Category Archives: Wildlife Walkabout

Forage Samples

Before i took off on my driving trip to warmer weather in Continued Wanderings, and before super cold weather set in, i collected forages from standing forage (winter stockpile) for grazing to see what it’s value for animal nutrition would be. Since i raise beef cows, it is not so critical to have high quality all the time like a dairy cow needs, but since starting this new (to me) #total grazing scheme, i wanted to train my eye, so to speak, as to what the numbers look like in comparison to what the actual forage looks like.

There were three applications i wanted to measure;

1) Stockpiled forage which had been allowed to grow to full maturity since last being grazed very short in late May. This test will give me a good indication of what forage quality will be going forward with the total grazing plan i’ve implemented since fall, in which, forage is allowed to grow to full maturity before being grazed in winter.

2) new growth stockpile or that which had been grazed in August and had a little time to regrow (likely highest quality but lowest quantity). Once again, north Missouri was very short on late summer rains so very little forage could be stockpiled under the traditional MiG grazing plan, so many producers bought hay in preparation for a long winter of feeding – as you read in a previous posting here, i decided to sell stock to avoid hay feeding.

3) This sample will be a compilation of waterways, buffer zones, and other areas not worked up to raise organic soybeans. This one is from the Bowyer Farm and is 4 1/2 year old ungrazed or mowed old growth primarily toxic endophyte fescue.

As expected, all forages samples are marginal at best as far as feed value and crude protein which necessitates the feeding of some sort of protein supplement to help the cows’ guts break down the highly lignified grasses to grind out the nutrition in the forages. Even though i knew this going in, i felt it was worth the time and expense for my own education to have these images in my mind and numbers on paper to match up.

Education, sampling, researching, learning, observation are critical in any endeavor worth doing – ranching/farming is no different.

Scissors and a yellow plastic bucket are the complicated tools necessary to collect forage samples. These samples contained a lot of dry matter, so to collect a pound of forage, made for a lot of volume! This is the paddock # 8 sampling – the one not grazed since May 25, 2020 and collected on December 27, 2020
Once I brought home the sample, i cut it into smaller pieces to make it easier to handle and dry more quickly. Using a protein tub to hold the sample kept messiness to a minimum.
Once cut into pieces, i could stuff it all into a 2 gallon Ziploc bag – it was really full – and weighed it up to be certain i had at least the required 1 lb sample for testing. Then i stuck all samples in the deep freeze because i wanted to wait to send it after the holidays – it still took 14 days from north Missouri to Ithaca, NY while paying for 3 day priority. Not happy.

Click on the link above to open the forage samples information from Dairy One Forage Testing Lab.

Paddock 8 – last grazed 12 May 20, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Paddock 24 – last grazed 11 Sep 20, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Bowyer Farm – last managed Nov 2016, forage sample taken 27 Dec 20

Prairie State Park

Before i lay into the management of the park, let me be clear that i haven’t a clue as to the constraints and regulations a state park must adhere to. Also, don’t hesitate to visit the park – winter is certainly not its most beautiful season. I did see about a dozen bison.

Covid stuff has made doing stuff a bit awkward – i didn’t see a soul at this park – rangers or visitors. The Prairie State Park visitor’s center was closed, so i back tracked to the camping area and with a bit of driving around, discovered an outdoor privy. It was gross, but didn’t gag me – maybe because i was desperate.

Anyway, that relieved, I drove back towards the visitor’s center – there was one long trail near the privy, but it was too late in the day for me to conquer it. I found one much shorter which was only a path through a burnt out field of native prairie – or what is accepted as native prairie.

Let me admit my bias up front; for regular pasture/field/timber management, i think fire is stupid. It destroys the micro organisms, small critters, and sends amazing amounts of carbon into the atmosphere – not to mention it is dangerous and takes careful management so that the fire doesn’t get away. Typically, it does the exact opposite of what it is touted to accomplish.

There, having said that, fire can be a necessary tool for emergency renovation if we haven’t managed a parcel and now need to jump start healing – a one time deal – if other practices have been exhausted.

As i drove around the park, it appeared to have perhaps half of the property burnt to the ground. I almost didn’t take the time to make this hike, but so glad i did. This was the first time, i’ve explored, examined, encountered the devastating effects of fire on pasture/range/prairie.

Path of the Scorched Earth – would have made a better title.
The grasses are completely burnt, leaving not only no cover, but scorched soil. Any nutrients and saliva provided by bison are burnt up as well. Hopefully, the plants were allowed to grow enough to develop deep root systems to facilitate fast growth in the next growing season.
Oodles and myriads of small rodents and other critters skeletons and bones completely stripped of any hide or sinew. Either these animals were eaten or died a very long time ago or they were caught in the fire.
Pieces of a turtle shell. No one can know for sure the demise of the turtle. We have so few box turtles in north Missouri, i hate to see their destruction. We do have a lot of snapping turtles though, which we could do without – terribly hard on ducklings and goslings.
Woody sprouts thick and getting out of control without proper grazing by bison. These are a result of very low density grazing which allows selective grazing. Once these tree sprouts, thorny vines, etc get started, it’s very difficult to restore the prairie without mowing or chemicals. Fire does not hurt them.
People of the Sky trail – more charred earth – it was getting cold and i’ve learnt a lot by walking on charred pastures.

