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Richard D’Arcy plants non-GMO soybeans green into a living wheat and cereal rye cover crop mix in 15-inch-wide rows with his John Deere 1790 planter. Photo by: Richard D'Arcy

‘Neighborly’ Grazing & 5-Year Rotation Boost Soil Health & No-Till Yields

2,200-acre operation allows neighbors to graze cover crops alongside diverse cash crop rotation

Grazing is considered by many to be the final step in the “holy grail” of soil health, but for some no-tillers, it can be the most daunting step to take. Richard D’Arcy found an unconventional way to make it work in the thumb of Michigan without owning any cows

“I’m not quite that nuts — owning livestock looks like way too much work for me,” D’Arcy says. “My wife Beverly made a deal with me when we started building fence. She said, ‘I don’t care how many cattle are on the farm, as long as they’re not ours and we don’t have to chase them.’”

Neighborly Grazing

When “Operation Fencing” commenced in 2019 on Darcy’s 2,200-acre farm in Tuscola County, Mich., grazing cattle was the last thing on his mind. 

“We built the fence to keep the stinking deer out of our fields,” D’Arcy says. “The first year we fenced a section, the corn yield in that field was 40 bushels per acre better than we’ve ever had since we took it over in the 1990s.”

The longtime no-tiller would often see up to 85 deer in a field at certain points in the day, but that number plummeted to 2 or 3 after fencing was installed. 

A local dairy farmer and his family have helped D’Arcy build over 6 miles of fencing since 2019. The dairy farmer approached D’Arcy with a proposal shortly after he started the job.

“He said, ‘Maybe we can seed wheat and cereal rye in…

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Noah Newman

Noah Newman started at Lessiter Media in March 2022 as Associate Editor for No-Till FarmerStrip-Till Farmer and Cover Crop Strategies. He previously worked in broadcast journalism as a sports anchor/reporter for television stations in central Illinois and most recently Jackson, Mississippi, where he was named the state’s sportscaster of the year by the National Sports Media Association. The Cleveland, Ohio, native looks forward to engaging with growers, learning extensively about their operations, and sharing impactful stories with the audience.

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