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Raw milk as a foiliar feed and soil amendment  RSS feed

 
                    
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Found this link on a forum for milk cows.  Thought it was really neato! 

http://www.greenpasture.org/community/?q=node/228

  "This article appeared in the March 10, 2010, issue of the Unterrified Democrat, a weekly newspaper published in Linn, Mo., since 1866.  In addition to writing for the paper, Voss raises registered South Poll cattle on pathetically poor grass that he is trying desperately to improve.



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 that’s what they did. “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 in this area 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."
 
Brenda Groth
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so would my  gallon of nearly spoiled milk in the frig, maybe diluted with some water and sprayed on my dying lawn (drought) maybe make a diffrence? (when i went lo carb i couldn't finish it)..
 
Jami McBride
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Wow - great article Marina.  I am flowing in raw milk just now and I can't wait to try this on my needy soil.

Brenda - should be better than nothing, but pasteurized milk won't have near as many microbes as raw milk.
 
Emerson White
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Milk in the form of whey is often used as a fertilizer, only problem is that it tends to smell a bit, in such a way as to annoy the neighbors.

I suspect that rotting milk would be what put the grasshoppers off and the N fixed in the milk would certainly lead to faster and more grass growth, it would be interesting to see what kinds of controls they used.
 
                    
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oooh Jami I'm jealous!  We're about to have a lot of milk....few more weeks....

That article can be summed up here:

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.”


I don't think their tests were all that scientific, these are just farmers looking to improve their hay and pasture (and use up excess milk - a godsend for any scale dairy operation now and then). 

They also sprayed an area of pasture with the milk and then (doesn't say how long they waited) tested the amount of sugar in the grass, which is supposed to be a major indicator of plant health and attractiveness to large grass eaters. 

The sprayed area had ten times the amount of sugar in the grass!  That's significant. 

The one farmer also said they could push stakes in the ground much much more easily after a season or two of regular raw milk application. 

I'm no scientist, soil scientist especially, but raw milk does have available sugars and enzymes, and it doesn't really surprise me that it's helping put some biology back into depleted pastures.  Biology tends to beget biology, so this might help kick start a lagging or broken soil food web. 

Would it make a noticeable difference in a healthy pasture? 

I plan to spray things (milk, teas) around this summer.  I'll figure out some pseudo scientific ways of testing which mix does what to whom.....

"Rotten" or not-fresh raw/pasturized milk could have any number of things living in it (mostly like lacto-somethings but not necessarily) and that may or may not be good for soil microbes.  I feel like the fresher the better in this situation?  But I don't really know, obviously. 

This sounds like a great way for modest amounts of milk to be put to good use around a small farm/homestead, AND a potential way to utilize whey from large scale industry. 
 
Emerson White
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I don't think that enzymes are the place to look (and I am scientist, a biologist,even the right kind of biologist to tell you about enzymes even!) a lot is made of them in the altmed world, but really they are extremely specific (so much so that you have a higher chance of finding that your house key unlocks the doors of your thirty closest friends from highschool than you do of taking an enzyme and a substrate at random and getting an enzyme-substrate interaction). An organism that breaks down wood can be expected to have the enzymes to break down wood, but the enzymes a cow has to make a healthy calf are about as useful as an iPhone is for fighting off a bear.

I do wonder about what long term effect this will have on the soil, if you put Ammonium Nitrate on a field you will get more grass growth, more sugar and protein content in the grass (although I suspect that the 10X figure is missing some background, that is ridiculously high, maybe samples were taken at a different time in the day, or its a 10X increase over the other sample or something like that) but over time you will ruin a field with it. Initially it can even improve the ease with which you can work the soil, before you loose all of your organic matter and life from over application. I sure hope they find a scientist and run some proper tests, it would be very exciting if a new tool for healthier pasture lands were so easily producible.
 
Burra Maluca
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We've just finished fetching in hay off four fields in the village.  One of them had grass that was twice as long and twice as thick as the others.  It can't be anything to do with milk, as the old lady who lived there til recently hasn't had livestock for years.  It is one of the last houses in the village to not have a bathroom though... 
 
Nicholas Covey
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Well, this is just another of many things to file away as a possibility. Never can tell when ideas such as this could be useful.
 
Mike Turner
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I can get raw milk from a diary down the road, so I doing a test on some depleted pasture of raw milk, seaweed emulsion, and raw milk plus seaweed in adjacent test plots.
 
Brenda Groth
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me too, I'm also Jealous..wish i had some raw milk around here i could get my hands on..esp for the fresh cream..yummo with berry season coming on quickly.

ok..so i mixed that gallon of sour milk and put it with some water and watered PART of some deadish grass with it..and part got none ..but it did rain yesterday and overnight last night..

so i'm going to watch and see if there is a difference between the milk dosed area and the non milk dosed area.

Dear Moderator: please send me some of your extra raw milk..thank you very much.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Steve Solomon found that deep-rooted species that do poorly in drought are often able to reach enough water, and foliar sprays or fertigation tend to do much more for them than irrigation does.

I bet the milk would help your lawn, based on what I've read.
 
Jami McBride
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Brenda, I'd love to share the raw milk.  Sometimes it overwhelms me, but now I'm going to apply it to the lawn and such    Nothing in my mini farm smells, I know how to deal with things that need broken down!

We don't drink milk, to many years not drinking that store stuff has trained me and my kids.  However I make milk kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, cheese and sour cream.  I take the whey or extra milk and mix it with my bird grain mix.  I let this sit at room temp for a couple of days to ferment and then I feed it to the girls (chickens and ducks).  I also use soured cream for cream soups - yum yum!  We use most of the buttermilk and kefir to pre soak our fresh ground flour for our baked goods (see Nourishing Traditions Health and Cooking book).

I just took some buttermilk blueberry muffins out of the oven. . .  and now I'm making a big batch of butter out of some extra cream I have.

None of it goes to waist as souring it is our objective to make the milk digestible for my dairy intolerant family members - so it's all good.



 
Suzy Bean
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I read an article about the same guy in Acres magazine, Vol 40, No 5. It was awesome! I'm glad you already discovered it!
 
Chris Wells
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Has there been further verification or otherwise with respect to milk as an amendment material? I recently found this report: http://pss.uvm.edu/vtcrops/research/Raw_Milk_Research_Report_2014.pdf detailing a study of the benefits of milk application to fertile land. Improvement was not found, but this was on fertile soil and so the results may not apply broadly.

I'd be interested to hear how experiments went, and what the eventual decisions were. I'm also curious about the potential benefits of amendment with pasteurized milk; the NPK content would suggest that even biologically inert materials would be beneficial as the soil microbes would process the biomass.
 
thomas rubino
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Chris; Excellent reading ! Thanks for bumping this post back to the future.  I too would be interested if new studies have been done. 
 
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