Strolling Through The Pasture July 2013

I enjoy documenting the changes in my landscape month by month but it’s difficult to find the time.  Time is precious.  More on this later.

A cold front has been rolling through and finally set in solidly.  We got 1/2 inch of rain last night and it got into the 50’s.  It was cool enough that, after hustling through the pastures taking pictures, I could see my breath.

Remember this from July 10th?  I am standing in the shade of a black locust tree in the late afternoon.  This picture is representative of much of the area we gave them that day.

LitterHere it is again, from a different angle and 3 weeks later.  No rain fell until we got half an inch last night.


There is an ancient walnut tree just to the right of the picture above.  It shades a large area.

WalnutThe plant density under the tree is low, in part because of the shade, in part because cattle have shaded themselves under this tree for …how many years?  and the soil is compacted.  I’m not going to eliminate the shade.  I do try to rest the grass and allow it to break up the soil.

PastureWalk2Down the hill to the West and we’re in the triangle (cleverly named for its shape).  What a weedy mess.  This is also compacted both from cattle and from the road that went through here ? years ago.  But it has recovered and is ready for grazing.

PastureWalk3Down the hill to the North I stop for a shot of Grandpa Tree…only I can’t seem to get far enough back to fit him in the shot.  What a massive old burr oak!  It would take three of us to link arms around it…you know…if you were inclined to measure a tree in terms of arms linked.  That tree has just always been here and has always been enormous.  Hope it is still standing when I’m not.

Grandpa TreeDown the hill from Grandpa Tree to the North and we’re in the bottom.  Last time we grazed here I was in Florida.  The water tank was overfilled making a muddy mess in a large circle around the tank from cow hooves.  That hasn’t recovered yet.  It may not recover for a couple of years.  Not much I can do.  Otherwise, the bottom is recovering nicely.  Dad is concerned about the broadleaf weeds out there.  I understand and kind of agree.  On the other hand, it’s nice to catch sunlight at different layers and put down roots to different depths.  It’s nice to mine nutrients differently and offer the cows variety.  It’s nice to not start the tractor.  As long as on species doesn’t dominate all the others I think I’ll let it go.  Maybe I’ll bunch up the cattle more tightly as we graze through this time and knock more things down.  I am going to have to do something about the thorny saplings down there though.

PastureWalk4The most interesting thing I saw across the creek was the damage the Japanese beetles had done to the multi-flora rose bushes.  Those poor bushes are just skeletons now.  Wow.

PastureWalk5Recovery across the creek looks pretty good.  Tons of forage down there, all recovered, all lush, green and ready to graze.

PastureWalk6It looks great, in spite of the fact that it’s a weedy mess full of thorny trees.  In spite of the fact that it’s July and we haven’t had any rain for 3 weeks.  In spite of the fact that my neighbors are running low on pasture.  For comparison sake, I took a picture across the fence (at my own property) a cousin runs cows on.  There is no rotation.  There is no recovery.  Every blade of grass is ragged from grazing.  If nothing else, compare the percentage of brown in the picture.  That is not to disparage my cousin but to show the value of plant recovery.  I should also point out that he is running 12 cow/calves on 40 acres, I am running 8+2 on 13 acres…and I can’t keep up.

PastureWalk7Remember looking at recovery earlier this month?  The grass should look like it has never been grazed.  We looked at this clump of grass as an example of incomplete recovery.  This may not be the same clump but it’s within 5 feet.  Pointed blades of grass?  Check.  Yellowing blades of grass adding to the litter?  Check.  We are recovered.  I won’t be grazing this plant for another two to four weeks but it’s ready if I need it.

RecoveryDisemmemberment hill is recovering slowly.  It’s a matted, tangled mess of goldenrod stems, grass, manure and whatever else was growing there at the time.  There are still some solid stands of goldenrod growing there.  I think I should go ahead and chop them with my sicket.  I don’t think we can mow this hill without having to repair the tractor tires when we are finished.  The whole hill is a thorny mess.

Disemmemberment HillThere is a good layer of litter on top of the hill.

ManureThe grazing plan worked out a little differently than we expected but we’re roughly where we should be.  If you follow that link you’ll see we should be on #27 today.  The layout worked differently in situ.  We have actually spent two days grazing an area somewhere between #26 and #27 and look how fat the cows are.  They wouldn’t even get up when I walked over to them.

HappyCowsThere is some sort of grass growing there I haven’t identified but I’ve always called “water grass”.  It’s nearly 6′ tall and has a thorny-looking seed head.

PastureWalk8The cows seem to like it.

PastureWalk9They also appear to like willow trees.

WillowBack toward the house the steep, south-facing slope is always a dry, hot area.  I don’t know if you can see but there are a number of cow paths cut on countour around the face of the hill.  That added compaction makes it harder to get forage established here…keeping things dry.

PastureWalk10Pastures change and it pays to watch your keylines.  Where the slope ends 10 feet downhill from the picture above we see lush forage.

PastureWalk11Wrapping things up, walking West through the chicory field, can you see where the fence was last time I grazed through?  We had a big rainstorm and a tornado nearby the night the cows were standing to the left half of the picture.

PastureWalk12We needed to service our well so we mowed a path through this pasture on the hottest day this summer.  It looks like a dead zone out there.  It will be interesting to watch that for recovery in the coming weeks.  I’m going to have to graze over that ground even though it has not recovered.

PastureWalk13Well, time for breakfast.  See you later.

5 thoughts on “Strolling Through The Pasture July 2013

  1. Love these pasture strolls. I’ve never heard of grass with thorny seedheads. The mowed strip to the well doesn’t look all that dead. I have a picture somewhere of my in-laws and us trying to link hands around a big old Douglas Fir in a forest nearby to here – we couldn’t do it. Why is the Grandpa tree called that? Seems like your pasture is really changing before your eyes this season.

    • I don’t know. It’s just what the kids call it. Apparently my grandfather said that tree was big when he was young. Maybe that’s how the name got started.

      I don’t live in a temperate rainforest so, to me, a 10′ diameter tree is big. I would like to see a big fir tree though.

      The pasture is doing some really neat stuff. Next year we’ll have 3x the pasture to work through and we’ll get to see the initial stages of pasture recovery again. Pretty exciting!

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