Category Archives: Home-Based Business

First Stab at Mob Grazing (UHDG)

About a week ago, despite our poor pasture growing situation due to dry and hot weather, i tried what others have done and that is UHDG or ultra high stock density grazing.  There are some who have successfully managed shifting cows 5,7,9 times a day and obtaining up to 1 million pounds of livestock per acre!  That can result in a phenomenal improvement in soil quality due to deep rooted plants and evenly distributed manure.

My experience was far different and after a couple of hours quickly realised my misgivings as to mob grazing’s effectiveness in our area.

  1. Cool season grasses often don’t have deep roots, by and large, unless allowed to grow quite tall (and mature) which results in unpalatable grazing.
  2. Mature grasses are unpalatable and very low ‘octane’ (nutrition)
  3. Laying down cool season, fine stem grasses by trampling is virtually impossible.
  4. Toxic endophyte fescue is poisonous at all stages; recent research shows the bottom 2 inches is as toxic as the seed heads.  Forcing cattle to consume it is detrimental to their health.
  5. Hot, humid weather causes some animals to suffer and they need shade – not all small paddocks can have shade.
  6. I quickly realized that i was exhausting myself setting up polybraid and posts to shift the cattle.  To the point that, instead of accomplishing other tasks whilst at the farm, i felt like napping instead!!
  7. A problem perhaps unique to my situation is the distance from the stock.   My farm is 35 minutes’ drive (via JD Gator) from our home.  Though  my solution was to shift cattle often on the days i could go up there, then give them a large break to last up to 3 days, but i found point 6 overwhelmed even that idea.

 

IMG-4041
This photo shows my mob at an estimated 50,000 lbs per acre.  Not even close to what is needed to see positive effects of mob grazing.  Nevertheless, i have discovered an optimal balance of dividing my 20 acre paddocks (paddock sizes vary) in half results in acceptable utilization plus gives an extra day and a half of grazing over giving access to the entire paddock.  This is very important; instead of 3 days grazing, there are 4.5 days, which over the course of 24 paddocks results in an additional 36 days rest period!

Putting dollars to that extra growth:  In normal and decent growing conditions (not over 90F and normal rainfall), cool season grasses and legumes could potential produce 8-12 inches of growth in 36 days.  An average pasture with little to no bare ground (spaces between plants) might yield 300 lbs to the inch per acre.  So, if the entire farm received that additional 36 day rest, then 400 acres x 300 lbs per inch x 8 inches growth  = 960,000 additional lbs produced.  Reduce that by 20% to get a hay equivalency and price it at 5 cents per pound, then 768,000 lbs x .05 = $38,400 worth of hay that is not needed to purchase and maintain or grow the herd.  OR, consider that as my wages for setting up and taking down posts and polybraid during the summer.  Of course, nothing is perfect or normal, so even these conservative figures may fall way short in the face of a drought or hot temperatures.  Nevertheless, there is gain to be considered IF the labor does not become cumbersome and cost more than the value of forage.

Well, this was all written on Monday the 21st of May – a week later – still no rain and temps continue well into the 90s with heat indices above 100 for several hours each day and little to no wind.  It’s muggy and hot; cool season pastures are no longer growing, so the planned grazing is relaxed already since the cows need shade and i’ve set up a paddock with a big timber patch.  Guess where most of the manure (nutrients) will end up?  Yeah, not where planned.  As usual, theories, plans, scenarios all go out the window in the face of nature.  Like any other year, we just do the best we can with the conditions we are given.

Cheers!

tauna

Ranching for Profit

I always chuckle a bit when i type out ‘ranching for profit’ because it’s almost an oxymoron!  Yet, David Pratt, owner of Ranch Management Consultants and Ranching for Profit instructor, contends that there is such a beast if we ranchers use sound financial and economic principles.

Mr Pratt’s most recent blog discusses using debt properly.  Now, okay, my mind goes immediately to the song, ‘Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.  Do not forget, stay out of debt.’  Which then led me to wonder where that came from.  I knew it was from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ (Polonius counsels his son, Laertes in Act-I, Scene-III of William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet by saying, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.”  But what about the tune?

Completely surprised when i discovered that it was created and made famous on the TV sitcom, Gilligan’s Island, which i watched religiously when i was young.  SO FUNNY!  It is sung to the tune of the Toreador Song in Bizet’s Carmen.

