Another great video by Greg Judy describing summer slump grazing in Missouri. He lives in central Missouri. He also gives his two great interns special attention in this one.
The world, including the US, does not owe you a living. Or as Dave Ramsey would say, “You Are NOT Entitled To Anything“. If you dream to make a widget and insist that everyone must support you in your dream and insure that you make a full time living making that widget, then i fear you may be sorely disappointed. Especially, if your widget making imposes on others’ freedom and property rights.
There are very few, if any, financially successful people with no debt and have, or are building wealth, working only one job. Often the most successful have at least 2 or 3 other gigs on the side going. (Even Warren Buffet has several unrelated income streams going!) When you are in your teens, twenties, and even into thirties, you have energy, vision, and motivation that enable you to put in 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. This allows you to save, build equity, and work towards your dream job if you aren’t already doing that. When you are older and that energy level drops, hopefully those side gigs are the money invested which are then working for you rather than you working for it.
I recently wrote a blog which told of the near impossibility of a person to get into farming or ranching these days. This is largely due to the out of balance cost of land vs its productive value. However, it is not yet impossible to farm and build wealth – even without incurring massive debt! It may take longer, however. And, i know of absolutely no one – young or old, in the present or in the past- who can farm or ranch (or any other business for that matter) full time without some sort of side gig. Read stories of old timers – they were blacksmiths, carpenters, mechanics, traders, transportation specialists, suppliers; any skill they could put to use for pay was engaged. Wives farmed alongside their husbands, raised the children, and often had a couple side gigs as well. (Yes, i know that many women are farmers and ranchers, i am one, but also raised my own children, managed the household, and help with the farm.) It is the same today – if you want to farm (or start any business for that matter) you’d better put a sharp pencil to how you’ll put food on the table and a roof over your head. Don’t incur debt and make sure you have some savings. (a borrower is always slave to the lender). Operational farm debt is as bad as school loans. Debt for building a depreciating asset may be the worst of all! What if something happens to you? make sure you have plenty of life insurance! Liability, maintenance, disease, accident associated with buildings and machinery are expensive and ongoing. Once debt is incurred for a single purpose gadget, you have to keep it going or you may default or leave your family with a ball and chain which seldom adds value (it may actually devalue) to your property. Better yet, don’t go into debt.
Keep your paying job and save your money before you buy a single acre or cow or gadget. Many ranchers today are leasing both land and cattle which can be a great way to get started with very little investment or risk. Best book i’ve read on this is Greg Judy’s book, No Risk Ranching. Maybe you won’t have the exact same opportunities that Greg has, but use your imagination – maybe you’ll have to move – as Allan Nation, founder and former editor of Stockman Grass Farmer, used to say, “Everyone has an unfair advantage.” Figure out yours and put your best foot forward.
Many farmers today still abide by the ways of Earl Butz to ‘get big or get out’ and we now have such an abundance and overproduction of all products that prices continue to slide. Yet, the mantra continues to be ‘produce more’ and use the economy of scale to maximise profits. That may good to a point, but the cost to the environment has been substantial by farming ‘fence row to fence row’ and with government subsidies now firmly entrenched there is less risk of a ‘failed crop’ resulting in going broke regardless of debt load or lack of wise financial planning.
I’m not espousing a return to farmers falling out due to the vagaries of weather, political machinations, or burdensome regulations. Without subsidies, food, fiber, energy prices could soar to the level of parity and the consumer would certainly cry ‘foul’. But, we all must remember that the economic rule of supply and demand may cause us to consider better management practices.
There is the concept of focusing on profit rather than production. If it is possible to make more money producing 120 bushel corn to the acre rather than 200 bushels to the acre, would that be something to consider? what is the cost to the land and quality of life to produce 200 and even 300 bushels to the acre? Can i do a better job of regenerating and improving the soil i have to increase pounds, bushels per acre and lower cost as well? There are a lot of opportunities and new/old practices to learn – the hard part is keeping it simple and CHANGE! This is a head issue – don’t be a stiff necked people.
