Total Grazing – Day 1

Have you ever read Scripture yet it didn’t make an impact? Then maybe 20 years later, you read the same passage and suddenly the light goes on in your heart and head?! And maybe you don’t ever remember having read it, but that’s unlikely. Or maybe you remember reading it often, but suddenly, the scales are removed and the culmination of our understanding and experiences make a particular passage, parable, or concept crystal clear.

Perhaps learning about grazing livestock doesn’t have the same moral impact on our lives, but, the above paragraph, applies in a similar way for me.

Using O’Brien reels and Powerflex polybraid, I set up the first break which was too large and they wasted some forage by walking on it and manuring.

Jaime Elizondo, Real Wealth Ranching, is an experienced grazier and teacher – i’ve even sat in on one of his presentations at a conference with other grazing teachers. I can honestly say that i absolutely do not remember him teaching about total grazing. I do remember he spent time discussing silvopasture.

For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, i decided to sign up for Pillar 1 – Total Grazing Course of his online grazing course, the Q and A live session just ended a few minutes ago. The course takes about 10 hours to complete and the format is easy to follow and comprehensive. The community discussion is excellent with all class participants able to post questions and Jaime answers for all to see. Not the same networking as sitting at a round table in the same room, but for whatever this year is, it’s a good substitute.

On November 19th, i sold half my cows/calves because without fall rains – again – there is little stockpile and as i’ve stated before, no matter how sharp my pencil or how badly i want it to financially work – feeding hay as a substitute forage for beef cows is a fast way to spend a lot of money with no return and a whole lot of work – in the winter – when it’s cold, miserable – and nasty.

Since taking the course, i’ve spent considerable time on Google Earth Pro drawing lines, paths, and polygons in an effort to optimise fence building. My current fences are 2 strand hi-tensile (2 strand because i had sheep before). There are a couple I am going to move. It’s a big job, but not a hard job, so i’ll keep pecking away at it if winter allows. The reason for moving them is to keep the Total Grazing scheme simple in design.

More on the whole deal as time progresses – Here’s today.

The 58 cows, 30 calves, and 15 yearling heifers were on a small 10 acre paddock cleaning it up the previous day. I had already set up the first stretch of polybraid, so all i did today was use another reel and polybraid to section off about 12,000 square feet. My goal was to feed all the cows in that break for 2 hours (Jaime says 1 1/2 hours – i’m still learning). My stockpile is super light in many places and this first break was certainly no exception.

If i eyeball estimate that there was 2000 lbs of forage per acre available to graze and in 1/4 of an acre there would be about 500 lbs and the animals could consume 2100 lbs per day (8 hours), then in 2 hours it is reasonable to assume they may eat 525 lbs.

Chowing down on yummy cow food.
This is after about 1 1/2 hours – Some of the forage is grubbed out well (mostly legumes like red clover) and then some selected against. The point of Total Grazing is to promote non selective grazing. So, the cows and I have some learning to do. I need to estimate better the amount of forage available so that i give them only that which can be entirely consumed in 1 1/2 hours and the cows need to learn to clean their plate.

Incredibly, the scenario played out very close to that. There is some trampled and soiled forage because I forgot to allow them to stand in the previous paddock and deposit their manure and urine before moving into this fresh break. Also, the cows ran all the way to the fence before stopping. This is new to them, so that is not unexpected, but they settled immediately to grazing. Good girls.

I left them alone once they were settled, but they were restless being in such close proximity to one another. I have observed this every time i graze the roadbanks. About an hour is all they can stand to be around one another before they want back into their large paddock for social distancing.

In about an hour, they did the same here by walking back into the closely grazed paddock and just standing around. When i saw this, i went back to them and encouraged them to return to the lush paddock, at which time i also moved the poly braid forward about 12 feet for a quick fresh break. That only took them a few minutes to consume.

Fresh break of only 12 feet

It was getting late in the afternoon and i won’t be returning for 2 days, so i gave them a break large enough to accommodate that.

Final break for the day and enough to last them until i return in a couple days. The animals are more relaxed at this separation. This isn’t ideal in terms of forage and soil improvement or even keeping cow condition on an even keel, but balancing all aspects of management, including time, is the challenge all of us face in some fashion.

Hope to have more stories to share!!

What do we do now?

In the United States, we are still counting ballots, litigating election fraud, fighting, looting, burning, censoring books, tweets, videos, searches, and postings, tearing down statues, changing our history, teaching children to participate in and promote sin, etc, etc ad nauseum. That is too bad.

Once a somewhat moral, upright nation, whose people, by and large, made decisions based on what the biblical Scriptures put forth, that nation is gone. There are still individuals, of course, which espouse, believe, and live by the life giving, perfect laws and statutes of Yahweh, but too few (without divine intervention) to steer the boat back towards righteousness.

So, what do we do now? The same thing we should be doing everyday, ‘engage in the business of the King of kings, Yahshua HaMashiach.’

And calling ten of his slaves, he gave them ten minas and said to them, Trade and keep busy until I come. Luke 19:13

Trust and confide in YHWH, not man. “Let Him be your fear and dread.”

For so YAHWEH spoke to me with a strong hand, and taught me against walking in the way of this people, saying, Do not say, a conspiracy, to everything of which this people says, a conspiracy! And do not fear its fear, and do not dread. Sanctify YAHWEH of Hosts Himself, and let Him be your fear; and let Him be your dread. Isaiah 8: 11-13

Shalom!

Broken and Unmended

This one made me cry – as we journey through life’s hallelujahs, hazards, and hiccups, particular items may invoke strong emotion. Honestly, those moments seem random, but there it is. The object at hand may be completely intrinsically worthless – worthy of the burn pile – yet, touching it, holding it after decades may catch our breath as forgotten memories wash over us with tidal wave force.

To the broken and the unmended at Christmas

Progressive Cattle Editor David Cooper Published on 25 November 2020

Somewhere in my teenagedom, I don’t know exactly what year, there came a rude awakening that I had done Christmas wrong.

I guess I was 14 and the last kid in the house. Mom had been divorced for several years, and all the kids grew up, married, made their own traditions and rarely came at Christmas. So it was left to me and Mom to pull out the decorations and put them on a haggard pine that was good, but never great.

Speaking truthfully, this had no delight for me. We were still hanging on to lights that didn’t work, bulbs that didn’t match and an old tinsel garland past its prime. Buying the tree was always an ordeal for Mom with our small car. Then there were the ornaments. I didn’t recognize half of them, and they’d honestly seen better days and needed a fresh start.

One by one, I started setting aside the old ornaments. One in particular stood out, a nutcracker figure made from swiveling Popsicle sticks. You could tell it was made by a child with careful colors and facial features, but it was barely hanging together.

I threw it on the table – and it broke.

When Mom came back and saw it, she asked what I had done. I probably said something silly and crude. But I do remember her picking up the pieces and beginning to cry – not a cry of anguish but one filled with weight and loss.

The nutcracker, she explained, was made by my oldest brother, part of a set from my older siblings long before I was born. It never dawned on my callow mind that a broken ornament was another reminder for Mom that her children were old now, and memories of a younger time were harder to keep. And now it was all there for me to see, and I felt ashamed.

Here we are at the end of 2020, a moment in history that gutted us and robbed us of memories, opportunity and dear ones now gone. Perhaps even worse, we are detached from one another, more contentious and less forgiving than we were at the beginning of this pandemic. And let’s face it, we weren’t exactly great before either.

To celebrate the Lord’s birth, we must follow also His message: “He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18 KJV)

However bad 2020 may have been, it doesn’t have to end that way. Follow the Master healer. Find ways to connect, to deliver, to mend, to heal one another. We each have some way to make amends.

As for that broken ornament, Mom helped me glue it together and put it back on the tree. When I inherited the old ornament box years later, it’s one of the few that remains. Some years I don’t hang it – just so I can make sure it’s never broken again.  end mark

David Cooper

Stained Glass Window

This old window was installed on the east side of our old house in the attic where it was really not appreciated. When we razed the house about 4 years ago, it was one of many items we saved. Just now getting around to cleaning it up and bringing back to former glory.

Cato – Duties of the Owner

“The appetite of the good farmer is to sell, not to buy.” Marcus Porcius Cato

Let’s get back to Cato’s thoughts on Farm Management. As the title indicates, here is his outline of the basic duties of the land/farm owner.

