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Feeding Hay to Improve Your Land – Part 6

Feeding Hay to Improve Your Land – Part 6

By   /  April 1, 2019  /  1 Comment

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This is the last part in Jim’s series. If you missed any part, here are links to catch up: Part 1,Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5.

Hay is more Carbon (C) by dry weight than anything else. When we feed hay we are also adding carbon to the soil in addition to the Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorous (P) discussed in the earlier posts in this series. Adding carbon increases the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil through increase in soil organic matter.

How much carbon do we add to the soil with hay feeding?

Let’s do the math.

Hay is typically between 40-50% Carbon depending on plant maturity at harvest time. Some of this C is in cells as soluble sugar or other easily digested materials. The bulk of the C is in plant fiber that varies in degree of digestibility.

What’s left behind after feeding is a combination of unconsumed plant material and dung and urine. Both are important contributors to soil health.

Unconsumed hay is intact plant material that helps provide the ‘armor’ on the soil. During the growing season we refer to litter cover on the soil surface. Hay residue provides the same benefits to the water cycle as plant litter.

The consumed part of hay that is not digested comes out as manure. We have already discussed the N & P values of manure and urine following hay feeding. Whereas we can add too much N or P to the soil through excessive hay feeding, it is almost impossible to add too much C.

The digestible part of the hay is utilized by ruminant livestock as their primary energy source. Maintenance quality cow hay may be as low as 50% digestibility while high quality ‘calf hay’ may be close to 70% digestible. The C from digested material is incorporated into body tissue or expelled as CO2.

It is the non-digested plant material that contributes to building soil organic matter through dung returned to the soil. Manure on the ground does not contribute a lot to ‘soil armor’, but it contributes to feeding soil life.

The rate of manure breakdown is largely driven by digestibility of the residual fiber. If rumen microbes could not quickly digest it, soil microbes aren’t much faster. Manure breaks down much more quickly in warm-wet environments compared to cold-dry environments.

Hay residue left on the ground will ultimately contribute to soil organic matter. Many people have the bad habit of wanting to burn residue piles in the Spring. Please, do not!

These piles become enriched soil organic matter sites and can be above average production areas for years to come. Burning piles sends most of the valuable C into the atmosphere.

While in the first year following feeding there may be some weeds grow up on these piles, most of those weeds are making a contribution to soil development or get grazed by the livestock during the growing season.

The bottom line is, each ton of hay fed will contribute about 400 to 600 lbs of C to the soil as either hay residue or manure.

That is a valuable addition to your land. Make the most of it!

 

This is the last part in Jim’s series. If you missed any part, here are links to catch up: Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5.

 

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Egg Drop Soup for Liquid Diet

Home made egg drop soup:  (Tan Hua T’ang)

3 cups of chicken stock broth.

1/2 teaspoon salt (use Real salt or something that is 100% salt – check the label)

3 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon tapioca flour (cassava)* or cornstarch

2 eggs slightly beaten (farm fresh from pastured hens is best)

Heat broth and salt to boiling.  Mix cold water and tapioca flour; stir gradually into broth.  Boil and stir 1 minutes.  Slowly pour eggs into broth stirring constantly with fork, to form shreds of egg.  Remove from heat; stir slowly once or twice.

You can also make this without thickening it with the tapioca flour or cornstarch if it needs to be absolutely thin liquid.

For best medicine, you need to find a local farmer from whom you can purchase healthy pasture raised spent hens or broilers.  You may have to butcher them yourself.  Cook them down bones and all, pull off the meat bits, then throw the bones and cartilage back into the water and simmer another hour or so.  The goal is to get as much of the chondroitan out of the cartilage and minerals out of the bones and into your broth.  Once done, strain out the bones and let the broth cool.  Chicken fat is quite soft, so if you want to skim it off, you’ll eventually have to put it in the frig or other cool spot so that it will harden on the top of the broth so that you can remove it with a slotted spoon.

Buying chicken broth in the store is NOT the same product as what you are making here.

As always, find certified organic or organically raised ingredients.

This was a big hit with my father-in-law who is recovering from hernia surgery, is very weak, and really doesn’t have an appetite.

However, it’s quite good even if you aren’t sick or in recovery.

Cheers

tauna

*my friend Francoirse raises cassava in DRC!

Find a local producer near you using a handy website search, here are a few:

Localdirt.com

Eatwild.com

Localharvest.org

 

Continuing Rain!

Here in north-central Missouri we’ve continued to stay rainy and muddy since winter.  However, we cannot complain compared to the horrific flooding, damaging thunderstorms, tornadoes, tropical storms, and continuing droughts and wildfires other parts of the country and world are receiving.  It’s been hard on equipment, livestock, and people, but maybe someday it’ll change and become ‘normal.’  We wear mud boots everyday all day despite 107ºF heat indices on some days and terrific humidity even when it’s in the 80s and pretty sure i’m starting to get foot rot!  Gonna switch to 100% wool socks pretty quick if we don’t get relief soon.  Any socks with nylon or such in them cause my feet to sweat and peel – kind of gross for sure.

We keep a good supply of coconut water in the cupboard and frig for rehydrating when water just won’t quite supply enough minerals.  Bananas and buffered salt are on hand as well to help with muscle cramping at night.

We’ve weaned the fall calves, doctored a good number for bad eyes (pinkeye) already, and sorted off two loads of calves to sell at North Missouri Livestock Auction the 6th of July.  The mud and rain has prevented us from establishing summer annual pastures that we had planned to graze and grow out some of yearlings this year.  Since we didn’t get that done, we are running out of grass, so the calves need to go where ever grass is available.

Tough on calving, but the cows and calves are really doing quite well despite the heat and rain.  A couple of calves lost due to navel ill because of them lying in a muddy spot and allowing infection to develop.  There is little help for a calf once it gets navel ill.  We always lose some baby calves and this year really hasn’t been any worse in that regard.  However, what I call ‘jungle rot‘ is on the increase.  It is likely more calves will not survive if we don’t get some dry weather soon.

The ewes are pretty much done lambing and in the timber now which not only helps keep them cool and not sunburnt, but, by their grazing choices, they are helping control the brush which needs taming!  Pretty hard on wool sheep all this rain and mud.  Constantly wet wool on a live animal can be conducive to parasites that can kill the sheep.  Usually not, but any animal with a compromised immune system is susceptible.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna