Basics of management-intensive grazing (MiG) as coined by Jim Gerrish.
Although, Mr Pratt’s focus is often on finance and economics, here he explains simply one aspect of how to manage pastures for regenerative and profitable ranching.
Another super helpful article with great ideas from On Pasture. My ongoing logging activity has yielded far greater returns than expected since my logger has found buyers for specialty logs which resulted in more money for both of us! Plus helped the specialty buyers keep their mills going. Although my logger can remove and use some of the trees for firewood, there is still a massive amount of firewood type logs which will be burned up if i can’t find someone who needs firewood to come in and cut it up and haul it off. Seems like a waste, but there is not much use for firewood quality logs anymore. (and these are already safely on the ground!)
One of the things that really impressed me (Kathy) on my April visit to Greg Judy’s place in Missouri is the thoughtful way he turns forested areas into silvopastures. In addition to creating great pasture, he turns trees into money by selling it as timber, and uses left over limbs to grow another enterprise – shitake mushrooms. I think other On Pasture readers could do the same. So with this week’s Classic by NatGLC, here is Brett Chedzoy with suggestions for getting started at your place.
Throughout most humid regions of the US, the landscape is dotted with old farm fields and pastures that today grow trees and shrubs. In some cases, there are obvious reasons why land was left to revert back to its natural state – too wet, stony or steep. But many of these old field sites also grew back because the farmer no longer had the means or needs to keep the land open. Regardless of the underlying reasons, many of these what now appear to be woodlots (or brushlots, if that’s the image that comes to mind) present ripe opportunity for productive and profitable grazing system expansion – especially when adjacent to existing pasture land, or available in large enough blocks to support a viable grazing operation.
There are many variables to consider when evaluating the potential of bringing idle land back into production for grazing. For starters, the land must be accessible and “fenceable”, have a developable source of water, and be potentially productive enough to offset the necessary investments. If you can’t check “yes” to these questions and there isn’t a reasonable fix, then look elsewhere for the time being. The next step is to come up with a (simple) plan for what will be done, who will do it, and when. Making sure there’s a good “why” is also a recommended part of this planning. In other words, will it pencil out and contribute to your objectives?
The following are some of the important considerations for reclaiming former farmland:
If so, then developing into a silvopasture (openly-wooded) pasture may be the best option because quality trees can cultivated as a future cash crop while at the same time provide shade, browse, watershed protection and many other benefits. And if grazing is the objective, why spend money clearing trees today that will yield profits tomorrow?
Silvopastures, like many things in life, are all about balance. From a forestry perspective, favor trees of good value, vigor and quality that will continue to significantly appreciate in value. Trees that are of firewood quality today – and will only probably become larger firewood trees in the future would be good candidates for culling, unless there is some other justification for leaving them. Some examples would be unusual species, or trees with special wildlife value like a nesting cavity or den. Silvopastures vs. woodlots can be thought of as a choice between growing the best trees on a given location together with either forage (in the case of silvopastures) or firewood (in the case of woodlots). For silvopastures, the firewood-quality trees are removed to reapportion sunlight to the ground level to grow quality forage plants. Getting enough sunlight on the ground is a critical step in silvopasture development, so avoid leaving too many “good trees”. Consulting foresters can provide invaluable expertise when contemplating an extensive woodlot thinning.
Trees intercept some of the precious sunlight needed to grow forages in the silvopasture understory – but so do all of the other plants and shrubs already growing there. Some of these plants and shrubs may be quality food sources or enhance the silvopasture in other ways. Others, however, may detract from the silvopasture because they are unpalatable, potentially harmful, or too aggressive in their growth habit such as the so-called “forest invasive plants” like multiflora rose (although there are also many native plants that can be problematic like some species of ferns). The “low shade” from the shrub & herbaceous layer is often more of an impediment to growing quality forages than the “high shade” of the main canopy trees. And unlike the culled trees that can often be utilized for things like firewood or sawtimber, these smaller plants are usually costly to control. Mechanical, chemical and organic methods such as burning, shading (solarization) and livestock impacts (trampling, girdling, defoliating and rooting) are all options to consider for removing the lower interfering vegetation. Usually, a combination of these methods will give the best results.
Heavy livestock can be baited into persistent patches of undesirable brush to damage and weaken the targeted plants over time, as well as to stimulate the growth of forage plants in the decomposed waste hay. In the examples below, a round bale was fed in a clump of multiflora rose, leaving the canes heavily damaged afterwards. Mineral feeders and supplement tubs can also work to lure animals into brushy and weedy areas.
