Started in 1988, Green Hills Farm Project is non-profit, family-oriented, sustainable agriculture group of like-minded farmer families who support each other in sometimes crazy ideas. Each month, we meet with a potluck and farm tour at members’ farms and ranches and once annually with an invited guest speaker. This year on 4 March, we welcome Jim Gerrish, world renowned grazing expert, back to his old stomping grounds at FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center) at Linneus, MO to share his unique perspective with a presentation entitled, “Grazing Around the World.”
Here is your invitation! (GHFP meetings and farm walks are open to the world)
Jim Gerrish, author of Management-Intensive Grazing – The Grassroots of Grass Farming and Kick the Hay Habit – A Practical Guide to Year-Around Grazing, is our guest speaker at the Green Hills Farm Project annual winter seminar March 4, 2017 At FSRC (Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, MO). Known world wide as an expert in management-intensive grazing systems, Jim is also available for private consultation. Today’s seminar “Grazing Around the World” will be exciting insight into grazing management in many different climates and cultures from Jim and his wife, Dawn’s, personal experience. American GrazingLands Services, LLC. Jim and Dawn now reside near May, Idaho.
This annual seminar has a cost of $30 per family and will include a one year membership to Green Hills Farm Project. Please bring a potluck/carry in dish for lunch. More information contact Allen Powell at 660.412.2001 or myself (tauna) – firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
This article had been written back in the winter, but could be said for today and many other days as well. Today i found a dead ewe and a dead lamb wrapped up in the electrified netting. Why can’t they stay out of it! Sheep were out, but corralled AGAIN. This is just a regular problem. Half of the sheep are scheduled for sale at Kirksville Livestock Market on August 3rd. The rest will go when lambs are old enough to wean.
Those little woolly buggers! They busted out for freedom, but freedom for sheep generally means something will go wrong and some of them will die. Sheep must be kept in close and protected ALL the time. Since I cannot be there as a full time shepherd, I rely on guard dogs and electric sheep netting. Together, those work about 95% of the time.
Alas, they did bust out at a bad time – the ground was extremely frozen and there was no way to replace the fence, so they ran amok on 320 acres. During their freedom, one orphaned lamb was nabbed by a coyote and a young bred ewe had fallen into a muddy ditch and couldn’t get out – both died of course.
However, today I managed to reset ten nets to give them about 10 acres plus 8 big bales of hay – this should hold them for quite some time. The ground along the ditch bank and out of the sun was still frozen, so I had to use the hammer on about 75 posts to drive them in! Nevertheless, the sheep are now safe once again, so it was all worth the effort.
This afternoon is forecasted to be a return to almost normal weather. Everyone here is looking forward to that to be sure, especially given that this is the second winter in a row of being exceptionally long and cold. Like last year, there has been little opportunity to do outside work, so we’ll all be in a rush to catch up once the weather cooperates.
My difficulties, like last year’s, have been pretty much self-induced. From not castrating the ram lambs in a timely fashion (so I have lambs being born now in this bitter weather) to having purchased fall-calving cows which are STILL calving. Had four calves born just this week! Thankfully, the calves have come without trouble and are doing well. The lambs, however, simply do not have enough body mass to survive the cold – more specifically, the wind and cold – so I’ve brought them indoors for nursing. It is unlikely that i’ll be able to get their mothers to take them back after being bottle fed for 3 days, but I will try this afternoon.
I also did not allow for enough stockpile grazing. When winters were more normal, it took about an acre of good stockpile per cow to get through the winter. However, winters have become more severe so it not only takes more food for the cows (because it’s extra cold and damp), but also the stockpile deteriorates months before new grass comes on in the spring. This year’s stopgap was to purchase and have delivered 150 additional bales of hay to carry me through another long and difficult winter.
It’s very difficult, i suspect, for anyone in the US to believe in global warming, but certainly there does seem to be some climate change and either I’m going to have to plan better or I need to move to a warmer climate. Even if this is a cyclical pattern (and i suspect it is), moving still sounds like an attractive plan.
Interestingly, we have begun considering the option of purchasing most or all of our hay needs and selling off our hay making equipment. Purchasing hay and unrolling it for feeding, not only feeds the cows, but adds considerable nutrient and fertilizer to the soil. We may also use hay feeding as a way to expand the cow herd without expanding our land base. Land has become far too expensive to buy now because of the government enhanced commodity support programmes and vast amounts of pasture land have been ploughed up for row cropping.
Additionally, the fences and trees have been pushed out to make more acres to plough, so it’s unlikely to return to pasture anytime in my lifetime. However, maybe it’s best not to purchase more land as my husband and I both approach retirement ages. We actually may not retire because we enjoy what we do, but we may cut back and additional land means additional expense and management. If we expand using purchased hay, we can cut back anytime. If we were to sell our land, it would be ploughed immediately by the new owners.
Bitterly cold today and with ground frozen hard, the best job for today is to unroll hay for grazing. The plan is to strip graze it for the remainder of the winter. This will add considerable organic matter to the soil. When the cattle and sheep have cleaned up the hay and pooped all over the paddock, I’ll broadcast legumes and grass seeds over the area. Hopefully, i’ll have a chance to unroll more hay over the top for grazing, but our weather is so unpredictable that that is not a certainly. I may just walk the cattle around on the area to encourage seed to soil contact, then graze it occasionally as the original grasses grow. Once the new grasses take hold and grow (all depends on the weather), then the livestock will not have access for about 60 days for full growth. Sure hope it all works.
Yes, i did take out and unroll four bales of hay to my cows. Yes, i should be strip grazing. But it’s TOO DARN COLD! I get out, cut the strings, pull them off, get in the WARM pickup, unroll, then do it again. Except for cutting strings and busting ice on the tank, I’m not gettin’ out much. Windchill is 8°F below zero. (-22C)