Havendale Farm is our organic dairy in Oswego County, New York.
We are 2.5 miles from Lake Ontario in the snowbelt (200+ inches,
normally. Pretty much all the land we crop is Ira or Williamson,
very fine sandy loam (HEL). Our crop rotation is a very minimal
one that supports dairy cows quite well. We moldboard plow our oldest
hayfields after first cut (early June here—that really seems
to be about the earliest you can plow sod here and have it go well—and
put the field in BMR sorghum Sudangrass after discing in 10 tons/arce
of previously piled sand-bedded free-stall manure. We then leave
about a 24 inches of regrowth of the sorghum Sudangrass over winter,
lightly disc the field in early spring and seed down to orchardgrass/red
clover with 1 to 2 pounds/acre of Ladino clover mixed in and a nurse
crop of oats at about 1.5 bushels/acre.
The second year after seeding, we start spreading at about 15 tons/acre
of free-stall manure with our slinger spreader. By this time the
red clover is disappearing, what seems like a dense stand of orchardgrass
at first cutting quickly shows solid Ladino underneath, which gets
overtaken by the orchardgrass and is ready for cutting every four
to five weeks. As a note, we cut just under 2 dry-matter tons/acre
after having one of the driest Mays on record. In wet years these
fields are a challenge to mow at first cut, but that is a problem
I'll gladly live with. Also, we don't put anything else on these
fields, except manure, and maintain our pH about 5.8 and organic
mater at 4.2-4.8. These fields generally average 4 dry matter tons/acre
BMR or hay. We don't grow grain or feed very much of it anymore
and market about 16,000 pounds/cow/year while maintaining a 12-month
calving interval on our highly seasonal herd of high grade Holsteins.
We crop approx. 2 acres/cow, not counting the 1/2 acre/cow it takes
us to get 50-percent dry matter from intensively managed pasture,
and we have always had forage carry over since cropping this way.
All the conventional farmers around me—we are the only organic
dairy in county—put almost all their manure on the corn fields,
but to me the grass just seems to be much more efficient. Also,
we do all our forage with the round baler making for a very small
line of equipment requiring less horsepower and diesel.
Sorry to ramble on so,
Scott J. McAuslan
It sounds to me like you have a well-thought-out farm plan. Even
though you say you don't have a diverse crop rotation, you are probably
more diverse than you may think. For example, most grass-based pastures
are not monocultures but polycultures with several grass species
and legumes all growing in the same place at the same time. You
are actually getting the benefits of a divers rotation all in the
same year. Then you rotate your hay crops between grasses and legumes.
Without grain crops, I think you're doing a fine job.
I hope it rains up there for you folks and that your hay production
I'd be interested to know how many cows you are milking and if
you wrap your first-cutting round bales as hayage?
Thanks again for the email.
Yes, I see a lot of diversity in our pastures. We have never plowed
what we use for intense grazing. We rescued it from overgrown brush,
and all we have done is manured and managed it. It is a mix of orchardgrass,
perennial ryegrass, bluegrass and some other grass I don't know,
and a whole lot of clover—white, red, alsike and even some
with yellow flowers on newly cleared land—also vetch and even
a fair amount of trefoil. I would not even try to mow these pastures
for hay as my older sickle type haybine would just make a mess.
I haven't frost seeded these pastures, just every three or four
year I spread on them in late fall or early winter to keep the sandy
soil well fed.
We wrapped about a hundred bales this year from the 13 acres of
red clover/orchardgrass that was seeded last spring and cut twice
last year. We cut most of the dry hay kind of late, but the cows
seem to love it this way when they are grazing and I feel it is
better for cow health. We wrap the sorghum Sudangrass at about 65-percent
moisture. Tough to get it much drier without serious field losses,
and if its too dry it falls apart like clover leaf.
We are currently only milking about 30 cows and feeding about 40
heifers as we sold off about 40 percent of the mature cows during
organic transition, but now we have no strep ag or staph a, and
no hairy wart, so we'll expand back up from within. We have 78 stalls
in the free stall and have had more than a barnfull in the past
when we were conventional.
We have a double four flat parlor with takeoffs and a 1,500 gallon
bulk tank that I want to get near the top of in a few years.
It has rained more than 1-1/2 inches and the second cut is looking
real nice. We are just planting sorghum sudangrass, since I didn't
see the point of drilling into dry sand, but this is how late we
have always planted it and it always does great and makes really
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at email@example.com.