As soon as my little jar of clay mask is empty, I make a new batch. There is a bit of planning on this because, being a bit on the weird side, i like to use only rain water to mix in with the clay harvested from the earth.
The clay in this mix is from the North Central Plains (or Visitors maps calls Panhandle Plains) area of Texas, near Olney. To be precise, in the rocky paddock in front of the home of my rancher friends who live there. Early this spring, i made a road trip to go visit and amongst many activities, their children and i collected a couple gallons of good ‘ole Texas clay. (Our Missouri clay works great as well – it’s just red)
Quick update – i moved my cows et al to a temporary paddock i set up with electric netting (although it wasn’t electrified for this event, the cows are trained and respect it) and the bull had stayed nearby during the night and with some patience and quiet handling using Bud Williams Stockmanship techniques, i was able to not only ease the blind bull from the 20 acre paddock through a 16 foot gate, but with a bit more time walked him all the way to the corral and in. However, i had to do this mostly from my Gator with a/c on; the ragweed allergy (yellow pollen) was horrible and i was suffering.
I called Dallas and he came up with the trailer and, together, we loaded him easily. In the morning, i will doctor him for his bad eyes and spray him with natural fly repellent to give him some relief.
Thankfully, i discovered he could see a bit – very close up only, but at least that keeps him from running into fences and gates. Today was a lot of handling and being by himself the whole time and sorted away from cows, yet he remained calm and well behaved.
Today was not the most productive and had some frustrations, but Yah is good all the time and no one is hurt or killed. That’s a good day when mustering in all one’s cows and sorting off 8 bulls. Granted, only 4 of them are mature 1500-1800 lb bulls, even yearling age bulls can get cranky and hurt you in a heartbeat.
The frustration was only in that it was hot and the cows moved slow like pushing water uphill and that one bull was missing. Completely, i looked and drove and walked a few ditches, but i knew it was a waste of time because of the heat – no doubt he was hidden down under some brush somewhere.
I did have another small group (24 head) located about a mile from the corral, but i had already set up tapes, so once they finally decided to go to the right corner of their paddock, they moved easily albeit slowly to the corral. Sorted off that bull and let the cows back out. The bugger was that i found one of those expensive cows i’d purchased from Ohio in the middle of the field – fat, slick, and dead. I hate that! Haven’t a clue what happened. Wasn’t located to make sense that she was struck by lightning. Maybe had a heart attack or something, it has been incredibly hot and humid and although she was a young cow, some just can’t hack it.
Called Dallas and he hooked onto the trailer and came up. Kudos to him for backing the tricky curves to the load out. Too muddy today to pull in and around, so he had to back all the way from the sealed road and make two sharp turns whilst backing. Nailed it both times! He helped me load the first bulls going back to pasture to use next year and i rode with him to make sure all went well. We went back up for the two bulls that will sell in a bit once they gain a few pounds and maybe the price comes up a bit.
Sorry no photos, but when i’m sorting bulls from cows and calves, then sorting the bulls for each load, then loading, i do not want to be distracted by taking photos.
The good news is that by this time it was starting to cool off and i went to look for the lost bull again and there it was up and headed in the right direction. Sadly, completely blind, so i eased it in through the gateway towards the cows and shut the gate (single strand bungee electric). It was getting dark, so i decided to leave the cows in the corral paddock so he could continue towards them by listening and smelling. Hopefully, in the morning he will be near enough that i can help him find a 16 foot opening. This is not a handy thing, but i have a plan on how to accomplish moving the cows out of the way to give me plenty of time to coerce the bull without any opportunity of him getting in with the cows.
But if tomorrow’s plan goes as well as my plans for today, it could be a long day.
Long, slow, hot day, but by and large it went okay – well, except for the expensive dead cow. 😦
There are very few reasons for mobs of livestock to have access to ponds beyond and emergency drinking water access. My reason here is that these heifers needed to be separated from the main cow herd for the 45 day breeding season and the only paddock I have does not have shade or even a high point to catch a breeze such as the pond dam where the heifers in the second photo are standing.
Ideally, allotting short term adequate shaded space is the optimal. Video below shows comfortable cows and calves.
In many cases, cattle not selected for heat tolerance will immerse themselves in a pond for relief. The flip side is that oftentimes these cattle will tolerate severe cold better than the others. We can spend decades selecting for the genetics which thrive in each of our unique environments and management. Hopefully also providing a quality eating experience for the consumer.
Kathy Voth, Fred Provenza, and others have long promoted letting cows eat weeds. There are few weeds that are poisonous and unless cows are starved, they won’t eat them anyway. Many farmers and ranchers clip or mow pastures and weeds, especially this time of year preparing the paddocks to grow for winter stockpile.
I like to mow pastures – i’ve clipped pastures with a 9-foot sickle bar mower bouncing around (sweating and burning) on a modified wide front end Farmall 460 for years. The result is a beautifully laid down forage that allows the new growth to pop through and look like a lush lawn. It’s a good feeling —but i now question its profitability and no longer mow.
Over the past year I have been grazing beef cattle at high stock density, and at times at ultra-high stock density grazing (UHDG), and I am regularly amazed at the things they eat.
A few examples are: Most of the leaves from buck brush (aka Indian currant), almost all the leaves they can reach from most trees, the top half or more of sericea lespedeza, a fair bit of ironweed and most ragweeds, and at least the top half of goldenrod. In fact, they clean up or at least take part of nearly everything in their environment. And they do it by choice. These plants are sometimes the first things grazed, sometimes the last things grazed, and sometimes taken in the middle of the grazing period. In other words, they are not eaten in desperation or starvation.
I’m sure some of you are asking what qualifies as UHDG. Johann Zietsman, the Namibian rancher and consultant who pioneered UHDG back in the 1990s, says a stock density of 1,000 to 2,000 animals per hectare. If we consider that one hectare is 2.47 acres and that Zietsman and his “disciples” typically run cows that weigh closer to 700 pounds than the 1,500-pound average for modern cattle, this helps us figure out a stock density of maybe 283,000 to 567,000 pounds of stock per acre — or higher. This generally matches my own definition that UHDG starts somewhere around 250,000 pounds per acre, while high stock density or very high stock density probably runs from 60,000 to 250,000 pounds per acre.
Anyway, last night my wife and I turned the cows into a really small paddock with tall and dense forage, in which I’d estimate from past experience they were grazing at well over 500,000 pounds of stock density. The little calves and the cows were all eating almost everything in there. There were still some cheatgrasses, some bermudagrass, a smattering of other warm- and cool-season grasses, and quite a bit of both lambsquarter (pigweed) and giant ragweed of the knee-high to thigh-high variety. They took it all out. It appeared to me each animal was eating a little bit of everything, switching from one plant type to another as they grazed. It’s pretty much what I’ve seen time and again under UHDG or even high stock density.
These are the same results I’m hearing from people all over the globe, on every continent. All are connected through Zietsman’s website and app-based discussion groups he runs. Their pictures and comments they share from their own ranches tell me volumes.
I’ll remind you the first goal of this type management is maximum sustainable profit per acre, which actually incorporates inseparably the goal of land improvement with beef production.
However, an advantage of this type management that has occurred to me lately is the reduced need for goats and sheep to eat the things cattle normally won’t eat. Maybe a little work by goats will be needed at times, but the cattle graze and browse almost all the plants. (Cedars and full-sized trees, of course, will require other control methods.)
Further, as I watch cattle of all ages graze/browse every imaginable kind of plant, I can only imagine what kind of quality they are building into their bodies, therefore their meat and milk.
Even calves like fresh tree leaves that haven’t been exposed to grazing, therefore haven’t built up high tannins.
A few weeks ago, I published a blog about the importance of secondary and tertiary compounds in the quality and healthfulness of beef and other meats. It was called Here’s how grassfed beef really could be superior. If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend you do so. Fred Provenza and others recently published a great paper on the importance of these compounds particularly to humans eating meats from animals adapted to diverse, native habitats.