  1. Upon arrival at your country house and have saluted your household, you should make the rounds of the farm the same day if possible. Certainly the next day.
  2. Observe how the field work has progressed and what things have been done, and what remains undone,
  3. You should summon your overseer the next day and should call for a report of what work has been done in good season and why it has not been possible to complete the rest, and what wine and corn and other crops have been gathered.
  4. When you are advised on these points you should make your own calculation of the time necessary for the work, if there does not appear to you to have been enough accomplished. The overseer will report that he himself has worked diligently, but that some slaves have been sick and others truant, the weather has been bad, and that it has been necessary to work the public roads.
  5. When he has given these and many other excuses, you should recall to his attention the program of work which you had laid out for him on your last visit and compare it with the results attained. If the weather has been bad, count how many stormy days there have been, and rehearse what work could have been done despite the rain, such as washing and and pitching the wine vats, cleaning out the barns, sorting the grain, hauling out and composting manure, cleaning seed, mending the old gear and making new, mending the smocks and hoods furnished for the hands. On feast days the old ditches should be mended, the public roads worked, briers cut down, the garden dug, the meadow cleaned, the hedges trimmed and clippings collected and burned, the fish pond cleaned out. On such days, furthermore, the slaves’ rations would be cut down as compared with what is allowed when they are working in the fields in fine weather.
  6. When this routine has been discussed quietly and with good humor and is thoroughly understood by the overseer, you should give orders for the completion of the work which has been neglected.
  7. The accounts of money, supplies, and provision should then be considered. Inventory and sales should be settled.
  8. If any thing is needed for the coming year, it should be bought; every things which is not needed should be sold. Whatever there is for lease should be leased.
  9. Orders should be given (and take care that they are in writing) for all work which next it is desired to have done on the farm or let to contract.
  10. You should go over the cattle and determine what is to be sold. You should sell the oil, if you can get your price, the surplus wine and corn, the old cattle, the worn out oxen, the cull sheep, the wool and the hides, the old and sick slaves, and if any thing else is superfluous you should sell that.
  11. Be a good neighbor.

Challenges or Opportunities

Oftentimes, we view challenges as mountains to overcome, but sometimes, those challenges are opportunities to diversify or force us to find the holes in our operations, the ‘dead wood’ as Stan Parson would call it.

I’ve penciled feeding hay vs grazing only. And even though feeding hay – even cheap hay and high calf prices – it is seldom (actually never) the path to take. Yet, i’ve taken it and been exhausted by mid-winter feeding hay! Now that i’m older, i must – forced, if you will — eliminate that practice. This year is tough – we are in a drought, so eliminating hay this year with little winter stockpile forage growth means a deep culling of my cow herd.

As markets have changed from their high in 2014, I also must let go of my beautifully colored Corriente and Longhorn cows. They have been a joy, but i can no longer justify the current deep discount those crossbred calves bring at market. My cow herd after November 19, 2020 will be almost exclusively black or red Angus.

Going forward, i’ve rigidly utilized the clever alliteration from the Noble Research Institute Foundation to start with my culling selections.

Old, Ornery, or Open.

This should be used every year actually, but i’ve let too many cows slide (not the ornery ones – they go quickly) through the years and this year is the year to clean up and add value. This year’s cattle prices have a lot of pressure with low demand and anything a bit off is deeply discounted.

  1. Even if a cow has really nice calf at side but comes up open (not pregnant) she needs selling because she will be freeloading for another year at least once her calf at side is sold. Plus, if she has a heifer i keep as a replacement, those poor conception genetics stay in my herd. Gone and gone. This cow may be a perfect fit for a fall calving buyer or one with better forages.
This particular red cow is actually pregnant and raising a decent calf, however she is a bit thin and shouldn’t be this time of year, so she will be sold as a 3 in 1 (3 animals in 1 package). Her pregnancy is a calf, not a blob of cells. The spotted cow with her butt to the camera also has a very nice calf, but she is not pregnant as indicated by the chartreuse ear tag we gave her to make it easier to sort off, she’ll be sold as a pair.

2. If a cow was bred and lost her calf sometime during the year and is open or bred back, i sell her. If she doesn’t bring a coupon (calf), she becomes the coupon.

This beautiful Corriente cow has made a lot of money for me, but she lost her calf this spring. She is bred back, starting to slip in condition, and is extremely old. She may have a difficult time making it through our harsh winter this year, so she can go to someone who may have a more gentle program. She has, until this spring, raised a big good calf for me for 12 years – she was middle aged when i bought her 12 years ago. She actually even carried an ET bull calf and raised it nicely. It’s tempting to keep her and let her die on the ranch and if she had a heifer calf at side i would do that.

3. Ornery is self explanatory. I used the same black Angus bulls for 3 years and one or more of them developed really bad attitudes. By the third year, i’d had enough and when i got them loaded out of the breeding pasture, I called the sale barn owner and asked i could just bring them up (there was a sale that day). Sold them (weighed up – i sure didn’t want anyone else have this problem) and so glad, but despite selecting my heifers very carefully for disposition, over the course of a couple years, some of them have become cranky. Now, i’m going to say, i’m much pickier on attitude than some people. I have 3 generations to work through.

This heifer coming with her first calf is bred and nice shape – you can note the Corriente touch in her. However, she is only being sold because she has snorted at me a couple times – even in the pasture. She doesn’t come after me, but i won’t tolerate a cow that raises her head and runs off or snorts at me.

4. As i wrote above, I will sell all my fancy, colored, cows with chrome – all euphemisms for being spotted or off colored. At the market, the quality of the animal is irrelevant if it is spotted. To quickly add value to the remaining calf crop is to just take my beating now and sell those beautiful cows and be done. 😦

This beautiful first calf heifer bred back in my 45 day breeding season and is raising a fantastic calf, yet both will be heavily discounted at the sale. Nevertheless, my goal is to eliminate ‘fancy’ cattle from my herd. It’s hard to cull a fine heifer strictly on color. 😦 You can see some hay set out in a spaced bale feeding scheme for winter. This is to not only feed cows, but add organic matter and build humus to the soil of that practically barren hillside.

5. If any cow had difficulty maintaining good body condition through the summer, she will also be sold. Even if she is bred back and/or has a good calf at side – eventually, she will come open. Selling her now at her peak.

6. Any cow with a dink calf (smaller or rougher haired than the other calves of the peer group) she will be sold with her calf. Usually, this happens with old cows, so they will be sorted off anyway – it’s just another mark against her.

CaTO’s Farm Management – Farm Buying Tips

Okay, for a bit of old, interesting yet wise counsel, i’m going to share some bits from a reprinted book of 1910 translated by a Virginia Farmer from the Latin Eclogues from the De Re Rustica of M. Porcius Cato of Roman times.

The reprint is a tiny portion of the Eclogues and is entitled ‘Cato’s Farm Management‘ with an ISBN 978-1-330-56017-4. I think i purchased mine through Amazon, but can be found at Forgotten Books.

It is noted in the intro “Cato practised and taught intense cultivation, the use of leguminous plants for soil improvement, the importance of live stock in a system of general farming, and the effective preservation of manure.” Bearing in mind that Cato died 149 years before the Christian era.

This is the ‘new’ revelation and movement now coined as ‘regenerative farming’, with the same principles laid out over 2000 years ago. As the Scriptures say, ‘there is nothing new under the sun.’ Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Cato on Buying a Farm

  1. Give heed to the appearance of the neighborhood – a flourishing country should show its prosperity

2 Take care that you choose a good climate, not subject to destructive storms, and a soil that is naturally strong.

3) If possible, your farm should be at the foot of a mountain looking to the West, in a healthy situation, where labor and cattle can be had, well watered, near a good sized town, and either on the sea or navigable river, or else on a good and much frequented road.

4) Chose a place which has not often changed ownership, one which is sold unwillingly, that has buildings in good repair.

5) When you inspect the farm, look to see how many wine presses and storage vats there are; where there are none of these you can judge what the harvest is. On the other hand, it is not the number of farming implements, but what is done with them that counts. Where you find few tools, it is not an expensive farm to operate.

More to come!

Faith, Family, Farm

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