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Advisor

Conservation on your farm

Is conservation a part of farm management? Anyway, I just finished up a story, "Farmer rejoices in rare bird sighting" (full story) which recognizes what an individual farmer can accomplish on private land. This is a unique example, yes, but it certainly symbolizes what's possible. 

 

Anyone had a good experience from soil, water or wildlife conservation projects on the farm? 

 

-- John

 

 

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Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

We do all no till and try to add some type of conservation every year.  The latest is experimenting with cover crops.

Last year we removed what the district forester calls "weed trees" and planted 700 hardwood seedlings using the REAP program to offset the cost.  When the district forester, Bob Hibbs (since retired) first visited my farm and I told him I was looking for projects to support the turkey population and he asked "are there still turkeys in this part of Iowa"?  As if on queue a turkey comes running up the hill right at us, we had a good laugh and seen one more before we finished our walk thru.

Now it is not unusual to see 6 or 7 turkeys at a time if we stop by that farm in the early morning or at dusk.

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Senior Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

We use good waterway practices, no-till, cross slope and contour planting, crop rotation and similar ways to keep soil where it belongs.  I had the NRCS do a wetland review to verify that none of my farm qualifies.  That affects our tillage and cropping choices.

As a general rule, I do not participate in any government conservation programs because I am not interested in having to justify or get permission to do things that make sense to me.

Two non-farming neighbors have put in ponds.  One of the ponds messes up my water drainage but what can I do about it?  Nothing.  They attract geese which I guess are not an issue here or there.  No turkeys here, thankfully, but way too many deer.  They cost me money in the ground adjacent to CRP acres across the fence from me.

We planted trees around our house and enjoy birds.  That's about it for wanting to attract wildlife. 

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Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

It's always a part of farm management, John.  Soil conservation is an integral part of farm management and has been for a long time.  As for management strategies that increases wild life populations, my practices are more passive in that I am not proactive in enhancing field conditions that will increase numbers.  Some landlords I work with are doing that, however, along creeks, woodlands and grasslands.  One strategy that is used is trapping predators to bring their numbers down so game bird populations can go up.  Within one quarter section, over 700 predators, ranging from coyotes, badgers, skunks, possums and a half dozen bobcats were taken in one year.  The following year, predators trapped declined by almost half. Game bird species are rising, two years later.  This landlord is developing water sources to enhance survival rates during nesting periods and to counter dry weather periods.  An additional practice included keeping poachers out of the area.  The first year, more than 65 poachers were denied access, and those numbers are down next to zero right now.  I believe that was almost as important to the wildlife recovery as reducing predator populations.

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Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

I wish I would only see six or seven turkeys at a time.  When they come around, it's usually in flocks of 30 and more.  My hunter/landlords have sighted flocks of 2 to 3 hundred at a time.  Deer are so plentiful, I can walk about anywhere on those fields and there are hoof  prints and evidence of intensive grazing within eyesight.

 

Though I am happy to share my crops with some wildlife, it's getting to the point where more aggressive control practices will be needed to keep it from getting out of hand.  My revenue stream should not be sacrificed to the point where it's no longer feasible to farm the land.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

John, the thing about good conservation is that is is not all that noticeable.  If you don't take care of resources, then gullies and other damage stick out visually like a sore thumb. 

 

Whether you are managing HEL, as Mike's farm requires, a post-mining reclamation disaster, like my homeplace, or a lot of manure, as we do here, it requires some forethought.  I can see where crop guys might resent wildlife taking too many rows out of production.  Here, there is more than enough grass to go around.  Having woodlands makes for an interesting mix of species. 

 

I still get excited when I see a bald eagle on htis place in NC; but, it is even mroe of an "accomplishment" to find earthworms where there were none before.  If you focus solely on macrofauna, you miss the real point of conservation.  It is the stuff largely below ground level, and below our eyesight's lower limits that makes the biggest difference in an ecosystem.   

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Honored Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

This area was not even on range maps for wild turkey when we moved here in 1994-5.  I think the state must have done some reintroduction activities, because we are filthy rich with them now. 
We are fortunate that two adjoining landowners manage for hunting, one particularly for birds.  Another contiguous farm that we rent has been converted to grassland, like ours. 

 

When you put together several farms with a mix of food plots, cover for nesting sites, and plenty of water, it is easy to get a species to take hold.  There are several small herds of deer that graze all over the hayfields here, so i have to take it slow when I come in after dark..  Turkey were a welcome addition...I am not as thrilled to hear coyote in the woods very near our house at night. 

 

Our daughter found a fresh bear track today, and was tickled to know they are still here...a hunting season was opened on them in our area last year or the year before.  To be honest, I have mixed feelings about bear...since some people report losing pet dogs to encounters with  them. 

 

Everything has its place...for us, it seems to be this place. 

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

So far, most around here have resisted the urge to plow up highly erodable hillsides and such.  I think strong cattle prices are what is saving it, as most has been turned to grass and had the fences removed years ago.  Because of our rich mix of crops, grass, trees, brush, etc, we have lots of wildlife.

Turkeys and deer up the wazoo (I wish more hunters would come and shoot some, my neighbor who feeds cattle counted 700 turkeys on his silage pile once, and 40+ deer at once another time).  Coyotes are plentiful, as are coons, skunks, bobcats, and even mountain lions.  The mountain lions worry me a bit, as there have already been a few shot in places they shouldn't be, like in someone's backyard in Kearney, or within the city of Omaha, and within a couple blocks of a grade school, in the middle of the day, shortly before shcool was to dismiss.

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Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

We don't have a big problem with crop damage due to wildlife, a little but not much.  Matter of fact there are studies that show turkeys are beneficial since they eat mostly waste grain and insects such as beatles that do damage to the crop.  We practice getting the crop in on time and harvest before the neighbors, this works well on the farm with the most wildlife.  I also believe there are 2 ways to harvest a crop, with the combine or off the hoof with a smoke pole!

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Honored Advisor

Re: Conservation on your farm

I am in the process of reading a book about microbial populations, and how they move from one species to another.  As long as we were mostly a nomadic species, we had fewer challenges. 

 

Agriculture and domestication provided many advantages;but, we also got some challenges, due to our constant contact with the animals that chose to hang with us.  Plants bring their own passengers.  The relationships are astounding. 

 

Do any of your cattlemen express concerns about Chronic Wasting Syndrome in deer that graze near theri herds? 

 

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