Category Archives: Water Resources

Trees and Timber Management

The benefits of managing trees and timbers far outweigh the tree-hugger (an environmental campaigner used in reference to the practice of embracing a tree in an attempt to prevent it from being felled) concept of saving all or specific trees.  Biblically, we are instructed to tend and keep the garden – not let it run rampant into total chaos.  Work is not a four-letter word in the negative sense and it behooves us all to manage for effectiveness, efficiency, helpfulness, integrity, and beauty.

As Greg Judy shares, there are two ways to establish silvopasture or savannah.  One way is to clear out dead or unproductive trees in existing timber or to plant a diverse mixture of productive and valuable trees.    Planting and establishing a new timber will take decades before reaching its full potential, but if you didn’t start decades ago, might as well start now.

Unmanaged timbers will eventually become worthless – full of scraggly crooked trees which will never grow if the older trees are not harvested at their peak of quality.  The heavy canopy old tall trees prevent youngsters from reaching their full potential.  Even though the old fogy’s will eventually die, the young trees may never recover and the timber itself will fail.  This may take a millennia, but why not manage it, sustaining, regenerating, as well as taking off a cash crop to help pay the bills.

Trees and timber are so important in our environment – for people, livestock, wildlife, soil.  Shade is the first benefit which often comes to mind.  Evapotranspiration is the ‘coolest’ sort of shade there is – much better than that provided by a shade cloth or roof.  Additionally, we harvest fuel, wildlife, forage diversity, shelter, lumber, and a beautiful landscape.  But management is more than harvesting, it also requires protection from overuse by livestock and even wildlife, yet on the flip side, excluding animal use will allow brush overgrowth and a buildup of fire fuel, which during a dry hot spell could catch fire and destroy your timber in a matter of moments.

Trees which are allowed to grow large around ditches, draws, and branches destabilize the banks.  Their large roots won’t hold the soil as well as millions of deep rooted grass plants, so it’s best to keep those sprouts cut out so grass can grow.  My observation is that once trees are removed, sunlight can reach the bank which allows the grasses to grow, especially with the ready supply of water!  Include timeliness of livestock impact (to knock down the steep eroded banks) and grass will quickly cover those leveled areas as well.  This all works together to hold soil, reduce erosion during what we call gully washers and slow the flow of water across the landscape.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch the land heal.

Spring 2013 (1)
Note how the left side is devoid of trees and the bank slope is less steep and covering with grass while the right side had a fairly large tree grown into the bank.  It could not hold the soil which has washed out from under the tree and it is falling down and will become another liability not to mention the loss of potential lumber or fuel.

A word of caution in all this!  It will not work if you hire a bulldozer and push out trees – roots and all.  This moves too much soil which may cause a lot of erosion and make the scarring even worse.  The trees must be harvested leaving the roots in place.  I find it more attractive to cut the stumps fairly level to the surface, plus the convenience of not having a stump to run into, but it probably doesn’t make any difference from a soil saving aspect.

The final argument to address is to define my use of the word ‘management.’  One way to manage is to bulldoze, another is to clear cut, but i’m referring to managing for regeneration.  Sustaining my unmanaged timber is not smart – improving for the next generation (regeneration) is more respectful all around.

Create something beautiful today!

tauna

12-8-use-existing-water-sources - Alan Newport
These grassy banks will hold against much erosion around this pond.  However, the roots of the trees on the right will grow through the bank eventually causing the pond to leak as well as shade out soil saving grasses.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Let ’em Out!!!

It’s SO tempting to start grazing those tender grass plants since we are exhausted from feeding hay and, by golly, those cows would really be your friends if you’d let them have at it, but long term, they’ll come up short of forage as the season progresses due to sward quality reduction.  Instant gratification doesn’t work in grazing.

