Cows are on the move. We have cooled off significantly and can now graze places we skipped in the hot part of summer. But we are moving fast to leave as much plant material behind as possible so plants will recover quickly. Think of it this way, the leaf is a solar cell. The more leaf area we retain the more energy we cna catch and store…the more roots we can put down…the more nutrients I can mine and cycle through the soil. The more sunlight we can capture, the more biomass we can generate. The more biomass we can generate, the more food I have for my cattle (well, unless it’s snakeroot).
The cows are on the move. We’re trying to get them to gobble up as much of the clover and chicory and dandelion as possible before frosts arrive…and we only have about a month remaining. We are trying to convince them to skip right on past the fescue in favor of other, more fleeting morsels because the fescue will stand up to the frost. The clover will just wilt and die. We need to move fast to continue fattening our cattle before the cold weather hits. Here is a shot of a pasture they just moved into up on the flat by the hog house:
And a picture of the previous pasture they have left behind. Where they slept the ground is carpeted with manure, otherwise it is scattered fairly evenly. Still plenty to eat in the paddock. At least another day’s worth of grazing. We’ll save that for another day. The broadleaf weeds will die back shortly and the fescue will really start to come on.
Speaking of broadleaf weeds, there are some things the cattle just won’t eat…unless they are forced to. I can’t seem to get ahead of the cocklebur or jimsonweed but the cows just eat around them, pointing them out to me.
This week the cattle are on the 9 acre field dad seeded to about 60% clover last spring. He just did a light discing of the corn stubble and broadcast the seeds from the tractor. Seems like it worked well.
Julie captured the butterfly migration in this field a few days ago.
I have 11 head of cattle, 9 acres of clover to cover and only a month to do it in. But the speed of movement is not my biggest concern. That’s just a matter of building fence and providing water. My biggest concern is the density of clover in that stand. We try to keep our cattle full and only move in the afternoon, when the fresh pasture will be dry. The first thing the cattle eat is the clover. But since the previous day’s allotment was larger than required, the cattle are entering with a full belly. If they were grazing clover covered in morning dew and with empty stomachs we would probably lose some cattle to bloat.
So we move over large areas, we move quickly, we check their gut fill (the triangular void between the last rib and the pelvis on the cow’s left (not the cow’s right!)), we move in the afternoon and we are always checking the quality of their manure. I know, right? Manure. Between the gut fill and the manure consistency I pretty much see what needs to be seen. Obviously we are always looking for somebody lagging behind or with a drippy nose, droopy ears or head down but with a mere 11 head we know each one personally any change stands out to us.
After this clover field we will have a mere 32 acres of pasture remaining for our few cows and calves. It will have to last until April. Maybe even May. Shouldn’t be a problem. With the clover field carrying the cattle this month, the rest of the farm has an opportunity to rest and recover. Hope it works out. Looks good on paper anyway. In fact, the paper says I don’t have enough cattle. Sigh.
This post was largely conceptual. I’ll go a bit into the mechanics and logistics of laying out the fence, providing water and just moving the animals in an upcoming post.