Gallagher Featured Grazer: Jeff Greenberg
“Good energizers make for content cows.”
Jeff Greenberg grew up on his dairy farm and doesn’t have fond memories of barbed wire fencing. “We had heifers on poorer pastures such as in woodlots,” he recalls. “During summer when the flies got bad, we’d be in the neighbor’s fields chasing heifers in the middle of the night.”
He also remembers being sent to walk 80-acre pastures, checking fence to see where the cows had broken through. “There were good reasons why we weren’t into temporary fencing for many years,” he answers with a sigh.
Today, Greenberg Farms Ltd. features a 600 head organic dairy herd in central Marathon County, Wisconsin. They also raise heifers for replacement animals. “The family farm has been in operation for 70 years,” describes Greenberg who farms with his brother and sister. “We’re on the second generation now and going on the third.”
The Wisconsin dairyman started grazing his animals on rotation in 1997. And he can’t imagine farming any other way. Gallagher has changed his mind about fencing.
Benefits of Grazing
“Grazing saves time and extends the life of the animal,” argues Greenberg. The dairyman believes animal health has improved as a result of the exercise cows get moving back and forth to pasture every day. “We’ve kept older cows around longer, and hoof health has also improved.”
Greenberg’s rotational grazing system also requires less manpower to move animals. “We spread more manure with the animals than with the equipment, so it cuts down on our machinery and fertilizer costs,” he explains. “Labor has been cut way down, too. During the summer, one person can now do what three or four people used to do.”
“We milk twice a day, and the cows are on both clover and fescue pasture May to November, weather permitting.” Greenberg estimates he has cut purchased feed costs by 35 to 40 percent with rotational grazing. “We’ve saved a lot of money, and we can see the difference in our commodity sheds.”
While purchased feed costs may increase during a drought year, Greenberg usually feeds only a small amount of grain and minerals while grazing to keep the cow’s energy up during lactation. “We perform forage analysis on our pastures, the same as ensiled feeds,” he explains. “We check both energy and protein before our nutritionist balances the supplemental grain ration.”
Greenberg’s heifers are also on pasture, some grazing clean-up in fields after the first or second hay cutting.
Gallagher Products and Expertise
Greenburg has been a client ofCutler Fencefor almost 20 years. Cutler Fence is owned by Randy Cutler of Milladore, Wisconsin. The Gallagher dealer provides both supplies and installation, but just as importantly he also answers Greenberg’s questions on setting up fencing and creating paddocks.
“Randy has helped me a lot,” explains Greenberg. “If I have questions, he has or can get the answers.” Cutler’s technical expertise translates into profitability for Greenberg. “I trust his experience.”
Greenberg recognizes most farmers need help designing a successful rotational grazing system. “Setting up pasture lanes and having good access can be challenging, but getting cows in and out of the pastures efficiently is critical,” he warns.
Greenberg divides his fields into 68 paddocks that range between 10 and 12 acres each, but Gallagher Fencing gives them the option to go smaller when needed. “We can easily adjust paddocks and have versatility because one side of our pasture system has 700-gallon concrete water tanks,” he explains.
Geared reels and step down portable fencing posts are among his favorite Gallagher products. “Geared reels make it faster to roll and unroll fence. We move some of our pastures every couple of days, and it saves time.”
The step-down posts come in handy when the dairyman is deciding where to have the cows come out of the paddock. “We can change locations quickly if it’s muddy,” he says. “We can make adjustments on the fly, and if we want to clip pastures or spread fertilizer, we can cover more acres quicker.”
Greenberg also appreciates the durability of his Gallagher products. He notes, “We’ve had most of the geared reels since we started grazing in 1997.”
All those benefits result in a satisfied customer. “We’ve been real happy with Gallagher,” he answers. “You can get cheaper products, but you get what you pay for.”
Land and Landlords
“The main thing we see with grazing is a lot less soil loss as compared to when we rotated crops. We’ve cut run-off down to nothing,” says the dairyman. Before grazing, the farm had a significant loss of topsoil. “That’s a big plus; we keep it on the land instead of in the river.”
Land productivity, drainage, and plant root viability have also increased. “We definitely have seen soil health increase with more earthworms and biological soil activity,” he says. “The pastures can take a real beating in wet weather now, much better than regularly rotated crops.”
The Greenbergs also run cattle on rented land which means dealing with landlords. “Their memories from years ago were like mine -- barbed wire fencing and animals running through it,” he shares. “They remember cattle back in their swamps on the poorest part of the land and always having issues.”
But in at least two cases, landlords saw how the Greenberg’s were managing pasture at the dairy with Gallagher fencing. “Now, it’s a big difference, and they were impressed enough to let us graze their land with temporary fencing,” he boasts. “Good energizers make for content cows.”
“Grazing is worth it.”
Greenberg has a simple explanation as to why Wisconsin has seen such dramatic growth of grazing acreage over the past few years. “It’s the cost of inputs. Guys are looking at different ways of cutting costs and better utilizing what they have,” he states emphatically. “Lots of larger farms would love to graze if they had more acreage.”
That’s why his advice to other farmers is also simple. “Do your math. See what best fits, and don’t get too shook up on the first results. Rome wasn’t built in a day.” He also counsels first-time grazers to avoid being discouraged. “Have a good land development plan and make entrances and exits to paddocks a priority.
“Our experience shows grazing is worth it, even if it’s some of your best land,” he concludes. “Today, we’re out in our pastures all the time so management wise, we’ve improved.” Better management plus better equipment means fewer fence issues. “And we have ATV’s as opposed to walking 80 acres of pasture,” he shares with a hearty laugh.
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Karena Elliott is an International Freelance Writer who specializes in the agriculture industry. She makes her home in Amarillo, Texas.
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