresses and help crops persevere until conditions improve. Let’s take a look at what you can expect for the 2013 growing season and how you can prepare your farm for it.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor still shows 65% of the United States remains abnormally dry or worse, with 51% of land being in an official drought stage. Recent reviews of historical weather data show that in the Upper Midwest, it’s rare for two consecutive years to have below normal rainfall. In fact, following previous droughts in 1988 and 2005, the following years resulted in average to above average yields. While conditions are predicted to see at least moderate improvement in the Midwest and Great Plains, producers must prepare and plan for a continuation of extreme weather events. Although drought status can influence yields, the amount of heat and rainfall received in-season along with planting progress, plays the largest role in determining crop yields according to Paul Wescott, an USDA ag economist who analyzed corn production for the last 25 years. If in-season rainfall and soil moisture are such critical factors in crop production, producers must ensure their soils can make rainfall available to crops. With depleted soil moisture reserves, this year’s crops will need every inch of rainfall falling at the right time. Even short periods of dry weather during June or July could reduce yields significantly. Soil structure and organic matter content are the most important factors that influence water infiltration and holding capacity.

 

“Improving soil structure and increasing organic matter provides more available moisture throughout the growing season.”

 

Arkansas researchers have shown that each 1% of organic matter in soil can hold an additional 16,500 gallons/acre (or 0.60”) of rainfall above the soil’s natural capacity. Further, water held by organic matter is much more plant available that moisture “locked away” in soil particles, especially in high clay soils. Also, loose crumbly soils without compaction layers (hardpans) allow for better and deeper root growth. These roots can access moisture deep into the subsoil during times of water stress. Proper tillage, organic matter, balanced soil chemistry and biological activity all contribute to soil tilth and allow more abundant root growth. Although total rainfall for 2013 may be adequate, short dry spells can be better tolerated by soils with optimal organic matter levels.

As we proceed into the 2013 growing season, producers need to make sure they are addressing these key areas to promote good soil structure, water infiltration, and moisture holding capacity:

  • Avoid excessive tillage that may lead to compaction and a collapsed soil structure which limits water infiltration.
  • Provide adequate amounts of soluble calcium and sulfate sulfur for optimum root growth.
  • Avoid fertilizers that can harm soil biology and/or burn up soil organic matter.
  • Incorporate cover crops and green manure crops to increase organic matter, loosen the soil, and feed soil biology.
  • Use crop rotation to increase soil diversity, increase organic matter, and improve tilth.

Although nothing can completely protect your crops from extreme weather there are many things producers can do to improve the productivity and resiliency of their soil. Improving soil structure and increasing organic matter provides more available moisture throughout the growing season.

Contact your Midwestern BioAg consultant today to discuss how our products and programs can help you prepare for 2013’s uncertain weather conditions.

Here’s hoping for a great 2013!

New Nutrition Products from Midwestern BioAg

With the changes that have come due to the weather and agriculture economics, Midwestern BioAg wants to be proactive with product offerings that are put together with high quality ingredients that provide a positive economic value to your farm.

Three new milk replacers:

1. BioBaby 20/20 All Milk Non Medicated with Probiotics, MOS and botanicals that include aniseed, cinnamon, garlic, rosemary along with thyme.

2. BioBaby 20/20 All Milk Medicated with Bovatec and MOS

3. BioBaby 22/20 All Milk Medicated with Bovatec and MOS.

All three contain proteinate and sulfate trace minerals, selenium yeast and vitamin C to enhance immune function. We have increased the feeding rate of the powder, which raises energy and protein resulting in increased gains.

“O” BioBaby Premix has been changed to “O” BioBaby Base Pellet which contains the same high quality ingredients only in a pellet form to eliminate fines in calf feed. And it can be mixed on-farm with your own grains and roasted beans. It is also the product that supplies the minerals, vitamins and beneficial bacteria in our “O” BioBaby Calf Starter.

For those of you who don’t have your own protein source, we have two new offerings in a protein pellet:

1. “O” BioBaby Mixer Pellet

2. MBA 26 Mixer B180 Medicated with Bovatec for improved feed efficiency.

Both products are designed to be mixed at the rate of 1/3 pellet and 2/3 of your grain to make an on-farm calf feed utilizing your own grain.

