DOVER, Minn. — Alan Bedtka has experienced the financial and environmental benefits of incorporating livestock with a cropping operation on his farm in southeast Minnesota.
“We do crops and pasture, so we need to do rye in the spring and sorghum-sudangrass for some August grazing, before letting pastures recover,” Bedtka said on Nov. 1 during a Land Stewardship Project field day. “The sorghum-sudangrass is the last thing we graze in December and January before we run out of grazing.”
Bedtka said that the
sticks through the snow and doesn’t blow over like most other crops.
“This is what we’re using to get a lot more grazing days of the year,” Bedtka said.
The crop choices come with using good grazing management, he said, which is moving cows daily. His goal with the plan — which he’s ran on the operation for four years — is to graze 300 days a year.
“The closest I’ve got is 285 days of grazing,” he said. “That’s a lot better than when we started.”
The last year he farmed “conventionally,” there were about 165 days of grazing, he said.
“Just adding cover crops added a month and a half, easily,” he said. “And then better pasture management helps a lot to get a month or two.”
What motivated him to switch things up?
“Profitability,” he said quickly. “Where are you wasting money, and how can you try to get more off the same acre, and increase your return on profit?”
Bedtka grew up on the operation in southeast Minnesota, where his dad has been farming his whole life along with his uncle and grandfather before them.
“I try to calve about 65 cows, and I’m selling the calves as yearlings and then buying some stockers in the spring,” Bedkta said of his farm.
Through funding from Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Groundwater Protection and Soil Health Program and
Bedtka has been able to profit even more off of practices he’d already been doing.
“It’s kind of a no brainer, signing up for that stuff, where you get 100 bucks an acre to do some of these things,” Bedkta said. “And it helps with
, so they’re actually paying you to do good practices to help keep the ground water cleaner.”
His advice to farmers looking to follow similar paths is simple.
“Just commit and do it,” he said. “There’s plenty of failures in doing this, and there’s parts of the fields where it’s like wow, it looks terrible.”
He said the biggest piece to master is the art of grazing.
“Learn how to get the most out of your grass or your cover crop, and don’t take too much — keep them moving, so they don’t stand around the water tank the whole time,” he said. “Just try to learn the soil health principles and save yourself some money.”
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