Speaking of quality of life – how have you organised your dream? does it enhance and edify others? or detract from the lives of others? is it sustainable? is it regenerative? can you keep doing this for the next 60 years? If not, it’s not sustainable and you had better have a plan in place for the future, less strong, less energetic you. Will your model rely on unpaid labor of yourself or your family?
1My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, 2if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, 3then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten,a and plead urgently with your neighbor.
9How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 10A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, 11and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.
12A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, 13winks with his eyes, signalsc with his feet, points with his finger, 14with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord; 15therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.
16There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Though i now don’t plan to lease out again, many people will, so below is an article and link which may give you some ideas on what to address in a lease agreement.
Online searches will give you oodles of ideas to consider adding to your lease. A link to a sample PDF Missouri cropland lease, Verbal Farm Rental Lease Agreements, Missouri Farm Leases; Legal Aspects,
If you are the tenant, Greg Judy has a book devoted to writing agreements and working with landlords. No Risk Ranching
Should you get rid of your endophyte-infected tall fescue? Greg shares why we don’t like it, and why getting rid of it may be hard on us too.
This is the second in a four part series. Here’s Part 1.
Our winter stockpile consists mostly of endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 fescue. This fescue is the most cursed despised grass in the Midwest for several reasons.
1. The endophyte restricts the blood flow to the extremities of some animals, causing some cows to lose tail switches, feet, ear tips.
2. Low weight gains, lower reproduction rates.
3. Rough hair coat.
4. Summer slump, plants stop growing in extreme heat.
There are practices that you can use to kill endophyte-infected fescue on your farm and replace it with the novel friendly endophyte fescue. This novel endophyte is more palatable and livestock can perform better on it.
I have no argument that the novel fescue is better forage, but the cost of converting your farm over to the novel is something to consider. You have to spray the present endophyte infected fescue pasture in the spring with Roundup. This is followed by drilling some kind of summer annual crop into the sprayed area. Then you need to re-spray this same area again in the fall to ensure you killed all the fescue plants that survived the spring roundup spraying. Then you drill the new novel endophyte fescue into the killed sod.
There are several things to consider before taking this journey. Let’s cover some of those items here:
1. When you spray Roundup on your pastures and kill the present stand of fescue, what are your cows supposed to eat that year if it doesn’t rain and the summer annual crop fails?
2. What if it doesn’t rain that fall after drilling the new fescue? Now you are really stuck with a failed grass seeding, bare ground, winter coming and no pasture for your livestock. It’s going to be a long winter feeding hay and no spring grass to look forward to.
3. It will take several years to build enough sod under the new plants to hold up livestock in a rainstorm.
4. The cost of the seed for the new improved fescue will average around $100 per acre with no guarantee of getting a stand of grass.
5. Roundup herbicide cost, spraying, fuel, labor, equipment, no grazing, all add up to another $175/acre.
6. Can the new fescue take a beating like the endophyte infected fescue and maintain a stand to support your livestock? If you want to try the new fescue, plant a small plot first on your farm to see if it persists with grazing pressure.
7. You cannot feed any purchased hay onto this new stand of novel fescue if it contains Kentucky 31 fescue.
8. Finally, if you have endophyte-infected fescue on the borders of your pastures, will it come back? If it does, will you have to go through this whole process over again in five years?
Those are a whole bunch of what if’s that may not work out the best for my pocket book at the end of the day. I also feel like every second that my rear end is plopped on a tractor seat, I am losing money. How about approaching the endophyte infected fescue problem from a different angle – one that will keep the money in everyone’s pocket while allowing us to make a living on our farms?
In Part 3, I’ll share what we have undertaken on our farms with management of our cow herd and grazing to prosper on this dirty endophyte-infected fescue.
