Nine years ago, David Anderson of Batavia, Ill., was looking to buy some farmland in rural Wisconsin to build a home on and create habitat for birds. In August 2005, he purchased 101 acres in the rolling hills of Iowa County near Highland.
For most of his life, Anderson has had a respect for the environment and a love for wild birds. He graduated from Aurora University with a degree in biology. Prior to moving to Wisconsin, he worked for a number of years as a natural resources technician for the Du Page County Forest Preserve in suburban Chicago. He knows hundreds of different species of birds by sight and sound.
Converting CRP land
Anderson built a new house on his property two years ago that overlooks the seemingly endless picturesque hills and valleys in Iowa County. He has also made a number of improvements to his land. Last year, he decided to remove 31 acres of pine trees that were planted 20 years ago through the Conservation Reserve Program.
"We biomass harvested the trees," Anderson explains. "They were cut down and made into wood chips and were trucked to the power plant in Cassville where they we burned to produce electricity. My wife and other people were shocked that I removed these trees. But with the trees, this was really habitat for deer, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, rabbits and skunks. There's no shortage of habitat for deer and other wildlife – they have adapted well."
To accommodate grassland species, woodland edge species and shrubland species of birds, the land where the trees grew has been converted to grass.
"There was already a lot of Kentucky bluegrass and brome grass growing," he explains. "Last August, I interseeded some alfalfa, red clover, festulolium, orchard grass and oats. On March 26, I frost seeded the same mixture in the oak savannah."
According to Anderson, Iowa County has one of the highest concentrations of grassland birds in the upper Midwest.
"One of the reasons this area is important is that so much of the original native prairie grasslands have been cultivated which has diminished habitat for grassland birds," Anderson says.
Anderson is leasing his pasture to Mike Mueller who owns Double M Cattle Company in Rewey Mueller has 400 cows and calves and leases a feedlot to finish out 400 cattle. Anderson and Mueller met through the Southwest WI Grazing Broker project.
"David and Mike are a great example of the potential of this project," says Laura Paine, who plays the brokering role for Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council. "Our goal is to bring together likeminded landowners and livestock producers for profitable managed grazing partnerships."
Mueller plans to move 30 Normandy-Shorthorn crossbred heifers and two bulls to Anderson's pasture June 1.
In early December, Anderson had 3,624 feet of perimeter three-wire high tensile electric fence put up. In April, 3,244 feet of interior two-wire high tensile electric fence was put up. The fence is run off of a battery power and solar energy.
In May, Anderson put in a water system to provide water for grazing cattle.
"I didn't know I could use cattle to manage grasslands and improve habitat for birds," Anderson says. "My primary objective is to be a great steward of the land. I want to do the right thing, not the wrong thing."
The arrangement is mutually beneficial to both gentlemen. "I think it's a win-win situation for me and David," Mueller says. "He gets livestock on his property and it is a money making situation for him. It is also good for me because it's hard to come by good pastureland and David is going to be moving the cattle, so that saves us some labor as well."