As you know from reading my blog, i really like Corriente cows. I’m nearly out of the purebred ones, but most of my replacements have a percentage of Corriente in them and that adds to the cross. It’s a slim profit raising Corrientes unless you can find a niche market. Also, they will not ‘finish’ like a beef cow, so are far too lean with next to no fat cover to make it profitable to butcher them. (However, the meat is absolutely outstanding and that is pretty much all we butcher for ourselves.) So they remain relegated to entertainment (rodeo).
Anyway, a short article came out in the most recent edition of Working Ranch and I’d like to share it with you.
Managed grazing takes some work, but good decisions yield excellent results as measured by animal performance, increased soil biome, desirable grazing plant species, and good ground cover to protect the soil from heat and erosion. Little to no improvement happens in any of these areas if the land is allowed to lie idle. In fact, if animal impact is removed from the land, the negative effects may increase the opportunity for desertification.
Below are some random photos i took today which tell a little bit of the story and my grazing plans (which change with the weather and time of year).
Typical farm day – nothing exciting – but each activity was successful and that makes for a rewarding, yet exhausting day. I’ll be sore tomorrow, but Panadol and Pukka tea will help me relax for a good night’s sleep. Rain forecasted for all day tomorrow, so inside work.
Son, Dallas, expertly maneuvered the tractor to level previously hauled dirt in the corral, then we laid large sheets of geotextile fabric i had previously cut, then the 1 1/2 inch gravel was piled and leveled on top. All this is in preparation for my new cattle working tub which we hope can be installed next week after these rains.
While he was finishing up (and i kept supervising), i had time to walk my weaned calves 1/2 mile from their 5 acre paddock to pasture. Grass isn’t growing very fast yet, so i hauled two square bales of hay – one good brome and one alfalfa to supplement. However, the calves are still very much more interested in grazing the bit of green. It’s a bit of work to feed the square bales since they have to be pushed off a flake at a time. Each bale weighs 700 lbs.
Back home, i spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening shoveling soil in a wheelbarrow and moving it to some containers and low spots in my garden. Then loaded about 30 4 ft old hedge posts onto the flatbed pickup to haul to a neighbour to use as firewood.
I had planned to talk about the challenges of feeding hay in the winter in north Missouri last year, but never got around to it. As it turns out, there are a different set of challenges this year, so i’ll roll them in to one blog.
Winter of 2017-2018 was really long, cold, bitter, but it was too long ago and though i know it was a challenge, i can’t remember. So, starting with winter 2018-2019, which was the second consecutive long winter following a drought made for a very tough feeding season despite selling about 30% of my cows/calves.
My plan was to set out hay for bale grazing in July while it was dry, leaving the Netwrap on for protection of the hay, then using electric polybraid to ration it out to the cows in the hopes of minimizing waste. Sounds like a plan, but you what happens to best laid plans. I did set it all out – about 70 bales spaced appropriately on about 5 acres, then set up the tape. then came the bitter winter early on along with deep, deep snow. Of course, then with no way of removing the Netwrap because of snow and ice and snow and wind took down and buried the polybraid. Cows and calves had their way with the hay.
Unfortunately, the amount of mud and trampling destroyed the 1/4 mile roll of polybraid and the Netwrap from 70 bales is buried. I needed to remove it before grass grows but it was impossible even with Dallas using the harrow to try and pull it up a bit. Sadly, most of it is still out in the pasture even now February, 2020. But the resultant organic matter definitely improved forage production!
This year (2019-2020) blessedly has been mild by comparison of the past two winter. Though we had an early cold snap, it didn’t really dig in cold until Jan 11 when a blizzard rolled in (the day i arrived from Fundo Panguilemu) with 1/4 inch of ice by the time i got to my pickup in the economy parking at airport.
I had started feeding hay way back in August to allow as much forage to grow for winter grazing as possible. Thankfully, we had an excellent growing season though a late start in 2019. However, the two previous years of drought has set back our typical production. But haying while it’s dry only works if your growing paddocks are out of reach for the cows – otherwise, they will practically refuse to eat hay if they see green growing grass.
The freezing spell which lasted until the 31st of January allowed us to unroll hay on frozen ground, but couldn’t take off the netwrap very often because it was frozen to the bale. We cut it across the bale so we could at least unroll it, but that leaves the netwrap under the hay.
Today (2 Feb 20), it was warm enough for me to survive outside for a while (actually spent 3 hours outside because it was 55F!), yet though thawed enough that i could pull up some of the netwrap from underneath the hay that the cows had left behind.
While i was gone to Chile (first of January), it was dry enough that Dallas was able to unroll about 22 bales on another location that needed more organic matter, so that is set for later to be eaten. And in December, Brett had set out about 30 bales with netwrap removed on a section that needs soil building with organic matter before breaking through the barely frozen mud. So once the cows run out of grazing (hopefully there is enough to last ’til first of March), then they’ll back track to these areas where hay is already set out.
I set up the polybraid around the remaining bales hoping they won’t need to be fed this winter. Time will tell. But unless it freezes hard again, it may not dry out until July or August.
Welcome to north Missouri – always 2 weeks from a drought in the summer and cow killing mud under sometimes deep snow and ice in the winter. It’s been said there are 3 good days a year in north Missouri.
Yesterday (the 16th) is cold with a sharp wind, but sunny – not cold like in states closer to the 49th N parallel, but i don’t live there – my north Missouri Tannachton Farm at 39.95 is even too far north, but this is where my husband lives, so guess i’ll hang around.
Anyway, today the ice is coating all surfaces and the forecast is snow, single digits, sleet, ice, pellets, wind so to prepare for a nasty week ahead, I decided to take advantage of yesterday’s weather to set up a polywire electric fence with step in posts to strip off 1/4 of me cows’ next paddock. If ground is somewhat dry and there is no ice, i have to weigh in my mind whether or not it is better to give them a 20 acre paddock vs a portion. They won’t waste a lot in those conditions, so does my labor in setting up the fence offset less waste? This is how i think.
However, knowing there is going to be ice coming, i know that once quality and quantity winter stockpile is coated in ice, each hoof step can break the stems and leaves and do considerable damage to the grazing experience. Then my labor becomes much more valuable.
evaluate quantity and quality of stockpiled forage.
evaluate ground/weather conditions as to amount which may be destroyed just by livestock walking on the forage. (mud, ice, rain)
Dry cows in good condition need the least quality of forage – if you have finishing cattle, young cattle, thin, or nursing cows, higher quality forage is necessary.
These factors give value to your labor. How much you determine your time to be worth will decide whether or not you can justify driving to your cattle and stripping off small allotments of grazing.