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Staying ‘Right-Side Up’ with No-Tilling, Grazing Covers

Alan Weber and father Jerry are no-tilling to get the most out of their shallow, rocky soils, and turning livestock out on cover crops — saving them roughly $30 per acre in feed and labor costs.

When Alan Weber was in college he’d often have friends come with him to visit family and some would remark how beautiful the rolling countryside was that Weber’s family lived in.

“That’s great, but it’s not a recipe for raising crops,” Weber recalls, noting the typical farm in Weber’s immediate area around Hughesville, Mo., in many cases, is only about 50% tillable for crop production.

But Weber’s family has made a decent living most years after converting the farm to no-till practices and adding cover crops to both increase soil health and diversify their grazing program — which is saving them good money.

“We’d spend a lot of time when I was a kid walking the fields picking up rocks. It’s a lot better now. We don't usually walk the fields anymore.”

Figuring Out Water

The Webers’ farm totals 870 acres and is roughly split evenly between livestock and no-tilled corn and soybeans. Jerry runs their 50-head cow/calf operation and Alan focuses on crop production. The livestock are Hereford bulls and angus, red angus and black-baldy cows.

NO-TILL TAKEAWAYS

  • Waiting until after a hard frost to graze livestock on canola allows more sugars to move into the plants’ leaves, improving palatability.
  • Grazing cover crops brings savings immediately to the bottom line through reducing tractor, fuel and labor requirements ordinarily required to feed hay.
  • Termination timing on covers is key to keep from removing too or too little moisture from the soil before spring planting.

Alan’s father Jerry started no-tilling in…

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John-dobberstein2

John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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