Okay, i know, in many parts of the world, including the United States, a foot of snow is hardly an event. But we haven’t had accumulation like this for at least a decade! I’m not a fan of snow, but soft, loose snow like this is useful for subsoil moisture and filling ponds.
Thankfully, with managed grazing protocols in place, one can largely avoid having to get out into the weather and on the bad roads. Today’s event is continuing, but the temps hovering around 30 degrees. The snow ploughs have been doing the best they can to keep highways open.
Mostly livestock have no problems grazing through this snow, though heavy cover of ice on top of a foot of snow is actually a really bad situation, which we haven’t had for many, many years.
Below are some photos from years past since i’m not driving up to my farm today on slick roads just to take a photo of my cows. In a few days, i’ll mosey on up in my JD Gator and check on them. If they need more grazing, i’ll roll up the polywire and let them have access to the next paddock already set up. In the next paddock are 5 big hay bales they will have access to as well as mostly grazing. However, i don’t expect them to need a new break.
The only livestock we have that refuses the snow are our small flock of laying hens!
Pregnancy check and calf vaccinations for fall 2018 are recorded history. October 25, 2018 held on to become a pretty nice day. Veterinarian was hour and half late, but with the changes i’d made in the corral which made it more user friendly, we still managed to finish before dark. The changes shaved at least an hour off working time.
Results of preg check were far more favorable than i could have ever expected given the very hot, dry, droughty, short grass conditions.
THRILLED with this result even had there not been a drought and i hadn’t changed the breeding season.
Since i was going to Kenya this summer and because i cannot be out past the 15th of August to move the bulls away from the cows (because of severe ragweed allergy), i changed the breeding season from 17 July to 7 July and lopped off 12 days on the end. In other words, last year breeding season was 17 july – 20 September, but this year is 6 July – 19 August. Breeding season went from 65 days to 45 days.
According to gestation tables, this puts the first calves arriving April 14th and the last ones on May 28. I do not like to start calving so early, but since the Corriente cows give such rich milk and combine with heat, humidity, and toxic endophyte fescue of late spring, it was a disaster the two years i calved them out in the mid-May to end of June time frame. (30% calf death loss due to scours despite major treatment). Add in my allergies, i made the decision for my present season. We can get some super nasty weather, however, in April, so time will tell.
Measuring for improvement
*(these two young cows raised the biggest calves – not sustainable for my operation)
Today’s (June 19) chores were frustrating and exhausting – hopefully, i won’t vent too much, but instead methodically record what happened and what decisions to make based on the mishaps. However, the first of the morning was spent walking in 3 Angus heifers to attach Estrotect patches in preparation for AI (artificial insemination) over the next weeks followed by spraying off 30 gallons of Surmount chemical mix on woody brush at my farm. Started about 5:30 am.
This late spring I started letting my cows graze the new seeding implemented last fall. It’s been super, super dry (until today! already 8/10s of an inch and still gently raining), so using a back fence was not important since the grass wasn’t trying to grow back after grazing because of the heat and dry.
Nevertheless, I’ve been stripping off sections of about 2 days grazing each – no where near what could be considered mob grazing, but i’ve already decided that is a practice which simply won’t work for me. I had already set up 2 temporary fences of polybraid of about 1/4 mile each. Anyone who has done this realizes that that 1/4 mile of walking turns into at least a mile by the time the poly is unrolled, then walk back to get posts, then set up posts along the poly and hook the handle into a hot (electrified) lead.
When i arrived this morning, the cows had blasted through both of them!! I was not a happy camper to say the least. Thankfully, i had brought along another 1/4 mile roll of poly braid and I pushed the cows sort of back where they belong and i unrolled this tape. The grass and weeds were tall, so it just sort of laid on top and looked like a fence the cows didn’t want to bother. Testing the lead, i found that there was no electricity. Ah ha! all the polybraids were ‘dead’ and with baby calves running around, it didn’t take long for them to run through with mommas right behind.
But why was the fence dead?
I had spent some time at that very spot repairing some wire and gate just 24 hours before. Why did the tree not fall while i was there? Only by the grace of God. Not only that, but my spinning jenny was unharmed and the end post was still in place! Only one gate handle and the top hi-tensile wire was busted. Easily repaired that. Plus, the tree fell in such fashion that i didn’t even have to move it or cut it up. (thank goodness because i didn’t have my chainsaw on this trip). I simply repaired around it. It will have to be removed when i have time.
