Regular hay and silage cutting leads plant residues diminishing at the detriment of soil health but a farming family in North Dakota profess to have a solution, reports the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service.

Brothers Marlyn and Patrick Richter farm 2,600 acres of cash grains and forages on their diversified dairy and beef cow operation in Menoken, North Dakota, near Bismarck.

Their farm includes a feedlot for custom background feeding of 450 beef cattle, a dairy operation of 120 Holstein cows, and a herd of 160 Black Angus cow/calf pairs for beef production. The Richters also raise their own dairy and beef replacement heifers. At any given time, the Richters may have 750 or more cattle on their farm.

Both Marlyn and Patrick say that the value cover crops have brought to the health of their soil is priceless. They see a benefit to the bottom line, but the most important benefit is the improvement in their soil health.

They hope to continue using a cover crop on each field every three to four years, following a June-harvested forage crop. When using a cover crop, they plan to leave at least half of the residue for the soil health benefits. They find that if a stockman is patient and willing to put soil health as a top priority, the rewards will come back to him in multiple ways.

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