Another unique way to use cover crops in Sioux County
In Sioux County, every livestock farm has something about it that makes it unique. On Beatrice Mulders farm, it’s not just the breeds of cattle she raises that are unique, but the way in which they are raised.
Beatrice grew up just west of Orange City, Iowa on the family farm along with 5 siblings. Her father, Loren, had farmed since the 80s and taught them how to care for the animals on the farm. Together they milked, fed, and did other chores to maintain their herd of dairy cows. Her experiences on the farm led her to develop a love and passion for livestock farming that paved the way to her future.
Pursuing her love for animals, Beatrice selected equine science to study at Ellsworth Community College. She later transferred to Iowa State University to study animal science with an emphasis on beef. After college she moved home to help her dad on the farm, where they farmed about 500 acres. She also began researching which breeds of cows were mild mannered and easier to handle. This led her to buy 8 Salers, and 2 White Park cows. White Park cattle are a rare breed of ancient horned cattle primarily residing in Great Britain, and Salers are a breed of cattle original to France which were originally bred to work, but later gained recognition for their milk and meat. These cattle were purchased out of North Dakota and marked the beginning of Beatrice’s career in livestock.
Due to demand, Beatrice grew her herd over time. Her brother in law, a chef in Wisconsin, bought some beef from her, and absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to get more. At one time, her heard was up to 60 head. Beatrice has since downsized to about 40 head to keep her operation more manageable.
Two years ago, Beatrice began renting 180 acres herself after her dad retired. However, the wisdom and experience her father provided still guides her to this day. Loren had been no-tilling for about 10 years, and had seen others planting cover crops, but wasn’t sure what he thought of it. He decided to give it a shot 5 years ago and was pleasantly surprised. He let the rye grow in the spring before terminating it with herbicide. He then no-till planted into it. That year, he had little weed pressure, noticed the rye helped reduce wheel traffic compaction from chopping silage, and even saw a yield bump. He has planted rye ever since, as he saw the soil health benefits that a cover crop provides.
Beatrice, focusing more on the livestock side, sees even more benefits to planting rye. She decided to cut and bale the rye in the spring when the rye was about knee high, and she noticed her cows loved the rye and preferred it over everything else! Rye has high protein content and is cheap feed, which makes it a great addition to a cows ration. Last year, after the rye was about 6” tall in the spring, she decided to let her cows calve on the rye. Those calves ended up being the healthiest calves Beatrice has ever raised. She thinks the rye provided the calves with a cleaner and healthier environment.
This spring, Beatrice chopped the rye instead of baling it to save time. After all, she is very busy. As if managing her livestock herd doesn’t keep her busy enough, she also works fulltime at Trans Ova where she started off bottle feeding dairy calves and now works on the feed team. While she is calving on her farm, she custom hires her planting done. She was hoping to plant every acre to rye last fall since the spring was so wet. RoGators had a tough time getting in the field to spray and rye would have out competed the weeds. However, the fall was also wet which limited the acres she could plant. Beatrice is hoping this fall provides more suitable weather for her to get every acre planted to rye.
Beatrice is a great example of a farmer seeing the value of cover crops and successfully integrating them into their operation to not only improve soil health and water quality, but also provide a clean environment and nutritious feed source to raise and sustain a healthy herd of cattle.