Jordan family creates balance for cattle and the environment
Health and sustainability are at the heart of every cattle farmer’s operation. But every so often, a family takes those concepts, and elevates them to create a perfect balance that benefits human health, animal health, and environmental health. One such example comes from the Gaughran Cattle Company.
On a peaceful, warm winters morning, the sound of happy cattle can be heard grazing against the backdrop of 20 rolling acres of pasture at the homestead of company owners, Scott and Charlotte Gaughran. The Gaughran’s have called Jordan their home since 1997, when their cattle operation topped out at just 2 head. Today, they’ve built a homestead that will, within time, be an example for supporting a family on just 160 acres.
Setting the stage
Scott Gaughran has been around cattle nearly his entire life, and knew he wanted to make his living and support his family by raising healthy, happy, grass-fed American Aberdeen Cattle.
“Efficiency is at the heart of everything we do,” Scott and Charlotte Gaughran detail over a herd of 150 happy cattle munching on their morning hay. “We’re seeing that the result from our model benefits the animals and the land, while maximizing our product.”
The Gaughrans have all but perfected their farming strategy, and it all started with their decision to start regenerative farming practices. Part of that practice model involved incorporating rotational grazing into their operation. Under rotational grazing, only a portion of pasture is grazed at a time while the remainder of a pasture “rests”. Scott and Charlotte operate on a 40-day rotational grazing strategy, allowing ample time for their pasture to regenerate. This creates a symbiotic relationship with the cattle and the soil that sustains them. With less land disruption, the roots of perennial prairie grasses used in the Gaughran’s pasture mix can mature and deepen. These roots hold soil in place, allow pathways for water to seep through, and maintain high nutrient levels.
The Gaughran’s have tested, altered, and improved their operation greatly over the last eight years. Scott sites his community and the outside research he does as the biggest influences on his success. “To anyone thinking there’s only one way to farm, know that there’s so much out there. Don’t be afraid to research and try new things. Use your friends, neighbors, community resources.”
Never stop learning
To continue the efficiency of their operation, last fall Scott and Charlotte turned to seeding cover crops into their summer annual forage sudangrass hay fields. Cover crop are seed mixes that can include grasses, legumes, or grains and are planted in between rows of normal crops or planted after crops are harvested. They can provide year-round soil stabilization, add soil nutrients, and prevent weed overgrowth. Depending on the seed mix, cover crops are also an effective pest management tool, and pollinator attractants. The possibilities are abundant and customizable for the land’s specific needs.
The Gaughrans seeded cereal rye in the fall of 2021. that cereal rye will green up in spring and provide a great forage crop for his cattle in May of 2022, while also adding significant biomass and organic matter into the soil from its extensive root system. Scott Schneider, Conservation Technician at the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) provided guidance on the seeding.
As a result, they added a fourth, nutritious forage to their hay that also bolsters organic matter and nutrients in their soil. Cereal rye is a cool season grass, allowing it to be harvested in May, when other grasses are not as viable. The Gaughran’s used this to their advantage and have seen promising results after only a year of testing out the new addition to their strategic operation.
When asked why he puts so much thought into his soil, Scott puts it simply and profoundly. “Without good soil, you don’t have good animals. The two mutually benefit each other.”
To seed the cover crop, The Gaughran’s utilized the Scott SWCD’s equipment rental program. The program is available for all residents of Scott County, and include a variety of drills and seeders that allow for conservation tillage, cover crop seeding, native prairie establishment, and other soil health practices.
The Scott SWCD’s rental program also includes the technical expertise of SWCD staff. Throughout the process, SWCD staff will assist with questions on equipment use, features, specifications, and more!
The Gaughran’s hope to one day make their 160 acres completely self-sustaining and economical for a family. They are true believers in the notion that we can and should work with our land to survive off it, and that small farms can be profitable. In every step of their process, they have built in strategies that make their system run smoothly and efficiently; everything from their rotational grazing pathway to the timing and mixture of their hay crop has been thought out, maximized for economic viability, benefitted their soil health, and improved the well-being of their animals.
“We got into farming for these animals,” Scott and Charlotte say. “They’re why we’re still in this business, and they’re why we put so much effort into providing for them. We’re glad the conservation strategies we’ve done help both our animals and our land. That’s what it’s all about.”
For more information on the implementation of conservation projects or the Scott SWCD’s equipment rental rates, call the Scott SWCD at 952-492-5425 or visit our equipment rental page.