Greg Judy on Endophyte Fescue – Part 2

Part 2 of the Winter stockpile by Greg Judy published to “On Pasture” online magazine.

Winter Stockpiled Fescue Trumps Hay Every Time – Part 2

By   /  February 12, 2018  /  2 Comments

Should you get rid of your endophyte-infected tall fescue? Greg shares why we don’t like it, and why getting rid of it may be hard on us too.

This is the second in a four part series. Here’s Part 1.

Our winter stockpile consists mostly of endophyte-infected Kentucky 31 fescue. This fescue is the most cursed despised grass in the Midwest for several reasons.

1. The endophyte restricts the blood flow to the extremities of some animals, causing some cows to lose tail switches, feet, ear tips.
2. Low weight gains, lower reproduction rates.
3. Rough hair coat.
4. Summer slump, plants stop growing in extreme heat.

There are practices that you can use to kill endophyte-infected fescue on your farm and replace it with the novel friendly endophyte fescue. This novel endophyte is more palatable and livestock can perform better on it.

I have no argument that the novel fescue is better forage, but the cost of converting your farm over to the novel is something to consider. You have to spray the present endophyte infected fescue pasture in the spring with Roundup. This is followed by drilling some kind of summer annual crop into the sprayed area. Then you need to re-spray this same area again in the fall to ensure you killed all the fescue plants that survived the spring roundup spraying. Then you drill the new novel endophyte fescue into the killed sod.

There are several things to consider before taking this journey. Let’s cover some of those items here:

1. When you spray Roundup on your pastures and kill the present stand of fescue, what are your cows supposed to eat that year if it doesn’t rain and the summer annual crop fails?

2. What if it doesn’t rain that fall after drilling the new fescue? Now you are really stuck with a failed grass seeding, bare ground, winter coming and no pasture for your livestock. It’s going to be a long winter feeding hay and no spring grass to look forward to.

3. It will take several years to build enough sod under the new plants to hold up livestock in a rainstorm.

4. The cost of the seed for the new improved fescue will average around $100 per acre with no guarantee of getting a stand of grass.

5. Roundup herbicide cost, spraying, fuel, labor, equipment, no grazing, all add up to another $175/acre.

6. Can the new fescue take a beating like the endophyte infected fescue and maintain a stand to support your livestock? If you want to try the new fescue, plant a small plot first on your farm to see if it persists with grazing pressure.

7. You cannot feed any purchased hay onto this new stand of novel fescue if it contains Kentucky 31 fescue.

8. Finally, if you have endophyte-infected fescue on the borders of your pastures, will it come back? If it does, will you have to go through this whole process over again in five years?

Those are a whole bunch of what if’s that may not work out the best for my pocket book at the end of the day. I also feel like every second that my rear end is plopped on a tractor seat, I am losing money. How about approaching the endophyte infected fescue problem from a different angle – one that will keep the money in everyone’s pocket while allowing us to make a living on our farms?

In Part 3, I’ll share what we have undertaken on our farms with management of our cow herd and grazing to prosper on this dirty endophyte-infected fescue.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    contributor

    Greg and Jan Judy of Clark, Missouri run a grazing operation on 1400 acres of leased land that includes 11 farms. Their successful custom grazing business is founded on holistic, high-density, planned grazing. They run cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, stockers, a hair sheep flock, a goat herd, and Tamworth pigs. They also direct market grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Greg’s popularity as a speaker and author comes from his willingness to describe how anyone can use his grazing techniques to create lush forage, a sustainable environment and a successful business.

    Fast Food – Chicken Fried Steak

    Oh my goodness – i am such a good cook.  Start with quality ingredients and anyone is a star in the kitchen.  Start to finish – about 35 minutes.  Now, i must get outside or i’ll eat it all!

    Today’s lunch:  Chicken Fried Steak

    Chicken fried steak with smashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

    IMG-3789

    Chicken fried steak (our home raised grass finished round steak beef)

    • Organic Einkorn ancient grain flour
    • Olive oil
    • Sea salt
    • Organic black pepper
    • Farm fresh eggs
    • Milk and butter from local pastured cows
    • Organic russets
    • Organic broccoli

    IMG-3788.JPG

    Cheers!

    tauna

    Greg Judy on Toxic Fescue – Part 1

    This is part 1 of Greg’s experience, opinion, and discussion of toxic endophyte infected fescue published to “On Pasture.”

