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Developing a habit for habitat

By Staff | Aug 25, 2013

NATHAN ANDERSON, left, of Cherokee, and John Gilbert, of Iowa Falls, take time to evaluate a growing soybean crop on Anderson’s farm on Saturday as Anderson and his wife, Sarah Anderson, hosted a Practical Farmers of Iowa grassland/pastures field day at the farm site. Gilbert, a fellow PFI member, operates a Brown Swiss dairy, in Iowa Falls, the lone remaining dairy in Hardin County.

By JOLENE STEVENS

grovecorner@aol.com

CHEROKEE – When a bobolink calls out, Nathan Anderson heeds the message. Anderson, 26, a member of Practical Farmers of Iowa, said the call oft described as “ecstatic and bubbling” carries, in his own case, an important message.

That message Anderson interprets as a happy bird in its meadow or hayfield.

Providing that habitat is, Anderson said, was among the goals he set to be not only a farmer, but a proper steward of the land.

He took an opportunity to share his pasture rotation and grazing management system, along with herd improvements in his 23-head, cow-calf operation, Saturday as he and his wife, Sarah Anderson, both 2010 Iowa State University graduates, hosted a Practical Farmers of Iowa and Iowa Learning Farms field day.

“When you can listen as we do to the bobolinks it’s like we know we’re on the right path,” Anderson said. “If there’s suitable habitat as well as pastures and grasslands we like to feel we’re being good farmers.

“We like to think,” Anderson said, “our grazing lands, we describe as in transition, are lending to our goal of providing a good habitat for birds and other wildlife at the same time the pasture rotation is providing the proper feeding area for our cows and calves.”

Maintaining proper pastures with plant diversity, he said, is instrumental for sound financial management of the primarily Angus herd.

At the same time he concedes that he, as did other livestock producers, saw water as a definite limiting factor for the pasture program during last year’s drought.

His three- to five-day rotation, he said, proved beneficial, however, even during the dry period.

No-till planting following the planting of cover crops, Anderson said, has been a part of the family’s corn/soybean acreage program with the farming operation including his father, Randy Anderson, and his uncle, Ron Anderson.

Significant emphasis, Anderson said, is placed on proper soil and water quality control in the rolling hills northeast of Cherokee.

“It’s not only a matter of the wise use of nitrogen and sufficient soil nutrients that’s important,” he said, “but that we keep our water flow a safe one, the latter being vital to the community in which we live, as well as our state and our nation.”

The same philosophy applies, he said, relative to the farm’s wildlife habitat areas, where he’s worked with Mike Henderson, a member of the Cherokee County Natural Resource and Conservation Service staff, and fellow board member of the Cherokee County Soil and Water Conservation District.

The district, along with Niman Ranch and Titan Pro SCI, also joined in the field day sponsorship.

Anderson, greeting field day participants from as far away as Charles City and Iowa Falls, gazed across his family’s farm land

He paused briefly expressing his longing for the bobolinks’ song unheard at present, he said, the result of an apparent “earlier-than-usual” migration start.

“It will be good to hear them when they’re back,” he said.

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