Holiday Ranch
Breeder of South Poll Grass Cattle

Something New! Spraying Milk on Pasture

300 gallons of milk was purchased from our favorite dairy

There’s something new out there, and we are trying it!  Several years ago I read a blurb somewhere about a man who was dumping milk on his pastures and his opinion was that this process was highly beneficial to his soils and pasture grasses.  I was intrigued but never followed up on this idea; you know how life just gets in the way and there are always a thousand things to do.

Milk poured from the tote into the tank

Last year I learned my friend and fellow South Poll breeder, Ralph Voss, had read the same milk story on spraying raw milk on his pastures.  Ralph contacted all the parties involved in this “new” procedure to learn all he could.  He subsequently sprayed his pastures and organized a field day in Linn, Missouri to tell others about his experience as well as publishing a series of news articles.

Pumping Watson Ranch "Booster Max" and Humate Tea

At Holiday Ranch we decided the time was right to include some milk in our pasture spraying.  Based on Ralph’s experience and information from his articles and using materials we had in stock on the ranch, here is what we sprayed per acre:

  • 2 gallons milk
  • 1 gallon Neptune’s Harvest fish fertilizer
  • 1/2 gallon molasses
  • 1/2 gallon Watson Ranch humate tea
  • 1/2 gallon Watson Ranch Booster Max
  • 5 pounds dissolved Sea-90 sea minerals

Sea-90 sea minerals melting in a barrel

These ingredients were diluted with enough water to spray 10 gallons per acre at 20 pounds of pressure.

Brix readings were taken before spraying and will be taken again after a rain to make sure all the sugars we applied are washed off the pasture grasses.  Here are our Brix readings on an average pasture taken at 2:00 P.M. on a sunny day:

  • triticale    11 Brix
  • Clover         15 Brix (fuzzy reading)
  • Ryegrass      5 Brix

Molasses and Neptune's Harvest fish fertilizer

These Brix readings are not terrible, but we are striving to make them much higher.  Higher Brix means higher soluble nutrients which means more nutritious grazing for our South Poll cattle.

In case you haven’t run across these milk-on-pasture articles elsewhere on the internet, you can read them below.

Spraying our cold-stunted winter pastures

Raw Milk I

Published in AcresUSA and Stockman GrassFarmer in May, 2010

Nebraska dairyman applies raw milk to pastures and watches the grass grow

An Illinois steel-company executive turned Nebraska dairyman has stumbled onto an amazingly low-cost way to grow high-quality grass – and probably even crops – on depleted soil.

Can raw milk make grass grow?  More specifically, can one application of three gallons of raw milk on an acre of land produce a large amount of grass?

The answer to both questions is yes.

Call it the Nebraska Plan or call it the raw milk strategy or call it downright amazing, but the fact is Nebraska dairyman David Wetzel is producing high-quality grass by applying raw milk to his fields and a Nebraska Extension agent has confirmed the dairyman’s accomplishments.

David Wetzel is not your ordinary dairyman, nor is Terry Gompert your ordinary Extension agent.  Ten years ago Wetzel was winding up a five-year stint as the vice president of an Illinois steel company and felt the need to get out of the corporate rat race.  At first he and his wife thought they would purchase a resort, but he then decided on a farm because he liked to work with his hands.  The Wetzels bought a 320 acre farm in Page, Neb., in the northeast part of the state, and moved to the farm on New Year’s Day in 2000.

“We had to figure out what to do with the farm,” Wetzel said, “so we took a class from Terry Gompert.”  They were advised to start a grass-based dairy and they followed that suggestion.  “There’s no money in farming unless you’re huge,” Wetzel said, or unless the farmer develops specialty products, which is what they did.

In their business, the Wetzels used the fats in the milk and the skim milk was a waste product.  “We had a lot of extra skim milk and we started dumping it on our fields,” Wetzel said.  “At first we had a tank and drove it up and down the fields with the spout open.  Later we borrowed a neighbor’s sprayer.”

Sometime in the winter of 2002 they had arranged to have some soil samples taken by a fertilizer company and on the day company employees arrived to do the sampling, it was 15 below zero.  To their astonishment they discovered the probe went right into the soil in the fields where raw milk had been applied.  In other fields the probe would not penetrate at all.

“I didn’t realize what we had,” Wetzel said.  “I had an inkling something was going on and I thought it was probably the right thing to do.”  For a number of years he continued to apply the milk the same way he had been doing, but in recent years he has had a local fertilizer company spray a mixture that includes liquid molasses and liquid fish, as well as raw milk.  In addition he spreads 100 to 200 pounds of lime each year.

Gompert, the extension agent that suggested Wetzel start a grass-based dairy, had always been nearby – literally.  The two are neighbors and talk frequently.  It was in 2005 that Gompert, with the help of university soils specialist Charles Shapiro and weed specialist Stevan Kenzevic, conducted a test to determine the effectiveness of what Wetzel had been doing.

That the raw milk had a big impact on the pasture was never in doubt, according to Gompert.  “You could see by both the color and the volume of the grass that there was a big increase in production.”  In the test the raw milk was sprayed on at four different rates – 3, 5, 10 and 20 gallons per acre – on four separate tracts of land.  At the 3-gallon rate 17 gallons of water were mixed with the milk, while the 20-gallon rate was straight milk.  Surprisingly the test showed no difference between the 3-, 5-, 10- and 20-gallon rates.

The test began with the spraying of the milk in mid-May, with mid-April being a reasonable target date here in central Missouri.  Forty-five days later the 16 plots were clipped and an extra 1200 pounds of grass on a dry matter basis were shown to have been grown on the treated versus non-treated land.   That’s phenomenal, but possibly even more amazing is the fact the porosity of the soil – that is, the ability to absorb water and air – was found to have doubled.

So what’s going on?  Gompert and Wetzel are both convinced what we have here is microbial action.  “When raw milk is applied to land that has been abused, it feeds what is left of the microbes, plus it introduces microbes to the soil,” Wetzel explained, adding that “In my calculations it is much more profitable (to put milk on his pastures) than to sell to any co-op for the price they are paying.”

Wetzel’s Observations

Wetzel has been applying raw milk to his fields for 10 years, and during that time has made the following observations:

* Raw milk can be sprayed on the ground or the grass; either will work.

* Spraying milk on land causes grasshoppers to disappear.  The theory is that insects do not bother healthy plants, which are defined by how much sugar is in the plants.  Insects – including grasshoppers – do not have a pancreas so they cannot process sugar.  Milk is a wonderful source of sugar and the grasshoppers cannot handle the sugar.  They die or leave as fast as their little hoppers can take them.

* Theory why milk works.  The air is 78% nitrogen.  God did not put this in the air for us but rather the plants.  Raw milk feeds microbes/bugs in the soil.  What do microbes need for growth?  Protein, sugar, water, heat.  Raw milk has one of the most complete amino acid (protein) structures known in a food.  Raw milk has one of the best sugar complexes known in a food, including the natural enzyme structure to utilize these sugars.  For explosive microbe growth the microbes utilize vitamin B and enzymes.  What do you give a cow when the cow’s rumen is not functioning on all cylinders (the microbes are not working)?  Many will give a vitamin B shot – natural farmers will give a mouthful of raw milk yogurt.  Vitamin B is a super-duper microbe stimulant.  There is not a food that is more potent in the complete vitamin B complex than raw milk – this complex is destroyed with pasteurization.  Raw milk is one of the best sources for enzymes, which break down food into more usable forms for both plants and microbes. Again, pasteurization destroys enzyme systems.

* Sodium in the soil is reduced by half.  I assume this reflects damage from chemicals is broken down/cleaned up by the microbes and or enzymes.

* If you choose to buy raw milk from a neighbor to spread on your land, consider offering the farmer double or triple what he is paid to sell to the local dairy plant.  Reward the dairy farmer as this will start a conversation and stir the pot.  The cost for the milk, even at double or triple the price of conventional marketing, is still a very cheap soil enhancer.

* Encourage all to use their imagination to grow the potential applications of raw milk in agriculture, horticulture and the like – even industrial uses – possibly waste water treatment. 

Microbes

The purpose of this story is to convince farmers and livestock producers to look into the possibility of using raw milk, compost tea, earthworm castings tea, liquid fish or sea minerals or some combination thereof to boost production at an affordable cost.  It’s my experience that people in the Midwest are to a great extent unaware of the benefits of microbes.  If the first part of this story has caught your attention and you intend to consider the use of raw milk or any of the other methods, you need to learn about microbes and the best way I have discovered is a book co-authored by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, Teaming with Microbes.

In this story I cannot go into detail about microbes, the miniscule little critters that exist in abundance in good soil.  There are four principal types of microbes – bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes.  To get an example of their size, consider that there are a billion bacteria in one teaspoon of good soil.  The role of microbes is to consume carbon, along with other minerals and nutrients, and these are stored in their cells until their ultimate release for use by plants.  Microbes also store water, which make them drought-fighters as well.

I realize this is an inadequate description, but you need to read the book.

Brix

Brix is another concept that is not widely understood in the middle of the country.  Brix is the measure of the sugar content of a plant (that’s an oversimplification but good enough for this article) and is measured by a device called a refractometer.  If your grass has a Brix of 1, that’s cause for nightmares.  Our grass is routinely a 1.  Clover and johnsongrass might on occasion measure 4 or 5 in the middle of the afternoon on a bright, sunny day.  That’s deplorable for plants that should be double or triple that figure.

It’s not just our farm that has grass that’s not fit to feed livestock.  I communicate frequently with three young cattlemen from this area – Jeremia Markway, Bruce Shanks and Chris Boeckmann – and they have the same problem.  Last summer we were singing the blues over lunch and decided our refractometers must be broken.  Someone came up with the idea of measuring sugar-water.  We tried it.  Boom.  The refractometer measured 26.  Our equipment wasn’t broken, only our grass.

About three months ago Markway discovered a short article on what Wetzel and Gompert had been doing in Nebraska with raw milk.  He emailed the article to me and that’s what got me to do this story.  An interesting thing is what Markway discovered about the impact of raw milk on brix levels.  He has a milk cow and took some of her milk, mixed with water and sprayed on his pastures with a small hand sprayer.  Where he sprayed, the brix level of the grass was raised to a level of 10.  That’s a great start and was good news to Wetzel and Gompert, who had not been measuring the brix levels of Wetzel’s grass.

Compost Tea

Raw milk is not the only thing that will improve soil.  Compost tea is a liquid made by running compost through a “brewer,” a device somewhat akin to a fish tank, in that oxygen is added to the water containing the compost and this action flushes the microbes out of the compost into the water.  The resulting liquid is a “tea” that can be sprayed on pastures and crops, to their great benefit.

Two men that make extensive use of compost tea are Mark Sturges and David Herringshaw.  These two have never met and until recently had not even heard of each other.

Sturges lives in western Oregon near the coast and for 10 years has had a business spraying compost tea on vineyards, cranberry bogs, fruit and nut trees and pastures.  Sturges adds malt extract, kelp and seas minerals to his tea, and if he is spraying pastures, he adds molasses to build the bacteria content.

Herringshaw lives in the near-desert southeast part of Oregon at an elevation of 4,100 feet.  He uses compost tea on his own land and has the brix level of his pasture and hay ground up to 22.  That’s tantamount to feeding corn.  Herringshaw attributes the high brix to the compost tea and also sea minerals, which he applies at the same time.  He uses nothing else.

I have seen the compost Sturges produces.  It is so alive it literally moves.  I have not seen the compost Herringshaw makes at the other end of the state.  I can only imagine how good it might be.  He fortifies it with raw milk.

Think for a second what Wetzel said about using your imagination to grow the applications for raw milk.  Herringshaw has already used his imagination.

Earthworm Castings Tea

This tea is identical to compost tea except that worm poop is substituted for compost.  Almost everyone thinks tea from earthworm castings is great stuff, and some even think this tea is superior to compost tea.  Earthworm castings are known to suppress certain diseases of grass and some people think the use of castings might suppress harmful bacteria such as staph and E. coli.

There is a story going around that a university was having problems with athletes getting staph infections from burns sustained on grass practice fields and the university stopped applying chemicals to the grass and instead turned to worm castings and solved the problem.  I spent two weeks trying to track down this story and at this point I don’t believe it is true.  Maybe someone will prove me wrong.

I did, however, come across an interesting situation in St. Louis County, Mo., where the Parkway school district turned to earthworm castings in lieu of commercial fertilizer.  The groundskeeper there is Matt Jenne, who prior to coming to St. Louis was a golf course superintendent in Florida.  While working in Florida he noticed earthworms had built up their castings on the greens.  They picked up the castings as part of cutting the grass, and then piled the grass-castings mixture and let it compost, after which they used it with great success on new grass and bare spots.  To feed the life they had in the soil, they applied molasses once a month with their irrigation system.

When he got to St. Louis Jenne decided to go with worm castings on two football fields, applying between half a ton and a ton per field.  The castings are applied dry and work best when the field has been aerated.

Jenne may have an explanation for the staph infection story.  He says that artificial turf causes staph and the only way this can be controlled is to disinfect the artificial turf.

Here in Osage County earthworm castings are available at Eisterhold Brothers on U.S. 63 between Westphalia and Freeburg.  Unfortunately they have decided to close their business when their current supply runs out.

Fish

Liquid fish or fish fertilizer is another product that has been successfully applied to pastures.  Teddy Gentry, the founder of South Poll cattle, has been using a fish product for years and is pleased with the results.  It seems especially beneficial in fighting the effects of a drought.  Gentry mixes the fish with liquid calcium and is thinking about adding sea minerals to his mixture.

Sea Minerals

Sea minerals might be the best way to improve poor or depleted soils.  We all know that a large deer in Iowa will weigh 100 pounds more than a large deer from that part of Missouri south of the Missouri River.  Many people ascribe the difference to the mineral level of the soils.  It’s difficult – if not impossible – to produce high-quality grass on soil that is not properly mineralized.  It took Herringshaw years to get his grass to the 22 brix level and he is convinced he would not have gotten there without the sea minerals.  Herringshaw prefers Redmond salt, while Sturges uses Sea-90.  Sturges applies his sea minerals as a spray, along with compost tea.  Herringshaw makes both dry and spray applications.  He estimates he has broadcast approximately 85 pounds of Redmond salt per acre since he started using that product.  This is in addition to what he has sprayed on.  For both Sturges and Herringshaw a foliar application is one pound or less per acre.

Another individual that makes extensive use of sea minerals is Doug Gunnink of Gaylord, Minn.  Gunnink produces high-brix grass for his grass-fed beef operation by the foliar application of liquid fish and sea minerals.  He also tests his grass and adds those minerals that are in short supply in his pastures, whether boron, sulfur, copper or some other mineral.

Fish hydrolysate, Gunnink explained, is the entire fish ground up and then preserved with phosphoric or sulfuric acid.  If the preservative is phosphoric acid, the phosphorus “bumps up the Brix,” he said, adding that “phosphorus gives grass power.”  High-brix grass produces more organic matter, which in turn holds more water, Gunnink explained, stating that a 1% increase in organic matter will hold an additional 53,000 gallons of water per acre.  “Organic matter is the sponge that holds water for dry spells.”

The organic matter also holds the nutrients that plants need.

Conventional Fertilizers

This story is not meant to be a war on conventional fertilizers.  The late Dr. Maynard Murray, the pioneer that first advocated use of sea minerals, said there is a place for conventional N, P and K.  We do, however, need to come up with better ways to use them.  Bill Totemeier, a friend in southeast Iowa that is a commercial hay producer, uses ammonium sulfate rather than ammonium nitrate because the former is much more earthworm-friendly.  He applies fertilizer two or three times per year in smaller amounts rather one large application in the spring.  This reduces the shock to the microbes.

Houston-area rancher Tom McGrady spread ammonium sulfate on his ryegrass pasture in early March.  In his area ammonium nitrate is no longer available.  That may be a good thing.

For Row Crop Farmers

Row crop farmers can also benefit greatly from some of these practices.  Lowenfels, who co-authored the book on microbes, urges anyone who uses herbicides or insecticides to soon thereafter apply compost tea to increase the microbe population that was probably greatly reduced by the chemical spray.  Fish would also work in this situation.

For the busy grain guy, there are companies that make products ready to go into the sprayer.  One such firm is AgriEnergy Resources. Mike Wyatt, an independent consultant that works with AgriEnergy, has helped me gain some insight into the world of microbes.

Hunters

If you want bigger deer like you read about in Iowa and Illinois, the methods set out in this article should be used on your hunting land, especially the food plots.  Animals are clearly attracted to plants that have been treated with sea salt.  And they also choose high-brix plants over those with low brix levels.

My Experience

I know Terry Gompert personally.  He’s the real deal.  In 2007 he organized a high-stock-density grazing seminar in as remote an area of northeast Nebraska as you can find and attracted over 200 people.  Included among that crew were Jeremia Markway and me.  Based on my knowledge of and respect for Gompert and the results Markway experiences just down the road from us, why wouldn’t I be willing to try this?  To me it’s a no-brainer.  I’ve made arrangements to buy milk from Alfred Brandt, who lives just south of Linn, and Chamois MFA has agreed to spray 50 or 100 acres in mid-April.  A 1,000 gallon tank containing 150 gallons of raw milk and 850 gallons of water will provide the perfect ratio of three gallons of milk and 17 gallons of water, which applied at the rate of 20 gallons per acre will cover 50 acres.  I hope to get over at least 100 acres.  Whether we include something with the milk – such as fish, molasses or earthworm casting tea – is a decision we haven’t made at this time.

We are also going to broadcast one ton of sea salt at a rate of 20 pounds per acre.

Conclusion

For years I’ve been a dung beetle fanatic, thinking that I needed dung beetles to build my soil.  I’ve probably been wrong in this regard.  I now think I need to build my soil and the dung beetles will come.  Dr. James Nardi, in his classic work Life in the Soil, describes dung beetles as picky eaters.  That may seem strange, but my experience convinces me his assessment is totally accurate.  I hope – and I do believe this will happen – dung beetles will choose to come to our farm in greater numbers because we have upgraded the food supply.

Raw Milk II

Published in Stockman Grass Farmer September, 2010

Raw milk – additional evidence it works

Make no mistake about it, raw milk fertilizer is more than just a fascinating idea.  Following a June 24 and 25 raw milk field day held at our farm near Linn, Mo., there is substantial new evidence that raw milk increases grass production, while at the same time greatly reducing soil compaction and possibly reducing weeds.

Just as important as what raw milk has done for our pastures and soils is what it has done for us as stewards of soil.  It has caused many of us to look at our soil practices.

Jim Hole, a resident of Norwich, N.Y., that will turn 80 this fall, thought raw milk sounded like a winner and – using his own tractor and 30-foot boom sprayer – applied milk to 84 acres between May 16 and 27.  He’s delighted with the results.  His grass has “significantly more thickness,” he says, but he will not know until he puts up his haylage how much the increase has been.

What I find most pleasing is Hole’s enthusiasm and his talk of microbes and possibly adding sea salt, fish, calcium or who knows what to his next tank of milk.  Hole is one of about five people in his age group that I’ve talked to since the original raw milk story came out in May.

A lot of young folks have also been bitten by the raw milk bug.  There were a lot of father-son teams at the field day as well as five families with a total of 15 children.  One young man at the field day had no financial interest in farming.  He is a reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune and he came because he smelled a good story.  TJ Greaney must have a good nose for news because his story the following Sunday went out on the Associated Press wire and was picked up by newspapers, television and radio stations and bloggers all over the country and was even carried in South America, India and China.

The explosion of interest generated by using raw milk as a soil fertilizer   presents the producers of this nation’s food an unparalleled opportunity to tell the whole story about their product.  It’s one thing to talk grass-fed and organic, but when you talk meat or produce raised on soil fertilized with raw milk, sea salt and liquid fish, you have consumers’ attention like never before.  To take full advantage of this opportunity, we need to understand the work of Dr. Maynard Murray, who in my opinion fully established the health benefits of sea minerals.

Many of us have more or less assumed for years that many people understand the health benefits of grass-fed and have gone on to focus on marketing.  I would suggest there has never been a better time to tell the story of the great qualities raw milk, sea minerals and liquid fish can bring to our food supply.  I can think of no better marketing tool.  And the beautiful thing is there doesn’t have to be any hype whatsoever.  Murray, Dr. William Albrecht, Dr. Weston Price and others have made our case for us.

Ten years ago Nebraska dairyman David Wetzel knew he was on to something when his fields responded so dramatically to his dumping of raw, organic, skim milk on them.  Wetzel’s friend and neighbor Terry Gompert, an Extension agent with the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, also realized Wetzel was on to something and in 2004 convinced two UNL scientists to conduct a study of the use of raw milk on pasture and the results showed that raw milk produced an additional 1,200 pounds of grass per acre on a dry matter basis in 45 days.  That same study showed the porosity of the soil – its ability to absorb water and air – doubled.

Even before the Greaney story came out, the raw milk issue was creating sufficient interest among farmers that we decided to invite Gompert and Wetzel to do a field day in Linn and they agreed.  My job was to spray raw milk on several pastures on our farm.  On May 28 I sprayed half of two fields with raw milk.  Eight days later I sprayed sea minerals on the other half of those fields.  That was a mistake.  I should have sprayed half of a field with milk and sprayed nothing on the other half and on the second field sprayed half with sea minerals and sprayed nothing on the remainder.

Talking about mistakes, there was one in the initial story in May.  Gompert, going off memory, told me three gallons of milk per acre had the same result at 20 gallons.  That was wrong.  After checking his original notes in preparation for the field day presentation, he discovered two gallons were as good as 20.

During the time running up to the field day, I could see nothing different about the grass we had sprayed with either milk or sea minerals.  To those people who expressed an interest in attending the field day, I sent a note saying I did not want them to believe they would see at our farm large quantities of grass that grew as a result of our spraying raw milk.  On Friday, June 25, I was probably more surprised than anyone when Gompert discovered what the milk had done at our farm.

By cutting grass in each of the two areas of the field, Gompert was able to determine the part of the field sprayed with raw milk produced nearly 700 pounds more grass per acre than the side treated with sea minerals.  Note this growth came in only 28 days, beginning May 28, which is well past our prime growing season.

Probably more noteworthy than the 700 pounds of growth was the huge reduction in compaction.  A penetrometer – a device used to measure soil compaction – showed that it took 100 pounds of pressure per square inch to penetrate the soil sprayed with milk, while 300 pounds was needed to penetrate the non-treated soil.  Everyone that touched a penetrometer could easily tell the difference.  It took very little effort to push the penetrometer 28 inches into the ground that had been treated with milk.  It was quite difficult to force the penetrometer through the top 10 or so inches of soil that had not been treated.

Gompert and Wetzel both said they could see a difference in the grass.  Many attendees – possibly a slim majority — agreed.  Many said they couldn’t see any difference.  The treated grass does not have the dark green color that we have come to expect with NPK fertilization.  Grass treated with milk tends to turn a light, yellowish-green and is somewhat shiny, or as Hole said, “John Deere green.”

At the end of 28 days, the naked-eye evidence alone was not strong enough to make me want to go out and spray raw milk again.  Had it not been for the extra grass that was measured and the penetrometer, I might not have sprayed any more.  At the end of 40 days, however, the difference was pronounced.  On July 7, I went back to the field and by then the grass that had been sprayed with milk was definitely taller.  It’s obvious the milk was still working up through 40 days.  The question is: How long will the milk keep working?

Keep in mind all of this was accomplished with conventional raw milk.  I picked it up at a local dairy around 6 p.m. and sprayed it in the late evening, but that’s only because I didn’t start spraying earlier in the spring.    In hot weather I want my tractor tires to be wet with dew as I spray.  Wetzel does not think this is necessary, but I didn’t want to take any chances.  When you read this it will be September or later and by then I’ll be spraying during the day.

In preparation for the field day I had sprayed two other fields.  On these fields I could see no significant difference in height of the grass.  A possible explanation for the lack of difference is that I had fed a lot of hay on these latter two fields and this undoubtedly increased their fertility level and microbial activity.  One huge difference observed in both of these two fields was the weed level. Where I had sprayed milk the weeds were noticeably reduced.  Don’t conclude that milk controls weeds, because we don’t know that.  It’s quite possible the hay I fed on these fields is responsible for the weed level.  If you choose to spray milk, do, however, keep an eye on this.

Note that the original study showed milk had its greatest impact on depleted soils.  Someone who is already spraying with compost tea, liquid fish and other soil amendments may see little bump from the use of milk.  One vital question is this: Do the use of compost tea and liquid fish loosen the soil as much as milk?  Jeff Lowenfels, the co-author of Teaming with Microbes, says compost tea definitely loosens soil, but neither he nor anyone else knows if tea loosens soil as much or as fast as milk.

There is so much we don’t know about this entire area it’s scary.  Gompert has spent his entire career learning how to improve soil and the grasses and row crops that grow in the soil.  Even with his background he has more questions than answers, but I love to push him.  If he doesn’t know, I make him guess.  A Gompert guess is worth a lot.

What is it in the milk that makes grass grow and that loosens the soil so dramatically?  Gompert’s guess is that it’s the microbes, but he quickly adds, “We really don’t know.”  Lowenfels agrees with Gompert.  Lowenfels would like to see a side-by-side comparison between raw and pasteurized milk.

Many people asked how many times per year they needed to spray milk.  “We really don’t know,” Gompert said, adding that people will have to learn this for themselves.  He suggested spring or fall or both, until people feel comfortable with their results.

