Love or hate Facebook – depends on your perspective – maybe both. But there is real opportunity for farmers to share and learn from one another about cropping and ranching methods they’ve tried – what has been successful and what was a colossal failure.
I coped a young farmer’s (from central Iowa) method here, so i can come back to it as a reference for what i may try in the future. This is copied and pasted from a Facebook page by the same name, so it reads clunky out of context of responses, but i wanted his words.
Drilled a 4 way mix of oats, annual rye grass, rape seed and soybeans about a month ago (late August/early September) following rye harvest. Very pleased with the amount of forage and soil structure that we have gained. Planning to let cows out later this week if the weather cooperates. Located in north central Iowa.
30 lbs (annual) ryegrass (10# is enough, but farmer was using up what he had on hand)
20 lbs oats
8 lbs rape seed
Roughly 20 lbs of soybeans ( some seed was 2 years old)
we hauled cattle manure then chisel plowed and field cultivated to work it in before we drilled it. I agree that tillage will break down some of the soil structure but I sleep better at night when I can work the manure in. I also don’t have access to a no till drill.
I chose annual rye grass over cereal rye so it would winter kill and everything else I planted will winter kill and I am planning to plant corn in that field next spring. If I was going to plant soybeans I would have used winter rye.
the winter rye that was growing previously we combined for seed. The four way mix that is growing now will be grazed and the corn that we plant next year will be combined.
Perhaps Jessica was 8 or 9 when she enrolled in the University of Missouri’s Master Gardener program. That was nearly 20 years ago! She really got a lot out of it (though i think her favorite lesson was flower arranging) by learning a lot about companion cropping, planting and caring for flowers, trees, and community involvement. One of the requirements for finishing the program was to do a community service/beautification project. Contact your local county extension agent for information about Master Gardener and other education programs available in your area.
Place wire guards around trunks of young fruit trees for protection against mice and rabbits. Last year, i lost nearly all my new fruit trees during the winter. i did have protection around them that was about 18 inches tall, but the snow drifted taller than that and the critters girdled them above the protective sleeves by walking on top the snow!!! Grrrrr…..
Continue harvesting produce.
Sow oats as a cover crop (i’m also chopping down the Sunn Hemp and laying it flat on the soil)
Winterize lawn mower. We send ours to John Deere for complete maintenance then remove the battery and store it inside so it doesn’t freeze.
Sift white flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the wheat and Einkorn flours then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the yeast, oats, and seeds then make a well in the centre.
Stir the molasses into the warm water until dissolved. Add the molasses water to the dry ingredients. Mix to a soft dough. (I used paddle hook on KitchenAid mixer)
Using a dough hook, knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 ½ hours, or until double in size.
Preheat the oven to 425°F, 15 minutes before baking. (I start the oven now, then do the below and leave the loaf and pan on top the stove – the warmth from the oven helps with rising, especially in winter.)
Using dough hook, knead again for a minute or two to knock out the air. Shape into an oval loaf about 12 inches long and place on a well-oiled baking sheet. Cover with oiled (important) plastic wrap and leave to rise for 40 minutes or until doubled in size.
Brush the loaf with beaten egg and bake in the preheated oven 35-45 minutes (mine was 35 minutes) or until the bread is well risen, browned, and sounds hollow when the base is tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Should be enjoying fresh pullet sized eggs in about 3 months.
From delivery of chicks to first pullet eggs is typically about 6 months.
25 female chicks (26 actually, but 2 were roosters and one hen is deformed) – $100
Starter feed – 3 bags each 30 lbs at $90
Mixed feed about 1 gallon (or 4 lbs) per day: $2.20 per day times 120 days – $396
Labor for 180 days varies, but averages about 20 minutes a day at $15/hr – $900
So before 25 hens are even laying or producing anything at all, your backyard laying hen project has invested a total of $1486. That’s a lot of eggs you could have bought at $4/dozen. But now that they are laying, there should be about 1 1/2 years of good laying, but of course the feed and labor expenses continue. Labor will slightly increase because I’ll be moving the chicken tractor to fresh grass everyday and collecting, sorting, washing (if needed), and packaging the eggs EVERYDAY.
Total costs (not including building the brooder and chicken tractor): $1486
So figuring forward:
Feed for 1.5 years (540 days @ $2.20) – $1188
Labor at $15/hr for 30 minutes a day – $2025
Egg cartons if you buy them are at least 50 cents (281 cartons) each: $140
Assuming a lay rate of 1 egg per two days (this is an average including a harsh winter where costs will continue but few eggs will be laid) per hen (times 25 hens) – 3375 eggs
(270 days/2 = 135 times 25 hens – 3375 eggs)
Total costs during laying period of 1 1/2 years – $3353
Final costs of raising 25 chicks to laying age plus production for 1 1/2 years: $4839
Cost per potential dozen (281 dozens): $17.22
Value of spent hens is negated completely by labor costs associated with butchering.
All this assuming that in one night along any part of this route, a fox, raccoon, neighbour’s dog or coyote doesn’t come in an annihilate all your hens.
Now winter laying could be increased somewhat by keeping heat and light on the hens.
Certainly, i could be the typical farmer and say ‘well….if i don’t count my time….but that would be unfair, right? He’s taken ALL the risk, done all the labor, built all the infrastructure, and cared for them every single day. If i removed all the labor costs from the scenario, cost per dozen is $6.63/dozen.
Why am i doing this? good question. it’s ridiculous actually, except i cannot buy eggs from hens on pasture being fed non-gmo and mostly organic grains in our part of the world and they do taste better and have more nutrients (according to various tests).
