Pivoting to Conservation Improves Future for Dairy in Vulnerable Watershed

Aaron and Todd Augustian are managing manure responsibly and embracing no-till and cover crops to reduce erosion, improve soils and safeguard the environment.

Pictured Above: KEEP IT GREEN. No-till dairy operators Aaron and Todd Augustian have made conservation measures a priority on their farm near Kewaunee, Wis., which is only 1½ miles from Lake Michigan. Here, they seeded a 9-way mix of winter peas, balansa clover, crimson clover, spring barley, winter triticale, radish, purple-top turnip and sunflower after summer harvest of their third crop and followed with manure application over the top.

FOR AARON and Todd Augustian, nearly every management decision they make has big ramifications. In addition to the pressure of running a successful dairy, the Augustian brothers also face challenges from Mother Nature and environmental scrutiny from state government and the public. Their farm is 30 miles east of Green Bay, Wis., and only 1½ miles from Lake Michigan. 

In a typical year, their concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) has 1,300 animals. Surface water runoff or contamination is a big concern, because if it leaves the farm, “it’s only a matter of an hour before it’s in the lake,” Aaron says. “We have to watch very carefully how we apply nutrients to the land.”

Raising corn, alfalfa and wheat as forage for their cows, the Augustians are fighting back against these challenges. In 2002, through a partnership with the NRCS, they completed a transition to no-till nutrient management and residue management practices.

Since then they’ve adopted more wide-ranging conservation methods, including cover crop mixes, interseeding covers, planting green, improving grass waterways and installing native grasses to benefit wildlife and honeybee habitat…

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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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