Category Archives: FARM

Pasture Renovation

Farming and ranching are both career choices which require continued study, education, and practice modification to remain profitable and regenerative.  As you know from previous blog entries, i’ve tried tillage and replanting with perennials, hired an organic farmer who is using minimal tillage and planting food grade soybeans and has tried planting cover crops to hold soil when crops are harvested (this has not been successful – weather), and both of these approaches to eliminate toxic endophyte fescue have been very expensive and no enhancement of soil health.

My next practice is planned to start with frost seeding as soon as weather allows – which is looking to be challenging since we are in the midst of a polar vortex right now and near record lows.  But turnaround this weekend to near historic highs.  Missouri is always a challenge in the weather department.  Broadcast frost seeding is typically accomplished by early March.

High stock density grazing or mob grazing is labor intensive and thereby expensive to implement, but i hope to use this practice to prepare the soil for receiving the grass/forage seeds.  All these expenses i will record, track, and monetize to make an apples to apples comparison with the other two practices i’ve tried.  (Organic soybean farming and Permanent Ley Pasture)

To keep costs down, i plant to use annuals, grazing, and long rest to allow these plants to produce a lot of growth but before the plants become unpalatable, mob graze again allowing lots of manure and urine deposition across the paddock as well as trampling plants to keep soil covered and cool.  That’s the plan anyway.  My top photo was taken last year, but illustrates what the grazing/trampling effect i hope to achieve with hoof action and no mechanical tillage.

Planned seeds for broadcast:

  • Alsike clover – .25 lb
  • Barley – 8 lbs
  • Lespedeza  – 3 lbs (if a supply can be sourced)
  • Oats – 8 lbs
  • Sunflower – 3 lbs

I’ve ordered a broadcast seeder for my John Deere Gator, so that should make broadcasting much easier so that i’m more likely to get it done in a timely fashion.  Sometimes having the right machinery makes money rather than costing.  It depends on one’s goals and how much you value your time.  Also, if the practice is effective.  If, for example, the practice does not add value to my operation, then the more i do it, the more expensive it becomes.  One of the holistic management testing decisions.

  1. Energy/money source & use
    • Is the energy or money to be used in this action derived from the most appropriate source in terms of your holistic goal?
    • Will the way in which energy or money is to be used lead toward your holistic goal.

So, this is what i do when i have a really bad head and it’s below freezing outside. Study and plan.

Cheers!

tauna

 

The One Who Helps

I took this from Facebook this morning – there have been several write ups of this ilk and i’ve even made comments on Facebook sharing my experiences that in the agriculture world women ’empowerment’ (whatever that looks like as opposed to lifting up anyone and everyone)  is not necessary – men, women, and children respect and help each other.  (well, except me – i’m kind of mean and scary).  If you think you need to be in a march of some sort to promote women, then you hang out with the wrong crowd.  There is a world out there where people are pulling together and not ripping each other apart.

Shalom!

tauna

Sue Tebow

While women march the streets of America, protesting for rights that they already have, allow me to applaud a way of life that has honored women in ways the rest of the world never has (for a very long time).
I’m proud to be a part of the silent, steadfast women of rural America, where:

Little girls are taught to work alongside little boys, not hate them.

We let the men lead us on the dance floor, in prayer, and in life. There is strength in partnership.

The woman’s housekeeping and the man’s ranch work are both vital aspects of the operation’s success, even though gender roles don’t have much of a place on the ranch.

Women ride Bronc’s, wrestle calves, and rope just as often as men cook, sew and tend to children.

We actually participate in meetings, sit on boards, and vote to create REAL change.

We see the miracle of life in every foal, calf, and child and believe all life should be protected.

The men never question a woman’s strength, and women know that a door held open is a simple sign of respect.

The ranchers/farmers/blue collar people of America create empowered women, respectful men, and a brighter future than any “protest” could bring about.

Sue Tebow founder of agri.CULTURE
AUTHOR: Kaycee Monnes
PC – Robin L Green

Ranching in the Future

Here’s an excellent article explaining the impossibility of entry level ranchers and farmers.  Unless land and agriculture prices come to a reckoning, land will be owned by the wealthy and worked by those with a passion for land management.  We are headed that way culturally rapidly given the advanced age of current land owners.  With few heirs waiting to farm or ranch, the land will sell to the highest bidder far above its production value.

Shalom!

tauna

Ranching in the Future – What Should Young Ranchers Expect?

By   /  January 7, 2019  /  4 Comments

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I recently received a note from a young friend (let’s call her Peggy Sue) who desperately wants to be a rancher. Since her childhood she has dreamed of working with animals. She has learned about marketing and economics. She’s studied hard and become a competent grazier. She’s done some hard work. But she’s getting a little impatient.

“So, I’ve been looking at real estate ads all over the country, studying up on productivity of land in different places, trying to look up how many acres per cow it takes and how much each acre costs, and I just can’t figure this thing out. How are people doing it? I mean, how are people able to buy a ranch and pay for it by raising cattle?”

