Typical farm day – nothing exciting – but each activity was successful and that makes for a rewarding, yet exhausting day. I’ll be sore tomorrow, but Panadol and Pukka tea will help me relax for a good night’s sleep. Rain forecasted for all day tomorrow, so inside work.
Son, Dallas, expertly maneuvered the tractor to level previously hauled dirt in the corral, then we laid large sheets of geotextile fabric i had previously cut, then the 1 1/2 inch gravel was piled and leveled on top. All this is in preparation for my new cattle working tub which we hope can be installed next week after these rains.
While he was finishing up (and i kept supervising), i had time to walk my weaned calves 1/2 mile from their 5 acre paddock to pasture. Grass isn’t growing very fast yet, so i hauled two square bales of hay – one good brome and one alfalfa to supplement. However, the calves are still very much more interested in grazing the bit of green. It’s a bit of work to feed the square bales since they have to be pushed off a flake at a time. Each bale weighs 700 lbs.
Back home, i spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening shoveling soil in a wheelbarrow and moving it to some containers and low spots in my garden. Then loaded about 30 4 ft old hedge posts onto the flatbed pickup to haul to a neighbour to use as firewood.
We are so muddy in north central Missouri, and perhaps all over the Midwest, but i only know about my little piece the world that i cannot even drive into the pasture with a Gator. Back to walking and wearing my tall rubber boots to ford the running water. The 19th of March is supposed to be spring, but the typical telltale signs are far from sight.
We had a bit of a cold bluster blast in yesterday and apparently my cows mobbed up on the side of hill to get away from the wind and stomped a muddy mess. Since this is cow killing mud time of the year, i discovered that an old cow (she is 20 years old this year and had started a rapid decline in health about 2 weeks ago) had gotten knee deep in cold mud and she was dead this Sunday morning. Another cow had laid down and got herself cast and under the fence, but she was still alive, so i hooked on with the log chain and dragged her to a dry spot where I could fold her legs under her, then pull her head around so she could sit up. She is a young cow and she sat up, so i’m hoping she’ll pull through and be able to stand in a few hours.
All this had me running late for getting back home to fix lunch for Jerry and my husband and son. Thankfully, i didn’t have a complicated meal plan. The eggs were already hard cooked, so just peeled them, chopped them up then added a can of water packed, wild caught tuna, and 1 tablespoon organic pickle relish then stirred it up with my homemade mayonnaise. I did have to make a fresh batch of mayonnaise, but that doesn’t take long. Served on a bed of lettuce.
Saw a small ad in Stockman Grassfarmer recently for an adaptive full flow valve which can be attached to a low flow valve and float assembly. I was super excited about this and it being a Jobe product, there was a good chance it would be a quality product.
So i hopped on the internet to find one and, although Valley Vet Supply had it for a good price, i didn’t need any other supplies to meet the $75 minimum for free shipping (we use this good company regularly). Then i found one on Ebay for a dollar less and Free shipping! Seems like it was direct from the importer. Jobe is a New Zealand company.
I only bought one because i wanted to see if it would actually work, then i may buy another. I hesitated because these puppies are not cheap at $43.65 a pop.
Yesterday, i installed it on a tank here close to the house so i could keep an eye on it in case of failure, but it worked perfectly! The flow is nearly that of just an open hose with the excellent pressure my husband built into the system which pumps from a distant pond.
Looking forward to seeing how long this will last.
I had planned to talk about the challenges of feeding hay in the winter in north Missouri last year, but never got around to it. As it turns out, there are a different set of challenges this year, so i’ll roll them in to one blog.
Winter of 2017-2018 was really long, cold, bitter, but it was too long ago and though i know it was a challenge, i can’t remember. So, starting with winter 2018-2019, which was the second consecutive long winter following a drought made for a very tough feeding season despite selling about 30% of my cows/calves.