    Winter Stockpiled Fescue Trumps Hay Every Time – Part 1

    By   /  February 5, 2018  /  1 Comment

    Some folks say we should do all we can to get rid of Kentucky 31 fescue in our pastures. But Greg Judy has other ideas. In this four part series he covers his experiences, good and bad, with this grass, and why he’s keeping his. He starts with the basic benefits of winter stockpile.

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    When folks start investigating methods of shortening the winter hay feeding periods on their farms and ranches, the term “winter stockpiling” is usually found somewhere in the discussion. The term “winter stockpiling” means that you are allowing your grass to grow on your farm in the fall growing season without being eaten off by your livestock. This fall grown grass (stockpile) is reserved for winter grazing by animals in the dormant non-growing season. The only equipment required to harvest this fall grown forage in the coming winter is the four-legged kind along with some electric fence. The animals harvest it right off the stem where it was grown. Grazing winter-stockpiled fescue ranks as one of the highest money savers there is on our livestock farms.

    Once you have succeeded in growing all this fall growth of grass this is your standing hay for the coming winter. Our winter stocking rate is based on how much stockpiled fescue we have available across the various farms. Cows really enjoy grazing every day they possibly can. They would much rather be peacefully grazing across the pasture in the winter, rather than standing in deep mud around a bale ring fighting off other cows.

    Here’s why grazing stockpiled fescue (or any stockpile) is better than bale feeding:

    Cows Don’t Enjoy Bale Rings

    Have you ever watched cows around a bale ring? It is a very competitive stressful scene. There are always dominant cows whipping up on the less dominant cows, driving them off their feed that they desperately need to maintain daily performance. The stress of getting whipped every time they try to get a mouthful of hay out of the bale ring really effects the less dominant cows. Your animal performance on the less dominant cows plummets with each day of cold weather they are exposed to. (If you knew that every time you opened the refrigerator door that you were going to get whipped, you might think twice about going to the refrigerator to grab a bite to eat as well.)

    Fertility and Forage Suffers

    All the fertilizer benefits from the bale-ring-fed hay are being deposited around the bale ring where the ground has been trampled into a mud slurry. Once the sod around the bale ring is pugged with deep holes through the sod, this area is guaranteed to grow a good healthy crop of weeds for years to come and it years to heal before it will ever grow grass again. Not only is it an eyesore on your pasture, it is no longer a productive area on the farm. If you have to feed hay to your animals, unroll it across the pasture to spread out the fertility.

    Cows Can Feed Themselves

    One conventional mindset that is tough to get changed is that when winter arrives, animals cannot feed themselves on our pastures anymore. People think, “You must feed hay or your animals will not survive.” My question to that line of thinking is, “What did animals eat for centuries before we started making and feeding them hay?” It’s pretty obvious that they survived without hay and they reproduced too.

    I’ve learned that when winter arrives animals are more than happy to graze if they are moved to fresh grass every day or so. The more often I move them, the better they perform and the more content they are. Our mob of cows depends on us moving them daily, they are unhappy campers if they don’t get their daily fresh paddock of stockpiled grass.

    By focusing on growing grass on our farm with full recovery periods between grazing, we can let the animals harvest the grass where it is grown. The manure pats and urine patches that are deposited while grazing are dropped where they belong – on our pastures where they will grow more future grass.

    We have learned to trust our grass that is standing in our pastures to feed our animals. It does not need to be rolled up in a bale to be good feed. Many times rolling up hay into bales makes it worse feed. Unless you get perfect drying conditions to cure the forage, you end up with moldy hay that is great to fill a ditch with. Animals would much rather harvest fresh grass on the stem.

    Here’s Part 2 in the series.

    contributor

    Greg and Jan Judy of Clark, Missouri run a grazing operation on 1400 acres of leased land that includes 11 farms. Their successful custom grazing business is founded on holistic, high-density, planned grazing. They run cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, stockers, a hair sheep flock, a goat herd, and Tamworth pigs. They also direct market grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Greg’s popularity as a speaker and author comes from his willingness to describe how anyone can use his grazing techniques to create lush forage, a sustainable environment and a successful business.

    Greg Judy on Toxic Fescue – Part 3

    Greg (a world renown speaker) and his wife, Jan, are very good friends and he makes some incredibly good points here.  This year, i too, spent a lot of money tilling up my fescue pastures and planting tame, sweet grasses.  Now, i also did the tillage because the old pasture was really really rough and tillage also served to even out the washouts and other wallowed out patches.  Head on over to “On Pasture”  for lots of great articles.

