Trousdale County Soil Conservation District
Greg Brann, a second-generation farmer, owns and operates Big Spring Farm. His operation consists of 220 acres in Allen County, Ky., and 108 acres of rented pasture in Trousdale County, Tenn.
Brann practices diversity in his pastures with the forages he utilizes and the livestock he raises. He has strategically used a variety of cool and warm season species to promote more efficient grazing and better land management. He practices high-intensity rotational grazing while raising his cattle, sheep and goat all in one herd. The diversity in his livestock allows him to best utilize the vegetation on his farm. The goats clean up shrubs and briars that grow on the edge of fence rows. The sheep, he says, tend to eat the forbs and weeds on his pastures, while the cattle eat the grass and clover.
When Brann needs to reseed, he uses a mix of rye grass, Ladino White Clover, Cinnamon Red Clover, hairy vetch and turnips. If he needs to add grass to his pastures, he adds a mix of Select Tall fescue, Persist Orchard Grass and Prairie Brome Grass.
Brann’s farm consists of 16 permanent pastures, split into 45 paddocks with temporary fencing. He lets his herd graze for no more three days before moving them to a new paddock. Recently grazed paddocks rest for 30-45 days, allowing vegetation to reach nine inches before letting cattle to return. He makes sure to leave a residual grass cover on these pastures to aide in soil building and regrowth during their resting period.
He has found that his intensive grazing practices have increased fertility. Soil organic matter has improved to about four percent, partially due to the manure deposited on his fields. This has increased the diversity of soil organisms and improved his soil structure. The covers he leaves on his fields also prevent excessive compaction from the livestock and retain soil moisture.
Brann has a major influence on farmers in his community. Beginning in 2010, he annually hosts a “Pasture Walk” (pictured at left) to showcase his rotational grazing method. Farmers are eager to see his high-quality soils and productive farm so that they can learn new techniques and adopt them on their own fields. His secret to success, he says, is lessening disturbance, maintaining continuous root growth, covering the ground and promoting vegetative diversity.
Updated July 2019.