Winter Feeding Made Easy For Young Farmers

American economist and professor at the Harvard Business School, Theodore Levitt, said, “Creativity is thinking up new things; innovation is about doing new things”.  As a thinker and doer, Organic Dairyman Tom McGrath resembles this remark when it comes to out-wintering dairy cows and enhancing the bottom line.  What’s this fresh strategy revolutionizing the way for many farmers?  Bale grazing. In the tiny hamlet, Tom, Caroline and daughter, Elaine McGrath of Autumn Valley Farm raise 45 certified organic cows and produce 100% grass-fed organic milk for Maple Hill Creamery.  Unique in that they are the youngest farmers in the cooperative, they also produce milk seasonally with cows dry during the winter months.  “For us and our hill farm, this approach makes sense and gives everybody some needed downtime to recharge our minds and bodies,” said Tom. Since the McGraths started their own journey five years ago, focus has been on building a profitable yet sustainable model.   They are currently in the process of purchasing the farm from Tom’s parents.  Improvements like a homemade New Zealand style parlor, fencing to facilitate grazing efficiency and crafting water delivery systems have helped, but according to Tom, “Managing soil fertility is paramount to our success.” The McGraths use soil tests, a planned grazing chart, grazing

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4 thoughts on “Winter Feeding Made Easy For Young Farmers

  1. I am curious about that myself, love the idea but in Mo we get a good bit of rain and it would ruin more of the outside layer of my round bales I would think.
    If anyone is interested there is a dairy forum that is a very good spot to go for info on grazing along with other types of dairy style setups. Check it out, dairyforum.com and don’t be afraid to sign up and chat. It’s free and everyone is very welcoming.

    1. Rain is our most feared enemy for bale grazing and stockpile grazing. Since we graze now till December, the problem isn’t as bad as it once was. Ya gotta have a strategy (tarps, baleage, barns etc) to protect it till ya need it. Get lots of opinions from other successful farmers that do bale grazing in your climate. It definitely changes every year. I’m starting to realize why they made barns in the Northeast, its for the rain and mud more than the snow. Thanks GW

  2. Bale grazing would be ideal for the kind of pasture renovation I want to accomplish but do you need to be in a climate where winter weather doesn’t include rain? I would think the hay would be a mess and not very palatable or nutritious after a few months out in the field where I live in Northern Westchester County, New York. Also does it only work with dry round bales because they can shed water to some degree? Could you use square bales or haylage??

    Thanks for your reply!!!

    1. Hey Robin, Tom has the bales under cover till sometime in late November when he places all the bales in the field so they won’t be saturated that bad (unless we have a lousy hurricane or rainy December which we have sometimes). Round bales made right shed a decent amount of rain believe it or not even for us New Yorkers. I did some baleage grazing which was nice because they have their own plastic wrap protecting them and I cut the plastic off when I’m ready to feed and unwrap the netting. The big question in all this is How much waste are you willing to accept? And what are your goals and constraints? Visit Tom and Caroline sometime this summer to learn all the nuances and see what the land looks like. It would be worth the road trip. Maybe we should Have a pasture walk this fall so we can all learn more. Thanks GW

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