Organic Field Day

Integrating Cereal Grains into an Organic Dairy Rotation

Tuesday, July 31, 2018  | Wilson Organic Farms, Cuba City, Wis.


Recap by Matt Leavitt, MOSES Organic Specialist

Nearly 150 people turned out for this OGRAIN field day hosted by Keith Wilson and his nephews, Kevin and Kim. Their farm is a 400-cow dairy with 2,900 organic acres. The farm was established in 1848 by Keith’s great-great-great grandfather! They started farming organically in 1996, and they’ve been at the forefront of hosting educational events and being leaders in new organic farming practices (including no-till soybeans).

Dr. Silvia Abel-Caines from Organic Valley gave a discussion on utilizing cereal grains in an organic ration.  Through her work, they’ve compared all differing types of spring planted small grains to each other.  Triticale as forage (harvested at the boot stage) is one of the best forage small grains species for quality and tonnage (barley being second).  They’ve consistently found that oats (as grain) has some of the highest protein and essential amino acids as a small grain.

We looked at an organic no-till soybean field and how it fits into their rotation.  They planted 3 bu/acre on October 1st.  The stand of winter rye was thin but they can do rescue treatments of a high residue cultivator to get escapes. If they need bedding after the soybeans come off they sometimes rake up the rye and use it for bedding. They’ve gotten to where their no-till soybeans routinely yield within 5 bu/acre or better than conventional tilled beans.

If it gets too late to plant the winter rye they’ll spring plant oats and rotovate them in when they’re still green before a soybean or corn crop. Tightening up their rotations and always considering the soil in their practices.

We then did a field tour where we viewed the corn plot. They plant some fairly late hybrids.

We also visited a soybean field with some ragweed popping through. They have a Lasco lightning weeder.  It’s older technology (sugar beet growers used it routinely before the advent of RR sugarbeets) but it basically pulls a charged bar over the top of the soybeans and literally zaps any weed or plant it touches.  As an implement it has more of a specific use but can prevent weeds from going to seed/shading out crop. The implement itself costs about $40,000 and it runs about 150,000 volts.  It actually kills the plant completely (or almost completely) dead, burning it black to the ground within an hour or so.

We then heard an inside panel discussion from 4 farmers talking about incorporating cereal grains and cover crops into rotation. Tim Vosberg, Jay Richards, Joe Placke, Keith Wilson. Kind of standard rotational incorporation but Joe Placke has an interesting rotation where he rotates from wheat to corn to a cover crop. But he has had good success with both crops and it was an interesting rotation.






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