Jackson County farmer talks organic transition, pastures

Jackson County NRCS Service Center

JACKSON COUNTY - Nathan Kling and his wife, Karen, own and operate a dairy farm and grain operation near Taylor  in Jackson County. The 250 cow dairy is supported by a land base of around 700 acres. The Kling’s home farm rests on 250 acres of gently rolling land currently being used to graze dry cows and young stock.

The Klings are transitioning their farm to organic production and Nathan plans to graze all of his animals.

Nathan believes transitioning to organic production is the best choice for their farm to remain profitable and offer products to a growing sector of consumers.

Along with transitioning the dairy to organic production, the Kling farm is also applying those principles to their cropland base.

To supplement forage provided by the pasture, Nathan feeds corn silage to the dairy herd to maximize production. The overall crop rotation includes corn silage, soybeans and alfalfa.

The Kling family is using several techniques to increase soil health on their farm and combat weed issues that plague many organic farmers. One example, is utilizing earlier harvest windows provided by the corn silage and soybeans.

The Klings plant a cereal rye cover crop. The use of cover crops in Jackson County has become a relatively common practice. What sets Nathan apart from other local producers is that he terminates rye cover crop using a crimper. The vegetation mat created helps with weed suppression and also allows him to plant organic crops with a high probability of success. 

In summer 2016, the Klings hosted a pasture walk on their farm. Nathan explained the rotational system he uses and its many benefits.

During the pasture walk Nathan stated, “One of the benefits from grazing animals and allowing access to pasture is the increased health and longevity of the animals.”  

Nathan also drew attention to some of the challenges associated with grazing, such as, providing water to animals on the pasture.

During the pasture walk, Nathan also encouraged other producers to utilize the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), as he does. Nathan noted CSP is an excellent fit for his farm.

He is also currently working with NRCS through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address resource concerns on the farm.

District Conservationist Ryan Swatek agrees with this sentiment stating, “NRCS programs help put conservation on ground and make an actual contribution to addressing resource concerns.”