The Bible also has advice on debt and teaches us to guard against being in debt, likening it to slavery and bondage.  However, debt does not seem to be a sin, but a tool to earn money wisely, but counting the cost before taking on the burden.

May 9, 2018
ProfitTips
from the Ranching for Profit School
A lot of people tell me that they want to be “debt free.” They are tired of making big interest payments on land, livestock, machinery and their operating note. They have had too many sleepless nights worrying about making the next payment. They believe that if they didn’t have to borrow money they would be more profitable and financially secure.
But the proper use of debt makes us more profitable, not less. And being debt free doesn’t make us financially secure. In fact, for most of us, short of winning the lottery, the appropriate use of debt is our only realistic path to financial security.
The problem isn’t debt, it’s our misuse of debt. The two most common ways we misuse debt are:
  1. We put finance first and economics a distant second
  2. We use debt on the wrong things.
Using debt effectively begins with understanding the difference between economics and finance. It boils down to this: In economics we ask, “Is this profitable?” In finance we ask, “Can I afford to do it?” If we are going to be smart about our use of debt, economics must come first. If it isn’t profitable you don’t have to worry about how you’ll pay for it, because you shouldn’t do it in the first place.
Smart Debt
Economics vs Finance
When RFP grads evaluate the profitability of a livestock enterprise they include opportunity interest on the herd as a direct cost in the calculation. If the enterprise has a healthy gross margin it tells us that borrowing money to expand the herd will increase profit. If we haven’t included opportunity interest in our calculation we can’t be sure if expanding the herd is a good idea.
Opportunity Costs
The other problem is that people use debt on the wrong things. There are two primary places where we put money in our businesses: fixed assets and working capital. Simply put, fixed assets are things we intend to keep (e.g. land, cows, infrastructure, vehicles, equipment). Working capital is the money tied up in things we intend to sell (e.g. calves). Most of us have most of our money invested in fixed assets. This is the biggest financial problem in agriculture. It’s a problem because when most of our money is tied up in things we intend to keep, we have relatively little to sell and generate very little income relative to the value of our assets. Making matters worse, a lot of the income that we do create gets spent maintaining the fixed assets. That’s why most ranchers are wealthy on their balance sheet and broke in their bank account.
Borrowing to buy fixed assets may be a smart long-term investment strategy, but it might cause you to go belly-up in the short term. We’d be better off to use debt to buy assets that directly produce income.
We shouldn’t be afraid to borrow money, provided the economics of our enterprise is rock-solid and we use the borrowed money to buy income producing assets.
2018 – 2019 School Schedule
Sept. 9-15, 2018
Boise, ID
at Holiday Inn Express
Dec. 2-8, 2018
Abilene, TX
at MCM Elegante Suites
Jan. 6-12, 2019
Colorado Springs, CO
at Radisson
Jan. 13-19, 2019
Billings, MT
at Billings Hotel
Jan. 20-26, 2019
Rapid City, SD
at Best Western Ramkota

Productive & Organized at Work

ZipRecruiter author Kaila Kea offers these five tips to be productive and organized at work.

It is no secret that being productive and organized at work leads to positive professional outcomes. Being organized and productive can help you feel less stress and greater satisfaction at work. Increased efficiency and better communication are just two of the positive side effects of employing organization skills in the workplace.

While you must find a system that works for you, there are some strategies that can help anyone become more organized and productive.

We have put together 5 top organization skills that will enable you to increase efficiency, maximize your workspace, effectively use information, and employ timely communication skills.

  1. Use Your Time Wisely.

The importance of time management cannot be overstated. Time is the one resource that cannot be replenished, so it is best to use it wisely.

Improve your time management by setting reminders. Technology makes setting reminders easier than ever! Between phone alarms, calendar reminders, and smartwatch cues, we can effectively manage our time. In addition to this, note and prioritize your goals, eliminate distractions, and say “no” when necessary.

Read more about the importance of time management here.

  1. Write it Down.

Writing notes is one of the best ways to be organized and productive. Mueller and Oppenheimer’s classic study indicated that writing requires the processing and rephrasing of information, which makes a lasting impression on the notetaker’s memory. This results in an increased ability to recall what is required of you to be productive for the day.

Keep a calendar, planner, notebook, or set of post-it notes along with plenty of writing utensils in your workspace. When an important commitment is brought to your attention, you will have what you need to record it. Keep notes that are brief, detailed, and legible to help you stay organized.