But this also is a prime illustration as to why forests, timbers, draws, need managing! Treehuggers take me to task for removing mature and junk trees. But without management, trees can become diseased, can’t compete for sunlight and nutrients so they can die and are a major hazard.
Anyway, back to my morning winding up. Once all was said and done, i’d walked at least 5 miles in tall forage, scratched through dense brush, and crawled in and out of deep ditches to retrieve all my temporary fencing and posts, finishing the morning installing a new rain gauge, checking my replacement heifers, and resetting an end post.
Dragging back to the seed plant, refueling the JD Gator and using forced air spraying out the seed heads from the grill (this must be done to keep the Gator from overheating), unloading the reels of polybraid and a bunch of posts. I forgot to take water with me and by noon (got home), i had lost 4.2 lbs. Goodness, that is 1/2 gallon of water sweated out!
This was another reminder of why mob grazing with multiple shifts per day will not fit with my schedule and quality of lifestyle. It’s just too stinking much work – i sold off the sheep to get away from so much exhausting work. With tall grass (not complaining), deep ditches, long stretches of temporary fencing, dense brush, and baby calves not trained to electric braid, there are simply too many bugaboos to make this a happy time. The mob currently has about 20 acres to relax and graze. It is what it is – i do the best i can.
Many proclaimed experts, farmers, and ranchers alike are confused about what season it is. ‘Spring’ calving to many means January, February, and a bit into March. NEWS FLASH! – that is NOT spring – that is winter calving in no uncertain terms and terribly hard on livestock and people (in the northern hemisphere) caring for them. Outdoor winter calving, lambing, kidding has been described by bold people as animal abuse!
Now before you think me a ‘Bertha-better-than-you,’ please know that we used to do this very thing! It is the status quo in ranching circles. We’ve been calving in sync with nature now for nearly 20 years and life is much better and profitable for all.
Nitpick your own operation and life – identify elephants in the room – stop digging a hole and solve the problem with simple solutions. The key word here is SIMPLE!
Consider this recent article (from BEEF online) on how to warm up a calf:
Newborn calves that have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. What’s the quickest method to re-warm them?
Mar 29, 2018
By Donald Stotts
It’s been a winter that no matter where you are, you’d probably like to forget. Some parts of the country are warm and very, very dry. Good for calving, but not a promising start for spring and summer grazing.
Other parts of the country have been cold and wet. And with calving season underway for many, it’s worth reviewing re-warming methods for cold-stress calves, says Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension emeritus animal scientist.
Selk warns that newborn calves that are not found for several hours after birth and have been exposed to exceedingly cold temperatures may become hypothermic or at least extremely stressed. “A review of the scientific data on using a warm water bath to revive cold-stressed newborn calves bears repeating,” he said.
In a Canadian study, animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold-stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided.
Hypothermia of 86 degrees F rectal temperature was induced by immersion in cold water. Calves were re-warmed in an air environment of 68 degrees to 77 degrees where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in 100-degree warm water. The normal rectal temperatures before the induction of cold stress were 103 degrees.
“The time required to regain normal body temperature from a rectal temperature of 86 degrees F was longer for calves with added insulation and those exposed to heat lamps than for the calves in the warm water treatments; 90 and 92 minutes versus 59 minutes, respectively,” Selk says.
During recovery, the baby calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps had to use up more body heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. Total heat production during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation and exposed to the heat lamps than for the calves placed in warm water.
“This type of body heat production leaves calves with less energy to maintain body temperature when returned to a cold environment,” Selk says.
By immersion of hypothermic calves in warm water, the study indicated that normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort.
“When immersing cold-stressed baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save,” Selk says. “Also make certain that they have been thoroughly dried before being returned to the cold weather and their mothers.”
Stotts is a communication specialist at Oklahoma State University
This primer on bale grazing is excellent, though dated. Since its publication, i think producers have found that plastic twine and netwrapping materials need to be removed before the livestock have access to the bales.
Fertilize fields with hay
Winter-feeding beef cattle on hay and pasture fields can minimize labor of hauling manure while still distributing crop nutrients.
Posted on March 8, 2018 by Frank Wardynski, and Jim Isleib, Michigan State University Extension
Feeding on fields is typically accomplished by strategically spacing hay bales around the field either with or without hay rings frequently referred to as bale grazing. Another feeding method on fields includes unrolling bales on the ground. Unrolling bales on the ground typically allows for better crop nutrient distribution. Spacing bales across a field creates a situation of concentrated nutrients from manure and waste hay in the areas where bales are fed. Over time, nutrient distribution can equalize with good grazing and management practices to promote soil health. Nutrients can be distributed by livestock and soil microbes over time, however, uniform nutrient spreading is more ideal for crop production yields.
