September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The Konicheks hosted a Great Rivers Graziers' Pasture Walk on July 21 on their 160-acre farm near Steuben, Wis. During this meeting, Doug mentioned the coming anniversary.
"This, to me," Doug said, "is a pinnacle point. We're (almost) into the first five years of milking. We've survived the first wave."
It was the summer of 2011 when Susie and Doug milked their first cows on what had been her parents' place. Now, they're still learning the intricacies of managed grazing as they milk 42 crossbreds in a swing-8 parlor. They retrofitted the parlor into the round-roofed barn Susie's father built in 1962 with lumber sawn from trees on the farm. The barn still sports a sign proclaiming, Lazy Acres.
Things are anything but lazy on the Konichek farm. Besides tending to the farm work, Doug works at the prison in nearby Boscobel, Wis., and Susie is employed at a medical center in Lancaster, Wis.
Hosting pasture walks has helped the Konicheks decide how to set up and manage their farm. Last year, a walk there included a discussion of what kind of building they might construct to get cattle out of nasty weather, and where to site it.
The couple listened to suggestions and now have an open-front, monoslope building that's 40-by 80-feet. Open to 12 feet up on all sides for ventilation, the building went into use this past January. It's tucked back toward a hill, but its south-facing front catches plenty of sunlight.
Doug said the building has neither a concrete nor a gravel base, yet still protects the cattle. On the morning of the pasture walk, six calves had the whole area to romp in.
The Konicheks were warned last summer that a monoslope building would cost more to build than one with a gabled roof. It did - about $3,000 more, the Konicheks said.
Vance Haugen, Crawford County Extension agriculture agent, who has an engineering degree, explained that the monoslope roof raised the cost because the rafters and supporting structure needed to be stronger.
Doug Konichek said the building is working well. The cows had fewer udder and teat woes last winter, due to having a dry place away from snow, ice and water.
One veteran grazier expressed surprise upon hearing that the building has not yet needed cleaning. Konichek said the shed's height will let them build a bedded pack in it, if they choose.
A subject the Konicheks wanted advice on is grazing some of their hillside woods. The valley ground along Pine Creek gets "wampy at times, Konichek said. With just 36 acres of pasture, the farm needs more grazing ground.
Lazy Acres has 10 paddocks that are subdivided as needed. The Konicheks wondered about not only grazing some of the steep, wooded hills, but also about creating oak savannas on them.
Getting grasses and legumes growing around and under the oaks might be a way to make the woods more productive.
"We're feeding as much, or more, hay to 20 heifers on 25 acres as we are the dairy cows on 30 acres," Doug said.
There's a term for what the Konicheks want to do. Silvopasturing is a practice that marries forestry and grazing.
The Konicheks have 50 acres of woods they would like to graze. Besides providing additional feed, grazing the woods would lower the property taxes, since farmland is taxed at a lesser rate than woodland.
Of course, grazed woods won't begin to provide the amount of feed that open, dedicated pasture can. But the Konicheks were told they might get 50 tons of dry matter a year off 50 acres of grazed woods.
How should they begin? Should they start removing junk trees like box elders at the top of the hill? Or should they start at the bottom, keeping in mind that they want to minimize soil erosion?
One idea was to start clearing near the top of the hill, since fields are already on the top, making that area easier to reach. The Konicheks were advised to leave the steepest parts of the hill alone.
Another suggestion was to make sure trees that could be marketed for timber go uncut and unhurt. Save any burr oaks, too, since that's the species usually found in naturally occurring oak savannas.
A veteran dairyman offered his method for clearing brush and unwanted trees. Talking about box elders, he said he cuts one or two trees a day and lets them lie so his cattle can eat the leaves. When the leaves are gone, he bucks the trees into firewood, then pushes the remains into a pile for burning.
That method leaves only small areas open. As such, they are less prone to erosion, the dairyman said.
What forages should the Konicheks seed in the woods? Meadow fescue has been found growing wild near and under oaks in southwest Wisconsin, the Konicheks were reminded. So the general suggestion was to seed meadow fescue, orchardgrass, and red and alsike clover.
Maybe spread the seed before any clearing begins. That way, the process of clearing can help work the seed into the soil.
What about water for the heifers in the woods? Options brought up included hauling five to seven gallons per heifer, per day, or simply letting them walk down to the creek. Dairy heifers can easily walk a mile or more to water, visiting graziers said.
Another topic the Konicheks wanted ideas about was interseeding grasses and legumes into the pastures along the creek, to increase forage production.
"We've been wanting to interseed, but I just can't pull the trigger, for some reason," Doug said. "It seems like it's too wet, and then, just like that, it dries right out. And by that time, it's the Fourth of July."
The end of July is not too late to establish a new seeding, the other graziers said. And if the grass seed does not germinate right away, it probably will be okay for even two or three years.
Try seeding paddocks before the cows go back into them, graziers suggested. That way, the hoof action of the cattle will help work the seeds into the ground. Another method is to lightly disk or harrow the ground before seeding, or to use a no-till drill.
Suggestions for species to seed included alsike clover, since it can tolerate wetter ground. Others that were mentioned were Ladino clover, red clover, alfalfa, reed canary grass and meadow fescue.
Since Pine Creek could very well flood again, it might be wise to apply less seed at one time, but to broadcast some a few times during the summer and fall.
Doug Konichek agreed that he might have to try a late-summer seeding.
"And then I won't expect to graze it this year," he said. "I'll wait 'til next year."[[In-content Ad]]
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