Ryan grew up on a dairy farm, but his family sold their cows in the ‘90s and rented out the ground. After graduating from college in 2013, Ryan persuaded his parents to let him rent their 160 acres and has now grown his operation to 450 acres. He also has a cow-calf operation consisting of 40 beef cows in Garretson, South Dakota.
Ryan attempted conventional tillage the first five years he farmed, but he experienced soil erosion. After hearing a speaker talk about transitioning to no-till, he decided to try it. He also started conducting his own comparison tests between no-till and conventional planting, while simultaneously experimenting with cover crops.
With limited labor and assets, Ryan has found no-till saves him money because he doesn’t need as much equipment or horsepower, and he saves valuable time by not doing tillage.
Ryan’s trial started with a no-till field where he interseeded a cover crop mix into v3 standing corn. Following the corn harvest, he planted rye, which he will terminate before no-tilling soybeans next spring. Ryan’s plot is looking at the effects of cover crops and no cover crops in the same field. He will be establishing a cover crop every year for the next five years.
These same conservation practices have major value for the cattle side of the farm as well. Ryan implemented strip grazing cover crops and pasture in the summer, which provides 2-7 days’ worth of feed at a time to his cows. Strip grazing has allowed him to better ration his feed, ensure the cows are not eating all the most nutritious grass first, and keep his feed quality consistent. He saves time not having to haul as much manure because it’s evenly distributed.