Featured Grazer, Tim Lehrbass: Brooke - Alviston, Ontario, Canada
Our featured grazer this month is Tim Lehrbass of Lehrbass Farms in Brooke-Alviston, Ontario. Tim is the third generation to manage the farm and does so along with his wife, Tina, and two sons, Charlie and Max.
His parents, Ian and Peggy, still have an active role in the operation. Tim’s grandfather bought the farm in the 1940’s, raising cash crops and feeder cattle, wherein Ian took over the farm in the 1970’s and transitioned to a primarily cash crop operation. Tim purchased the farm in 2006, and in 2014— after becoming interested in managed grazing— he seeded 90 acres of the farm back into pasture.
As Lehrbass decided how the operation would change under his management he sought information from the likes of Allen Williams, Burke Teichert, and Steve Kenyon; and he became convinced that implementing adaptive, managed grazing was the right path forward.
“I figured if my land was capable of high yielding cash crops, I should also be able to achieve high yielding pasture,” said Lehrbass. He knew he didn’t want to purchase more land or equipment, especially when he had what he needed right in front of him. All he had to do was restore and groom the land he already owned. The right kind of fence and a smart design made all that possible.
The Lehrbass family now utilizes a leader-follower management style: They allow stocker steers to graze ahead of cows with calves. The stockers are given access to the highest quality, most nutritious forage, allowing them to rapidly gain weight. The cows and calves, whose nutrition requirements are lower than the steers, clean up the remaining forage before allowing the pasture to rest for at least 30 days.
It’s been four years since Lehrbass implemented managed grazing on his farm. He recalls, “I used to work for the cattle, now my approach is to make sure the cattle are working for me. I like the way I can see improvements or failures quickly. As I move through each rotation I can see how the last move affected the forage, the land, the soil, and the wildlife. Every rotation gives me a chance to make adjustments and learn from successes or failures.”
The Lehrbass family utilizes Gallagher ring top posts, poly wire, and geared reels to manage paddock moves. Miraco fountains provide water for the yards and barns, and 300 liter (79 gallon) water tanks with floats are utilized in paddocks. Looking back, Lehrbass says he would have added more dividing fences to the pasture design in the beginning. “More divisions allow for greater control of the cattle and the land. Improved control leads to healthier soil and better forage which in turn improves feed to gain. The fences quickly pay for themselves.”
Lehrbass contributes some of his more recent success to attending Ranching for Profit School last year. “It gave me a push in the right direction.” He recommends to newer adaptors of managed grazing, “Educate yourself by reading about it and networking with some of the industry experts. There are way more adaptive multi-paddock grazing articles, videos and books out there now than a few years ago. Don’t be afraid to call or email the people that put these resources out there.”
One last piece of advice that Lehrbass gives: “Work with people who have experience with the products and methods required to make adaptive multi-paddock grazing work.” He is a customer of Tim Prior, owner of Brussels Agri Services, the featured dealership in this issue. Brussels Agri designed the grazing system and installed the fences and water components to realize Lehrbass’ goals. “With Tim’s guidance, quality Gallagher products, and the information I have garnered from various industry experts and hands-on experience, we’ve been able to extend our average grazing season to ten plus months a year. I’m convinced that if we can graze ten months a year in southern Ontario, this style of grazing can be implemented and not only work, but accelerate a livestock producer into turning a handsome profit for their operation almost anywhere in North America and beyond.”
Our Pasture Pro's have been trained to answer site specific questions and recommend designs related to managed grazing operations. Maybe you're interested in the highest quality, innovative animal management products on the market or fence and water system installation services? They offer that too!