Spring Flush

Woody Lane, author of this article in Progressive Forage, is a certified forage and grassland professional with AFGC and teaches forage/grazing and nutrition courses in Oregon, with an affiliate appointment with the crop and soil science department at Oregon State.  His book, From the the Feed Trough:  Essays and Insights on Livestock Nutrition in a Complex World, is available through www.woodylane.com.

Grazing Management Primer – Part 3

Pond fenced with poly wire electric fence
Alan Newport
You can save a lot of money on water development by taking cattle to existing water sources with temporary electric fence.

Here’s a primer for managed grazing, Part III

A few more thoughts on grass regrowth, animal production and timing.

Alan Newport | Dec 08, 2017

In the first two stories of this series we covered some terms used in managed grazing, provided their definitions, and explained why the terminology and the ideas they represent matter.

In this third and final article of our managed grazing primer, we’ll cover some important concepts that aren’t based in terminology.

Plants: Taller and deeper is better

Early in the days of managed grazing there was a huge and largely mistaken emphasis on grazing plants in Phase II, or vegetative state.

Pushed to its logical end, this resulted in what then grazing consultant Burt Smith once commented about New Zealanders: “They’re so afraid of Phase III growth they never let their plants get out of Phase I.”

Young forage is high in nitrogen/protein and low in energy, while older forage is higher in energy and better balanced in a ratio of nitrogen/protein, although it has higher indigestible content.

This older attitude foiled the greatest advantages of managed grazing. It never let the plants work with soil life to build soil. It never let the grazier build much forage reserve for winter or for drought.

Last but not least, we were told for years the quality of taller, older forages was so poor that cattle could not perform on it. That is not necessarily true of properly managed, multi-species pasture where soil health is on an increasing plane and cattle are harvesting forage for themselves. It’s all in the management.

Balance animal needs with grass management

One of the most important concepts to managing livestock well on forage is to recognize livestock production and nutritional needs and graze accordingly.

If you have dry cows or are dry wintering cattle, you might ask them to eat more of the plants.

Remember the highest quality in mature, fully recovered forage is near the top of the plants and the outer parts of newer or longer leaves

Again depending on livestock class and forage conditions, an affordable and well-designed supplement program can let you graze more severely, also.

Erratic grazing breeds success

Nature is chaotic and constantly changing, so your grazing management needs to be also.

If you graze the same areas the same way and same time each year, you will develop plants you may not want because they will try to fill the voids you are creating and you may hurt plants you desire because they will become grazed down and weakened, perhaps at critical times.

If you move those grazing times and even change animal densities and perhaps also add other grazing species, you will create more diverse plant life and soil life.

Remember, too, that your livestock don’t need to eat everything in the pasture to do a good job grazing.

Cattle legs are for walking

Water is always a limiting factor for managed graziers, but the low-cost solution in many cases is to make cattle walk back to water.

Certainly you can eat up thousands of dollars of profit by installing excessive water systems and numerous permanent water points.

This can be overcome to some degree with temporary fencing back to water and using existing water sources.

Read Part I or Part II.

Jim Gerrish on Making Change

Another great article by Jim Gerrish, consultant and owner of American Grazing Lands, published in The Stockman Grass Farmer.

Published as “Grassroots of Grazing” Jim’s regular column provides “Making Change is about Creating a New Comfort Zone” in the December 2017 issue which offers his observations about how people in the grazing/farming/ranching world accept or reject change often needed for the business to survive, or more importantly, thrive so that the next generation will be willing to be involved.

His closing comments of the article:  (you’ll have to buy a back issue for Jim’s full article as well as great articles by other authors)

“I had already come to understand people were not going to change just because something made biological and economic sense.  We all have to be comfortable with the idea of change before we will be willing to even consider change no matter how much empirical evidence is thrown at us supporting that change.

For many of us that comfort level is based on acceptance by our family and community.

I have found it is much easier to sell the ideas of MiG (management-intensive grazing), soil health, grassfed beef, summer calving, and a myriad of other atypical management concepts to someone who has no background at all in ranching and no tie to the local community than it is to get someone with 40 years of experience on a family ranch to change.  The lifelong rancher may grudgingly agree that those ideas make sense, but the most common retort is still, “but I can’t see how we can make that work here.”

