Dave McCartney says producing forage is complicated but potentially much more profitable than growing grains and oilseeds.
But it takes effort to be good at it, he adds.
McCartney, a dairyman from Coleman, MI, is the new president of the Michigan Hay & Grazing Council. He wants to help farmers produce more and better forage. One way will start on his own farm.
Starting May 14, he will host the first of a series of pasture walks. They’ll be held from 1 to 3 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month. Everyone is welcome.
McCartney is an innovator who loves to share what he learns with other farmers. He began grazing his dairy herd 12 years ago. Seeing a lack of information for graziers, he helped start an information-sharing grazing network in central Michigan.
Recently, he doubled the size of his herd to 110 cows.
"We’re planning a summer-long pasture walk that will attract both beginning and experienced graziers," he says. "The May walk will focus on handling the flush of spring growth and judging when paddocks need to be dropped from the grazing rotation and harvested mechanically."
Local extension people will add information on pest management and fertility.
McCartney uses managed intensive grazing on 120 acres from May 1 to about Christmas. He uses several forage species, perennial ryegrass and clover being the basic pasture mix. It’s supplemented with annual plantings of millet, grazing corn and sorghum. He grows hay and corn for silage for winter feed, which he feeds outside in a paddock.
After years of seasonal milking, he’s returning to year-round milking. But his goal remains the same: to maximize use of grazing, making the cows do the work and keeping equipment and labor costs low.
The McCartney farm is at 3728 County Line Road. Take the Rosebush exit from U.S. 127, go east 6.5 miles to Chippewa Road, north one mile to Denver Road, east one mile to County Line Road, then north one-half mile.