My immediate answer was not what she had been hoping for:

“I don’t know of anyone in America who is buying a ranch and paying for it by running cattle. This doesn’t mean you can never be a rancher—you can be. But going forward, you will only be successful as a rancher if you accept the realities of the current world. You must be able to adopt a definition of ranch and rancher that fits in the economic universe in which you currently live. And guess what? This is true for every other new rancher, too.”

Sorry, Peggy Sue.

Past, Present and Future Ranching Models

Both my wife’s and my own family trees are well stocked with hopeful people who put together ranching operations 100 or more years ago. First was homesteading, and later on there was picking up the pieces from other folks whose homesteads had failed. There was hard work and sacrifice. Fundamentally, the ranches of 100 years ago were founded on using land to grow grass and cattle. Land values were tied intimately to productive value of the land and the then-current values of the cattle market. And so, our ancestors built successful ranches.

Those days are over. The conditions under which our ancestors operated no longer exist.

Today, properties do not become available through homesteading or abandonment, and in general, ranch land prices have very little relationship to productive value. Other influences such as hunting and fishing, scenic view, and privacy are the determining factors in land price. The model described above: working hard to build functional ranches by acquiring and paying for land with cattle, is apparently not possible in today’s world.

In our own little valley, even though there is virtually no influence by hunting or fishing values or high mountain views, the value of land has now risen to the point where pastureland prices are clearly irrational. Turns out, there are plenty of people with plenty of money who just want to live in the country, and they will pay whatever it takes. In the 1980s, I told Ranching for Profit guru Stan Parsons that my chief concern with becoming a rancher was that land in my area was selling for $5,000 per cow unit. Currently, that value is more like $20,000. At $20,000, the land overhead PITI (Principle, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) is something like $2,000 per cow per year.

It should be mathematically obvious that the current land value situation absolutely precludes the possibility of becoming a rancher, if you think ranching has to look like it did 100 years ago.

So, is it possible for my young friend to become a rancher? Absolutely. But that will require her to accept a different definition of what ranching looks like and of what being a rancher means.

Going Forward: Ranchers of the Future

A principle of motion discovered by Sir Isaac Newton over 300 years ago applies directly here, I think:

I believe the trends that we have witnessed in ranching over the past 100 years or so will likely continue. These trends will determine what ranching will look like going forward, and the possibilities for present and future ranchers.

Here are some current trends to consider:

Land Prices

I believe the price of land will continue to escalate and will have less and less relationship to productive value. This means new ranchers will need to seek models that do not include “buying a ranch and paying for it with cattle.”

Other Input Costs

The cost of oil, iron, processed feed, and other inputs will continue to advance relative to the value of traditional ranch products. Future ranchers need to design models that place less emphasis on these things.

Technology

Our industry has become highly dependent upon technology. Whether this is a good thing or not is hard for me to tease out. That said, ranches of the future will surely include more technology. Ranchers of the future should build business models that take advantage of new technologies. This is certainly critical for businesses that involve direct marketing.

Societal/Political Change

There has been sweeping change in the relationship between urban and rural populations. Our urban neighbors are ever more interested in ecological issues, animal welfare, food safety, transportation, and on and on. Going forward, this trend will result in a higher degree of regulation of ranching activities on all fronts. Young ranchers should plan accordingly.

Diversity of Products and Services

Increasingly, ranches have become more and more involved in producing things beyond just meat on the hoof. Young ranchers of the future should consider business models that include providing even more diverse products and services. Growing hamburger is a low margin enterprise. Providing sites for weddings, hunting, vacations, etc. can be very high-margin enterprises. Like it or not, this may be what opportunity looks like in the future.

The Decline of the Rugged Individual

It seems to me that image of the rancher as a rugged, independent operator has always been a bit overblown. My great grandparents (and every generation since) were highly dependent on cooperation for survival. Going forward, I believe ranching will look more and more like other industries, with intensely complicated, inter-dependent systems of producers, suppliers, marketers and customers. Ranches will offer a wider and wider range of services, and they will serve a wider range of customers. No ranch will be an island unto itself.

(The exception to this will be the ranches that are owned outright by folks who have un-limited assets, and so, can do anything they want. These may be ranches, but I question whether they are Ranch Businesses.)

The Big Question: To Own, or Not to Own

Oregon author William Kittredge wrote a fine biography called “Owning it All”, a story about growing up in the big ranch country of the American West. I think young ranchers should consider exactly the opposite course: Owning almost nothing. And here’s some of what that might look like:

Owning portable fencing, corrals, and water equipment. Renting or leasing grass that land owners don’t want or don’t know how to manage. Same goes for livestock. Selling your expertise and skills as a grass and property manager. Becoming expert in managing the accessory enterprises that ranches will contain in the future: tourism, education, entertainment, recreation, sport, etc. Note: be sure to make enough profit to fund your own retirement, as you will not be accumulating any real estate.

