It’s obvious when you talk to Jake Grift that farming is his business. It’s clear he works to make his operations efficient as he describes how he deals with the day-to-day challenges of running a dairy goat operation, horse boarding facility and the associated hay cropping. Jake grew up on a farm and has called his 65 acre farm in Erin home for the past four years.
In 2014, Jake enrolled in CVC’s Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program (BFCH). He has land-use agreements for 75 acres of neighbouring land to grow late-cut hay. Jake explains how he incorporates this low protein hay into the diet of the horses. “The horses on our farm need lower protein roughage hay and first-cut Bird-Friendly Certified Hay provides this. It’s local, cost-effective and a good feed supplement.” Jake maximizes the use of the BFCH hay fields and harvests a second cut in August or September. Second cuts have a higher protein level. Jake feeds it to his lactating dairy goats and comments, “Second cut Bird-Friendly Certified Hay provides the protein levels my goats require and reduces the amount of hay I have to purchase from outside my operation. This really cuts my input costs. Controlling input costs is the best way to improve farm profits.”
The Bird-Friendly Certified Hay program is a market-based solution to protect grassland birds such as bobolink and eastern meadowlark. Grassland birds make their nest on the ground and use hay fields as an alternative to natural grasslands. By delaying the hay harvest date, it protects young birds until they leave the nest. Jake’s environmentally-minded neighbours have an interest in protecting these species-at-risk. Through the Bird-Friendly Certified Hay online marketplace, www.birdfriendlyhay.ca, Jake is able to connect with landowners to negotiate land-use and/or rental agreements. “The program works because many people have an interest protecting wildlife and have available land. As a farmer, I am looking for access to additional agricultural land and can work within the requirements of the program,” says Jake. When landowners agree to have farm businesses crop their land, they are eligible for a 75 per cent reduction on the property taxes for that acreage. “My neighbours and I both benefit from the arrangement. They protect grassland birds and get a tax break, and I can access more land for my farm business.”
Jake has also planted 1,155 trees with funding provided through the Wellington Rural Water Quality Program and CVC’s Tree Planting Program. When asked why he got involved with CVC’s agricultural stewardship program, he mentions Mark Eastman, CVC’s agricultural specialist, “Mark understands farming and helps you get to a solution.” When Mark approached Jake about the Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program, Jake saw the business case for participating. He is able to reap the benefits of Bird-Friendly Certified Hay. “I have a local, inexpensive source of hay that works for my goats, horses and bottom-line.”
For more information about the Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program, visit www.birdfriendlyhay.ca. Registration deadline is May 1.