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Irrigated grass pays

David Fischer was tired of hauling nutrients off of his land. The farmer from Fordyce in Cedar County wanted to put something back, so he converted irrigated alfalfa to certified organic pasture. On 800 acres of land that he now manages, he allows the cattle to spread the nutrients for him and do much of his harvesting.

“I wanted to get everything back in the ground,” he says. He rotational-grazes his own cows and custom-grazes yearling cattle for other producers on irrigated acres under center pivot and on dryland fields.

At a glance

• Fordyce farmer uses pivots to increase forages for grazing.

• Irrigated pasture requires intense grazing management.

• Producers of grass-fed cattle need right genetics in herd.


“In 2008, when fuel prices were going up, my son and I were windrowing and baling 650 acres of hay,” Fischer says. Fuel expenses were eating up profits. After attending grazing management meetings, he decided to seed the irrigated land to a cool-season mixture, including orchardgrass, Garrison creeping foxtail, perennial rye, intermediate wheatgrass, alfalfa and white clover. He seeds annuals like oats, rye and forage sorghum for grazing on dryland fields.

“We have the grass now, so it was important to have the right animals to graze it,” he says. Australian breeds like the smaller-framed lowline Angus crossed with hardy Murray greys provide the ability to finish easily on grass and the hardiness for a tough climate.

Fischer started his own herd by purchasing lowline Angus and Murray grey heifers from his neighbor and grass-fed cattle producer, Martin Kleinschmit.

“These cattle are known for calving ease and great temperament,” says Kleinschmit. For producers of grass-fed beef, it is important to have cattle that are low-maintenance and can finish in 24 to 30 months on grass and forages, he says.

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LOW COST, BETTER RETURNS: Cattle do the harvesting and spread the nutrients in David Fischer’s irrigated pasture system.

This article published in the July, 2010 edition of NEBRASKA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.