Going back to the basics – Healthy Soil

What is the easiest and most effective way for farmers to increase crop productivity, profitability and improve the environment? Answer: Have a healthy and full functioning soil health management system in place.


Did you know that soil is made up of air, water, decayed plant residue, organic matter from living AND dead organisms and mineral matter? Having healthy soil allows the soil to fully incorporate nutrients into the ground and expand its water-holding capacity.


There are a variety of soil health management systems available such as: conservation crop rotation, cover crop, no till, mulch tillage, mulching, nutrient management and pest management. It is important to note that not all practices are applicable to all crops. If a management practice is not properly applied, the soil can be damaged. A soil consultant will be able to identify what practice works for your farm.   

The benefits: Healthy soil will provide an environment that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes and beneficial insects. Incorporating good soil management on your farm will result in healthy soil for your crops both short term and long term.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil health can be improved by:

  • Disturbing the soil as little as possible,
  • Growing many different species of plants through rotations and using a diverse mixture of crop cover,
  • Planting cover crops around harvest to keep living roots growing in the soil for as much of the year as possible and
  • Keeping the soil surface covered with residue year round.

Providing a healthy environment for your crops will optimize your inputs, protect against drought and increase production.

Have additional questions about soil health management systems? Leave a comment and join the conversation about livestock to land and everything in between.

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Don’t miss the 2013 World Dairy Expo

The 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis. is well underway. If you are a dairy enthusiast this is an event that you will not want to miss. The expo runs from October 1-5.

Come watch a showcase of elite dairy cattle, walk through the trade show that soley has dairy exhibitors and sit in on one of eight seminars that will cover a wide range of topics from using social media in agriculture to milking with robots.

The World Dairy Expo is called the “international meeting place for the dairy industry.” It is a great place to learn about the cutting edge research that is happening in the industry and to see the modern technologies that are being used on farms.

What is there to experience?

If this sounds like a “cow” of a time to you make sure you don’t miss the fun at the 2014 World Dairy Expo!

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Update: Drought relief initiative

Wisconsin farmers found assistance in the drought relief initiative after a season of winter-kill and excessive rain. 32 counties qualified for permits to harvest hay on 60 wildlife areas, parks, state recreation areas, southern forests and state natural areas.

In total, 2,638 acres of state land were harvested this summer under the emergency haying provisions. The special harvest on state lands ended on Aug. 31 to allow grass to regrow for fall recreational activities.

Pictured below are snapshots from the haying of a prairie planting at the Ridgeway Pine Relict State Natural Area.


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Resources for dairy farmers

Dairy farmers who are looking for tools to implement good management practices on their farms may want to take a look at the resources the DNR and partnering agencies have to offer. Nutrient management planning programs and the runoff risk advisory system are just a couple of the tools available to farmers. With an ever-growing $59.6 billion agribusiness industry, farmers and the DNR need to work together to keep Wisconsin’s waters and lands healthy.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast System, developed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the National Weather Service, U.S. Geological Service and the University of Wisconsin, helps farmers identify appropriate times to spread manure, especially when the risk for runoff is high. The National Weather Service updates the system three times a day and takes into account soil moisture, weather and other factors such as land cover and slope. While viewing the runoff map, farmers can click on the runoff advisory map to display the specific risk assessment, precipitation reading and other information for their particular area.

In the case that a manure spill does occur, the DNR has a 24-hour spill emergency hotline:  1-800-943-0003. Any spills, regardless the size that may affect Wisconsin’s waters are required to be reported to the hotline.  

SNAPPlus software, (Soil Nutrient Application Planner) created by the Department of Soil Science at UW-Madison, helps farmers prepare nutrient management plans that meet Wisconsin’s Nutrient Management Standard Code 590 and NR 243.

Learn more about how these agricultural managment tools can benefit you by contacting the agriculture runoff management staff.

The risk advisory system and soil nutrient planner software is just a start to the variety of tools that are available for farms to use to help continue keeping Wisconsin’s farms healthy and our land and water clean for future generations.

If you have any questions about these tools leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you.

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Farm Tech Days 2013-the follow-up

The weather was perfect and the crowd was steady at the 2013 Farm Technology Days that were held at Breezy Hill Dairy in Dallas, Wis. July 9-11.

Wildlife Management, Law Enforcement, Fisheries Management, Watershed Management, Waste and Materials Management, Drinking and Groundwater and Forestry were the DNR programs that had booths, handouts and staff there to answer questions from visitors.


Fish tank with fish from the Red Cedar Basin.

Attendees were able to get up close and personal with fish from the Red Cedar Basin. The basin runs 1,893 square miles throughout Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Polk, Rusk, Sawyer, St. Croix and Washburn counties.

Meet Spritz the Water Drop!

Spritz the Water Drop made its inaugural appearance at the 2013 Farm Tech Days in the progress pavilion. The Drinking and Groundwater mascot is all about saving water!  It can also be found at the Wisconsin State Fair which is taking place this week, August 1-11th in West Allis, Wis. DNR Park visitors can get their picture taken with Spritz and even get “spritzed with water.” Make sure you stop by the drinking and groundwater booth in the south cabin to pick up free faucet aerators, toilet leak detection tables and other nifty tools to be water-wise in your home or on your farm.

Here are a few more snapshots from Farm Tech Days!

The 2014 Farm Tech Days will be held in Portage County August 12-14. We hope to see you there!

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Hay and grazing relief on DNR lands for farmers

Due to the extreme crop loss from winter-kill and excessive rain and snow this past winter and spring in Wisconsin, 32 counties will have the opportunity to receive grazing and hay supply relief. Local farmers in affected counties will be allowed to graze their livestock and gather hay in 60 designated wildlife areas, parks, state recreation areas, southern forests and state natural areas. The land is located in 24 of the 32 affected counties which totals to 5,300 acres of grassland for haying.

Among the areas that are being opened for farmers are High Cliff State Park, Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area and Governor Dodge State Park.

Individual farmers are limited to 20 acres of grazing land and the hay is distributed on a first- come, first-served basis at no charge. Grazers will need to provide their own water supply and fencing. To sign up to cut hay or to graze livestock contact the property manager that is assigned to the land you are looking at using. A maximum of 60 animal unit days per acre will be allowed.

You can read more about harvesting hay on state land in the Hay Harvest Guidance guide. If you have additional questions about the relief being offered feel free to leave a comment.

32 qualifying relief counties

Ashland ~ Brown ~ Buffalo ~ Calumet ~ Chippewa ~ Clark ~ Crawford ~ Dodge ~ Eau Claire Fond du Lac ~ Grant ~ Green Lake ~ Iowa ~ Kewaunee ~ Langlade ~ Lincoln ~ Manitowoc Marathon ~ Marinette ~ Oconto ~ Outagamie ~ Ozaukee ~ Pierce ~ Richland ~ St. Croix Sauk ~ Shawano ~ Sheboygan ~ Trempealeau ~ Vernon ~ Washington ~ Waupaca


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2013 Farm Technology Days

Barron County is preparing for a wave of agricultural enthusiasts to gather at Breezy Hill Dairy, host of the 2013 Farm Technology Days. From July 9-11, the public will have an opportunity to view a dairy that incorporates land management practices such as no-till, minimum till, grassed waterways and filter strips.

As the state’s largest agricultural show, 100,000 people are projected to attend the three day event to learn the latest in farm technology and conservation. This year DNR will have a plethora of program staffs on hand at the show to answer questions about wildlife, farm runoff, trees and high capacity wells. DNR also is teaming up with University of Wisconsin-Extension to provide onsite testing for nitrates.

For youth, DNR is sponsoring a kids fishing clinic at 11 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. on July 9 in the Youth Tent Indoor Stage.

Among DNR participating programs will be Wildlife Management, Law Enforcement, Fisheries Management, Watershed Management, Waste and Materials Management, Drinking Water and Groundwater, and Forestry.

If you are looking for a splash of Barron County culture check out the Family Living Stage. Stop by and enjoy the art, music and culture of Barron’s farming heritage.

Ag Olympics, farm safety for kids, livestock demonstrations and a K-9 demonstration are just a few of the activities that can be found on the Farm and Fun Youth Adventureland stage. A more complete schedule can be found here.

Additional details:

Presentation stage and speaker schedule at the Progress Pavilion.

Find out what the exhibitors are planning in the 2013 show program .

Admission is $5, parking is free and directions can be found here.

You can find DNR staff in the Conservation tent and Progress Pavilion, hope to see you there! Come out and celebrate Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 60th anniversary in Dallas, Wis.

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30 days of dairy

June is nationally designated as dairy month. There are many special events happening around the state for people to enjoy, from breakfast on the farms to farm animal meet and greets. The month gives the public an insider look at how amazing and impactful the industry is to Wisconsin — and it gives farmers a look at how other farms are being managed and gives them ideas for improvement.

Did you know?

  • There are 11,000 dairy farms in Wisconsin
  • 1,270,000 dairy cows
  • 1,200 licensed cheese makers
  • 146,000 people employed in the industry
  • $26.5 billion  contributed to the economy annually
  • And in 2012, 27.2 billion pounds of milk was produced by Wisconsin’s dairy herd [according to Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection]

June Dairy Month Events/Activities

There may not be any better way to celebrate June Dairy month than to attend one of Wisconsin’s many breakfast on the farms.

The hearty breakfast typically consists of eggs, cheese, ice cream and milk.

The morning does not stop at breakfast, there are also wagon rides, farm animals to see, music to listen to, farm tours to go on and activities for the kids to enjoy. Finding a breakfast is easy. Go to Dairy Days of Summer and find a location near you.

Image courtesy of Dairy Days of Summer

If you are looking to put a little more dairy into your diet, try a dairy-inspired recipe. If homemade Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds, chilled raspberry yogurt soup, a frozen yogurt shake or a classic sundae sound appetizing to you — visit Eat Wisconsin Cheese to find complete recipes.

Let’s make a toast — with a cold glass of milk — to June dairy month!


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Linking livestock to land and the land to the lunchroom

Are you an educator, farmer, school administrator, school board member, parent, student or part of a school nutrition or wellness team?

Don’t miss this opportunity to educate youth about agriculture, new resources and future opportunities for Farm to School programs. Transform Wisconsin, Department of Public Instruction, UW Extension-Cooperative Extension and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection are just a few of the multi-state partners that are hosting the 2013 Wisconsin Farm to School Summit at the Radisson Hotel in LaCrosse, Wis. on Wednesday, June 26 and Thursday, June 27.

The theme of the 2013 Wisconsin Farm to School Summit is “Linking the Land and the Lunchroom.” The two day summit will consist of workshops, sessions and networking opportunities.

A few of the featured workshops are:

  • School gardens
  • Culinary skills
  • Incorporating Farm to School programs into early child care
  • Farm to School field trips

The conference registration deadline is Monday, June 17. The cost is $25 for a single day or $45 for both days.

More about Farm to School

Wisconsin Farm to School programs set out to promote children’s health, strengthen children’s and communities’ knowledge and attitudes surrounding agriculture and nutrition as well as strengthen local economies by expanding markets for Wisconsin products.

The programs that are created through the Farm to School network are essential to help kids and parents understand where their food comes from. The vision is to ensure the health of school children, farms, the environment, economy and communities.

Highlights of Farm to School programs in Wisconsin

  • Mount Horeb Area School District has been locally purchasing fruits and vegetables and incorporating them into the schools lunch menus since 2005.
  • REAP Food Group is a nonprofit regional food system that provides the Madison Metropolitan School District 800 pounds of locally grown fruits and vegetables to Madison elementary schools for classrooms snacks. REAP also provides in class educational programs to show students how to make better food choices by knowing where their food comes from.
  • Holmen School District purchases local items from farms and dairies and works with a local chef to use the locally produced items into the lunch menu.

Programs, organizations and initiatives such as the Farm to School network, Linking the Land to the Lunchroom summit and REAP are just a handful of the amazing opportunities to connect and teach youth about the importance of the agricultural industry.

[Note] The Division of Public Health Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity Program, UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, HealthFirst Wisconsin and Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Network are also partners for the 2013 summit.

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Grazing, does it work for you?

If you are a farmer who is looking for a management grazing plan that decreases erosion and runoff, provides a healthy living habitat for plants, reduces livestock feed costs to you and betters the health and performance of your animals, than rotation grazing is something that may be of interest to you. 

When planning to implement rotation grazing, the first step is to consider how many livestock will be grazing and how much forage will be needed. Have an alternative forage plan in case of there are times of low forage production in the pasture.

Scope out and put in place any management practices in areas of the pasture that run a high risk of soil erosion on banks.

Be observant when you have livestock on pastures. If you see that the amount of forage available for the animals is dwindling, then it is time to move the livestock to another sectioned off area of the pasture. Farmers also need to plan pasture rest periods (when there are no animals on the pasture) so the pasture has enough time to recover during the growing season.

To keep pastures healthy from the normal wear and tear of the livestock, famers should conduct regular soil testing and apply lime and fertilizer to the soil as needed.

Widely used in the Midwest, rotational grazing can work with any size of livestock. If rotational grazing sounds like something that may work for your farm talk with your local Natural Resources Conservation Service certified planner.

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