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Water and Soil Conservation Sustain Dairy Farm

January 3, 2018

Dairy farmer standing in front of his cow herd which is eating silageFor practically-minded farmer Wayne Kieffer and farmer sons Kevin and Tim, water and soil conservation are essential to the sustainability of their fifth-generation operation — the Kieffer Dairy Farm — on the “variable soil” of the country near Hastings, Minn.

Though approximately five times the size of the original 160-acre homestead, the farm is as diversified an operation as it originally was, and supports not only three farm families, but also several full-time employees.

To maintain more than 800 acres of cropland, plus 400 dairy cattle, the family has implemented a series of practices that help to keep water on the land and prevent erosion.

With dairy cattle, manure is one of the available sources of nutrients. Irrigation pipes that water the crops also help redistribute liquid manure to the land closest to the barns, allowing for the use of less commercial fertilizer. 

Having livestock also introduces the need for forage crops — like alfalfa — in the crop rotation. Such forage crops serve as ground cover for a number of years, resulting in less tillage, which would expose the soil to erosion.

With more water remaining on the land, more nutrients are available for crop absorption, preventing nitrates from running into waterways and leaching into aquifers. At the same time, a system of grass waterways and catchment basins help “slow down the water that the soil can’t absorb” after a heavy rain event — all perks for water and soil conservation.

[Continue reading this blog post on Clean Water MN]