  1. Work Ahead of Schedule.  

Why work up to the deadline when you can work ahead of schedule? Use this form of time management to set gradual deadlines that are at least three to five days earlier than the official deadline. This aids in being more productive and avoids last-minute communication with colleagues about tasks that require immediate attention.

If you need to respond to pending inquiries in your inbox by close of business, set your deadline just before lunch. Or, if you must submit your contribution to a team project by Friday, set your planning tools to remind you to meet gradual deadlines then aim to submit it a day early. The key to getting better at working ahead of schedule is viewing your final deadline as a last resort. Instead of working up until the very last minute, work toward an earlier deadline that gives you space to walk away from your work and return to it later to apply finishing touches.

  1. Keep a Clear Workspace.

The space in which you work affects how you work. Working in an orderly space will help you reduce distraction and keep a clear head and keep track of all your notes and calendars. You can extend this idea to your digital workspace. Just a physical files on your desk will hinder your productivity, so will stray files on your computer desktop or having tabs open that you don’t need to look at. Taking a little time each day to do some basic housekeeping will help you stay organized, productive, and on task.

  1. Customize Your Approach.

For maximum efficiency, customize your approach to work for you and the way you operate. Some people organize assignments according to the order in which they are due while others tackle tasks in order of difficulty.

To customize your approach, consider the ways you work best一do you fare better with visuals, words, or a combination of both? Perhaps you are more audial and would benefit from leaving voice notes for yourself or listening to soothing sounds while you work. You can do some trial and error and be mindful of what helps you work best.


Written by Kaila Kea.

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Progressive? Marginally.

Why the mass exodus of young people from farming?  Here is another example of  one of several problems – well identified – yet apparently laughed off by the current generation of farmers and ranchers left scratching their heads wondering why junior is leaving for good.  Sad, very sad.

Children leaving the farm.jpg
Copied from The Progressive Farmer – April 2018

Tweaking the Plan

Since the first of the year, i’ve headed to the local YMCA just 10 minutes drive away and working out (walking at least 10,000 steps according to Fitbit and lifting weights) for 2 to 2 1/2 hours each morning.  Our YMCA opens a bit before 5am, so this is a perfect time for me to go.  I’m usually awake anyway and it’s far too cold outside to do anything, plus it’s dark.

Anyway, like the others who come in early to workout, i plug into my phone and listen to something.  I really enjoy listening to audio books through our local library‘s subscription to Hoopla.  Granted, i suspect there is not as many books on offer as a paid subscription like Audiobooks, but Hoopla is included in our library membership.  But, i mix up the books with Youtube of grazing and cattle management experts.  This has included Jim Gerrish, Jaime Elizondo Braum, Johann Zietsman, Doug Peterson, Greg Judy, David Pratt, Allen Williams.

Continuing education is necessary in any endeavour and as margins tighten and disappear in cattle production it becomes critical to discover little ways to squeeze a bit of income out of our chosen career despite outside pressures OR to discover that you must forge a totally different path if this one simply can no longer be financially sustained.

Regardless of one’s age, evaluation of your chosen work needs doing regularly, but having just turned 56, it may be time consider winding down and looking at retirement.  Nevertheless, the older we get, we must discover if what we are doing is the most effective use of our time and energy (which physically wanes).  If the activity is marginally profitable, then what can be done to make it more profitable without increasing labor (labor and feed are huge costs in raising livestock).  Or are we better purposed to volunteer, counsel, or help our children more.

  1. Last year, i used a lot of iron (tractors, rotavator, plough disk, no-till drill) to establish, first, 18 acres of annuals, and second, establish a permanent ley on 50 acres.  The first experiment resulted in quality grazing, but not more grazing as measured in cow days per acre, than my poor quality forage already growing.  So, i don’t plan to incur that cost again, though my soil may have experienced some improvement.  The second experiment was severely hampered by the lack of rain for the seeds to grow.  However, it may have been a blessing, 1) a better kill of the toxic endophyte fescue due to dry and hot weather, and 2) the seeds hopefully did not germ and will come up this spring.  Time will tell on that here in about 3 months.  However, this project was extremely expensive at $175/acre.
  2. Last year, i also had lime spread on the 160 at the rate of 2 tons per acre for a cost of $66/acre.  The addition of lime typically doesn’t show any production increase for a couple years.
  3. Bale feeding was used quite a lot on various parts of my paddocks.  This may very well be the fastest way to build soil health, but it’s expensive (like all inputs) and time consuming to place the bales.
  4. Last year, I also synchronised my cows with hormones and AI’d a good portion of them.  The reason was because i was going to shorten my breeding season once again to 45 days vs 65 days.  This is expensive, but it does seem to help.  However, due to ragweed allergies, i am simply unable to remove the bulls from the pasture on 1 September, so i will change my plan and leave the bulls in for 60 days and simply sell those that do not calve within the 45 day window.  This does not, however, address the fact that i don’t want to calve for 60 days.  Nothing to be done for that.  Allergies rule my schedule in this regard.

