Keranen Pasture-Based Farm Earns Water Quality Certification
May 19, 2023 by Alyson Levig
Bob Keranen’s grass-fed cattle farm joins the rising number of producers becoming certified as stewards of water quality through the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) - a voluntary opportunity that certifies farmers taking the lead in implementing conservation-minded practices to protect water quality. Keranen’s 320 acres of pastureland achieved water quality certification in April of 2022, accompanying over 1,300 producers in Minnesota farming more than 950,000 certified acres within the program. Photo: Jim Lahn (North Central Area Certification Specialist) with Bob Keranen.
“The certification lets people know that water quality and sustainability are things I strive to improve on with my cattle operation,” Keranen said.
Keranen’s farm began as a hobby in 2011, where he raised beef cattle and grew hay in a similar fashion to other producers in the Becker County area. But, as the hobby became expensive and fertility issues increased, Keranen began researching solutions. Four years later, he was solely implementing rotational grazing. This type of grazing involves moving livestock to different units of pasture to encourage recovery of the previously grazed vegetation to prevent soil erosion and promote water quality.
“I told my wife, if this doesn’t work, we’re going to have to quit farming,” Keranen said. “Because our current management practices weren’t working.”
However, implementing the practice didn’t turn serious for Keranen until 2018.
By then, Keranen had taken multiple soil health and ranching classes, participated in fertility programs, and even purchased cattle dogs to protect his livestock. Keranen’s rotational grazing system has him moving his cows into 1 of 13 paddocks every day throughout the summer months with the help of poly wire and bale grazes during the winter to help distribute the manure produced by the cattle. By utilizing these practices, Keranen hopes to extend his grazing season to 300 days in the future.
“It’s amazing to learn and see how everything is tied together in nature,” Keranen said. “Between the sun, the pasture, the soil and its microbes, right down to my cattle.”
At one point, Keranen was also raising pasture pigs, broiler chickens, and sheep within the same system, but had to dial back on the number of livestock to focus his proficiency on this type of ranching with his cattle herd. He hopes to extend it again one day as his system continues to refine.
“Every day is exciting,” Keranen said. “Because I get to wake up and discover what has improved since yesterday.”
Posted In: MAWQCP