Tag Archives: annuals

Annuals Scheme – Final Analysis

Today marked the last day of my experiment with rotatilling, pneumatic drilling/harrowing, and grazing annuals as part of a pasture improvement scheme.

Grazing comparison data is as follows:

2013-2014 – Paddock 22 – 3218 lbs, Paddock 23 – 1871 lbs  Total:  5089 lbs

2014-2015 – Paddock 22 – 3567 lbs, Paddock 23 – 2007 lbs  Total:  5574 lbs

2015-2016 – Paddock 22 – 2072 lbs, Paddock 23 – 1222 lbs  Total:  3294 lbs

2016-2017 – lost all my records

2017-2018 – Paddock 22 – 1547 lbs, Paddock 23 – 695 lbs    Total: 2242 lbs

As you can imagine, i was shocked at the lack of grazing days provided by the annuals, but this was my first experience.  When i turned them in on the annuals, the cows and calves grazed it all down in four days!  In a few days, i was able to turn them back in for a couple more days grazing to boost that yield just a bit.  However, at this point, the paddocks will take a very long rest.  One thing i did not observe and record in previous years and that is cow condition.  At least for this year, these cows were slick and shiny healthy coming off the annuals, but they were that way going in, too.  So…..

So, in a nutshell, it cost me a total of $1842.12 to plant 18 acres of annuals for grazing.  The purpose of annuals to help rejuvenate the soil microbe community and not necessarily for gain in grazing.  Good thing, because it certainly failed in that department.  However, as i had written before, the goal is to eradicate toxic fescue and build organic matter.  It does look like that has happened at least in short term.  It is very hard to measure long term benefits.   However, from this point, i’m planning to tack the sail and switch to tilling then no-till a permanent ley (grassland).  Whether or not that will work remains to be seen, but i’m keen to find a way to reduce then eliminate any tractor work.  I hope to get that scheme underway and perhaps even completed this week.  This new scheme, although i do plan to till before planting to permanent ley, will provide a side by side comparison of planting annuals first vs planting permanent pasture once and done.  There will be a few spots, too, that won’t be tilled and seeds will be drilled straight into established pasture.

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I drive through the annuals with my Gator to make it easier to set up a polybraid fence through it.
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Grazed part next to ungrazed annuals.  That tall stuff still standing in common ragweed.
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My ground is very poor in most areas and this is all it will grow in a 65 day period of the annuals.

 

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This is along the fence line (see fence on the left).  What a difference in where i tilled and planted vs undisturbed.  The ubiquitous Kansas ragweed (lanceleaf) is still thriving where it is undisturbed.

 

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Those cows didn’t waste any.  They really, really enjoyed eating the succulent annuals and snarfed down the volunteer yellow foxtail.  The stalks are trampled nicely.
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This is a close up of the left behind common ragweed.  That step in post is 36 inches tall.
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A closer look at the Kansas (lanceleaf) ragweed in undisturbed soil.  Same step in post.
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Larger area shown here of what is left of the annuals after grazing.

 

Cows on the Annuals

It's been a rather busy and momentous month, so i'm way behind on reporting on the annuals for grazing and pasture improvement project.  Here are photos of growth at 60 days.  Turned the cows in on August 1, 2017.  Yah willing, my final report will be coming soon.  It will take some number crunching and analysis, so will be several days, but i'm ready to put paid to this project.

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30 Day Checkup

Time for an update on the annuals.  It’s now been 33 days since planting on the 26th of May and it’s been terribly dry until just now.

The soil had some moisture in it when i tilled the 18 acres the first go on 18-19 May, but then we received a rain (4/10s) which delayed the second tillage until 25 May, at which time my husband seeded the hills right behind the second tillage so we could wrap up this project for the first stage.

Then weather set in hot, dry, sunny, and windy.  Some of the seeds germinated and some even sprouted and grew.  If we didn’t get a rain soon, those brave spindly plants would soon wither and die.

At last, over the course of 14-15-16 June, we received 1.5 inches of rain and temps cooled just a little bit – a breather for plants, soil, animals, and man.

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What a difference a 1.5 rain made – this was taken four days after the rain, but the soil is good here.
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This photo is taken immediately to the east of the previous photo and at the same moment.  Growth exhibited on 20 June, four days after that 1.5 inch rain.  What a difference soil quality makes!