Utilizing the various feeding methods can result in a wide range of hay waste. Producers need to weigh cost savings associated with winter feeding on fields and feed loss with any given feeding method. Feeding on fields allows nearly 100 percent nutrient cycling into the soil for both phosphorous and potassium while nitrogen capture will be variable. Consequently, hay waste is not a 100 percent loss. Much of the crop nutrients from hay waste is available to the next growing crop. If hay is harvested on the farm, nutrients are simply redistributed to the feeding area. If hay is purchased, those nutrients are added into the farm nutrient pool.
Purchasing hay and bringing nutrients onto the farm can be a cost effective addition of fertilizer to the farm. The vast majority of fertilizer costs for crop production are for application of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Producers should use a feed analysis of purchased feed to determine its fertilizer value. Producers can use dry matter, crude protein, phosphorous and potassium content to determine fertilizer value. Table 1. demonstrates the calculations of converting an example feed analysis to the quantities of fertilizer nutrients in a 1000 lb. bale of hay. Using an example of dry hay containing 85 percent dry matter, 10.6 percent crude protein, 0.18 percent phosphorous and 1.6 percent potassium content, the following value can be calculated:
Dry feeds will usually contain 10-15 percent moisture or 85-90 percent dry matter. A 1000 lb. bale of dry hay with 15 percent moisture will contain 850 lb. of dry matter. Ensiled feeds will contain considerably more moisture.
Protein contains 16 percent nitrogen. Crude protein is calculated by multiplying the percent nitrogen by a conversion multiplier of 6.25. From the example hay analysis, 10.6 percent crude protein can be multiplied by 0.16 or divided by 6.25 to equal a rounded off 1.7 percent nitrogen. The nitrogen content multiplied by the dry hay bale weight of 850 lb. equals 14.45 lb. of nitrogen in the bale of hay. The percent phosphorous (0.18 percent) and potassium (1.6 percent) are also multiplied by the 850 lb. of dry matter hay to equal 1.53 lb. of phosphorous and 13.6 lb. of potassium.
Producers must be aware of the differences between feed analysis and fertilizer analysis. Feed analysis are recorded as percent crude protein, elemental phosphorous, and elemental potassium. Fertilizer analysis is recorded as percent elemental nitrogen, phosphate (P2O5), and potash (K2O). Using Upper Peninsula of Michigan fertilizer prices, nitrogen is valued at $0.47/lb. N, phosphate at $0.35/lb. of P2O5, and potash at $0.325/lb. K2O.
Table 2. demonstrates the fertilizer value contained in a 1000 lb. bale of hay. Fifty percent of the nitrogen and 85 percent of the phosphate and potash are recycled through cattle back into the soil and is used for future plant growth. Some of the nutrients are lost to volatilization into the atmosphere and are retained in the animal. Referring back to the example, 50 percent of the 14.45 lb. of nitrogen contained in the hay gives 7.2 lb. of nitrogen into the soil for plant uptake. The 7.2 lb. is multiplied by $0.47/lb. to value the nitrogen at $3.38. Elemental phosphorous and potassium need to be converted to percent phosphate and potash. Elemental phosphorous 1.53 lb. is multiplied by a factor of 2.29 to equal 3.5 lb. of phosphate. Elemental potassium 13.6 lb. is multiplied by a factor of 1.2 to equal 16.3 lb. of potash. Eighty-five percent of both the phosphate and potash will be recycled into the soil for future plant uptake then multiplied by their respective unit price gives a value of $1.04 of phosphate and $2.65 of potash.
The calculated fertilizer value of the 1000 lb. bale of hay is worth $7.07/bale or $14.14/ton. Current value of this quality of hay is roughly $80-100 per ton. In this example, about 15 percent of the value of average beef quality hay can be attributed to its fertilizer value. Farms that are marginal on soil nutrient levels may consider purchasing at least a portion of their feed to increase crop nutrients on the farm and replace some portion of purchased commercial fertilizer.
Feeding hay on fields during the winter months has several advantages that beef producers can use to offset some of the production costs associated with beef production. For more information regarding the impact of feeding hay on pasture and hay fields, contact MSU Extension Educators Frank Wardynski, 906-884-4386 or email@example.com or Jim Isleib, 906-387-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org.