Some folks say we should do all we can to get rid of Kentucky 31 fescue in our pastures. But Greg Judy has other ideas. In this four part series he covers his experiences, good and bad, with this grass, and why he’s keeping his. He starts with the basic benefits of winter stockpile.
When folks start investigating methods of shortening the winter hay feeding periods on their farms and ranches, the term “winter stockpiling” is usually found somewhere in the discussion. The term “winter stockpiling” means that you are allowing your grass to grow on your farm in the fall growing season without being eaten off by your livestock. This fall grown grass (stockpile) is reserved for winter grazing by animals in the dormant non-growing season. The only equipment required to harvest this fall grown forage in the coming winter is the four-legged kind along with some electric fence. The animals harvest it right off the stem where it was grown. Grazing winter-stockpiled fescue ranks as one of the highest money savers there is on our livestock farms.
Once you have succeeded in growing all this fall growth of grass this is your standing hay for the coming winter. Our winter stocking rate is based on how much stockpiled fescue we have available across the various farms. Cows really enjoy grazing every day they possibly can. They would much rather be peacefully grazing across the pasture in the winter, rather than standing in deep mud around a bale ring fighting off other cows.
Here’s why grazing stockpiled fescue (or any stockpile) is better than bale feeding:
Have you ever watched cows around a bale ring? It is a very competitive stressful scene. There are always dominant cows whipping up on the less dominant cows, driving them off their feed that they desperately need to maintain daily performance. The stress of getting whipped every time they try to get a mouthful of hay out of the bale ring really effects the less dominant cows. Your animal performance on the less dominant cows plummets with each day of cold weather they are exposed to. (If you knew that every time you opened the refrigerator door that you were going to get whipped, you might think twice about going to the refrigerator to grab a bite to eat as well.)
All the fertilizer benefits from the bale-ring-fed hay are being deposited around the bale ring where the ground has been trampled into a mud slurry. Once the sod around the bale ring is pugged with deep holes through the sod, this area is guaranteed to grow a good healthy crop of weeds for years to come and it years to heal before it will ever grow grass again. Not only is it an eyesore on your pasture, it is no longer a productive area on the farm. If you have to feed hay to your animals, unroll it across the pasture to spread out the fertility.
One conventional mindset that is tough to get changed is that when winter arrives, animals cannot feed themselves on our pastures anymore. People think, “You must feed hay or your animals will not survive.” My question to that line of thinking is, “What did animals eat for centuries before we started making and feeding them hay?” It’s pretty obvious that they survived without hay and they reproduced too.
I’ve learned that when winter arrives animals are more than happy to graze if they are moved to fresh grass every day or so. The more often I move them, the better they perform and the more content they are. Our mob of cows depends on us moving them daily, they are unhappy campers if they don’t get their daily fresh paddock of stockpiled grass.
By focusing on growing grass on our farm with full recovery periods between grazing, we can let the animals harvest the grass where it is grown. The manure pats and urine patches that are deposited while grazing are dropped where they belong – on our pastures where they will grow more future grass.
We have learned to trust our grass that is standing in our pastures to feed our animals. It does not need to be rolled up in a bale to be good feed. Many times rolling up hay into bales makes it worse feed. Unless you get perfect drying conditions to cure the forage, you end up with moldy hay that is great to fill a ditch with. Animals would much rather harvest fresh grass on the stem.
Here’s a 55 second video from Greg showing his cattle grazing stockpile. He’s passionate about this and covers it in his grazing school every May.
This is Part 3 in Greg’s four part series about the trouble with Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue, and how he’s learned to love it. (Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.) Here he describes the management techniques that have made him question moves to try to eradicate it from his pastures.
First I want to share with you my complete pasture renovation project that I undertook years ago at the advice of forage professionals. I did a complete reseeding on our pastures and put in a 100-acre diverse stand of brome, orchard grass, timothy, redtop and various legumes. I got lucky that fall after everything was planted and got a nice rain. The seeding came up and looked great the next spring. We held a farm walk that summer showing what we had done with this precious 100-acre piece of infected fescue. Everybody at the pasture walk was in awe of how beautiful the pasture looked. I was so happy that I could hardly stand it until someone at the pasture walk made a comment to me privately.