These are real costs to produce eggs from hens on pasture, not inflated or overpriced. Lowering production costs is easy – stacked cages with 67 to 76 square inches of usable space per hen being fed well balanced diet of conventional grains and no chance of being eaten by predators. Automated egg sorting, washing, and packaging. Find employees who will work for minimum wage or less in dusty conditions. Tightly confined conditions allows for fewer employees. Hens will be allowed to lay for less than a year (until first moult) and then replaced to maintain high production year round. This part can also be done on pasture raised as well and would be a good idea. Production drops considerably after that first moult, so replacing them with younger, higher producing hens would reduce costs a little.
Horribly dry here and no chance of rain in the forecast! However, it’s perfect for disk ploughing and rotatilling sod pastures so that they have ample opportunity for the grass that is turned up to die. On the four paddocks i’ve selected this is mostly toxic endophyte infected fescue and other weeds. Except for the 18 acres that i had tilled this spring and were involved in the annuals scheme, the remaining 32 acres is established pasture – pasture that has been grazed for at least 55 years. Tilling it up created quite a clatter on my rotatiller. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. There basically is no topsoil on my pastures except in the low spots along ditches. Sad – very sad.
Pulled into the first sod bound pasture land (Paddock 15) with the John Deere 4250 and the Howard Rotavator on 29 August 2017. Granted, i know most recommendations are to have this seeding done and in no later than the 20th of August, but this year just wasn’t going to allow it. And thankfully, i didn’t get in earlier; had i put these seeds in slightly moist soil, they may have germinated, sprouted, then dried up in this heat and dry weather. As it is, the seeds are just resting in that super dry soil waiting for just the right conditions to grow and thrive. The concern at planting late is that there won’t be good growth before freezing weather and a long winter.
(On the 1st of September, i mustered my bulls and hauled them (Allen and Dallas helped a lot), i spent too much time outside and became overcome with ragweed allergies. This kept me sleeping and recovering in the house for two days. Andy was able to take over for me so we kept on schedule.)
So to wrap it up with costs:
That’s a lot of money! and doesn’t even include the $60/acre spent earlier this year in lime spread. Hope it all pays off – i don’t want to ever have to do it again and with managed grazing, it should last many lifetimes.
With the first pass May 15, 16, and 17 behind me, several very light rain showers, and a few days of drying out, I was ready to get to that second tillage pass and get the annual seeds in the dirt!. Thursday, May 25, 2017, I spent 4 hours with the Howard Rotavator 600 and was pleasantly surprised that, for the most part, the John Deere 4250 tractor worked along nicely at A2 speed vs A1. This effectively increased my speed from 2.1 mph to 2.6 mph. And it showed up in the final tally for sure! The second pass on the same 18 acres, instead of taking 12 hours as before, only rang up 7 1/2 hours. Nice. Admittedly, i could never make a farmer (row cropper); how do those guys run those things for hours on end, daylight to dark, day after day. I was thankful, i could distract myself for a while, at least on the long rows, by chatting (private message) with my son, who was at a cafe in Spain, and texting about soil conditions with a friend who was farming another part of my farm with 120 acres for organic soybean production. I finished up with the second pass on the 26th. It was also seeded on the 26th.
When i was about 2/3 rds completed, Allen came with a huge bag of premixed annual seed to fill the hopper on the Einbock power seeder and harrow. He finished all 18 acres in about 4 hours, counting a couple stoppages due to hoses plugging.
So, time spent so far:
Mixing seeds – 1 hour
Tractor – first pass – 12 hours
Tractor – second pass – 7 1/2 hours
Tractor/Seeding – 4 hours
A couple of ways to figure the cost of establishment.
One is to figure my actual costs and assign an hourly rate for our time plus wear/tear/depreciation on the tractor and implements. And the other is to use custom rental rates which are figured by the acre.
Total man hours spent – 24.5 hours at $??/hr
Tractor costs for 23.5 hours at $??/hr
Fuel costs – 23.5 times 7.7 gph = 181 gallons @
Or using machinery rental rates (which is what i’m going to do since i don’t know the above costs!)
tractor and rotavator – 36 acres times $20/acre = $720.00
tractor and seeder/harrow – 18 acres times $15/acre = $270.00
Seed costs – $31.56 per acre is what i ordered – HOWEVER, i am informed that Allen actually put on about half again as much, so i will multiply that amount by 1.5 for a per acre cost of $47.34. The additional seed will hopefully pay off in increased forage yields. So total seed costs are $$852.12.
Buckwheat 6# @ $ .90/lb
Lespedeza 6# @ $1.00/lb
Pearl Millet 5# @ $1.05/lb
Oats 12# @ $ .28/lb
Cowpeas 6# @ $ .90/lb
Sunflower 5# @ $.45/lb
Red Clover 2# @ $1.95/lb
Total expenses then amount to $1842.12 or $102.34 per acre. That’s a lot and does not include the 2 tons of lime i had applied in April at a cost of $66/acre. It’s tough to say this all has to be recouped in one year or one grazing because the lime will be there for the rest of my life and the tillage will have long term effects in loosening the soil as well as eradicating the toxic endophyte infected fescue. With so many variables, counting the cost, or rather, measuring the increase or lack thereof, in the short run, is very difficult in ranch renovation.
The plan is to have something to graze in 60-75 days. This will depend large part on moisture. We are getting pretty dry now already and need a rain. I will post updates.
By the way, you noticed i’m not including costs associated with photography and blogging. It’s a good way to force me to sit down and keep a log of expenses, time, and results. Hopefully, it will help others as well!
Managing soil, water, and animals properly and privately goes a lot further than politically motivated government regulations written by people who are far removed from soil and weather.