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No-Till, Cover Crops Pay Dividends on Dairy Farm

A pursuit of economical cattle feed leads to full-blown adoption of a diversified no-till, cover crop system.

Fourth generation farmer Derek Van De Hey and his family may not become millionaires overnight, but over the long haul they expect their switch to a 100% no-till, cover crop system will save them nearly that amount, or possibly more.

Derek, who farms with his father, Dave, and his two brothers, Matthew and Ross, says his family didn’t set out to start seeding cover crops when they became become no-tillers in 2007. But once they discovered the benefits they decided to incrementally roll out the practice across the board. In 2017, 100% of their farm was no-tilled and cover cropped.

“In 2007 we decided to plant cereal rye for forage for our dairy cows,” says Derek. “We just wanted to do 100 acres and chop it in the spring so we’d have cheap feed. And then we realized how easy it was to get in the field in the spring, and we hauled manure on it for the first time ever in the spring.

“We figured if we could do this on a lot more ground, running the farm could be a lot easier. We just had to do it once to see that it was a no-brainer to do it on all our acres.”

 

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • When adding cover crops to your no-till operation, it can be helpful to revisit cash crop varieties. Those with shorter maturities leave more time for cover crops to get established.
  • When no-tilling alfalfa, aim to get four years of production out of a…
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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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