Maybe I should start a podcast with that title. (in my ample free time…lol)
It’s tough grazing out there to the east. The soil is dry and hard…not signs of health…not conducive to plant health or cow health. So the fescue grows a few inches tall and throws up a tall seed head and white clover grows where it can. There is a little red clover too but there is a lot of exposed dirt and moss. I need the hooves and claws (do chickens have large talons?) to break up the moss and manure and plant material to cover the soil with a protective blanket. Future grass will grow better and be sweeter.
You can see how much pasture the cows are just walking past in the picture above. The cows have grazed out the yummy bits in the left center of the picture, trampled quite a bit more and left the rest. I’m not running them at a high enough density to really impact the pasture at this time, I’m focusing on speeding them along about half as fast as when we were last here in April..55 days ago. I want the cows to get all the energy they can, leaving manure behind. At the current pace it will take me 120 days to cover the entire farm. That will be October 1. I can live with that.
But there are large sections of my pasture where there is no shade. I’ll just skip those until fall, waiting for cooler weather. What I really need to do is add to my tree inventory. And paint that old barn. More on trees in a minute.
There is a fence of questionable quality keeping the cows separate from the alfalfa field. I don’t particularly want an alfalfa field but you play the cards you were dealt. Complaining about the alfalfa field is a little like complaining about eating ice cream. Where the fence lies the cows can’t trample and manure so we have a nice forest of thistle. I could spray the thistle out. I could chop. I could do any of several things but I would prefer to move the fence north or south by about 10 feet and let animals do the work. There are only so many hours in a day and only so much I can do. If it would stop raining for a couple of days we could cut hay…but there I go complaining about ice cream again. Soon I’ll be wishing for rain…
It has been hot out this week [Note: this post was written a week before it was published]. Not August hot but regularly above 90 with humidity above 70%. Some of our cows do ok with that, some pant and drool because they still have a winter coat. Those cows need to leave the farm. We have enough trees that I can section off a portion of a tree lot to give the cows a one-day loafing area in the heat. Then we open up new pasture for the cows morning and evening. The cows reminded me how important this is yesterday when it was 85 out and they were standing in full sun panting. I have to do better. On weekends I subdivide further but it’s not fair for me to ask Julie to roll up fence wire with all the other stuff she has to do during the week so we try to keep things simple.
Anywhere I stand on my farm I am surrounded by trees. Honey locust, black locust, a variety of oaks (shingle, white, burr, red, pin), shagbark and pignut hickory, hackberry, wild cherry, osage orange, redbud, walnut, cottonwood, black willow, sassafras, elm, mulberry, sycamore, sugar and silver maple, sumac, even a few pines and junipers, maybe a persimmon or pawpaw…all of these are valuable both for shade and as forage and many make great firewood and posts. The leaves are high in protein and tannin and the cows eat every leaf they can reach. The trees mine nutrients and water (I repeat myself) and contribute greatly to the available organic material in the soil. You would think I live on the prairie but there is a lot of forest in the river hills. Our goal is to maintain open savanna under a healthy canopy, not allow an overgrown tangle of fallen limbs, multi-flora rose and poison ivy to rule the forest. This requires managed disturbance (including chainsaw disturbance). The cows get in there, eat the good stuff, trample the rest and add a dose of bacteria to an otherwise fungal environment. Adding more trees to the open spaces and in greater variety will only make our farm more productive and help keep our cows happy.
This week in grazing I’m dealing with heat, rain, pasture health and tree planning. I know the time is coming when the heat will worsen and the rain will cease. I need to plant about 10,000 trees. That’s going to take a while…even if I could plant 1,600 trees in a day. But I have to be serious about increasing my tree numbers as my herd numbers grow.