Grazing works for next generation farmer

Tivoli Gough
Todd Van Groll of Brown County standing out on his pasture converted from cropland in 2017, gets ready to move the cattle to the next section.

The sunset appeared to be setting on the small, 25‐cow family dairy in Denmark, Wisconsin. Todd Van Groll was the only grown sibling of 4 that regularly spent time working on the dairy with his parents.

He had a good job off the farm, but something about working with the land and the animals continued to beckon. When questioned by others why he’d want to keep doing farm work, Todd’s response was simple, “I just want to, alright!”

So, he started to seek out options to continue the farm. Time to spend on the farm was limited because both he and his wife worked full time and were starting a family too. Todd thought pasturing might work, but he didn’t know how to get started.

Program Successes

Todd contacted the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2016. After several conversations and attendance at a few pasture walks, he partnered with NRCS to create a plan that would transition his operation to rotational grazing.

In 2017, through the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), he installed fence, pipeline, lanes and pasture. The 25‐cow dairy was converted into a 25‐cow beef farm.

The family farm continues and now, between Todd’s job off the farm, and raising two young children, he moves cattle.

Calves hide in the tall grass.

NRCS Soil Conservationist, Julie Hager explains “I can tell by his pastures that Todd was blessed with the ability to know how and when to move cattle. Every time I make a visit to check out his grazing, I am very impressed. The pastures are grazed evenly and the vegetative heights are right where they should be. These are not concepts that every new grazier gets right immediately. But Todd has.”

By moving cattle, sometimes several times a day, Todd is getting more forage production off his pastures, the cattle look healthy and weight gain is good. Grazing is working for this next generation farmer.

Future Plans

As the herd grows, Todd plans to expand the grazing operation to adjacent cropland. In the meantime, Todd has entered USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. The NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program and is making improvements on both his pastureland and cropland. This includes planting 18 acres of monarch habitat on his cropland and applying brush management to improve pastureland