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Dane Demo Farms

Bruce and Karl Sime

Bruce and Karl are a father-son farming duo that demonstrate how two generations with very different ideas can work together. They farm just west of Stoughton in the Badfish Creek-Yahara River watershed. The Simes helped start up a farmer-led watershed group south of Madison called the Biological Farmer Friends and have prioritized soil health on their cropland by eliminating tillage, adding cover crops, and integrating livestock into their cropping system.

The Simes farm over 650 acres and grow corn, soybeans, wheat, and managed pasture. They raise pastured and confined beef and pastured cow-calf pairs, and compost all of the manure that they collect. With their herd management expertise and Karl’s mechanical know-how and YouTube watching skills, they make an innovative team. They are interested in a wide array of research including researching how lime moves through the soil profile in a no-till cover crop system and how to best apply nitrogen when planting green to avoid tie-up.


The current Sime farm was once Bruce’s great grandfather’s farm on his mother’s side. Bruce’s father farmed the land starting in 1956, followed by Bruce. As Bruce’s son Karl became more involved in the farm, milking cows wasn’t in Karl’s plans for the future, so Bruce sold the herd in 2019.

Since that time, the farm has focused on grain crops, beef finishing, and pasture beef. Prior to herd dispersal, the Simes began to change how they managed their cropland, starting with the purchase of a vertical till implement in 2015. Currently all cropland acres are no-tilled, and cover crops are used on all available acres. Many of the acres around the home farm are fenced, which allows them to graze some of their cattle on cover crops in the spring and fall. Not only have they seen economic benefits from the changes they've made, but also benefits in overall soil health.

Conservation Story

In 1980, Bruce convinced his father to switch from mold board plowing to running a chisel plow with the goal of improved residue. For the most part, tillage stayed the same until 2015 when the Sime’s purchased a vertical till implement. About three years later, the farm’s hired help left and they were faced with a labor shortage, which lead them to no-till. Initially they no-tilled into soybean stubble. Seeing success, they eventually expanded no-till to all of their cropland acres.

Around the same time they began adjusting their tillage practices, they also dabbled in cover crops. They planted their first cover crop of barley in 2016. Once the milk cows left, they found that cover crops fit well with raising beef cows. They now plant diverse mixes after wheat, which provide for early fall grazing. Later plantings are typically cereal rye, which are grazed in the late fall and spring, and provide opportunity for harvesting rye balage for winter feeding.

With a focus on soil health, they updated their planter in 2019 and now plant all of their acres green.

As the farm went through big changes on the cropland, how they managed their manure changed too.  Over the past several years, they've been composting manure. 


Their initial change to no-till provided instant savings on labor, fuel, and soil loss. When they added cover crops to select fields, they immediately noticed improved carrying capacity on fields in the spring, and were able to get in the fields earlier than others to spread manure.  When they began grazing cover crops, they are able to get the animals out earlier in the spring while preserving their permanent pastures. Overall, they’ve seen improved animal health and feel that the cows do just good as if they were on corn. 

Through their system, they have increased yields per acre because they are getting two crops on the same acre each year.  Instead of just growing corn, they are able to grow both corn and a forage all in one year. They recently reached the point that they grow enough cover crops as forage, both grazed and baled, to eliminate alfalfa from their rotation.

Overall, they've seen positive changes in the health of their soils. The soil has improved carrying capacity and they've seen weed suppression on some fields due to cover crop use.


Bruce and Karl's advice is to ease into any changes on the farm; implement a little at a time, and don’t get frustrated if something doesn’t quite work out the first time. Go to farmer meetings, they are a great opportunity to learn from others. They also suggest finding other farmers on YouTube and to listen to podcasts.

Related Resources

The Sime Farm in the News