That individual is absolutely correct, until you can see that it will work here, it probably won’t.  The biggest part of that “will it work here” question is how the rest of the family sees it.  The better a family knows itself, the easier it is for that one rabble-rouse to make a difference.  If the lines of communication are broken, the more likely it is that things will continue to operate the way they always have.

Then we are back to that sad situation so common in multi-generational agriculture:  We advance one funeral at a time.”

Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant providing service to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across the USA and internationally.  He can be contacted through www.americangrazinglands.com

American Grazing Lands, LLC on Facebook

When to Graze video

 

 

 

Unexpected “Treasures”

For some reason, farmers of old (and, sadly, probably some still) thought that throwing old metal farm implements, myriads of rolls of barbed wire or woven wire in ditches, along with old hedge posts would somehow magically make the ditch stop washing.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  However, it could be said that throwing trash in the ditch answers men’s idea of ‘cleaning’ sort of the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ that women simply cannot fathom.  It’s still there for goodness sake!

Blessed with incredibly fine weather and a wee bit of time and some great help last week and after owning this property for about 26 years, this 50 foot stretch of ditch had the metal pulled out.  Because of the junk, the water simply pools and won’t allow healing.  Once I graze the pasture down this winter with my cows, I’ll burn all the wood trash and cut down as many rubbish trees as necessary to allow this ditch/draw to grass over and heal, so erosion will STOP!

What a surprise to find these fine implements stacked alongside the ditch – most are in decent working order, though too antiquated to be useful except as yard ornaments.

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Numerous heavy rolls of woven wire with farm implements loaded on the back.  It took the three of us with pickup, machinery mover, tractor and loader about 3 hours to clean it out of the ditch.  Environmentally, it’s the right thing to do, but putting a pencil reveals high costs and no income side to this type farm improvement project.
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Son, Dallas, loads the old horse drawn seated one bottom plough.

 

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Two antique harrow sections; one of them is in excellent condition.
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Cute horse drawn cultivator.
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This is likely a walk behind one bottom plough.  It’s missing the wooden handles.
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One of at least 20 big rolls of woven wire buried in the mud and muck, this one even had small trees and multiflora rose grown up through.
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Brett and I worked together to wrap log chains through the center of each roll, Dallas pulled them out with the tractor, then smashed them flat with the front end loader.  Later, we would pack two or three of them in the loader and Dallas would load them onto the machinery mover (trailer).

 

 

Challenges of Solar Water Pump

THis entry will serve two-fold; one as a page in the handbook i’m assembling about my little Tannachton Farm  – not the day to day stuff, but the month to month stuff that happens each year, and secondly to address the questions received about the details about the solar pump used on my farm.  It’s been 5 years now in use and i guess the gremlins are chased out because it is working great this year – i do hope i didn’t just jinx it!

All of the pipe and tanks on the solar system are laid out on top the ground; not buried 4 feet.  Why?  When i applied for and received an EQIP organic transition NRCS government aid that was/is the protocol.

Water pipe:  black polyethylene HDPE 1.5 inch pipe purchased in 500 foot rolls.  So, i unrolled (by hand!) about 4500 feet of 1 1/2 inch HDPE black pipe over that top of the ground to the stock tanks.  The pipe is connected using Philmac fittings of the same diameter.  The use of 1.5 inch pipe eliminates a great deal of friction.  Build drive over uprights to eliminate heavy vehicles driving over pipes in gateways. imageimage

Water tanks:  10 galvanised tanks purchased from Hastings Equity Manufacturing in Nebraska.  I needed high volume tanks because of the number of animals i would be watering and i like a low profile because not only did i plan sheep at the time, but i also want my baby calves to drink – and they do.   A 2-3 foot tall tank will not allow a calf to drink for many months (because it’s not always full).  So, i went with a Hastings sheep water tank that is 8 foot diameter, one foot tall and is lightweight enough for me to move around by myself plus it holds 342 gallons of water!  Well, realistically 300, but that’s still a good amount of storage.  I have 10 of these tanks in use with no problems so far in 5 years.

