Grazing interseeded covers for profitability: Do the numbers pencil out?

_DCF - Nov. 18 (1)
Join us for coffee and doughnuts on Friday, Nov. 18.
Jeff Gaska will talk about his experience interseeding covers and grazing setup.
Will Fulwider, Dodge and Dane County Extension Crops Educator will talk on if this practice will pencil out.
Address: N4301 County Rd. TT, Columbus (Park by the barn to the right and we will walk to the field)

Cover crop showcase brings farmers and lake property owners together for a unique event

Kevin Miller, part owner of K&S Farms, hosted members of the Lake Sinissippi Association and Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil-Healthy Water at a recent cover crop showcase on his farm in Iron Ridge, Wis. This unique learning opportunity brought farmers and lake property owners together to educate how cover crops are achieving goals both groups have.

The goals both groups are trying to achieve are similar. For farmers, it’s to grow fertility, increase organic matter and prevent erosion. The lake people want reduced runoff and cleaner lake water. So, cover crops are mutually beneficial.

Brendon Blank, board secretary and Bryon Seed representative, showed different varieties of cover crops and explained why farmers plant the different varieties and what goals and challenges farmers face with these crops.

The cover crop plot was planted after winter wheat was taken off, leaving straw residue in the field. This marks the third year of growing this field with a mix of cover crops. However, there were more challenges this year, the weather being one. After many rain delays, the cover was finally planted in late August. There were several establishment issues with too much moisture and residue. Blank explained the difficulty.

“Things were just wet and never dried out enough for the crops to really take off and perform to their potential because conditions were difficult,” Blank said.

However, it’s never a total loss. Miller shared that he plants cover crops for a safe place to spread manure.

“By putting manure over the top of the straw, it does not disturb the soil. That’s a good thing,” Miller said. “We have less chance of runoff, and we’re putting a crop in the ground that will soak up any of those nutrients.”

Blank also shared the farm should have a net benefit with the poorly established cover crops. Even though there wasn’t much to see above ground, the plants had great root systems and nodules underneath. This cover is growing some nitrogen for next year’s crop and helping prevent erosion. The farm should find success when planting into it next spring.

There are wide varieties to choose from when planting a cover crop. Blank pulled a few samples to show the attendees and shared some of their benefits. Buckwheat helps break phosphorus loose in the soil and grows quickly. Hairy vetch is a legume that grows well in late August. It had little white lumps on the roots, which is nitrogen the plant is pulling out of the atmosphere and putting into structures in the soil to feed crops later. Clovers have a similar ability. They are a bit smaller, but that’s why a diversity of plants is vital in a cover crop. Peas are another legume that grows fast but will winter kill, whereas vetch will typically survive winter. Radishes are most recognizable to everyone; however, not everyone knows they are good compaction breakers and absorb nutrients that will again become available in the spring when they decompose.

The question of why a farmer wouldn’t just plant the whole cover crop with legumes was addressed. Even though legumes do an excellent job of making nitrogen, soils are still living organisms. So, farmers need to feed soils a balanced diet, just like their herd. Cover mixes provide that balance by combining grasses, forages, and legumes.

By compiling many different crops with various skills and benefits, a farmer can accomplish more in their soil’s health. When choosing a cover crop mix, it’s essential to know what goals the farmer is trying to accomplish. Blank left the group with important advice when first getting into cover crops.

“Plan ahead. Know what field you’re going to put the cover crops on. What is your goal with that cover crop? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it something you will plant after corn, soybeans or winter wheat? And lastly, know what you’re going to plant in that field next year,” Blank said. “Know your goals and have a plan to set yourself up for success versus trying to make adjustments later on.”

Fall cover crop showcase

cover crop - Oct. 6 event

Join us for our annual Fall cover crop showcase.

W3389 Oak Lawn Rd, Iron Ridge. The field location is .25 mile east of the farm on the north side of the road. 

We will walk the fields to view cover crop strips and have great farmer-to-farmer networking.

No RSVP needed.

Following the field event we will have snacks and refreshments at Sinnissippi Lake Pub.

Co-hosted by Dodge County Farmers Healthy Soil & Healthy Water & Dodge County lake associations

DCF Field pin.10.6.22

Biljean Farms share benefits of long term no-till 


by Jamie Fisher

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water (HSHW) hosted a field day on Aug. 11 at Bill Nass’s farm, Biljean Farms, in Watertown, Wis. Over 80 attendees learned about nutrient management, residual herbicides, species selection and soil health.