Should grass be sprayed after it is fully rested and ready to be grazed, right after it has been grazed or after it has experienced partial re-growth following grazing?  Gompert doesn’t know, but he would prefer the latter.

There are many out there who have used various kinds of soil amendments and are now very interested in trying raw milk.  One such individual is Butch Tindell, who helps oversee the beef cattle operation for an Anabaptist community near Elm Mott, Texas, where 200 to 225 head of steers and heifers this year will be finished on pasture fertilized with compost tea, fish, kelp and molasses.  The meat is consumed by the 1,000 members of the community and sold through their restaurant and store.  They want a quality product both for their members and to sell to the public.  What great tools to use to extol the virtues of their product.  Tindell intends to experiment with raw milk, which will only enrich the story.

Up to this point I’ve not talked about brix levels.  The brix levels in the treated and untreated portions of the field were almost the same, with the untreated portion being slightly higher – an average of 6 versus 5.5.  But don’t forget, I did not have a truly untreated portion of the field, because I used sea minerals on the half not treated with milk.  That may have impacted the brix level.

John Shaw, a grass-fed beef producer from Palestine, Ill., tipped me off recently to something I’d never heard of before — a wheat grass juicer.  Unless you have a fertile imagination, it’s easier to look it up on Google, but it’s really nothing more than a glorified, hand-cranked meat grinder that our mothers decades ago clamped to the kitchen table and used to grind beef or pork.   The juicer is designed to make enough wheat grass juice to drink.  Good luck getting a glass of fescue juice from Missouri fescue in a typical hot, dry July.  But on July 7, I found my cows eating aggressively in one area and I looked at what they were eating and it was perennial ryegrass.  I grabbed a handful and went back to the barn to do a brix test.

I first tested the ryegrass with a Vise Grip that had been modified to squeeze grasses.  The juice obtained with the Vise Grip tested 10.  I had my trusty garlic press handy and squeezed some juice with it and got a 5.  I then got out my juicer and got some juice out of the ryegrass.  Would you believe a 14?

What does this mean?  I suspect it means that we really have to crush our grass – breaking down the cell walls and all – before we really know how much nutrition is in the plant.  I hope it means our grass has not been as bad as I originally thought. Maybe the fescue that has in the past tested a 2 is really a 4 or 5 – not great by a long shot, but better.  Doesn’t it also show why the old broken-mouth cow can’t make it through a harsh winter…that her lack of teeth prevent her from getting enough benefit from her food to survive?

In recent days I’ve received some very interesting information about raw milk’s impact on brix levels and also rate of gain.  If Allan Nation has some room in the October issue, we’ll give you more to think about.  Please stay tuned.

Raw Milk III

Published in Stockman Grass Farmer October, 2010

Does raw milk affect brix levels?

Does raw milk affect brix levels?  I think it is fair to say that in most instances the application of raw milk on pastures has caused brix levels to rise.  However, the results leave us with more questions than answers.

There is no question that on our farm here in central Missouri, a May 28 application of milk produced an extra 700 pounds of grass per acre in 28 days, while at the same time greatly reducing soil compaction.  After 28 days, however, the brix level in grass sprayed with raw milk was no higher than grass growing on untreated soil.

Since June 25, when the extra grass growth was measured, I have run  a number of brix tests.  Most of those tests showed that brix levels went up where milk had been sprayed.  Another observation was that the longer the interval between spraying milk and measuring brix, the higher the brix.  This is the opposite of the findings of a man who finishes cattle on the Texas-New Mexico border.  We’ll get to that story in a minute.

Before we go any further let’s consider two other factors – the method used to remove the juice from the grass and the time of year.

This year I started measuring brix in March and much to my surprise I found fescue that tested as much as 8.  Seldom did it drop below 6.  We had never seen brix levels like this before, but we had never before tested this early.  Orchard grass, which I would have thought would be higher than fescue, never got above a 2.  By the end of April, however, the brix in the fescue dropped to 4 and 5 and by mid-May was 2 and 3.  Note that I did not spray any milk until May 28, so these numbers are totally unaffected by the milk.  Also keep in mind the juice tested in the March through mid-May period was extracted with a garlic press.

What caused the brix to be relatively high (at least for us) in the early spring?  No idea.  And then why would the brix drop off so much?  Not a clue.  It is easy to see, however, why an old cow can gain 200 pounds in the blink of an eye when the grass comes on in the spring.

Prior to June all juice was squeezed with a garlic press.  In June I started using a wheat grass juicer, which pulverizes the grass in removing the liquid.  At that time I also started using a Vise Grip that had been modified to squeeze out the juice.  I mentioned this in last month’s story, but those who did not read that story need to understand that when I tested perennial ryegrass in July, the liquid squeezed by a garlic press measured 5, while juice extracted by the Vise Grip tested 10 and juice from the juicer came in at 14.

Getting back to the brix of the early spring fescue that measured 8, with a juicer this may well have been a 12 or higher.  I think we probably need to use something along the lines of a juicer so we are extracting as many nutrients as possible.  But the most important thing is to use the same implement.  We can’t switch back and forth between the garlic press, the Vise Grip and the juicer.

