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.
For the past 15 years or so, we’ve had our calving season start about 18 May through first week of July. This worked pretty well, but since i have had scour problems the past two seasons, i was adamant about making changes, so i put the bulls in earlier. Thankfully, despite the earlier and shorter breeding season, most cows got pregnant again.
Official calving season this year for me started 25 April, but already have 16 calves on the ground and up and running! Weather has been pretty nice until today with temps only reaching 46F and it’s misty rain and mild wind.
I never thought about this, but it’s true!!!
Stands filling up, quickly. The ‘pump up’ music playing. A bronc starts dancing in the chute. Fresh arena dirt and fresh livestock.
The excitement is felt, seen and heard. An electricity that is circulating throughout the stock, contestants, and spectators. And then, the announcer begins to speak…
He doesn’t begin by giving the statistics of the riders, or rant about the stock contractors, no. The announcer begins with “This is the home of the free and the land of the brave and because of that we want to honor those who give up their freedom so we can enjoy ours. Every Marine, Sailor, Airman, First responder, please stand up.” Some slower than others, stand. Stand in remembrance of their fellow men and women, stand in remembrance of the commitment they made to this country. Stand to be honored. And as each one stands up, the electricity of the building, changes, ever so slightly, as…
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Another stunningly beautiful weather day here. Just a touch of frost on the windshields and crunchy grass early this morning.
Woke up about 4am since i’d fallen asleep so early the evening before, but with a horrible headache. Took some Tylenol, fixed some mate, then opened the door to let Thunder in and along with him a bird flew in! Weird. So a little early morning excitement – Allen and i finally coaxed it out by turning off all the lights in the house and turning on the porch light. Birds are not like bats, they have to see where they are going.
My main project for today was to load up those little calves i talked about earlier and the thin bull and take them to market. Now we don’t have those baby calf feeding chores which frees up about 45 minutes a day! Not to mention just the inconvenience of being tied to this task twice a day. Most of that time is taken up with preparing the bottles and feeding the bottle calves. There is also no more feed costs.
Next big project was to prepare another 16 foot cattle panel into a circle which is what we use in south Missouri for decorative and useful end posts for fence. Once these are filled with rocks (and there are plenty of those on my farm there!) then they are set to go. Beautiful and functional at once. It is hard work to fill up them up, however.
Dallas put the second coat of linseed oil/mineral spirits on his lawn tractor trailer yesterday and took out a couple bales of hay for my cows up north. He also moved several more bales from the neighbour’s farm. We bought the rest of his hay bales just recently and while it’s dry, we are moving them off his farm as quickly as possible.
This afternoon and early evening will be spent at the Forage Systems Research Center‘s 50th anniversary with guest speaker, Dr Fred Martz, professor emeritus and former FSRC superintendent. It’ll be nice getting to visit with friends we haven’t seen for some time.
We had a lovely couple inches of rain a couple weeks ago which settled the dust after about 7 weeks of nuthin’! It was dry – and still is – but with warm weather, the grass actually has been squeaking out a bit of growth before the last of this nearly perfect weather gives way to the bitter iciness of winter.
So, we have not had to turn the cows and calves on to winter stockpile yet – we have fed a few bales of hay to stretch the stay on some of the paddocks simply for convenience. Plus it’s dry enough to set out bales with the pickup, so it’s a nice time to feed hay. Once the snow is blowing and it’s cold, snowy, icy, or slick, i would rather just leapfrog another stretch of polywire on the stockpile and let the cows go to grazing.
This is the perfect time to get stock tanks, pump houses, etc winterized. Today, I removed my two marine-type batteries from the solar powered water pump. Drained the pump, pressure tank, intake and out pipes as well as 4000 feet of 1 1/2 inch HDPE water pipe (not as hard as it sounds, just undo the end and it gravity drains itself), and removed the bottom screw from the filter from the pond to drain it. Unplugged and shut off the pump, turned the solar panels off, shut down the door to my portable solar house and latched it, loaded the marine-type batteries (yeah, they are heavy – ’bout 60 lbs a piece!) into the back of my Gator and it is all set for winter. I store the charged batteries in our basement – don’t want them to drain and freeze – they cost about $140 each.
Allen and Dallas are replacing a half a quarter mile of perimeter barbed wire fence on my Buckman 80. It was just getting too worn out to keep cows in with any peace of mind. They set posts and stretched wire today and yesterday. Rick helped yesterday. Such a busy week, they hope to finish up on Monday. Once the end posts settle a couple days, then they’ll stretch the wire. I can help put on the clips. Why don’t i help? Honestly, i’m really not strong enough to do much except put on the clips. If anything ever happens to my guys, I’ll have to hire my perimeter fencing done.
My to-do list today:
Go to my farm – It takes an hour and 10 minutes roundtrip, so a good part of the time is spent in traveling. Once there, i moved a water tank, replaced an anchor and brace post on hi-tensile fence, pulled the fiberglass line posts and moved them. I’m actually moving about 650 feet of existing 2-strand hi-tensile wire over a bit. It just wasn’t working where i had built it four years ago.
Quick trip to Brookfield to buy nappies for Allen’s Aunt June – she is attending a baby shower saturday morning to which i’ll take her. At 96, her eyesight and motor coordination isn’t what is used to be and she no longer drives. Last week, i spent a few hours scrubbing her frig and freezer since it was not working properly and all the food had gone — well, totally nasty. I discovered that the back of the freezer (inside) was frozen solid, so hoped that cleaning, vacuuming underneath and behind, as well as completely defrosting would fix the problem. Thankfully it did. I found a wooden bar to place beneath the front of the unit since it was leaning so far forward. Maybe the doors were not getting shut completely to cause it to freeze up.
We were supposed to have sunny weather today, but that didn’t happen. However, I’d already set Dallas to the task of caring for his lawnmower trailer with linseed oil and mineral spirits on Monday early afternoon. After two days of curing, today would have been the second coat. He had parked it in the barn last night because of the possibility of rain; only a heavy mist, but inside it is dry. Maybe he’ll get that second coat on tomorrow.
Had planned to pain the letters on the Powell Seed Farm sign, but too high humidity and too cool. Ran out of time anyway.
Made some phone calls. One to get the lawnmower picked up for annual maintenance, another to Bill to schedule changing out June’s garbage disposal, amongst others. Received a phone call from the fellow in south Missouri from whom I’m buying hay and he has it all delivered, so will pay him tomorrow.
Well, that’s about it along with preparing beef fillets and stir fry for lunch, three loads of laundry, making up another batch of laundry soap, and washing dishes. I had more on the to-do list, but tomorrow’s another opportunity.
During the course of the year, we sell our calves as they reach a weight that is valuable in the marketplace – this may mean we’ll have 3 or 4 days which we sell groups of calves. Monday was such a day with 200 head going to market at North Missouri Livestock Auction in Milan, MO. (also find them on facebook)
The calves had already been sorted, so Monday morning just meant gouping into trailer load lots. The number in each lot varied by trailer size.
Our little stock trailers are 7ft by 24 ft, so we can haul about 25 head of the five weight calves. I was the first one to load out for the trip to Milan and would return for a second load. Roundtrip is about an hour and 15 minutes.
Now that my husband has sold some of his calves, he’s offered to buy me a new shirt. WHAT! Aint’ nuthin’ wrong with my shirt?! 😉