Kevin Shelley, University of Wisconsin Madison nutrient and pest management educator, presented on nutrient management and species selection. He highlighted the importance of focusing on what you want from the crop when selecting plant species. Seeding rates and planting at optimal depth also drive a crop’s success. Shelley emphasized a single species can outperform more complex mixtures.


Nick Arneson, weed science outreach program manager at WiscWeeds Lab, presented on residual herbicides. Arneson focuses on corn, soybeans and small grain production in his work. He discussed effective burn down times after harvest and the importance of collecting biomass samples.


A short presentation on grass waterways was also shared by Jared Winter, Dodge County land & water conservation technician.


Jamie Patton, senior outreach specialist with UW-Madison nutrient and pest management program, impressed attendees with her presentation on soil health in a soil pit. Patton shared results of a pit fall experiment to see what kind of insects are out in the field.


“There is quite a bit of diversity in this field,” Patton said. “Certain insects are beneficial because they eat weed seeds, organic matter and keep balance.”


Patton also talked about the glacial soil in the wheat field. There will almost always be some surface compaction; it’s not uncommon in a no-till field. The key is to gauge compaction.


“If I was a root, how hard would it be for me to get through the soil,” Patton said.


Patton share there is great value in stacking practices. When a farmer starts with a cover crop, it provides more biomass for the soil. Having something growing in the spring will then help improve soil erosion and water quality. Applying manure this time of year is also great for nutrients.


Biljean Farms has been practicing no-till for over 40 years. The improved soil health from practicing conservation was highlighted through the presentations by local experts.


Wrapping up the event was a field equipment demonstration of practicing strip till and no-till practices. Thank you to our sponsors Byron Seeds, Dairyland Seed, Martin-Till, PIP Seeds and State bank of Reeseville.


Field Notes Podcast July 27, 2022

field notes
Wed, 27 Jul 2022

In this, the first episode of Field Notes, we dive headlong into the practice of interseeding cover crops into standing corn, a practice becoming more and more popular in Wisconsin. To help us out, we talk with Anne Pfeiffer, program manager for UW-Madison’s on-farm research research network, and Marty Weiss, a farmer in Dodge County and the vice-president of Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soils Healthy Waters farmer-led watershed group.

Lush Farms organic worm castings feed the soil



By Jamie Fisher

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil & Healthy Water (HSHW) sponsored a farm tour on July 21 at Lush Farms, LLC in Watertown, Wis. Nearly 50 attendees learned about worm castings and soil health benefits.

Troy Hinke, Living Roots Compost Tea owner, presented on soil health and microbiology. The conversation focused on healthy soil biology and the benefits of creating soil structure, increasing water holding capacity, increasing airflow and attracting earthworms.

“Feed the soil, not the plant,” Hinke shared, “Dirt is dead, soil is alive.”

Anthony Arbucias, co-owner of Lush Farms, shared details about raising African night crawlers. Lush Farms is a producer of organic worm castings, raising worms and selling their castings. Worm castings, also known as vermicasts, contain important trace minerals and natural plant growth hormones not found in commercial fertilizers or manure.

“A worm will eat 1.5 times its body weight in a day,” Arbucias said.  “The healthiest worms eat the most and breed the most.”

Similar to all other species, a worm’s habitat includes shelter, water and food. Organic matter provides shelter, water in the soil provides moisture and food comes from plants living roots.

 Lush Farms is continuing to grow its business. In 2019, it started out with four bins and now has 300 bins. Each bin contains 6,600 earthworms measured by weight. Worms like it cooler, and the lights stay on 24/7. If the soil is too dry, the worms will clump together. If the soil is too wet, the worms will drown. 

Lush Farms understand the importance of providing biology as soon as possible. The worm castings provide biology and organic matter to the soil. When the worm casting adds microbiology to the existing soil, this releases nutrients in the soil for plants to absorb, ultimately creating healthier and stronger plants.

Composting worms are primarily sold commercially to soil blenders who repackage them. On a smaller scale, sales are available during open houses, at home gardening businesses and on their website, Future goals include converting the castings into a “compost tea” spray, providing an opportunity to benefit farmland acres. Lush Farms believes stronger plants make healthier food which makes healthier people. 