Rainfall has been scarce until 28-29-June, when a gully washer of 7 inches fell in a bit over 24 hours.  Thankfully, not much soil moved because i was careful to leave grass strips and there was still some dead plant material.  Ideally, there would have been new root growth to help, but the previous dry weather compounded by my poor soil restricted growth tremendously.

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Taken day after the two days of 7 inches of rain.

 

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Thilled to see so many lespedeza seedlings.
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Mystery – why is one sunflower so green and healthy and this one right next to it yellow and sickly?  Why did i photograph my shoe?!
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A very little soil movement can be seen in this photo although it is on a slight slope.  Can you believe that this is 33 days growth?  My clay hills are pretty dead which is the reason for trying to bring them alive by building organic matter and eliminating toxic endophyte fescue.
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This shows some definite soil movement after a 7 inch rain, but it didn’t move very far.  Encouraging!

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So, bring on the next 30 day!  With that 7 inch rain and little of it running off, there should be a massive increase in forage growth.  Excited!

Cheers and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Second Pass & Broadcast

With the first pass May 15, 16, and 17 behind me, several very light rain showers, and a few days of drying out, I was ready to get to that second tillage pass and get the annual seeds in the dirt!.  Thursday,  May 25, 2017, I spent 4 hours with the Howard Rotavator 600 and was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, the John Deere 4250 tractor worked along nicely at A2 speed vs A1.  This effectively increased my speed from 2.1 mph to 2.6 mph.  And it showed up in the final tally for sure!  The second pass on the same 18 acres, instead of taking 12 hours as before, only rang up 7 1/2 hours.  Nice.  Admittedly, i could never make a farmer (row cropper); how do those guys run those things for hours on end, daylight to dark, day after day.  I was thankful, i could distract myself for a while, at least on the long rows, by chatting (private message) with my son, who was at a cafe in Spain, and texting about soil conditions with a friend who was farming another part of my farm with 120 acres for organic soybean production.  I finished up with the second pass on the 26th.  It was also seeded on the 26th.

When i was about 2/3 rds completed, Allen came with a huge bag of premixed annual seed to fill the hopper on the Einboch power seeder and harrow.  He finished all 18 acres in about 4 hours, counting a couple stoppages due to hoses plugging.

So, time spent so far:

Mixing seeds – 1 hour

Tractor – first pass – 12 hours

Tractor – second pass – 7 1/2 hours

Tractor/Seeding  – 4 hours

A couple of ways to figure the cost of establishment.

One is to figure my actual costs and assign an hourly rate for our time plus wear/tear/depreciation on the tractor and implements.  And the other is to use custom rental rates which are figured by the acre.

  1. Total man hours spent – 24.5 hours at $??/hr
  2. Tractor costs for 23.5 hours at $??/hr
  3. Seed cost
  4. Fuel costs – 23.5 times 7.7 gph = 181 gallons @

Or using machinery rental rates (which is what i’m going to do since i don’t know the above costs!)

  1. tractor and rotavator – 36 acres times $20/acre = $720.00
  2. tractor and seeder/harrow – 18 acres times $15/acre = $270.00
  3. Seed costs – $31.56 per acre is what i ordered – HOWEVER, i am informed that Allen actually put on about half again as much, so i will multiply that amount by 1.5 for a per acre cost of $47.34.  The additional seed will hopefully pay off in increased forage yields.  So total seed costs are $$852.12.

Buckwheat 6# @ $ .90/lb

Lespedeza 6# @ $1.00/lb

Pearl Millet 5# @ $1.05/lb

Oats 12# @ $ .28/lb

Cowpeas 6# @ $ .90/lb

Sunflower 5# @ $.45/lb

Red Clover  2# @ $1.95/lb

Total expenses then amount to $1842.12 or $102.34 per acre.  That’s a lot and does not include the 2 tons of lime i had applied in April at a cost of $66/acre.  It’s tough to say this all has to be recouped in one year or one grazing because the lime will be there for the rest of my life and the tillage will have long term effects in loosening the soil as well as eradicating the toxic endophyte infected fescue.  With so many variables, counting the cost, or rather, measuring the increase or lack thereof, in the short run, is very difficult in ranch renovation.