Prior to Aug. 19, the best brix found on our farm was from fescue collected in a field where hay was removed May 26 and milk was sprayed May 28.  At 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 with the temperature at 96 degrees, the fescue tested 15.  To show the variation in test results, fescue taken the next day from a different field that had been sprayed with milk tested 7.5.  This latter fescue came from a field that was grazed twice before being sprayed with milk.  The fescue that tested 15 had been sprayed 2-1/2 months earlier while the fescue that tested 7-1/2 had been sprayed 5 weeks earlier

I would not have thought that our fescue could test 15.  Until Aug. 19, three days before I sent this story off to Allan Nation, we had never hit 15 with any other kind of grass.  On the 19th, however, we tested Johnson grass from a portion of a field that had been sprayed with milk and it tested 15, while in a nearby portion that was not sprayed the Johnson grass came in at 12.  This is better than anything we had seen with our Johnson grass earlier this year, when we topped out at 10.

We have had very hot weather in August.  Could that be part of the reason the brix is higher?

Let’s now take a look at a situation near the Panhandle area of Texas that should really get your attention.

Harold Koehn is a grazier with a dryland operation in the Panhandle and three pivots just across the state line in New Mexico.  Koehn produces beef for customers that want a highly finished product.  The challenge for Koehn is to keep his animals growing in the extreme heat of a Panhandle summer.

When he read about raw milk, Koehn decided to apply it through his pivots.  To his delight the brix of switchgrass jumped from 5 to 7 in 21 days and Indiangrass jumped from 4 to 7.  The cool season grasses enjoyed an even greater response as meadow brome went from 3 to 8.  Better yet, his average daily gains took off.

In the week before he first applied milk, his average daily gain was less than one-third pound per day.  In the first week after he sprayed milk on June 19, Koehn saw his animals drop 2.69 pounds per day, but in weeks two and three they gained 4.47 and 5.85 pounds per day, respectively, and things appeared to be falling into place.  But that wasn’t to be.

After three weeks things fell apart.  The brix of the grass dropped precipitously.  The switchgrass, for example, dropped from a 7 to a 2 and some of the brome went from 10 to 5.  The cattle that had gained 5.85 pounds per day the week before dropped 4.77 pounds per day the following week.

Koehn decided to make a second application of milk and did so on July 17 and things turned around.  The brix levels jumped almost immediately and went to new highs and the cattle, after two weeks of losses, gained 9.58 pounds per day between July 29 and Aug. 7.  Then history repeated itself.  Three weeks after the second application, animal performance toppled and as this story is wrapped up, Harold Koehn has decided he has no choice but to spray milk every three weeks.

When you consider Koehn’s situation keep this in mind.  He is working with large cattle.  Cows run to 1,600 pounds and steers to 1,400.  Also, the juice was extracted with what Koehn describes as a homemade, heavy-duty garlic press.  On Aug. 14, switchgrass that measured 12 with the garlic press tested 17 when the juice was extracted with an old hand-crank meat grinder.  That same day, using the same instruments, meadow brome tested 11 and 16 and alfalfa 16 and 21.

Harold Koehn is willing to discuss his experiences with anyone that wants to contact him.  His phone number is 806-333-2043 and his email address is haroldsharonkoehn@agapemail.com

One of the most frequently asked questions about raw milk is: How often does it need to be sprayed.  That and a whole host of questions remain to be answered.  By the time you read this, I hopefully will have given most of our pastures a fall application of milk, including sea mineral and fish and possibly other amendments.  Sept. 15 is a good fall target date in this area.  I intend to do the same thing next spring – around March 15.  I would hope that with time and proper grazing practices, spraying can be eliminated or at least greatly reduced.

One other suggestion: If you are interested in using raw milk, you have all winter to work on your plan, which hopefully will include some experimentation.  Do something imaginative and then share your results with SGF readers.

Health Benefits of Sea Salt

The Story of Dr. Maynard Murray

Written in June, 2010, published in AcresUSA October, 2010

Last week newspapers, magazines and electronic media outlets all over the world announced a break-through vaccine that will hopefully protect women against breast cancer.

The following report – from CBS – is typical of what was said by numerous sources: “In the current study, genetically cancer-prone mice were vaccinated — half with a vaccine containing the antigen and half with a vaccine that did not contain the antigen. None of the mice vaccinated with the antigen developed breast cancer, while all the other mice did.”

Dr. Vincent Tuohy, Ph.D, the principal investigator on the project to create the vaccine, sums up the impact: “We believe this vaccine will some day be used to prevent breast cancer in adult women in the same way that vaccines prevent polio and measles in children.  If it works in humans the way it works in mice, this will be monumental.”

We agree with Dr. Tuohy, who performed his research at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.  If this vaccine works in humans, it will truly be monumental.

Let’s turn the clock back more than 60 years and look at remarkably similar research conducted by another man with ties to the Buckeye State.  Dr. Maynard Murray completed medical school at the University of Cincinnati in the early 1930s and from 1938 through the 1950s conducted tests showing that vegetables, fruits and grains fertilized with sea minerals grew stronger and were more resistant to disease.  Murray’s research also showed that mammals that consumed these vegetables, fruits and grains were healthier.

