On Saturday, September 16, 2017, about fifteen men and women gathered in a field on a wet and misty morning to hear about alternative grazing practices on the Didrikson farm near Badger, Minn.
Alternative Grazing practices may cause some to believe that people are trying to reinvent the wheel, but to local cattlemen Thor and Dana Didrikson, these alternative practices are worth listening to. Three years ago, Dana and his big brother Thor overruled their patient father, and put into practice some of the things that they had learned from Youtube. The young men consolidated their cows to create larger herds and fewer of them. They also turned away from keeping their cows on a diet solely supported by grain and beet pulp, and fed them grass instead. In the winter, they feed the cows on the hay that was left in the fields from cutting. Most importantly: they strip graze.
“The rest, for the grass, is the most important thing,” said Dana Didrikson. “Having bigger herds means that you can give more rest to more of the grass to prevent over grazing.” Overgrazing is when the cows eat down into the grass so much so that its root system is damaged. This results in grass that will wither, combined with the cows trampling around, the field can turn into mud or dirt quickly.
Strip grazing allows the cows to eat the top part of the grass every day. The Didriksons fence their cattle into a strip of land with transportable electrical fencing. “It only takes 20 minutes each day to move the fence, and the cattle,” Thor Didrikson said. “The cows have grown so used to it that they are waiting for us to move them as soon as we get out there; they don’t fuss at all.”
For more on this story, see this week’s North Star News!