On Wednesday, Nov. 3, Jeremy Peake of Waukon, Iowa, hosted the last pasture walk of the season for the Northeast Iowa Grazers. He has been milking since 2001 and transitioned to organic in 2006 with 36 Jerseys milking. The event focused on how this dairyman plans to out-winter his heifers.

Jeremy’s goal in this type of system is to utilize the pasture longer than the grazing season; allow adequate, dry storage for his hay; and provide a clean, dry shelter for his livestock.

He is now in the process of constructing two hoop buildings. One is for his small heifers, and the other is for bred heifers and dry cows. The buildings are to provide access to shelter in the winter months when conditions are not favorable for cows to be outside.

A frost-free waterer has been installed for access in both paddocks for use in the winter months. His plans are to set out hay bales where fertility is needed and fence the cows in with one to two bales at a time. The smaller heifer group will be fed inside with small hay squares being fed outside.

Jeremy is doing this to put more fertility back out into the pastures. Manure on healthy, well-managed grassland decomposes into the soil rather than running off. Rotating livestock from paddock to paddock allows time for manure to be incorporated into the soil. The manure helps maintain soil fertility for new grass growth, eliminating the need to store, process, haul or spread manure as a nutrient.


To learn if this is something your farm should consider, soil test pastures to determine the need for fertilizer, and follow recommendations. If pasture is new or has not received fertilizer for many years, you may wish to test for two to three years in a row to establish a healthy fertility level. After that, a test every three years is sufficient. Your local extension service can assist you with soil testing and recommendations. PD

—Article and photo provided by Jennifer Bentley, Iowa State University Extension dairy field specialist.

Jeremy Peake is in the process of constructing hoop buildings like the one pictured here. He plans to use them as shelter for his heifers that will be put out to pasture this winter.