August summer 2022 events

Aug. 11 - 11 a.m.  Building soil health after winter wheat with cover crops

DCF - Aug 11 Covers over Wheat
Field day topics:
Nick Arneson presents on residual herbicides
Kevin Shelley presents on nutrient management & species selection
Jamie Patton presents on soil pit
Land Conservation will showcase new grass waterway
Field equipment demonstrations
Lunch is provided.
Please RSVP:
Location: Biljean Farms
N1566 State Rd 26, Watertown, WI
Thank you, Sponsors: Byron Seeds, Dairyland Seed, Martin-Till,
P I P Seeds and State Bank of Reeseville

July summer 2022 events

6 pm - July 21  Worm Farm Tour at Lush Farms

 Worm Farm Tour at Lush Farms 

DCF - July 21 event (1)
Lush Farms is a premiere producer of 100% organic worm castings which is a fancy way of saying they raise worms and sell their poop. They love their worms and keep them very well fed and comfy in a 72-degree renovated dairy barn 365 days a year.
Come tour the farm with other HSHW members and stay for a barbeque after the tour.
Please RSVP by July 14 to

11am-1pm - July 23 Lake Sinissippi pontoon boat rides for Dodge County Farmers

pontoon boat ride
Meet at 11 a.m. at Ox Bo Marine.
Brats and beverages provided. We will tour Lake Sinissippi by boat including the Rock River Channel.
RSVP by July 16 at:
or by calling Chris Lilek at 920-912-7304 or email

Message from the President

Submitted by Tony Peirick, HSHW

It’s a busy season for our group with working in the fields, hosting events, attending field days and several research projects going on.

We have changed our cover crop incentive program (CCIP) to attract new applicants that have not applied for it in the past. A new program has been added, Pay for Performance Phosphorus Reduction. This is for farmers that have participated and can do any conservation practice that improves soil health as well as get compensated. HSHW recognizes the importance of protecting soil and promoting soil health.

We are already organizing a number of field days this summer that are open to anyone interested in learning more. We also look forward to the Pontoon rides this summer.

Hope to see and meet Dodge County people this summer at our events. You can also connect with us at the Dodge County Fair in August, hope you stop in our display.

Upcoming Dodge County Farmers’ events:

Thur. July 21 – 6 pm
Topic: Worm Farm Tour at Lush Farms (@4LushFarms)
Address: N1475 County Rd M
Join us for barbeque after the tour please by RSVP by July 14.

Lush Farms is a premiere producer of 100% organic worm castings which is a fancy way of saying we raise worms and sell their poop. We love our worms and keep them very well fed and comfy in a 72-degree renovated dairy barn 365 days a year.

No-till and planting green grow success in grazing cattle

Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soil and Water (HSHW) sponsored a field event on Monday, June 13 at Chris and Brenda Conley’s farm, High-Gem Holsteins & Normandes. More than 30 attendees walked through the fields and had an open conversation of how planting went for 2022.

The Conleys sold their tillage equipment and switched over to no-tillage and planting green five years ago. In addition to their crop acres, cattle graze on 23 acres of permanent pasture throughout the year. This spring, the cattle grazed the rye cover crop, providing three additional weeks of feed.

When Chris was making the transition to no tillage, he modified his original corn planter. Upgrades included the addition of closing wheels and row cleaners.

Greg Olson, Field Projects Director of Sand County Foundation, also presented on equipment for watching water movement through the soil. The equipment is ‘Moisture Manger coupled with their Farm Command display system’ owned and operated by Farmers Edge. There are 30 sites across the state including 15 paired sites. This equipment tracks water movement through the soil, measuring moisture and temperature at different depths from 4 to 40 inches. Past management plays a big factor in this project as it takes time to rebuild soil aggregate. Data is gathered during runoff time in March, May and June. The soil is tested in fall and spring to calibrate the equipment. The equipment at Conley’s farm is measuring more moisture below 16 inches compared to the top 16 inches.

Tony Peirick, Dodge County Farmers HSHW president, gave an update on 2022 cost-share programs open to membership and upcoming field days.

The event ended with a wagon ride checking the fields as the sun set in the rolling hills.