The best for animal husbandry and land stewardship is often a balanced decision. These past two years in north-central/northwest Missouri and a bit of southwest Iowa makes grazing management decisions tough to call. Two years of unusually dry and hot summers each followed by severe cold and long winters has left our pastures and pasture management in tatters. The following article printed in Midwest Marketer magazine is from Iowa State UniversityExtension beef specialists Erika Lundy and Denise Schwab offers some ideas for consideration. We live in toxic endophyte fescue country, so it is not a best practice to encourage its growth with the addition of any type of applied nitrogen. Legumes planted can mitigate the effects by replacing the poisonous grass, but must be managed with proper grazing.
Research results published November 30, 2017 by Sarah Kenyon, PhD, University of Missouri once again illustrate how grazing the non-native, invasive toxic-endophyte (E+) fescue plant causes health problems in cattle and other livestock, including horses. Other studies show the effects on the soil microbial populations and wildlife. E+ Fescue is pervasive, persistent, and poisonous.
Short grazing of E+ fescue in the last fall/early winter before a killing frost has been used by us and others to manage the spring growth of the plant by shortening the root system which slows spring growth, allowing more desirable grasses and legumes to get a foot hold. This is effective, but a relentless endeavor since it must be done every fall/winter to control the fescue and quite simply, there is no way to manage ALL the fescue at once everywhere on the farm.
I’m thankful for professors and agricultural leaders bucking the status quo and revealing this long-known information to a modern generation and offering solutions to not only mitigate the health issues associated with the toxin, but also ideas on eradicating it. Time will tell if changes will work – it’s expensive to renovate and manage pastures and fields – – and farming and ranching does not lend itself to wide margins of profits to plough back into improvements.
Next 3 day replication started morning of 5 Jun 2015 with Dallas moving poultry netting to fresh pasture before letting the chooks out of their tiny eggmobile. Day 1 egg collection – 7 eggs. Day 2 egg collections: 7 eggs. Day 3 egg collections: 7 eggs. We’ve continued with one pound of the wheat screenings cleanout, but that is really not enough for them since they are eating it all and still seem like they want more. However, for the next replication, we will continue with one pound and increase it after the grazing trial.
We have discovered that this size paddock with this much forage results in far too much trampling of quality forage and not enough eating. Now that we are getting an idea of how much chooks eat in a day, we can determine how many chooks can be managed in smaller, more easily handled housing. A full length 164 foot poultry netting fence is too much work for only 14 hens eating .75 lb of grass per day. In other words, to be more cost effective, the 41′ by 41′ enclosure allowed with a poultry netting should allow about 41 hens, of course depending on forage quantity and quality. This would include realising that the taller forages would be unavailable for chooks to eat.
We realise that, by the book, chooks typically eat only 4 ounces of feed per day. However, i think that is a purely grain diet which would be more dense than grass, legumes, and forbes. Probably, most of what is being utilised, however, is actually scratching and trampling. Nevertheless, this needs to be considered to keep a healthy sward.
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.