So, tweaking my plan for this year will be to:

  1. no mechanical disturbance or seed inputs (including broadcast)
  2. no liming or other fertiliser input purchases (save up to $100/acre)
  3. Utilize bale grazing extensively to increase soil health (microbial activity) and organic matter (improve tilth) (the only down side here is the time spent to set the bales in the paddocks in proper manner in preparation for winter grazing)
  4. eliminate the synchronising and AI costs.  This eliminates the time spent in mustering and sorting the cows 3 times, shots and CIDRS, semen costs, and AI technician expense.  All these costs add up to about $80 per cow.
  5. purchase hay early for possible reduced cost per bale (purchasing in winter tends to drive up cost due to increased demand)  (delivered hay costs from 4 cents to 15 cents per pound depending on quality and demand)
  6. Manage my time to allow ultra high stock density grazing (UHDG) at least part of the year to increase forage diversity, water infiltration, and soil health.  (time is a problem here because of my farm being a 35 minute drive from my home, it is counter productive if this increases labor that would be expensed to cows)

OR:

  1. let go, rent out the land, and sell my cows – no work.  the drawbacks are having to quibble with renters on their lack of care and watching your land erode, grow up in brush, and/or wash away.  Repair and clean up can be costly at the end of the renting period.

So, should i continue ranching – and realistically, i plan to – giving it up unless necessary is not really a consideration, although it should be,  then i need to decide whether to reduce the number of cows to what my pastures can sustain during the non growing season (winter  – about 5 months and summer heat – about 1 month), OR increase cow numbers to manage the growing season flush and buy in enough hay to feed them during the winter.  Hay purchase and feeding will also improve the soil, so there is added value to that.

No one else can make this decision, although there are a lot of suggestions and i really appreciate all the expert and seasoned ranchers sharing their experiences – these have guided me .

Just Breathe,

tauna

 

 

Greg Judy on Endophyte Fescue – Part 2

Part 2 of the Winter stockpile by Greg Judy published to “On Pasture” online magazine.

Winter Stockpiled Fescue Trumps Hay Every Time – Part 2

By   /  February 12, 2018  /  2 Comments

Should you get rid of your endophyte-infected tall fescue? Greg shares why we don’t like it, and why getting rid of it may be hard on us too.

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This is the second in a four part series. Here’s Part 1.

Our winter stockpile consists mostly of endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 fescue. This fescue is the most cursed despised grass in the Midwest for several reasons.

1. The endophyte restricts the blood flow to the extremities of some animals, causing some cows to lose tail switches, feet, ear tips.
2. Low weight gains, lower reproduction rates.
3. Rough hair coat.
4. Summer slump, plants stop growing in extreme heat.

There are practices that you can use to kill endophyte-infected fescue on your farm and replace it with the novel friendly endophyte fescue. This novel endophyte is more palatable and livestock can perform better on it.

I have no argument that the novel fescue is better forage, but the cost of converting your farm over to the novel is something to consider. You have to spray the present endophyte infected fescue pasture in the spring with Roundup. This is followed by drilling some kind of summer annual crop into the sprayed area. Then you need to re-spray this same area again in the fall to ensure you killed all the fescue plants that survived the spring roundup spraying. Then you drill the new novel endophyte fescue into the killed sod.

There are several things to consider before taking this journey. Let’s cover some of those items here:

1. When you spray Roundup on your pastures and kill the present stand of fescue, what are your cows supposed to eat that year if it doesn’t rain and the summer annual crop fails?

2. What if it doesn’t rain that fall after drilling the new fescue? Now you are really stuck with a failed grass seeding, bare ground, winter coming and no pasture for your livestock. It’s going to be a long winter feeding hay and no spring grass to look forward to.