    Winter Stockpiled Fescue Trumps Hay Every Time – Part 3 – Fescue Tolerant Animals and Grazing

    By   /  February 19, 2018  /  No Comments

      This is Part 3 in Greg’s four part series about the trouble with Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue, and how he’s learned to love it. (Read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.) Here he describes the management techniques that have made him question moves to try to eradicate it from his pastures.

    My Pasture Renovation

    First I want to share with you my complete pasture renovation project that I undertook years ago at the advice of forage professionals. I did a complete reseeding on our pastures and put in a 100-acre diverse stand of brome, orchard grass, timothy, redtop and various legumes. I got lucky that fall after everything was planted and got a nice rain. The seeding came up and looked great the next spring. We held a farm walk that summer showing what we had done with this precious 100-acre piece of infected fescue. Everybody at the pasture walk was in awe of how beautiful the pasture looked. I was so happy that I could hardly stand it until someone at the pasture walk made a comment to me privately.

    One seasoned grazier crept up to me and whispered, “Greg that is pretty nice piece of grass you have there, but in five years you will have Kentucky 31 tall fescue and clover, that’s about it.”

    You could have knocked me over with a match stick! I was shocked that he would dare say such a thing to me. I responded right away, “Oh you’re mistaken! We rotationally graze and will manage these improved grasses so that they thrive on this farm forever. Fescue is history on this farm, it has no use here.”

    Well guess what? He was dead right, in five years our primary grass was Kentucky 31 endophyte-infected tall fescue with red clover. I had a good dose of “humble pie.” My pocket book was still hurting from the money that I spent putting in all these wonderful new grasses. In those days, we still had a loan on everything on the farm including the money that we spent on the seed. That was a sick hollow feeling making those loan payments that included the purchased seed knowing that my money ended up in someone else’s pocket and my farm was right back to where it was at five years earlier.

    Grazing Management and Culling Make the Difference

    Once we switched to mob grazing many years later, we were able to grow many additional species of grasses that were in the soil bank. This rank fescue needs a good beating every now and then with a mob of animal hooves to encourage additional forages to grow in the canopy. This animal impact sets back the fescue enough to allow legumes and other cool season grasses to propagate. But the main grass remains Kentucky 31 endophyte-infected fescue. In the Midwest during the summer months, fescue pretty much goes dormant, but with all the other forage species mixed in with it, our animals still perform well. Fescue is what we have and it wants to grow here, so we figured we better learn to make some money with it. Life is too short to wake up every day trying to kill something.

    Back to our cow herd. What we decided was that we were going to graze whatever grew on the farm. We owned no tractor or equipment, so whatever nature dealt us, we were going to manage with that. Whatever animal could not perform on what grows on our farm naturally, would be culled. Absolutely no excuses are made for any animal that fails this test. It was a little harsh starting out. We culled several more animals than we would have liked to in the early years. But we stuck to our original management practice and it has paid huge dividends.

    One of the easily observed results from endophyte infected fescue is that some cows will lose their tail switches. The tail switch falls off right at the very tip of the tail due to restriction of blood flow to the extremities of the animal. My good ranching friend Wally Olsen was here this winter walking through our mob of South Poll cattle. In Wally’s prior visit ten years earlier a lot of the older cows were missing their tail switch. On this visit, he immediately commented that almost every cow now had their tail switch intact and all the animals were in super body condition for the winter period that we were in. By staying committed to culling the animals that struggled on the endophyte infected fescue, the remaining animals and their offspring are much more tolerant to the fescue on our farms today. Certainly, having a diversity of other plants in the forage sward helps the livestock perform on fescue as well.

    We now have a very fescue tolerant herd, our animals look at their fescue/legume sward and get fat. We occasionally still get an animal that develops a limp (fescue foot), and that animal is sold immediately. I have no tolerance for an animal that will not perform on our forage when they are moved constantly to a fresh pasture of grass/legume sward. We just get rid of them – problem solved. When an animal that is adapted to your farm’s forage has the opportunity to select the best parts of a plant multiple times per day, those animals will make you a very nice living.

    Now, think of the money we have saved by not renovating our pastures every five years and gambling it away on a promise of having a better pasture in the future. I may step on some input folks’ toes here, but I am more concerned about the grazier making a living on their land.

    Who’s making all the money with farmers killing their pastures with herbicides and seeding these new fescue varieties into their pastures? Hint, it’s not the farmer! We are losing farmers every year at an alarming rate because there is nothing left at the end of the year for the guy on the land that is doing all the work. We take all the risk, they take all the money. Most of the money is going to town, and we need to keep it on the farm where it belongs. To make a profit every year on our farms, we must eliminate inputs which we do have control over.

    Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    contributor

    Greg and Jan Judy of Clark, Missouri run a grazing operation on 1400 acres of leased land that includes 11 farms. Their successful custom grazing business is founded on holistic, high-density, planned grazing. They run cows, cow/calf pairs, bred heifers, stockers, a hair sheep flock, a goat herd, and Tamworth pigs. They also direct market grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. Greg’s popularity as a speaker and author comes from his willingness to describe how anyone can use his grazing techniques to create lush forage, a sustainable environment and a successful business.

    Parity? Not a chance in Farming

    It’s not hard to understand why most young people have no interest in farming as a career.  Low wages, working conditions can be brutal at times (weather related or dangerous), and very low return on investment coupled with high financial risk.  Not a good combination.  The average age of principle operators continues to rise and is now over 58 years old – a time when many in other sectors are planning retirement.  However, the young people who are starting up do seem to work smarter and not harder with the result being a more balanced family/work lifestyle.  Also, mechanisation and better ranching principles continue to make the work more pleasant and give farmers/ranchers the opportunity to expand without working harder or longer hours.  There is hope that agriculture will continue in the US, just with fewer operators and sadly, still supported with off farm income.  There is a joke amongst farmers and ranchers that when asked what they’d do if they won a million dollars, the answer is ‘farm until it’s gone.’

    1966

    Land cost per acre:  $93/acre  (my Bowyer Place)

    Cow Prices:  $20/cwt  (20 cents per pound)

    Fed Steer Price:  $25/cwt  (25 cents per pound)

    Wages per hour:  $1.25 (minimum wage)

    Fuel:  .32/gallon

    2018

    Land cost per acre:  $2800/acre (similar land sales in Linn County, MO)

    Cow Prices:  $63/cwt  (63 cents per pound)

    Fed Steer Price:  $115/cwt  ($1.15 per pound)

    Wages per hour:  $7.25 (minimum wage)

    Fuel: $2.45/gallon

    CPI Inflation Calculator to compare:

    Land – $93 in 1966 is the same as $725 in 2018 dollars

    Cow Prices:  $0.20/lb  in 1966 is the same as $1.56/lb in 2018 dollars

    Fed Steers:  $0.25/lb in 1966 is the same as $1.95/lb in 2018 dollars

    Wages per hour:  $1.25/hr in 1966 is the same as $9.74/hr in 2018 dollars

    Fuel: $0.32/gallon in 1966 is the same as $2.49/gallon in 2018

    Logging Out!

    Found a reliable logger locally who got started on my farm several weeks ago.  He has been terribly hampered by weather (especially now that the ground is thawed and we are receiving about an inch of rain!)  With Missouri’s unpredictable and challenging weather, it may be July before he can get back in!

    Timber (1)
    Spent some time getting this old wire fence cut out and pulling up posts.  Sadly, to no avail, my logger says these trees are not marketable.  But, at least all the nasty down fence is rolled up.  Wasn’t too hard a job.
    Timber (4)
    Most of my trees grow along the ditches and are of extremely low quality.  Barely worth cutting out and hauling off.  Most will be pallet lumber.  Although, he did sell find two walnut trees he sold to my neighbours for their sawmill  operation.  
    Timber (2)
    Working in the timber patches is more profitable for him since the trees are somewhat more dense.  Still no high quality trees.  Should have managed my timber and draws years ago to allow quality trees to get started.  Always trying to catch up it seems.  However, once he is done, the result will be a much healthier wildlife resource and ecologically sound biome.
    Timber (3)
    A few of the logs he’s been able to get out.  Very happy with the work he does since he cleans up the tops and stacks them laying parallel for easier burning.

    Winter Hay Buying

    Found a local producer (Don Hoover) for pretty good hay late in the season (January).  He delivered an unloaded 2 semi loads (76 bales) each bale weighing 1385 lbs.  (Still have my 100 bales or so of warm season grasses stored in the barn.  Hope i don’t need them – depends on the season.)

    Sadly, I’ve already fed them all out (the 76 delivered bales), but back on decent (cow quality) winter stockpile grazing for a few weeks now.

    The extended extra cold is really sapping the energy out of the cows although with good feed, they and their calves really don’t notice the cold – thankfully, it has not been rainy and wet – it’s really tough to keep cows and 8 month old calves in condition then.

    Supposed to warm up to just above freezing tomorrow, then a few days clear up into the 40’s and maybe 50’s.   Happy camper here!

    Cheers!

    tauna