On the heifer side, we have added MBA Heifer Mineral R1200 Medicated. This product contains Rumensin® for the control and prevention of coccidiosis along with improved rate of gain. This product is a complete mineral supplement containing elevated trace mineral levels derived from chelated and sulfate sources which help with immune system, hoof health and reproduction.

For the dry cows we have added MBA Dry Cow Mineral R1200 Medicated. This product also contains Rumensin,® which has been shown to increase milk production efficiency in lactating cows and enables more efficient use of feed to maintain body condition and fetal development in dry cows. Again we are sticking to our standards of using high quality trace minerals from chelates and sulfates along with selenium yeast, to help with immune function, calf health and colostrum quality, plus reduce fresh cow problems and improve reproduction.

Do Better on the Land You Have

I recently read a New York Times article on soaring farmland prices. An 80-acre Iowa farm sold on auction for $10,600/acre to the local John Deere dealer/owner. As he said, where else do you go with money? Farmers are not the only ones who make money as farmers do better; our economy will do better, too. We hate paying taxes and always keep investing in our businesses, the perfect plan for America.

So where is that Iowa family who sold that farm going with their money? Farmland, I guess, is a secure investment—but I’m glad here at Otter Creek Organic Farms we are not buying more.

Consider this: instead of buying expensive acreage, why not invest more in the land we have—get it healthier, working better? Organic corn selling at $15+/bushel and 50 extra bu/acre is a no-brainer! Seed costs the same, as does tillage, some cultivating, planting and harvesting. True, there’s a little more expense for hauling all that extra corn, but who is going to complain about that?

Yes, I am convinced that most farmers can produce 50 more bushels of corn, 10 additional bushels of beans, 2 tons more alfalfa/forage and of better quality, too. Some farmers are already there, and now they want 50 more. Is that achievable? Not if they continue doing only what they have been doing! To get the first 50 was easier—switching to BioAg fertilizers, making sure the ground wasn’t hard and that residues weren’t sitting atop the ground, not breaking down. For many it meant a little surface tillage, breaking the crust, putting residues into the top few inches of the soil and ripping/digging deep or farming in a zone where soil structure and fertility can be improved. A plant’s got to have a place not tightly compacted, where roots can grow and be able to get down to needed nutrients. With soils, the top is easier to fix than the lower levels.

I’ve read articles stating that the cracks in the soil from the drought have subsoiled it for you. I’m not sure about that. Dead, hard, tight soils do crack a lot in drought, but the next year they still seem to be hard and dead.

 

“Getting better now has huge rewards. And once you are there, healthy soils and high yield can be maintained.”

 

Calcium is a nutrient that has a huge impact on soil structure and plant health, that’s one reason for the 50 bu/acre increase. Fertilizers from Midwestern BioAg also address possible limiting nutrients. Our fertilizer is a manufactured blend of many minerals including natural sources, all carefully chosen. Carbon, food for soil biology, is blended into this low salt index, buffered fertilizer.

Make a few other farm changes, based on your limiting factors, and you’re on your way. We all know there is more production out there to be gained.

Droughts are eye-openers. We are planning on putting irrigation on our main farm and have applied for permits, so hopefully by next year, we will have water available if needed. My son says now that we have water, we can’t let soil fertility be our limiting factor. My comment was with the price of land and farming and with what the crop’s worth not only in tons but in quality, why let nutrients be your limiting factor on any land, any time? If it doesn’t rain now it will eventually, and the type of fertilizer we add will be available then. It’s not like it’s gone, unless your soil is eroding away. If so, do something about it.

What level of balanced fertilizers, manures/compost, cover crops and tillage with a purpose do I need to do? That is the recipe for where the next 50 bushels of corn, the next 10 bushels of beans, the next 2 tons of forage will come from. What a great time to be in agriculture! Getting better now has huge rewards. And once you are there, healthy soils and high yield can be maintained.

So instead of buying more land, now’s the time to do better on the land you have. Call or visit with your Midwestern BioAg consultant on how to get to that next level.

Focusing on Healthy Comfortable Cows

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Take, for example, the cull rate at the Hoewisch Dairy. At 28 percent, it’s higher than we’d like to see on a good biological farm—except that rate reflects the fact that this family farm culls for profit. With an excess of cattle, annual sales of up to 20 head that they don’t have the space to keep builds their bottom line with an added revenue stream.

And it means that they keep their production levels high.

Healthy, comfortable cows are the focus for brothers Jeff and Kevin (who combined their dairy herds on the home farm in 1999) and Kevin’s son, Jacob, who together work the Fremont, Wisconsin operation with an enthusiasm and optimism for the future of dairying.

According to Kevin, “nutrition is so good” with the Midwestern BioAg program. “Calves don’t get sick, cows don’t get sick,” says Kevin. Cows also get bred back; the Hoewisch’s veterinarian recently commented that their herd had one of the best pregnancy rates this past August—despite this summer’s high heat.

Calves are bright-eyed and energetic, reflecting good health. They get PectiLyte for the first two weeks of life, along with MBA’s Milk Replacer until weaned at 8-9 weeks. Cows stay on MBA minerals throughout their lifetime: as heifers, dry cows (Dry Cow Mineral), and lactating cows (TopCap, CharCal and Kelp in the TMR plus free choice offerings). The Hoewisches also like that the MBA minerals are “more natural and more available.”

Cow comfort is visible upon a visit to the free stall barn. There’s a cow resting in every sand-bedded stall—though Jake admits that currently the “barn is too full.” (It’s that pesky problem of too many healthy cows again!) A calf and heifer shed, added in 2008, provides a quality environment for raising young stock and, at the same time, it’s labor efficient.

Before starting on the MBA nutrition program, Jake recalled, “our protein bills were so high. We were getting milk but it was expensive milk.” Production also wasn’t consistent. “Now we’re getting 70-75 lbs. pretty consistently throughout the year,” he says, with a rolling herd average of over 23,700.

Quality milk is another emphasis for the Hoewisches. The walls of the farm office next to the milkhouse are lined with rows of milk quality awards. Last year’s SCC, for example, was a fairly typical 43,000, and this year they’re averaging about 50,000 each month. Attention to detail and knowing their cattle pay dividends. “You need to know every quarter of every cow,” says Kevin.

The Hoewisches note their ration is “high forage with more haylage than corn silage.” Jake says, “We have excellent quality feed this year” with protein over 20 percent.

 

“We were getting milk but it was expensive milk.”

 

“Years ago, we were lucky if we had 15 percent on first crop, rising to 17-18 percent on later crops,” recalls Kevin. In fact, they found that now they have to “tame that down a little” in the ration by adding wheat straw to the TMR along with feeding baled hay. Hay, mostly alfalfa with some fescue, clover or timothy, is fertilized with 250 lbs. of MBA’s 2-6-20 and gets BioCal:® “It keeps our calcium levels where they need to be.” Manure is spread on older stands that will be rotated to corn, as well as corn-on-corn fields.

A limiting factor for the farm is land. They currently work about 400 acres, owned and rented, supporting the 140-cow milking herd and young stock, plus about 35 bull calves grassfed for beef to age 24-30 months.

Their clay loam soils are high in fertility, but with a tendency toward being too wet and easily compacted. Tillage includes sub-soiling, rotary hoeing, cultivating which aerates the soil (and saves on herbicide costs), and growing green manure crops (oats following corn silage) to build organic matter. “We don’t add any N besides what’s in the 10-9-10 starter,” says Jake. “Manure goes on all our corn ground.”

They work with MBA Certified Consultant Clem Griesbach. “I trust Clem,” says Kevin. They appreciate the timely service, quality products and good, money-saving advice he provides. “He brightens our Monday mornings,” Kevin adds of Clem’s weekly visit.

Kevin says that going biological is an educational process and a different way of thinking—but one the Hoewisch family finds successful, profitable and fun. Hard work, family and faith are all important to this farm family. “God has blessed us and taken care of us, even this year,” says Kevin. And they consider Midwestern BioAg one of those blessings.