For Janette Veazey-Post a New York farmer and one of the owners/operators at Lamb Farms, sustainability is a driving force behind their success. In fact, she attributes their desire to reuse, repurpose and do more with less to helping them become more efficient and profitable each year.
That’s a big lift considering Lamb Farms consists of four dairies with 7,000 cows and 13,000 acres of corn and alfalfa that span eastern Ohio and western New York. It’s a partnership between families – the Lambs and the Veazeys – that’s lasted 40 years with no signs of stopping.
Recently, Janette and their retailer, David DeGoyler from the Western New York Crop Management Association, were selected as 4R Advocates because of the families’ commitment to using 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles in ways that are economically and environmentally sound. 4R Nutrient Stewardship is based on applying the right source of fertilizer at the rate, at the right time, and in the right place.
The SoilWarrior® is one of the tools they use to save time and labor costs while ensuring the right nutrients are placed at the right time and rates. In fact, strip-till with the SoilWarrior saved Lamb Farms about $18 per acre over conventional tillage in 2020.
Janette shares insights on why they adopted the 4Rs, building a nutrient stewardship plan and how to get started.
Q: Why does nutrient stewardship matter to your farm?
A: Our families have always focused on using what we have in the most profitable ways we can. We grow our crops to feed the cows and then use the manure and other nutrients to feed our crops. After purchasing a dairy within a mile of Lake Ontario in 2010 and the adoption of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation rules by the state of New York, we became even more aware of the importance of managing nutrients.
The 4Rs really helped us put a name to things we were already doing and improve our placement based on source, rate and timing.
Q: How does technology help you accomplish your nutrient stewardship goals?
A: We sample our manure lagoons every year to understand their nutrient composition and soils every other year to identify deficiencies. This way we only apply nutrients on fields where they’re needed. Since all of our equipment uses guidance, we’re able to strip-till with the SoilWarrior, variable-rate fertilizer and plant in the same zone.
All this information is saved in a cloud-based system with our retailer so we know if more nitrogen is needed, where it’s needed and when to apply it later in the season with 360 Y-Drop. We also use a precision nitrogen management software that layers satellite imagery and weather conditions to help model how much nitrogen to apply throughout the season. This system keeps us from making unnecessary costly applications.
Q: What advice do you have for farmers interested in improving their environmental footprint, efficiency and profits?
A: Overall, you need to have patience, which is really hard as farmers. Adopting new practices, like strip-till and precision nutrient placement, are great first steps but it takes time to see the results. We started strip-tilling eight to 10 years ago, and now that we use a SoilWarrior, we save on labor because it rolls over rocks, travels 6-7 miles an hour in the field and creates a great seedbed for planting. Plus we’re able to variable-rate fertilizer while tilling if it’s needed. It really contributes to our profitability but it’s taken time to see the results.
As we fine-tune our fertilizer management and split applications, I have no doubt we’ll grow our operation sustainably, efficiently and profitably. I encourage others to learn more about the 4Rs,strip-till and how nutrient management can enhance their operations.