Conservation practices are helping a farmer’s bottom line

A Wisconsin farmer found using conservation practices not only improved soil health and water quality, it improved his bottom line.

Joe Bragger grows crops and operates a dairy in Buffalo County, Wisconsin, which is in the driftless region missed by the glacier, and he often says the kitchen table is the only flat surface on his farm.  Bragger worked with Discovery Farms Wisconsin to monitor water runoff for eight years, and after using cover crops and a variety of forages along with corn and soybeans, the soil is staying in place and holding water. “When we got the numbers back, and less than 2% of the precipitation that fell annually on this farm left in the form of runoff because of those macropores, because of that soil health, we’re capturing that water (for) groundwater recharge and crop production.”

Bragger tells Brownfield he no longer plants close to a tree line. “That first row of corn is a great row of corn. Prior to that, you could watch it taper from the width of that 12-row planter. You could see it going from the height here down to about four feet tall and we blamed the deer. It ain’t the deer, it’s that competition for nutrients and sunlight.”

He says not wasting money on inputs for the unproductive ground near trees is netting nine dollars an acre more in value for the rest of the field and saving labor. 

Bragger is also using alternative forages after row crops that provide highly digestible feed for his cows while always keeping a green crop on the soil, and the legumes in the mixture retain nitrogen and allow him to plant corn again in the spring.

Bragger suggests starting small with no-till and cover crops, and to work with other farmers who are trying new things.  He says the farmer-led watershed groups in Wisconsin and conservation groups like Pheasants Forever can be a great resource for farmers who want to try new conservation practices.

Bragger hosted a recent Professional Dairy Producers event and is a past President of Wisconsin Farm Bureau.

Joe Bragger discusses conservation practices with Brownfield’s Larry Lee

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