Farming is important to Josh Hiemstra, and so is making sure his operation uses sound conservation practices that help his land while also being sustainable.
Hiemstra farms at Hiemstra Dairy Farm near Brandon in partnership with his wife, two children and father. The dairy milks 180 Holsteins and works 530 acres.
The dairy is situated in the Upper Rock River watershed. The Rock River is a direct tributary to the Horicon Marsh, a nationally recognized wildlife marsh. Therefore, doing whatever he can to ensure water quality is a priority for Hiemstra.
There are various ways he works to make that happen:
• Hiemstra Dairy has worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for technical assistance and, to filter surface water runoff, has installed grass waterways and grass buffers on the farm’s landscape as participants in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Reserve Program.
• Hiemstra Dairy worked closely with the local Fond du Lac Conservation Department in writing, reviewing and effectively following a nutrient management plan. This reduces the chance of over application and manure runoff.
• Hiemstra Dairy partnered with the NRCS to try various cover crops on its landscape, through both the EQIP and Conservation Stewardship Program, as well as on its own. Hiemstra said the benefits are tremendous.
From reducing erosion and being used as a green manure, to improving filtration and soil health, cover crops provide great benefits. Josh believes in cover crops as a way to improve water quality.
Hiemstra has become an advocate for cover crops and has done his best to inform others of what he has learned.
Hiemstra Dairy hosted a Soil Quality Leads to Water Quality Field Day last summer. The farm was split into various stations highlighting different conservation practices that were installed. The station most highlighted was cover crops.
“Josh is a true steward of the land, and the fact that he has been willing to speak to others about things he learned, especially about cover crops and soil health, is a better form of promotion than I could ever provide,” said Cory Drummond, Fond du Lac NRCS district conservationist.
Looking to the future, Hiemstra is starting to test the dairy’s corn to evaluate the uptake of nutrients and diagnose nutrient problems through the CSP program. This may lead to changes in future plans in terms of rotation and/or manure management.
He is also performing split nitrogen applications and adjusting the timing of his nutrients to no more than 30 days.