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Greased up and ready to go!
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Greased up and ready to go!
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On the long rows, i can distract myself by chatting through Facebook with my son, who was in Spain, and texting my friend who is farming another portion of my land about soil conditions.  Lot of talk about the negative aspects of multitasking, but we all do it and it works.
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Seen here the second pass.
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Wasn’t just a plethora of big rocks this machine dug up.  Boy howdy, this made quite a clatter!  Thankfully, it did not do any damage and i was able to easily unwind this heavy chain from the shaft.
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Allen, my husband, moving along quickly with the Einbach seeder/harrow.  I gotta keep plugging along or he will overtake me!
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Einboch PneumaticStar – Pro Grass Seeder/harrow
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After the Einbock Pneumatic Seeder/Harrow passes.
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Seeded 26 May, no rain, but took this photo this morning, the 1st of June, and it can already be rowed, but ya gotta hold your head just right to see it.
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Close up of some of the forages emerging – very exciting!  Only 5 days in the ground.

The plan is to have something to graze in 60-75 days. This will depend large part on moisture.  We are getting pretty dry now already and need a rain.  I will post updates.

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Here’s a shot of my seed mix in the machine.

By the way, you noticed i’m not including costs associated with photography and blogging.  It’s a good way to force me to sit down and keep a log of expenses, time, and results.  Hopefully, it will help others as well!

Managing soil, water, and animals properly and privately goes a lot further than politically motivated government regulations written by people who are far removed from soil and weather.

Cheers!

tauna

The Big Till

As a first step of my endophyte infected fescue eradication and pasture renovation project, today was the big day of tillage.  My husband had purchased a Howard Rotavator 600, which is 10 foot wide sod-cutting and chewing machine and the soil (actually just dirt, it’s in pathetic condition) it’s been through gave it a real workout.  Even the tractor couldn’t keep up and i had to sidle over and only take 2′-5′ bite of new sod at times, especially going up hill.  This first pass took place on May 17-18, 2017.

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Here my husband has been running the equipment to make sure everything was working.  I’m getting ready for my dual.  Operating new equipment is always an uneasy step for me!
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The ‘soil’ more like dirt because it’s so dead is very compacted and lots of clay making for a lot of overlapping.  I even killed the tractor a couple times because there was simply not enough power to pull the machine.  I quickly learnt how much ‘bite’ the machinery could take so the John Deere 4250 would not be overwhelmed.
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The Howard Rotavator 600.  Here’s a link to a video of the rotavator in operation.
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My soil hasn’t been tilled since at least the early 1960’s.  It’s compacted with little to no life in it.  Just dirt.  The  hope is to allow water and other nutrient infiltration to encourage forage growth.  This is an example of first pass.

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One pass tillage next to existing stand of grass.  Serious clay content.  Methinks some of this worked up harder than if i took down the gravel road!

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Plenty of big rocks (these are some of the smaller ones) to make the machine go ‘klunk’!
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My office for a total of 8 hours.  Allen ran it for about 4 hours. 

All in all, i mapped out about 18 acres actually tilled.  There are about 25 acres total in the area being renovated, however, because of the steep slopes, several acres are left alone to serve as grassy waterways.  I wonder, however, as hard as the ground is, if the tilled portions won’t actually hold and stop more water than the hard pan waterways.  Hmmm.

So far, 12 hours spent (1.5 acres per hour) tilling, but not counting time servicing tractor and machine or time spent getting to/from the farm.  Tractor uses about 7.7 gallons diesel fuel per hour, so 92.5 gallons there.  Second pass should take a bit less time, but we’ll see!

We received a big storm last night with about an inch of rain, so the second pass won’t happen for a few days – depending on weather.  Allen will be right behind the second rotatiller pass with the Einbach harrow/seeder and my selected annual grass mix.

Per acre healing forages:

  1.  6 lbs buckwheat
  2.  6 lbs lespedeza
  3.  3 lbs pearl millet
  4. 12 lbs oats
  5.  6 lbs cowpeas
  6.  5 lbs sunflower
  7.  2 lbs red clover

These were chosen for their prolification, adaptability to poor soils, nitrogen fixing, and low cost as well as providing excellent grazing in 60-75 days.

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Grass waterways left to slow water during rains until the rest has forage established.
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Not a clear photograph, but a better idea of leaving waterways.
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On the far slope, the rows would have been so short that a lot of time would have been spent just turning around, so i chose to strip till through and across low and high spots.  Time will tell if that was the right decision.
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View from my office. 😉