In his book Sea Energy Agriculture, Murray discusses experiments conducted by the Stritch School of Medicine at Loyola University in Chicago.  Murray had an Illinois farmer, Ray Heine, grow oats, corn and soybeans on land that had been fertilized with 2,200 pounds of sea solids (sea salt) per acre.  Researchers at Stritch fed the grain to numerous kinds of animals.  Let’s look at one of those tests.

“C3H mice were obtained for this feeding experiment,” Murray wrote in his book.  “This strain of mice has been bred so all the females develop breast cancer which causes their demise.  The mice were two months of age when received and started on the feeding experiments.  The life expectancy of this strain for females is no more than nine months, which includes the production of two or three litters.  The experimental and control groups both consisted of 200 C3H mice and those fed on control food were all dead within eight months, seven days.  The experimental mice that were fed food grown on the sea solids fertilized soil lived until they were sacrificed at 16 months; definitive examination revealed no cancerous tissue.  The experimental group produced ten litters compared to the usual two to three litters and none developed breast cancer.”

If the breast cancer vaccine story released last week was cause for celebration, wouldn’t Murray’s story also be cause for celebration?  One would certainly think so.  But dig into Murray’s work a little deeper and there is much more to consider.

Murray’s experiments did not stop with the mice.  He had rats injected with cancer.  Those rats that ate his grain survived.  Those that ate conventional grain died.  Rats were obtained that normally develop eye disease.  Those rats that ate conventional grain developed the eye disease.  Those that ate Murray’s grain did not.  Rabbits on a high cholesterol diet of food produced conventionally all developed hardening of the arteries.  Rabbits on the same high cholesterol diet of food produced on sea mineral fertilized soil did not develop hardening of the arteries.  A dairyman whose newborn calves could not get up to nurse solved his problem by feeding the grain fortified with sea minerals.  In some instances where the health problems were not completely eliminated in the first generation, the problem was normally eliminated in the second or third generation.

The list goes on for pages and includes not only diseases of mammals, but also diseases of crops.

If we conclude that last week’s story about the breast cancer vaccine is “monumental,” as Dr. Tuohy says, then how do we describe Dr. Murray’s “vaccine” that can conceivably protect against many, if not all, forms of cancer, as well as heart disease and numerous other diseases, ailments and afflictions?

Why has Murray’s story for the most part gone unnoted?  Is it possible Murray was less adept at public relations than scientific research?  Is it more likely that medical companies – with a strong financial incentive in bringing their products to market – have developed a way to create public interest in new medical developments?  Is it possible the media is not willing to consider that something as simple as sea minerals can conceivably be more effective than all the high-tech drugs and vaccines?

Maynard Murray’s story is a very interesting one.  He more or less stumbled onto sea minerals while talking to fishermen, who told him fish and animals living in the ocean never developed cancer or ulcers.  He had to see this for himself and worked on a fishing trawler for eight months.  This convinced him the fishermen were correct.  Among many things he learned that creatures living in the ocean do not age the same as identical creatures living in fresh water.  A salmon living in fresh water will die of cancer by the age of five and one-half years.  The same fish in the ocean will not only be larger and stronger, but will not get cancer.  Creatures in the ocean can live many years without noticeable aging.  When the vital organs of a baby whale are compared to those of a whale 80 years of age, there is no discernible difference.

Much of Murray’s work went to the grave with him when he died in 1983.  Fortunately there was a man who knew Murray and his work and was unwilling to let all of those ideas die.  The late Charles Walters, founder of Acres USA magazine, reprinted Murray’s original 1976 book and then did considerable research – including talking to those who worked with Murray – and wrote his own book entitled Fertility from the Ocean Deep.

These two books are creating a stir.  They are not on the radar of the mainstream media, but I suspect that might not be too far off.  Hundreds – and probably even thousands – of farmers are using sea minerals in one form or another.  The most common use involves spraying some sea salt on pasture and crops while applying something like compost tea, liquid fish and molasses or sugar.  Those who have learned about the benefits of raw milk are certainly interested in combining sea minerals with the milk.

Mennonite farmers in central Kentucky have gone together to purchase sea salt by the tractor-trailer load from the Baja Peninsula of Mexico and are applying it to land where they are growing produce.  One of the results is a great-tasting watermelon with a high sugar content.  Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Penn., are also buying sea salt from the same place and in the same quantities.

Agriculture is in the midst of a revolution.  The family farmer currently has great difficulty in competing in the production of pork and milk.  Beef and produce may be another matter.  Maynard Murray made the observation that our soils have been depleted of vital minerals due to being leached of these minerals by the forces of nature, primarily in the form of rain.  I suspect when consumers realize their health may depend on the restoration of these minerals to the soils where their food is grown, the family farmer will have an edge because he will have a product the consumer wants and will be willing to pay for.  The family farmer will rarely get rich, but it would certainly be nice to see him receive reasonable compensation for his labor and investment.

One passing thought.  The people that bring us food are frequently demonized for what they have used to produce that food – whether it be genetically modified grain, herbicides, insecticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and the list goes on.  Could it be that the problem with our food supply is not so much what is in the food but what is not in the food? If our food supply were to contain the sea minerals that Maynard Murray and Charles Walters so strongly advocated, wouldn’t this do more for our nation’s health than all of the drugs and vaccines that are now on the market and will come onto the market in the future?

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