3. It will take several years to build enough sod under the new plants to hold up livestock in a rainstorm.

4. The cost of the seed for the new improved fescue will average around $100 per acre with no guarantee of getting a stand of grass.

5. Roundup herbicide cost, spraying, fuel, labor, equipment, no grazing, all add up to another $175/acre.

6. Can the new fescue take a beating like the endophyte infected fescue and maintain a stand to support your livestock? If you want to try the new fescue, plant a small plot first on your farm to see if it persists with grazing pressure.

7. You cannot feed any purchased hay onto this new stand of novel fescue if it contains Kentucky 31 fescue.

8. Finally, if you have endophyte-infected fescue on the borders of your pastures, will it come back? If it does, will you have to go through this whole process over again in five years?

Those are a whole bunch of what if’s that may not work out the best for my pocket book at the end of the day. I also feel like every second that my rear end is plopped on a tractor seat, I am losing money. How about approaching the endophyte infected fescue problem from a different angle – one that will keep the money in everyone’s pocket while allowing us to make a living on our farms?

In Part 3, I’ll share what we have undertaken on our farms with management of our cow herd and grazing to prosper on this dirty endophyte-infected fescue.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

contributor

Greg and Jan Judy of Clark, Missouri run a grazing operation on 1400 acres of leased land that includes 11 farms. Their successful custom grazing business is founded on holistic, high-density, planned grazing. They run cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, stockers, a hair sheep flock, a goat herd, and Tamworth pigs. They also direct market grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Greg’s popularity as a speaker and author comes from his willingness to describe how anyone can use his grazing techniques to create lush forage, a sustainable environment and a successful business.

Maple Syrup in Missouri

Maple syrup is flowing in north Missouri this winter!  We are certainly not known for maple syrup, but this year, the trees are producing and a few tree tappers are even offering the slim production for sale!  Thank you Coyote Orchard!

Even our local University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center offered a maple syrup workshop near Linneus, MO.

I mixed up this pancake mix this morning and my husband whipped up a batch for supper.  I use organic, local, and non-GMO products and very excited to top off with extremely local (like 8 miles from our house local) maple syrup.  Ultimate fast food!

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Wheat Montana flour, organic Florida Crystals cane sugar, David’s kosher salt, Bob’s Red Mill All Natural baking soda, Rumford aluminum free baking powder, (these items purchased from Wal-Mart online), the organic buttermilk powder i bought through United Natural Foods and i forgot the brand, but a search online will source some for you.

Pour locally harvested maple syrup over the pancakes whipped up from your own Homemade Buttermilk Pancake Mix i found from Completely Delicious.

Homemade buttermilk pancake mix makes breakfast a breeze!

HOMEMADE BUTTERMILK PANCAKE MIX

Easily make homemade pancakes whenever the mood strikes! One batch of pancakes make 10 4-inch pancakes.

INGREDIENTS:

PANCAKE MIX:

  • 6 cups (720 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup (300 grams) powdered buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3 teaspoons salt

TO MAKE A BATCH OF PANCAKES:

  • 1 1/3 cup ( grams) pancake mix, above
  • 1 cup (250 ml) water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together all of the pancake mix ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to several months.

TO MAKE PANCAKES:

  1. Combine 1 1/3 cup of the pancake mix with the water, egg, butter or oil, and vanilla (if using).
  2. Drop by 1/4 cup-full into a greased hot skillet set over medium heat. Cook until edges appear dry and bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 minute. Flip and cook another 1-2 minutes on the other side.
  3. Serve immediately as desired, or keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

More great tips from Annalise at Completely Delicious.

baking tip:PANCAKE MAKING TIPS

  • Starting with room temperature liquid and eggs will prevent the melted butter from solidifying into tiny droplets when you add it to the wet ingredients, OR you can stir in the melted butter at the very end after you’ve combined the wet and dry ingredients.
  • Whisk the wet and dry ingredients only until just combined, do not over mix the batter. It’s okay if it’s a little lumpy. This will produce a more tender pancake.
  • I prefer to use a cast iron skillet or griddle for pancakes, as it creates a great golden exterior.
  • To keep pancakes warm and crisp until you’re ready to serve, place them in a single layer on a sheet pan in a 200 degree oven.
  • Pancakes freeze really well! Place a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper in between each pancake inside a Ziplock bag or plastic container. Store for up to 1 month. Reheat in the toaster.

Cheers!

tauna