Andrzej KasilowskiClay County, TN
Clay County, Tennessee
Andrzej Kasilowski works for NRCS in Jackson and Clay Counties as a Soil Conservation Technician. He also farms in Clay County in the Moss community. Andrzej is a second-generation farmer. His family bought the original 50 acres of his current farm in 1983. In 1989, they purchased 120 additional acres. Recently, he inherited 240 more acres which he began managing in April of 2017.
The 120 acres had been cropped for about 40 years prior to his family buying the farms. About 66 acres out of the 120 acres were enrolled in Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), in year three of the contract when purchased. The farm was degraded when they began to manage it. Working for the district and NRCS for 10 years and observing stream bank erosion on his farm due to cattle grazing motivated him to change his land management to one of increasing production by improving soil health.
The cattle operation consists of 120 mother cows, 100 calves, six bulls and three to four yearlings. Approximately ten years ago, due to river and stream bank erosion caused by continuous cattle access, Andrzej was motivated to change his continuous grazing to prescribed grazing rotating when heights reach about 10 inches and graze down to approximately four inches.
The key principles of soil health that Andrzej is following are (1) Keep the soil covered, making sure four inches of top growth are left after rotating; (2) Reduce disturbances, which in grazing means do not overgraze; (3) Keep a live plant and root growing 24/7 if possible and make sure forages recover after grazing; and (5) Diversify forages to increase soil biology and increase quality of soil biology.
About 20 percent of the farm is improved annually with sorghum-sudan grass or summer annual soil health mixtures then seeded into permanent mixes of predominantly fescue and orchard grass. Others will be seeded to cool season annual mixtures for winter grazing and high quality weaning pastures. Andrzej likes to experiment, so there is a great variety to his seeding and reestablishment of species. He also uses Johnsongrass for one cutting of hay, followed by multi-species such as millet, forage turnips, sunn hemp and then fescue comes on. Many fields are stockpiled for winter grazing while sorghum-sudan and multi-species are grazed in the summer.
Since he changed his management, soil organic matter has gone up approximately 0.25 percent per year. Production of forage has doubled since 2009. He has doubled the herd since 2009, but hay production is the same as 2009.
Andrzej takes advantages of growth stages in different seasons to adjust his rotations and hay cutting to maximize his production while resting his forages and adding carbon to the soil. The results are better infiltration, nutrient cycling and much higher production. Andrzej has changed his soils and his wallet too by improving his soil health.