Collecting Flower seeds

It’s that time of year in north Missouri to start collecting and storing seeds. If i see a flower or plant along the road banks i like, i stop and collect as many seeds as possible. Lay them out to dry, then store in a dry place and start them early in the spring. I direct sow where i want the plants – transplanting just doesn’t seem to work for me.

Illinois Bundleflower

harvested Stella D’Oro lily seeds
These lilies are not native to Missouri, but are often used for landscaping and are quite pretty.

Renewing Relationships

This isn’t going to be a profound blog – i’m not a profound kind of person. This is simply a blog with some photos i took recently with my Pentax K-5 and, honestly, i had to renew my relationship with my camera by getting out the book! Taking snapshots with my phone is just so handy, that lugging my heavier camera fell out of vogue.

Time to enjoy it some more. And read my book and practice, practice, practice.

Giant Swallotail on my phlox plants
Thankfully, we live in an area with not much light pollution. These past few moonless nights were great opportunity to practice night shots. i don’t have all the gadgets and equipment for best shots, but that’s okay – i’m pleased enough.
Little thieves caught in the act! What a challenge to be a sunflower farmer!
Okay, not so great – didn’t read the book before taking this shot.
Not all the animals on our farm are wild. One of my Welsummer hens coming of the shade.

Pershing State Park Trails

Ivis and I enjoyed our weekly hike on gentle trails at nearby Pershing State Park – a bit cool and very breezy, but good to spend time together.  Although, the calendar says we are 3 weeks into spring, there is only the tiniest bits of evidence.

 

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Rain, Mud, and Mushrooms

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.

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Just shifting my cows from one paddock to another is just a disaster.  It will heal, but for now, our world is quite ugly.

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Nothing to do with mud or mushrooms, but walking back up through the timber, there are multiple signs of deer, including this rub which has killed the tree.

mushrooms
The closest i can find to identify it is HEXAGONAL-PORED POLYPORE
Polyporus alveolaris (formerly Favolus alveolaris), but i’m not sure that’s it.

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Mushroom
Probably CINNABAR POLYPORE (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus)  Not edible

 

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Possibly WOOD EAR (TREE EAR)
Auricularia auricula (formerly A. auricula-judae).  Says it’s edible, but it sure doesn’t look appetizing.  Guess i’m not hungry enough.

 

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I had to ask around and the consensus is that it may be false turkey tail.

 

Persimmons are Sweet & Ripe!

Persimmon trees here in north Missouri are not loaded with fruit by any means, but the soft native fruits are falling and we are gathering them just as quickly due to their delicate nature.  Many people have never eaten persimmon fruit and i think i know why.  It’s a lot of work – not hard, just time-consuming – to process them.

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The golf ball sized soft fruits contain 4-7 seeds, which comprises half the weight and volume of the fruit.  Add in that the seeds are slimy and difficult to remove and the effort hardly seems worth it.  But their taste is so smooth and naturally sweet that they don’t need making them into sauce or jam –  the spread is just that tasty.  No sugar added.

Missouri Department of Conservation Field Guide – Persimmon Trees

Missouri Department of Conservation Discover Nature Notes

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Fruits picked up from the ground are very soft and need to be worked up and frozen immediately.

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Never waste anything – these seeds will go to compost.

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I put the ‘meat’ of the fruit into my Ninja thing and whip into this lovely sauce, then freeze it in 2 cup containers for use throughout the fall and winter.  This can be used as a sweet spread just right away.

Bill Smith’s Persimmon Pudding (8-10 servings)

INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ cup softened unsalted butter
  • 3 cups persimmons
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Whipped cream, optional

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease two 8 ½” diameter by 2” deep cake pans with butter.  Use a food mill, sieve, cone strainer, or by hand remove the seeds from the persimmons and puree the pulp; it will reduce them from 3 cups to 2 cups.  Combine the puree with the buttermilk.  Beat the remaining butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until fluffy.  Add the eggs one by one.  By hand, in a large mixing bowl, stir the persimmons into the butter.

Sift all the dry ingredients together and fold them into the persimmon mixture.  Pour the batter into the baking pans and place the pans in a larger pan filled halfway up with warm water.  Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour or until the pudding is firm at the center, has pulled away from the sides of its pan, and a paring knife inserted into the center of the pudding comes out clean.

Serve hot with fresh whipped cream.  This keeps well in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days and reheats beautifully in the oven.

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This bark has a yellowish mold on it, but the shape and size of the bark is quite unique to a persimmon tree.