Member Stories

David Hirschler

For many producers considering a transition to pasture-based dairying, the thought can be intimidating.

“Not knowing how to manage forages scares me,” says David Hirschler, manager of a conventional DFA member farm in Beatrice, Neb. “It’s really important and when you’ve never done it before, it can be scary. So right now, I have a fear of not being prepared.”

Hirschler and his wife, Andrea, say they hope to someday own their own pasture-based dairy, which is why they attended a grazing field day hosted by DFA Grazing at Kenoma Dairy in Lamar, Mo. During the field day, the Hirschlers and about 12 other producers toured the farm and spoke with dairy manager Tony Coltman about forages, breeding, rotational grazing and more.

DGS hosts field days throughout the country for members who want to learn more about pasture-based dairying. Some, like the Hirschlers, operate conventional dairies, while other members who attend have been grazing for years, but want to improve their operations.

“I’ve been grazing for 13 years,” says Matt Gorges, a DFA member from Boswell, Okla., who attended the field day. “You always have to fine-tune as you go.”

Field days are the best way for producers to learn about pasture-based dairying, says Joe Horner, former DFA Grazing manager.

“Being on a grazing dairy where pastures are extremely well managed allows members to see firsthand the benefits of incorporating pasture-based dairying,” he says. “That vision gives producers confidence and a desire to go home and try some new ideas on their own farms.”

Field days include a tour of the dairy’s milking parlor, a pasture walk and plenty of opportunities for questions. During the Kenoma Dairy field day, attendees were able to witness calves using a mobile feeder, learn about the benefits of certain types of grass and examine what a damaged pasture looks like.

“Seeing what can happen when you do things wrong can be just as beneficial as looking at things that are done right,” Coltman said as he showed attendees how one of the paddocks was damaged when a fence line wasn’t moved quickly enough during heavy rains.

Field days are just one resource available from DFA Grazing, Horner says. DFA Grazing also offers DFA members consulting services through DFA Grazing Consulting, a joint venture with Livestock Improvement Corporation, a New Zealand-based herd improvement company, discounts on grazing supplies and bovine genetics and assistance in evaluating whether pasture-based dairying is an option for them.