Soil School: Investing in soil for healthy crops and milk production


The Herrema family have been giving back since Gary Herrema emigrated from Holland to farming country in Ontario’s Durham Region in 1949.

The Uxbridge, Ont. farm family has always been active in local fairs, farm and community groups, and municipal politics. They also believe investing in their soil is vital for the health of their farm and the agriculture industry.

On this episode of RealAgriculture’s Soil School, 28-year-old Gerrit Herrema, Gary’s grandson, shares how he and his parents, Howie and Liz, are managing their Herralea Farms dairy operation to optimize soil health for healthy crops and milk production.

The Herremas milk 85 cows, maintain 220 animals, and farm about 800 acres of sandy soil. Many farms in the area struggle to maintain soil organic matter levels above two per cent, but with an astute manure management strategy and a growing commitment to cover crops, Gerrit is seeing a notable increase in organic matter. They soil test every three years after a corn-soybean-wheat rotation and have noted increases of 0.1 to 0.3 per cent per cycle.

The Herremas began planting cover crops 10 years ago, starting with barley and then adding oats and crimson clover. A new dairy facility, providing some much-needed manure handling options, has also made an impact. With the ability to store liquid manure as well as a composted pack, Gerrit notes they can now apply nutrients in a more timely manner throughout the year — after wheat into a cover crop, or in the spring, spread onto wheat ground to support a corn crop.

Gerrit adds that he and his father do not consider tillage a dirty word. The ability to incorporate manure with a turbo till or cultivator is a key aspect of their cropping strategy. It also plays an important role in nutrient management and reducing runoff.

Click here for more Soil School episodes.

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