Talking to Your Cows

How do cows talk?  With their mouths….and with their manure.  Their manure says it has been raining a lot recently so let’s stick to the front end for today.

Talk to your cows.  They don’t mind.  But to hear them you have to listen with your eyes.  For example, here the cows told me they don’t care for fescue:

They couldn’t wait to leave the fescue behind.  They were placed on this patch at around 9:30 this morning while the day was still cool and the sun was hidden.  Just before the monsoon du jour hit we put them back in the barn and moved them to the next spot in the early afternoon:

This spot is right next to the spot they ignored, it’s just colonized by different plants, it’s a different time of day and the monsoon passed…for now.  If you look closely you’ll see white clover, dandelion, plantain, chickweed, pineapple weed, violets and a variety of grasses I’m not so good with…but little fescue.  They ate it right down to the ground.

Now, I’m not as good at speaking cow as I am with chicken or pig but I think this means they liked this spot better.  Or it may mean that early morning, pre-rainstorm fescue isn’t very tasty.  Or that they were really hungry when I let them out of the barn.  I don’t know.


If any of you speak cow…specifically the Jersey dialect, please comment and let me know.

Full disclosure: I broke down and mowed behind the cows the other day.  There were tall clumps of fescue that I just couldn’t ignore.  I can only tolerate so much as I look out my window.  Bear with me.  I’m not there yet.

The Hare Pen Part 2

Why a part 2?  Because I am very happy with what I see out there.  

Black Gold.  Deposited in neat little rows on my grass.  I don’t even have to haul it.

This is where the hare pen sat all night, surrounded by polywire.  The manure isn’t very evenly distributed but that really doesn’t matter.  The earthworms say thanks.

The longer you leave them in one place the more manure they put down but the more pellets they will eat.  If you’re looking to lower your feed bill, move them more frequently.  If you are trying to increase fertility quickly, you could carry in pellets, hay, fresh clippings.  We are just using them to trim up small patches of grass around the garden.  It’s nice not to run the lawn mower.

Mowing the grass part 2

The cows, as you know, get fresh grass daily.  Recently I made their pen smaller and I’m just giving them 144 sq. ft. at a time, moving them 5 or 6 times daily.  This results in excellent trampling and manuring as the grass is sheared off evenly and the weeds are either eaten or trampled.  The picture below shows a line I missed when I moved the pen a bit too far, then shows the progress beyond.  At the end of the day I’m putting something on the order of 90,000 pounds per acre across my lawn.  I could go heavier if I had more forage but since the grass is still short I have to move them frequently.

The stem in the center of this picture was a weed I watched Mable take a bite of then spit out.  I guess once they finished eating their ice cream they went back for their veggies.

Now, I want to be clear that I’m not starving my cows into eating the weeds.  They just like to eat.  Check the rumen on this beauty.  The indentation between the last rib and the pelvis sucks in when the rumen is empty.  Flo is looking full.

So what are they eating?  Well, they’re on the old driveway and it’s a weedy mess.

Here is another shot showing the line between what they finished grazing and what they are just starting.

Now, there really is a bit more to it than just moving a panel and waiting for them to eat.  You have to read their manure to see if they are getting enough protein.  This looks pretty good.  A little dry but not bad.

It would be more soupy if the fast-growing green was all they were getting or if I had more clover mixed in my pasture (yard).  I don’t have much clover yet, there is a fair amount of old growth still standing here and they get half a bale of hay every night just to keep things regulated.

Beyond manure I smell them.  Yeah.  Smell their breath.  That tells me a lot about the condition of their rumen.  It should smell sweet.

There are more things I could check if I was more paranoid but if they are laying down, chewing their cud, their manure is pumpkin pie-ish, their breath is sweet, and their coats are shiny they are OK.  The real point is…look at that lawn!  They mowed it, set the weeds back and fertilized it all on solar power.

I think that’s pretty cool.

Mowing the grass

Ah, it’s that time of year again.  The birds are chirping, the toads are calling and you can’t hear any of it because the lawn mowers are running.

We opt out.  I’m not even sure where my lawn mower is.  I think it’s in the shed.  Maybe.  We used it on the 4th of July last year but not since.  I don’t mind people mowing, it’s just not for me.  It’s too noisy and I have better things to do.  Further, it all seems Rube Goldberg to me; pump oil from Ottawa, haul it to Texas, refine it, haul it to St. Louis, put it in a machine from China, cut the grass off and watch it grow back again.  No thanks.

Cows kinda like mowing grass.  Take this model here:

This model (a 2011) was originally made on a channel island called Jersey but this specific one was built just up the road.  There’s no patent protection preventing you from making your own, you just need seed stock.  Not only does it cut the grass, it fertilizes for you, tromps weeds down, aerates the soil, produces milk (unheard of in a lawn mower) and can reproduce itself.  That’s right, it’s a walking lawn mower factory!  Further it requires zero gas, just water.  Now, it doesn’t come with a manual but there are some things you should know.

1.  It MUST mow or it will die and death is an unrecoverable condition for this type of machine.  That said, death is not always an unwelcome condition for a mower.  This is a good time to note that this type of mower tastes better than others.

2.  It is better if you set things up so you only request that it mow as much grass as it can in a day and that you allow it to mow a new place every day, not returning to the first location for 90-100 days.  This not only keeps the machine busy but keeps it in good working order.  Further, you will have more and thicker grass than you have ever had before, far thicker than that of your neighbors.

3.  If managed correctly, you will lessen the need to store up grass for it to mow during the winter months.  In the picture above, the nearer model is eating fescue that has been standing since August.

4.  If you have a large amount of grass to mow each year you may need more than one mower.  This is a favorable condition.

5.  If you have a small amount of grass you may want to consider sharing mowers between neighbors.  It may also be a good idea to split the milk it will produce.  Alternatively, you may consider a smaller mower called a “sheep”.  These also reproduce, make milk and fertilize, though in far smaller quantities.

NOTE:  Please don’t confuse a goat with a lawn mower.  The goat is more like a weed eater.