The technical stuff:  It’s a Dankoff Solar pump.  Pumping through 4500 feet of HDPE pipe which are connected with Philmac fittings.   The pump house was built by MSF Farm Mike and Jeff Fries, Linneus MO.  They also assembled all the pump and installed it inside the house and attached and wired the solar panel to the top of the house to make a seamless, easy to use and move system.  To install all the workings, they also dug out to my pond drain pipe and tied into the pond and set up the shut off valves for that as well.  It was a big job.  As an aside, they also installed the solar panel on a tall pole for my electric fence.

Initially, there was one battery installed, but that is absolutely not enough.  I’m using two now and that is fine unless there is a long period of no light.  With two batteries, the pump will continue for a theoretical 90 minutes before the batteries are drained.  Once the batteries are drained, they will NOT recharge and allow the system to start again once the sun starts shining.  They must be at least a little charged before the solar panel will charge them again.  This is a protection of the system so that the pump won’t keep trying to kick on every time there is a hint of sunshine.  In my opinion, there should be a way to keep the battery from completely draining, then a meter that only allow the pump to start again when the batteries are fully charged.  So, what happens when the batteries are completely drained?  I have to undo the connections and load them into my Gator and haul them home to a charger, charge them overnight, then take them back and hook back up.  Perhaps not a big deal to most, but those batteries weigh at least 50 lbs each.

However, this year, once i got it all going, i’ve had no shut down now for over a month.  Very happy.

Elevation:  the solar pump, panel, pressure tank, and housing are all located below the pond at about 817 feet above sea level.  There seems to be little loss of pressure to the furthest point of 3480 feet undulating between 817 and 874.

Water Line Elevation
The pale purple line is the one the elevation profile outlines – the solar pump at the base of the pond is the starting point.

My system is all fair weather and above ground.  This means that i wait until there is no freezing in the forecast before firing it up.

Spring preparation:

  1. replace plugs in tanks
  2. replace plug in water filter
  3. Install batteries and connections
  4. Wash off solar panel
  5. Remove any wasp nests from inside enclosure
  6. Make sure ground wire is in place
  7. Turn on water at pond to make sure good flow, then turn off.
  8. Connect pipe to pond outlet and flush, then connect to inlet valve
  9. Turn on pond water, water will come out outflow valve – you will get wet
  10. Connect outgoing pipe to outflow valve
  11. If there are no leaks in the system, at this point just keep moving down the line as water flushes out the pipe and reconnect at each connection.  It is important to flush the lines because i can guarantee there will be some mud and mice which have built homes in the line over the winter.
  12. Finally, flushing out the end of the line before connecting to tank float assembly.  Connect and allow tank to fill.
  13. Just about guarantee that the tank will not be level, so you will have to watch it fill and make any float adjustments.  If it cannot be kept from leaking over the side, shut off water valve at the tank.  Either drain the tank (oh yeah, be sure to put the plug in the tank before filling) via tank plug or leaving it for the cattle to drink down.  Use a 2×4 or some such to level the tank.

 

If the solar supply cannot be checked everyday,  always let the cattle have access to a gravity fed water supply below a pond or to the ditch if there is water running there.  When the weather gets hot, the cattle cannot be allowed to be without water.  If this does happen, let them into a pond lot so they can all drink at once.  Be vigilant and thoughtful as to water supply.