Decisions, Decisions.

I could be wrong about all of the predictions above. Maybe land costs will magically revert to align with productive value. Maybe young ranchers will be able to enter the industry, buy some land and livestock and make out just fine. Maybe. But I doubt it. I think young ranchers would be well advised to conjure up a business plan that includes the parameters and limitations we now operate under, and think carefully about what the future might look like.

Best wishes to Peggy Sue in the coming year. Oh, and to the ranchers of the next 100 years, too!

Happy Grazing, Happy New Year, and a Happy Future

John Marble

Stay tuned for future articles with examples of how young farmers and ranchers are building their businesses.

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  • Published: 2 weeks ago on January 7, 2019
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  • Last Modified: January 7, 2019 @ 8:40 am
  • Filed Under: Money Matters

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Marble grew up on a terribly conventional ranch with a large family where each kid had their own tractor. Surviving that, he now owns a small grazing and marketing operation that focuses on producing value through managed grazing. He oversees a diverse ranching operation, renting and owning cattle and grasslands while managing timber, wildlife habitat and human relationships. His multi-species approach includes meat goats, pointing dogs and barn cats. He has a life-long interest in ecology, trying to understand how plants, animals, soils and humans fit together. John spends his late-night hours working on fiction, writing about worlds much less strange than this one.

Hoarder or Frugal?

Finally giving up on my old jeans and stretched out Empire State Building hoodie as work clothes.  Actually going straight into the rubbish.  The hoodie was pricey since it was a souvenir, but the jeans, like most of my clothes, were purchased for a $1 a year ago from a local second hand shop.

They needed throwing out long ago, but i always justify keeping them a bit longer because they are great for fence repair.  That is to say, fence repair will destroy them even more, so why start with something new, right?

Oftentimes, i’m frugal to a fault, but a hoarder i am not – if i have no use for an item and it has possible value to someone else, i’m selling it or giving it away at earliest chance.

Nevertheless, the hole in the butt portion of the pants that i keep covered by pulling down my stretched out hoodie is just getting too large for comfort.  With a windchill of 4F and a foot of snow outside,  it will be a long time before any fence repair will take place.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

 

 

A Big Snow for Us!

Okay, i know, in many parts of the world, including the United States, a foot of snow is hardly an event.  But we haven’t had accumulation like this for at least a decade!   I’m not a fan of snow, but soft, loose snow like this is useful for subsoil moisture and filling ponds.

Thankfully, with managed grazing protocols in place, one can largely avoid having to get out into the weather and on the bad roads.  Today’s event is continuing, but the temps hovering around 30 degrees.  The snow ploughs have been doing the best they can to keep highways open.

Mostly livestock have no problems grazing through this snow, though heavy cover of ice on top of a foot of snow is actually a really bad situation, which we haven’t had for many, many years.

Below are some photos from years past since i’m not driving up to my farm today on slick roads just to take a photo of my cows.  In a few days, i’ll mosey on up in my JD Gator and check on them.  If they need more grazing, i’ll roll up the polywire and let them have access to the next paddock already set up.  In the next paddock are 5 big hay bales they will have access to as well as mostly grazing.  However, i don’t expect them to need a new break.

9  grazing under the snow - Copy

3 Polywire and step in posts - stood thru wind and snow! - Copy
Cattle grazing through snow – strip grazing stockpiles forage
Cattle - Dec 2013 (7) - Copy
Sheep bale grazing near a small patch of timber.
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Queen of the Log!  Sheep and horses handle the snow very well, since they will just paw through to the goodies.
Tannachton Farm - winter grazing 2013-small copywrited
This photo is not taken today, but illustrates how cows and calves alike have no problem grazing through deep snow.  They are not expecting to be fed.  

The only livestock we have that refuses the snow are our small flock of laying hens!

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img-4981
Happy hens when i fed them inside their eggmobile.  

Be safe out there!!!

tauna

 

 

 

Richly Flavoured Oxtail

Were settling in for a long string of cold days, so time to catch up on those indoor jobs.  So today, i’m turning a couple packages of home raised grass finished frozen oxtail into delicious and versatile food.  After unwrapping and placing the thawed beef oxtail pieces in a large pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 3-4 hours.  When tender, let cool then pull off the meat pieces.  The bones and extra fat i feed to our laying hens.  Chickens are omnivores, so it’s not a bad thing, but i never feed chicken back to chicken.  Chicken bones are fed to the dog.

Ideas for the meat: baleadas, quesadillas, roast beef salad, roast beef sandwich (using broth to make gravy), barbecued pulled beef, beef topping for fresh salad, or make vegetable beef soup with the broth or just plain broth if you or a loved one is under the weather.

Cheers!

tauna

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Check out that yellow fat!  Only from fully grass-finished animals.  Check out Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products