My plan was to set out hay for bale grazing in July while it was dry, leaving the Netwrap on for protection of the hay, then using electric polybraid to ration it out to the cows in the hopes of minimizing waste. Sounds like a plan, but you what happens to best laid plans. I did set it all out – about 70 bales spaced appropriately on about 5 acres, then set up the tape. then came the bitter winter early on along with deep, deep snow. Of course, then with no way of removing the Netwrap because of snow and ice and snow and wind took down and buried the polybraid. Cows and calves had their way with the hay.
Unfortunately, the amount of mud and trampling destroyed the 1/4 mile roll of polybraid and the Netwrap from 70 bales is buried. I needed to remove it before grass grows but it was impossible even with Dallas using the harrow to try and pull it up a bit. Sadly, most of it is still out in the pasture even now February, 2020. But the resultant organic matter definitely improved forage production!
This year (2019-2020) blessedly has been mild by comparison of the past two winter. Though we had an early cold snap, it didn’t really dig in cold until Jan 11 when a blizzard rolled in (the day i arrived from Fundo Panguilemu) with 1/4 inch of ice by the time i got to my pickup in the economy parking at airport.
I had started feeding hay way back in August to allow as much forage to grow for winter grazing as possible. Thankfully, we had an excellent growing season though a late start in 2019. However, the two previous years of drought has set back our typical production. But haying while it’s dry only works if your growing paddocks are out of reach for the cows – otherwise, they will practically refuse to eat hay if they see green growing grass.
The freezing spell which lasted until the 31st of January allowed us to unroll hay on frozen ground, but couldn’t take off the netwrap very often because it was frozen to the bale. We cut it across the bale so we could at least unroll it, but that leaves the netwrap under the hay.
Today (2 Feb 20), it was warm enough for me to survive outside for a while (actually spent 3 hours outside because it was 55F!), yet though thawed enough that i could pull up some of the netwrap from underneath the hay that the cows had left behind.
While i was gone to Chile (first of January), it was dry enough that Dallas was able to unroll about 22 bales on another location that needed more organic matter, so that is set for later to be eaten. And in December, Brett had set out about 30 bales with netwrap removed on a section that needs soil building with organic matter before breaking through the barely frozen mud. So once the cows run out of grazing (hopefully there is enough to last ’til first of March), then they’ll back track to these areas where hay is already set out.
I set up the polybraid around the remaining bales hoping they won’t need to be fed this winter. Time will tell. But unless it freezes hard again, it may not dry out until July or August.
Welcome to north Missouri – always 2 weeks from a drought in the summer and cow killing mud under sometimes deep snow and ice in the winter. It’s been said there are 3 good days a year in north Missouri.
Thank you to all of you who take the time to ‘like’ or read or view my blog postings. Goodness knows, some of them are pretty specific to ranching and farming, but since we all eat then, perhaps in a small way, nearly all of them relate to all of us – so, just maybe not really interesting. These videos are great illustrations of why growing grass, then properly managing it for optimum animal, soil, forage, water, and ultimately human health is so important. If you are into the carbon credit, carbon sink, carbon sequestration thing, this is the heart of the matter. So, here we go…..! Thanks to On Pasture for finding and sharing great information.
You know how we always tell you that leaving more leaves of grass results in quicker recovery, and quicker recovery means more forage for your livestock? If you’d like to see that in action, here some videos you’ll like.
This first video is a comparison of the difference in response between Orchard grass continuously grazed to about 1″ height and rotationally grazed Orchard grass left at 3.5 inches tall. It’s taken over a 5 day period.
Here’s the last picture in the series to give you a closer look:
This second video does the same comparison with tall fescue. The grass on the left was grazed continuously to 1″. The grass on the right was rotationally grazed to 3.5 inches.
Again, here’s the final picture in the time-lapse:
It’s also interesting to compare the responses of different grasses. This last video compares Orchard grass on the left to fescue on the right. Both were “grazed” to 3.5 inches once a month. The video takes place over 7 days.
Here’s the last picture from this time-lapse series:
What kind of ideas do these videos give you?
Of course, time of year that grazing occurs and the amount of rest between grazings all factor in to the complex task a grazier has of managing stock. For more, check out this two-part series from Dave Pratt about grazing heights, rest and recovery times, and seasonality.
Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she’s not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.