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What I've Learned From No-Tilling: No-Till Brings Challenges Surprises and New Options

Fewer field passes means this California no-tiller and dairyman can raise three forage crops per year.

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NAME: Michael and Adam Crowell Farm: Bar-Vee Dairy

LOCATION: Turlock, Cal.

YEARS NO-TILLING: 6

ACRES NO-TILLED: 270 irrigated, 350 dryland

CROPS NO-TILLED: Corn, forage sorghum, wheat, oats and triticale

I tried no-till because of the potential savings I saw, but it’s brought us so much more. Making the switch to no-till has allowed us to raise three high-quality forage crops per year on the 270 acres we intensively farm in the San Joaquin Valley.

All that forage is important to my family’s success. I’m in the business of growing crops to support the milking cows and developing heifers of our dairy.

My son, Adam, manages Bar-Vee Dairy and milks about 700 cows. We raise our own heifers, so our total herd is about 1,400 head. That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

My family has milked cows in Turlock, Calif., for 110 years, but it still isn’t easy. With the volatility in the dairy market it’s tough to make a living. Growing as much of our own forage as possible allows us to offset some of that volatility.

Before no-till we could only raise two forage crops per year because we had so many field operations to fit in between crops. We would rip our ground 30 inches deep, disc, pre-irrigate and disc again with a seedbed disc and then roll it before planting. At this stage my brother did most of the farming, but when we divided the farm I started thinking about the cost- and…

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Martha Mintz

Contributing Editor

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