Pictured: Nutritionist Jake Sehr (left) and Brody Stapel, farm owner, share with field day attendees how growing and feeding higher-fiber digestibility crops improve animal performance.
Soil health and having multiple species of crops in the soil year-round are two goals at Double Dutch Dairy.
About 50 farmers and community members gathered to learn about alternative forage systems and soil health during a Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers field day Aug. 31 at the farm. The event was sponsored by the farmer-led group, Sheboygan County Forage Council, Extension Sheboygan County and Midwest Forage Association.
A forage “cocktail mix” can contain BMR sorghum sudan grass, frosty berseem white clover, hairy vetch and tetilia Italian rye grass. This crop mixture was cut twice this season and Double Dutch planned to take a third cutting.
Brody Stapel, co-owner of Double Dutch Dairy, pointed out that because days are still long enough for growing after the wheat harvest, there’s an opportunity to improve soil health by growing an additional crop.
“That’s how I encourage people to start. Try something after wheat,” Stapel says.
Double Dutch Dairy is transitioning all of its acres to no-till. Time and fuel also are factors in the decision.
“One of the big things for us having started here recently, is that it allows us to rotate,” Stapel explains. “We don’t have a huge land base around the dairy, so we can flip this field every year versus tying it up for three or four years with alfalfa.”
As a result of implementing conservation practices and adding diversity to the crops, the farm can achieve improved soil health and better plant health, according to Stapel. The farm has successfully steered away from the monoculture of pure alfalfa and corn silage.
Double Dutch’s long-term goal is to plant perennial cover crops and improve diversity in the soil. During a wet growing season, the way healthy soil carries water is second to none. Even though soil microbiology takes time, the organic matter continues to improve.