Fall shut down and drain: BEFORE freezing weather arrives

  1. Unplug the pump, shut off solar panel access, place arm in ‘off’ position
  2. Shut off water from pond
  3. Remove pipe from shut off valve
  4. Using channel lock pliers or some such, remove large nut from the bottom of the water filter
  5. At this point, walk outside the gated enclosure, then to the north and find the connection.  Remove it using two channel lock pliers.  You will get wet, but once detached, quickly pull the pipe towards the ditch to the east.  Water from all the pipe will come rushing out!
  6. While that is happening, go back to the pump and remove outflow and inflow pipes from fittings.  Making sure there is no freeze points.  Remove plugs from tanks as indicated and make sure they drain.
  7. Remove connections from batteries and take the batteries home to a warm place.  Don’t allow a discharged battery to freeze.  They can discharge in the winter without you knowing.

 

 

Solar Water System 2014 (8)
The little trailer is all set and hooked up to the water system.  Solar panel on top is 550 watts and available as part of this system that Mike Fries, Linneus, MO builds.   My panel is set below a pond with the bank to the west.  This means that sunlight in the fall can be very iffy in the late afternoons.  Consider shutting it down as needed.
2014 (2)
Another view of the trailer.  The pump does not fill this pictured tank; it is fed by gravity flow from the pond above.
Solar Water System 2014 (5)
Very handy – nay, imperative, to have quick coupler with individual shut off at each tank.  This allows for flushing of the line all the way to the tank and also allowing the ability to shut off the tank when not in use.  This assembly easily screws into the Philmac 1.5 inch female adapter.
Solar Water System 2014 (3)
Nice flow through the valve – flushing and checking before quick coupling to the hose to the float assembly in the tank.
Solar Water System 2014 (6)
Full flow fill through pipe and into tank makes for 6-7 gallon fill per minute.  Float arm and tank assembly all put together by MSF Farm, Linneus, MO.
Solar Water System 2014 (10)
Morningstar TriStar Solar Controller
cattle 010
I keep a photo of the wiring configuration inside the pump house because i can’t remember from year to year how to wire it up properly!  Good grief – the battery recommends ‘team lifting’!  Where am i going to get a team?  I gotta pack that sucker myself up, out and around, and lift into the Gator.

 

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Dankoff Solar Pump from MSF Farm

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Flotec pressure tank

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All the above photos are the insides and working parts – MSF Farm will put this all together for you based on your own situation.

Now that I’m done writing up this entry, my system is down. 😦  It seems calves hit the fence near a tank which allowed them to bump the float and the water was overflowing which caused the  batteries to be drawn down – yup, i’ve got them in the back of the Gator, brought home, and now charging.

Such is life!

Cheers

tauna

Green Hills Farm Project

Started in 1988, Green Hills Farm Project is non-profit, family-oriented, sustainable agriculture group of like-minded farmer families who support each other in sometimes crazy ideas.  Each month, we meet with a potluck and farm tour at members’ farms and ranches and once annually with an invited guest speaker.  This year on 4 March, we welcome Jim Gerrish, world renowned grazing expert,  back to his old stomping grounds at FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center) at Linneus, MO to share his unique perspective with a presentation entitled, “Grazing Around the World.”

Join us on Green Hills Farm Project Facebook page for upcoming events!

Here is your invitation!  (GHFP meetings and farm walks are open to the world)

Jim Gerrish, author of Management-Intensive Grazing – The Grassroots of Grass Farming and Kick the Hay Habit – A Practical Guide to Year-Around Grazing, is our guest speaker at the Green Hills Farm Project annual winter seminar March 4, 2017 At FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, MO). Known world wide as an expert in management-intensive grazing systems, Jim is also available for private consultation. Today’s seminar “Grazing Around the World” will be exciting insight into grazing management in many different climates and cultures from Jim and his wife, Dawn’s, personal experience. American GrazingLands Services, LLC.  Jim and Dawn now reside near May, Idaho.american-grazing-lands-pasture-walk-jim-gerrish

This annual seminar has a cost of $30 per family and will include a one year membership to Green Hills Farm Project. Please bring a potluck/carry in dish for lunch. More information contact Allen Powell at 660.412.2001 or myself (tauna) – taunapowell@gmail.com

Hope Ya’ll Can Come!!

Cheers

tauna