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January 16, 2019

4/27/2018 12:21:00 PM
Dairy Grazing Work Shop Held at Mineral Point's Quality Inn
In light of falling dairy prices, there has been much discussion on alternative ways to improve dairy profitability. One agricultural practice that has been looked at is managed grazing.
On Friday April 6 Wisconsin Farmers Union partnered with Glacierland RC&D, Southwest Wisconsin Badger RC&D, and Grass Works Inc., and invited area dairy farmers to learn the many benefits that grazing can provide. The event was held at the Quality Inn in Mineral Point and is one in four series of workshops focusing on improving profitability for dairy producers.
Workshops were split up into different focused tracks. One of the first tracks discussed "Economic Benefits", presented by Compeer Financials Senior Lending Officer Paul Dietmann. The presentation focused on educating farmers on how to look at an operations numbers, which can be categorized as "enterprise budgets." Enterprise budgets look at expected gross revenue, and net returns after subtracting variable and overhead costs.
Dietmann mentioned in the presentation that people think that overhead costs are "fixed costs" and that they can never change. Typical overhead costs can include property taxes, insurance, building repairs, and more.
"Variable costs are relatively easy," Dietmann said. "Overhead costs are tougher and tend to be ignored."
Dietmann also gave sample cost breakdowns of a cash crop enterprise budget in comparison to a pasture enterprise budget. The breakdown scenarios concluded in a cash crop scenario, more variable costs were factored in and could potentially have less on net returns, whereas a pasture scenario could have a higher net return with less variable costs.
Iowa County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent Gene Schriefer, followed with a presentation stressing "Benefits of Grazing to Dairy Farmers." Schriefer has been following the grazing movement for a long time and had cattle and horses as a teenager. At one time each horse had their own paddock to alleviate the general pecking order that horses have. After his mother's horse died, there was an empty paddock that had a plentiful amount of grass. He had moved another horse into this paddock, and the horse took to the grass right away.
After realizing that horses were eating grass faster than the grass could grow, Schriefer knew that more paddocks were needed, which lead to spending summers creating them.
"It just seemed to make sense," Schriefer said.
Schriefer stated that grazing has free resources including the sun, rain, native active grass, and manure. He also mentioned input costs have been added over time including spraying fields, field labor, growing and harvesting crops, feed costs, and more.
Schriefer also stated many benefits to grazing that included, cleaner cows, cleaner tails, lower displaced abomasums (true stomach rising to upper abdomen caused by gas build-up), low herd health costs, less culling numbers, longer lasting equipment, as well as better health for dairy producers. The session continued with dairy farmers and livestock producers discussing grazing practices that worked for them.
In another session, Schriefer discussed that Iowa County, WI has a long history of grazing. Iowa County is one of the top grazing counties in Wisconsin, falling right behind Grant County, and still has a very strong livestock presence.
"Grazing is still working," Schriefer said.
The workshop concluded with "Dairy Grazier Roundtable," a forum with three livestock producers currently using grazing practices within their enterprises.
Bert Paris, of Belleville, WI has been grazing cattle for 25 years. He milks 80 crossbred cows. He grew up on a dairy farm carrying pails and throwing bales. He realized that he wanted to do something different. In the early 90's grazing had taken off in southwest Wisconsin. After attending a grazing conference in Stevens Point he realized that grazing could be less stressful and more profitable.
"If I can make my life simpler, I'm going to do it," Paris said.
Paris mentioned that his "key" to success in grazing came by keeping production costs down.
Altfrid Krusenbaum's farming experience started at 22 years. He was originally born and raised in Germany. He studied dairy science and partook in many farm internships. After marrying his "Wisconsite" wife he took a job offer as a herdsman for five years. After that, they started a farm on their own serving as tenants, spending 26 years on the same farmland.
He also attended a grazing conference, and began grazing 30 acres in the first year. After four years, the Krusenbaums have been grazing 240 acres.
"It's been a great ride," Krusenbaum said.
Krusenbaum said observation has been what has made his operation successful: observing his pastures, and his cows.
"No computerized ration will replace that observation," he said.
Tim Vosberg, of Cuba City, bought 40 cows in 1999. At that time, he managed a surge milking equipment dealership. After a drastic reduction in hours, Vosberg milked full-time. In 2002, he purchased a small farm loan, and the consultant suggested alfalfa and clover in a rotational grazing system. It took away his fear of becoming organic and began an official organic operation in 2005.
"Once I got into it, I loved it" he said.
He said that success for him came by trying new things and sticking to things that work.
The purpose of the workshop was to engage local communities and support the overall process.
"We're bringing all the resources together," Southwest Badger RC&D's Grazing Broker Robert Bauer said. "It's always been farmer lead, so we're building off of that success."

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