SFA Field Day: 30 Inches of Roots & Soil Health

KCIM Keep Cattle in MinnesotaBy Kent Solberg • SFA Livestock & Grazing Coordinator

A crowd huddled against the brisk November wind during a Nov. 1 SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota Field Day in Verndale. They were gathered around a freshly dug trench. All eyes were fixed on the man in the trench.

No, this wasn’t a funeral. The trench was dug to look at what the roots of a complex cover crop mix could do in sandy, compacted soils. Root hairs had penetrated the compaction layer and were going down at least 30 inches – Kent and Linda Solberg had planted the 12 species blend of cover crops on July 3.

As cattle grazed on the covers in the background, Kent; Jeff Duchene, NRCS Grazing Specialist; and James Schroepfer, agronomist with Ag Resources Consulting, Inc., discussed soil health, cover crops and managed grazing with a group of attentive producers from as far away as Bagley and Mountain Lake.

Earlier that afternoon, the group toured cover crops and managed grazing on Larry Heitkamp’s farm near Sebeka. Larry shared his crop rotation, cover cropping, fertility program, and how he integrates grazing dairy heifers to build soil health.

These farm tours were part of SFA’s Keep Cattle In Minnesota (KCIM) program and an MDA Energy and Sustainable Agriculture Grant. Based on evaluations from earlier KCIM events, we learned that there was a strong interest in cover crops and how to integrate livestock into cropping operations, so keep an eye on SFA Connect for future events focused on these topics.

Free SFA Soil Health Webinar Set for Nov. 21

KCIMRegistration is now open for a free SFA Keep Cattle in Minnesota webinar featuring soil health experts Michael Lehman and Wendy Taheri of the USDA North Central Agricultural Research Lab in Brookings, S.D. The webinar, set for 1-2:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 21, is part of our Keep Cattle In Minnesota project and functions as a bridge to our upcoming Midwest Soil Health Summit, where both Lehman and Taheri are scheduled to present.

Presentations include:

Cover Cropping: A Great Tool for Building Soils That Work – Lehman will consider the invisible world of soil microorganisms, what they do that is helpful to producers, and how cover cropping is one management tool that promotes soil microorganisms and their beneficial activities.

Understanding the Importance of Diversity in Cropping Systems – Taheri’s presentation will help farmers understand the importance of diversity in their cropping systems and the role cover crops play in creating and maintaining diversity.

To register, click here. This webinar is sponsored by The Pasture Project.

Keep Cattle In Minnesota Field Day is Nov. 1 Near Sebeka

KCIM Keep Cattle in MinnesotaThe Sustainable Farming Association is hosting a Cover Crop Field Day as part of its Keep Cattle in Minnesota project from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 1, 2014, in the Sebeka/Verndale area. The event is free and open to the public, and no RSVP is required.

During the Field Day, attendees will review two fields planted to complex cover-crop mixes; one is planted to a cool-season mix and the other to a warm-season mix. These mixes were designed to stimulate soil microbes, build soil organic matter and provide livestock forage. Cattle will likely be utilizing at least one of these fields the day of the tour. There will be a soil pit in the second field to view cover crop root action and growth.

The tour begins at Larry Heitkamp’s Yellow Rose Organic Farm on County Road 12 seven miles east of U.S. 71 in Sebeka, or three miles east of the Co. Rd. 12 and Co. Rd. 23 intersection. Watch for SFA signs.

After the program at the Heitkamp farm, the group will caravan to the second stop, Kent and Linda Solberg’s farm, at 18618 Co. Rd. 23, Verndale.

The Keep Cattle in Minnesota project is funded in part by MDA Sustainable Ag and Energy Grant and NRCS. For more information about SFA or Keep Cattle in Minnesota, contact Wayne Monsen at wmonsen@gmail.com or visit our KCIM homepage.

Executive Director’s Note: Gearld Fry Events Cancelled Due to Illness

John Mesko

John Mesko

Many of you know and love Gearld Fry, he’s been an important part of the grazing movement internationally, and has brought his expertise to Minnesota many times. In fact, he was scheduled to appear for SFA as part of our GrazeFest series of events and Keep Cattle in Minnesota project at both Wadena and Morris on August 14-15. Unfortunately, these events have been cancelled. Gearld has informed us that due to health reasons, he is unable to attend these workshops. For those who may not know, Gearld is in his 80s.

We are disappointed to have to cancel the workshops, however, we are more disappointed that Gearld is under the weather. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Fry family at this time. If it’s possible to reschedule these events, we will, and we’ll let you know; if you registered for either Gearld Fry event already, we will be in touch as soon as we know more.

Thanks for your ongoing support.

Register Now for Gearld Fry Field Days in Morris, Wadena

As part of our ongoing Keep Cattle in Minnesota project and GrazeFest series of grass-based livestock events, SFA is proud to announce two farmer networking and educational events with cattle-breeding expert Gearld Fry.

The events will take place Aug. 14 in Morris and Aug. 15 near Wadena. Cost is $40 for SFA members and $50 for nonmembers; registration includes lunch. Current SFA members received a discount code in a members-only email; questions about membership status should be directed to jason@sfa-mn.org.

The Morris day will begin with Gearld leading a beef genetics discussion at the West Central Research and Outreach Center. Next, the group will caravan to the Mark Erickson farm, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on how to pick breeding stock for grassed beef.

The Wadena day will begin with a discussion with Gearld on dairy genetics for grass-based dairy operations, followed by a caravan to Midd-Minn Dairy, 17784 Country Road 7, Verndale, where Gearld will lead a hands-on session on picking dairy animals for grass-based dairies.

Fry has decades of experience around the world in selecting and breeding cattle that will perform on a 100 percent forage diet. He is the founder of Bovine Engineering & Consulting and the American Herbataurus Society, and his wisdom and understanding in the field is greatly valued.

Space is limited, so register today by Aug. 10 – click here for Morris and click here for Wadena.

For more information, contact Keep Cattle in Minnesota coordinator Wayne Monsen at wmonsen@gmail.com.


These events are sponsored by West Central MDI and Organic Valley.

MDIOrganic Valley