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Pennsylvania Grazier Replaces Corn Harvester With Cows
“We sold our corn picker and combine, and that forced us to feed our livestock more cheaply. We’re just a small farm with 205 acres, so it didn’t make sense to own that equipment,” says Russ Wilson, Tionesta, Penn.

    Wilson Land and Cattle Company in Pennsylvania pastures multiple species of animals including cattle, sheep, hogs and poultry. Their goal is sustainable farming using innovative techniques, such as reducing inputs by using livestock as harvesters and keeping soil covered year round for better soil health.

    Wilson has made a number of presentations to share what he’s learned from grazing corn and winter crops during the winter, and explains why it makes sense: it saves time and money; it produces better feed and more pounds per acre of feed; it results in healthier livestock; and soil health is improved.

    The bottom line is particularly impressive. With 9 1/2 acres of corn planted to cover crops last winter, Wilson saved $5,744.49. That doesn’t count the nutrient value added to the soil by the cover crop, which an agronomist has estimated at $2,197.

    “In order for small farms to survive, we need to farm with fewer inputs,” says Wilson.

    Some people question how many ears of corn get tramped into the soil. But Wilson says cows are very good at harvesting all the corn. He once offered visitors $100 for every ear of corn left by his cows, but none were found.

    He’s pleased with the overall body condition and health of his cattle. “We’ve had no health problems, and our cattle maintained or gained weight while grazing standing corn and cover crops,” he says.

    He avoids pesticides and herbicides on his farm, and recommends others who do use them to always check the labels. Some herbicides require waiting 60 to 90 days after herbicide application before the land can be grazed.

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #6