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Conservation Stories: Don Hrutfiord

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

Don Hrutfiord runs a beef operation along with his wife Mary and son Chris near Drayton Harbor, just south of Blaine. Since the Hrutfiord farm includes an unnamed creek that flows directly into the harbor, Don and family chose to be early adopters of farm planning services offered by the Whatcom Conservation District (WCD) way back in 1996.

To protect water quality, the Hrutfiords installed gutters on their barn, began managing pastures, installed a winter heavy use area, and built livestock fencing to establish a stream buffer. The Hrutfiords also worked with volunteers to plant native trees and shrubs along their reach of stream. Today that stream buffer looks like it has always been there with good shade over the water. Thank you Hrutfiord family for your commitment to conservation!

Are you looking to improve your summer pastures? Don is always happy to share what he has learned to help you manage your farm.

Don’s 10 Tips: Keeping Fences Hot, Grass Growing and Cows Happy

  1. Don considers his switch to rotational grazing after years of year around, continuous grazing, as the single most important change he ever made for improving the management of both his cows and his fields.

  2. Best information source for building fences: Gallagher

  3. Preferred electric fence wire: “Turbo wire"

  4. Tape for gates: use tape for electric fence gates and use a buckle to fasten it to the handle.

  5. Combination corner & gate post: Don starts by welding a short length of metal rod on top of a metal fence post; a round insulator is then slipped over the rod. Finally he twists copper wire around the insulator and twists loops in the wire for hooking gate handles to.

  6. Mow hay to at least 4 to 5 inches. Hay will dry faster and grass growth recovers sooner for additional harvests (Don uses a sickle bar mower)

  7. Over-coming soil compaction: Don farms on soils that are on the heavy side (silt loams and silty clays), and have high moisture holding capacities. What’s more, they have high seasonal water tables, so it’s difficult not to have some soil compaction. One tillage implement he uses to reduce compaction is the Aerway Aerator, which is the brand name for a type of rotary tine harrow.

  8. Parasites control: Since making the switch to rotational grazing Don has noticed significantly fewer parasite problems in his herd.

  9. Improve forage stand quality by over-seeding. Don broadcasts perennial ryegrass and white clover seed over pastures that have been vigorously harrowed in late summer.

  10. Beating bog rush: bog rush is a grass with stiff, spikey leaves (stalks) that can take over pastures – especially in wet areas that have had a history of winter access and over grazing by horses and livestock. It is unpalatable and the stalks are sharp and abrasive and cause injury to animals. Don mows field areas in late spring it has invaded (it eventually grows back), so his cows can get to the forage grasses that grow beneath it, and last fall he worked up and reseeded 2 acres it had taken over.

Curious to learn more? Check out this pasture over-seeding video:


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