Daylighting the ground is the starting, not the ending point towards establishing quality silvopastures. The next two steps are to create favorable conditions for desirable plants to germinate, and then manage in a way that promotes their growth – while discouraging the growth of the undesirables. Germination requires a seed source and good seed-soil contact. Wooded areas surrounded by fields and pastures – or where there is still a remnant of forage plants – usually have a sufficient seed bank to spare the expense of supplemental seeding. Once a variety of herbaceous and woody plants start to grow in the increased sunlight levels, skilled management will be necessary to shift the composition to primarily desirable species. When open pastures become too weedy, they can be mowed, sprayed or even reseeded. Silvopastures, on the other hand, have lots of obstacles in the way that limit these options – so intensively-managed livestock impact is about the only practical tool to manage vegetation. Desirable impact with livestock can be achieved in different ways. Some examples are: rooting by pigs; bark girdling and defoliation with small ruminants, or trampling and crushing with heavy livestock that are grazed at very high densities or which are baited into brushy areas during winter feeding. Each of these has its pros and cons, but managed correctly could be an effective way to increasingly improve understory vegetation composition – without unduly compromising animal performance, welfare, tree health and other resources.
There’s a learning curve involved with developing idle land into successful silvopasture systems, so start small and experiment when possible. Resources and advice from fellow practitioners is available at Cornell’s silvopasture forum: www.silvopasture.ning.com
Brett Chedzoy is a regional extension forester for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County, and in his spare time manages his family’s 450-acre grazing operation, Angus Glen Farms, LLC in Watkins Glen, NY.
The 7th National Grazing Lands Conference is coming up in December and it’s one of On Pasture’s favorites. One of the things that makes it so great is that folks just like you are the speakers, sharing their great experiences. Learn more about the event here. On Pasture will be there. Come see us!
Great article in Progressive Cattleman.
Once again Kit Pharo, Pharo Cattle Company, boldly expounds the holiness of God (YHWH) in his Sabbath Day Devotions.
Sabbath Day Devotion
June 2, 2018
The First Memorial Day Celebration –
Last week, we discussed the Memorial Day celebration that takes place in America to honor those who died fighting in one of America’s wars. As I pondered this, it dawned on me that God, the creator of the universe, established a weekly memorial day of his creative power and ability. Unfortunately, most of mankind pretty much ignores this memorial day.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
The Sabbath (seventh day) was given to mankind at the close of creation by God himself as a memorial of his creative power. God blessed it and made it holy. Later, God reestablished the importance of the Sabbath when he gave us his Ten Commandments. The Fourth Commandment (above) is the only one of the ten that begins with the word “remember” – and yet it is the only one of the ten that has all but been forgotten and ignored by most of today’s so-called Christians. If God did not intend for us to remember the Sabbath day and to keep it holy, why did he give us the Fourth Commandment?
Many of today’s so-called Christians teach that we now only have Nine Commandments. In doing so, I believe they are gravely in error. You may or may not agree… but I am convinced, now more than ever, that God’s Ten Commandments represent HIS standard of holiness – they always have and they always will, at least until heaven and earth disappear (Matthew 5:17-18).
I have no trouble acknowledging the fact that I can only be saved by God’s grace through my faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is impossible for me to be good enough to deserve God’s gift of salvation. It is impossible for me to earn God’s gift of salvation. I cannot be saved by obeying the Ten Commandments, because it is impossible for me to perfectly obey them. From God’s perspective (when he looks at my heart and my mind), I have broken all of his Ten Commandments.
Even though I cannot be saved by obeying God’s Ten Commandments, I firmly believe I should do my best to obey them – all of them. Why? Because they represent God’s standard of holiness. Disobeying them would be wrong. If I love God and if I love Jesus, I will obey their commandments (John 14:15, I John 2:3-4 and I John 5:1-3).
Now… don’t get all bent out of shape about what day you GO to church. I don’t care what day you GO to church – and I don’t think God cares what day you GO to church. Instead of just GOING to church, I encourage you to start BEING the church. I realize that BEING the church is a new concept to most of today’s so-called Christians – but that is exactly what God had in mind when he created the church.
Don’t just GO to church; BE the Church
Pharo Cattle Co.
Cheyenne Wells, CO
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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.
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.
This poem has been around for a long time, but I came across it again on a sheet that was shuffled together with other collected papers.
Norma Cornett Marek