So, besides achieving the highest sustainable stocking rate, the fastest rate of soil and rangeland improvement, and the highest potential profit in a cow-calf operation, you’re also getting the best weed and brush control possible with cattle and the greatest consumption of plants providing a wide variety of nutritional benefits. And by the way, once they learn to eat these plants they will continue eating many of them even when grazing at lower stocking densities.
The caveat is that conventional cattle of today are very poor at this job. They have been bred to graze selectively under continuous grazing and generally to receive large amounts of hay and supplement through large portions of the year. We need to breed cattle suited to this task.
And incidentally, they will have good carcass quality because any beef animal that can thrive under this kind of grazing, laying on fat for winter survival, then fattening in the spring on green grass for calving and reproduction. Any animal that can get fat on grass has great potential to produce a quality carcass, and the US Meat Animal Research Center carcass data on the African Sanga breeds, as well as other testing, has indicated this is true.
The innovators and early adopters of grazing management and now cattle breeding are leading the way. I’m watching.
Oh my goodness, i’ve lost track of the number of eggmobiles i’ve built these past two decades. The first one was large and on an ancient wagon running gear. It was part of daughter Jessica’s Missouri Department of Agriculture sustainable ag grant she wrote for and received being the youngest ever at age 9!
Anyway, done bragging now and on to the newest plan. My favourite ‘look’ is that of a Conestoga Wagon and this one is no exception although much smaller than the traditional real Conestoga.
The one i replaced was just worn out and had some issues which of course i corrected with the new version.
This is the coolest ever. It comes preset to automatically open at dawn and close at night.
For whatever reason, public school teachers seem to need to buy supplies for their classes each year, using money from their own pockets. I won’t comment on that being right or wrong or even why because i simply don’t know. However, we as home educators, really can’t afford to purchase extraneous supplies, so we are careful to collect and use free stuff for educational supplies. When possible, we purchase secondhand textbooks and use them for all the children in the family. Or we share with other families whose children may be similar in age, but offset just a bit. (Currently, Missouri public education is funded by taxpayers at the rate of $10,457 per student per year). Since i have three children – had that been sent to me, i could have managed nicely on $31,371 per year!
Name: Linn County R-I School District City: Purdin Average Daily Attendance: 220.8 Expenditure per Pupil: $11,343.44 Local, Percent of Expenditure: 43.89% Local, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil:$4,978.31 State, Percent of Expenditure: 46.54% State, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $5,279.22 Federal, Percent of Expenditure: 9.57% Federal, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $1,085.91
Brookfield R-III School District
Name: Brookfield R-III School District City: Brookfield Average Daily Attendance: 968.3 Expenditure per Pupil: $9,569.70 Local, Percent of Expenditure: 44.99% Local, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil:$4,305.84 State, Percent of Expenditure: 43.91% State, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $4,202.25 Federal, Percent of Expenditure: 11.09% Federal, Contribution in Dollars per Pupil: $1,061.61
To that end, i have on hand various supplies that have been given to me or sent in the mail (we get a bunch of return addresses from outfits asking for donations and typically there are fun stickers and parts of the address that can be cut for stickers.) Gifts that have been given to us (or i unapologetically collect tissue and paper from bridal showers or birthday parties that would have just been thrown away). Coloured tissue paper is so fun for tearing into shapes (think Eric Carle) and making books. Also, fun to fold and tie to make flowers, etc.
Coloured paper from flyers in the mail can be cut into strips to make decorative chains.
Making books involves math skills (ie: fold paper in half, one fourth), large and small motor skills (folding, tearing, punching holes, gluing, drawing, etc), sharing and helping (work in groups), creativity (develop story telling skills, logical and chronological thinking, and how to express ideas in picture and words), understanding relations (large and small, tall and short, etc), shapes, colours. Goodness, so many skills in just one fun activity. At the end, have each child read and show their creation to encourage public speaking and reading skills.
There are a multitude of craft and art activities that can be expanded to teach nearly all aspects of education.
Time is the most important investment in the education and training of your children.
Ask for, gather, then develop a plan using those free supplies. Wow, you can even then teach the importance of repurposing, recycling, reducing.