Vance and Bonnie Haugen's Top 10 list won't be on the Late Show, yet it should be a hit with graziers.
The Haugens, who milk over 90 cows on their 230-acre farm near Canton, MN, have been using intensive rotational grazing for about 10 years. Bonnie handles most of the grazing duties while Vance works as a county extension agent in Wisconsin.
To keep grazing simple, they:
- Feed a one-shot ration
“This may not be the best economic choice for feeding our herd, but it makes things more simple,” says Bonnie. The premixed, delivered supplement includes grain, beet pulp, citrus pulp, vitamins and minerals.
“The one-shot ration contains a high amount of beet and citrus pulp, which sometimes replaces corn silage,” she says. “When we feed corn silage, we feed a grain mix that doesn't have any beet or citrus pulp.”
- Feed the one-shot ration in the milking parlor
Cows each get 10-12 lbs of it twice a day while they're being milked, or 6-7 lbs of grain mix twice daily when they're fed corn silage. The feed is stored outside in a 12-ton bin and is automatically augered to feedboxes in the parlor.
- Have forage seed added to the feed
The couple let their animals do some of their seeding. During the grazing season, their feed supplier puts 1 lb of forage seed into each load of supplement for cows and into a grain mix for heifers. The mix contains alfalfa, clover, reed canarygrass and birdsfoot trefoil seed.
- Conserve shoe leather with an ATV
“During calving, I check the fresh group every three to four hours, and I get there on my ATV,” says Haugen. She also hops on it to open and close gates and to travel to pastures.
- Make round bale silage
“We put up baleage because we can cut one day and bale the next,” she adds. The baleage is fed during fall, when pasture growth slows, and in the winter.
- Feed corn silage from outside piles in winter
When a custom chopper harvests their corn, it's packed in piles that are 3' high, 30' wide and 175' long. The piles are covered with thick plastic, and an electric polywire fence is put up around each one.
For easy feeding, they move the polywire back each day on one of the long sides, allowing the cows access to fresh silage.
“Packing and covering the silage prevents some spoilage, but that's still a concern,” says Haugen.
- Control flies automatically
The cows walk under a cattle rub every time they enter the parlor for milking.
- Upgrade equipment often
“Grazing allows us to get by with very little equipment, but what we do have is regularly replaced to eliminate a lot of breakdowns and save time,” Haugen says.
- Practice modified seasonal calving
Cows are bred to freshen in spring or fall.
- Hire a custom calf raiser
The Haugens' baby calves are sent to a custom calf raiser within 48 hours of birth. They're fed high-quality milk replacer for two months. At three months of age, they're moved home.
Haugen encourages graziers to take part in pasture walks to learn more ways to simplify grazing.