One seasoned grazier crept up to me and whispered, “Greg that is pretty nice piece of grass you have there, but in five years you will have Kentucky 31 tall fescue and clover, that’s about it.”
You could have knocked me over with a match stick! I was shocked that he would dare say such a thing to me. I responded right away, “Oh you’re mistaken! We rotationally graze and will manage these improved grasses so that they thrive on this farm forever. Fescue is history on this farm, it has no use here.”
Well guess what? He was dead right, in five years our primary grass was Kentucky 31 endophyte-infected tall fescue with red clover. I had a good dose of “humble pie.” My pocket book was still hurting from the money that I spent putting in all these wonderful new grasses. In those days, we still had a loan on everything on the farm including the money that we spent on the seed. That was a sick hollow feeling making those loan payments that included the purchased seed knowing that my money ended up in someone else’s pocket and my farm was right back to where it was at five years earlier.
Once we switched to mob grazing many years later, we were able to grow many additional species of grasses that were in the soil bank. This rank fescue needs a good beating every now and then with a mob of animal hooves to encourage additional forages to grow in the canopy. This animal impact sets back the fescue enough to allow legumes and other cool season grasses to propagate. But the main grass remains Kentucky 31 endophyte-infected fescue. In the Midwest during the summer months, fescue pretty much goes dormant, but with all the other forage species mixed in with it, our animals still perform well. Fescue is what we have and it wants to grow here, so we figured we better learn to make some money with it. Life is too short to wake up every day trying to kill something.
Back to our cow herd. What we decided was that we were going to graze whatever grew on the farm. We owned no tractor or equipment, so whatever nature dealt us, we were going to manage with that. Whatever animal could not perform on what grows on our farm naturally, would be culled. Absolutely no excuses are made for any animal that fails this test. It was a little harsh starting out. We culled several more animals than we would have liked to in the early years. But we stuck to our original management practice and it has paid huge dividends.
One of the easily observed results from endophyte infected fescue is that some cows will lose their tail switches. The tail switch falls off right at the very tip of the tail due to restriction of blood flow to the extremities of the animal. My good ranching friend Wally Olsen was here this winter walking through our mob of South Poll cattle. In Wally’s prior visit ten years earlier a lot of the older cows were missing their tail switch. On this visit, he immediately commented that almost every cow now had their tail switch intact and all the animals were in super body condition for the winter period that we were in. By staying committed to culling the animals that struggled on the endophyte infected fescue, the remaining animals and their offspring are much more tolerant to the fescue on our farms today. Certainly, having a diversity of other plants in the forage sward helps the livestock perform on fescue as well.
We now have a very fescue tolerant herd, our animals look at their fescue/legume sward and get fat. We occasionally still get an animal that develops a limp (fescue foot), and that animal is sold immediately. I have no tolerance for an animal that will not perform on our forage when they are moved constantly to a fresh pasture of grass/legume sward. We just get rid of them – problem solved. When an animal that is adapted to your farm’s forage has the opportunity to select the best parts of a plant multiple times per day, those animals will make you a very nice living.
Now, think of the money we have saved by not renovating our pastures every five years and gambling it away on a promise of having a better pasture in the future. I may step on some input folks’ toes here, but I am more concerned about the grazier making a living on their land.
Who’s making all the money with farmers killing their pastures with herbicides and seeding these new fescue varieties into their pastures? Hint, it’s not the farmer! We are losing farmers every year at an alarming rate because there is nothing left at the end of the year for the guy on the land that is doing all the work. We take all the risk, they take all the money. Most of the money is going to town, and we need to keep it on the farm where it belongs. To make a profit every year on our farms, we must eliminate inputs which we do have control over.
Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion.