Lessons Learnt

Honestly, every entry I write could be entitled ‘Lessons Learnt.’ Usually, i learn things by bad experience which is unfortunate, but those are the ones most remember, right?!

As you know, i’ve been practicing Jaime Elizondo’s Total Grazing/Real Wealth Ranching technique now for over a year (wow! went fast) and even with my few cows and decidedly unevenly applied practice, there is a credible improvement in nutrient distribution and sward thickening.

Lesson 1 from this past week.

Even with proper paddock width, have at least 850 feet of poly braid on your reel.

One of the tenets is to design paddocks no more than 650 feet so that a reel of poly braid is easily managed and doesn’t take long to set up. However, not all paddocks measured out will be less than that due to undulating lay of the land, ditch crossings or going around ditches, draws, fingers, etc etc ad nauseum. I came up very short on one of the reels i’m using on paddock #15 and had to scrounge through all that i had in the back of my Gator. Thankfully, i had a couple long bungee cord with gate handles already attacked plus a bare piece of narrow poly braid i could tie on. About 40 feet all together to make it to the other side of the paddock. Good grief – lots of extra work. Gonna add the extra length as soon as i get a chance and put an end to extra work.

Lesson 2:

Bolster ditch gap fence!

Jaime had an excellent podcast/blog just this week about making and keeping those fences ‘hot’ (electrified). Although my fences were boasting 6.9 kw, that was not enough to keep the cows from pushing the single strand electrified rope blocking the ditch.

My previous type of managed grazing would have usually let me get away with this, however, when I’m pushing the cows/calves to graze older and perhaps less sweet grass – the stuff that really needs grazing and fertilizing to improve – they will push the boundaries if there is young green grass just on the other side. Total Grazing

Normally, the poly rope is sufficient, that is the one you see looped down through the ditch. I’ve already bolstered this one by adding the poly tape, but they blasted through it pretty sure as soon as i left
So, i grabbed a 50 foot section of poultry netting and stuck it in just before dark, made it hot and had to leave. Cows were out again next morning having once again trampled it into the ground.
Once again trying the electrified poultry netting but bolstered with 1.2 inch fiberglass poles driven into the ground.
Using a gate handle designed for electric fence is a quick, easy fix to attach fences. This orange polycarbonate has been my favorite style for decades. The wide hook allows me to hook onto just the 1.2 or less inch fiberglass posts when i need to keep fence tight but not hot.
I also moved this Speedright S1000 to a location previous set up for a much larger system which i had removed since i’m no longer trying to power all the fence on my property at the same time now. At this location, the energizer is better grounded to ten 6 foot buried ground rods which are located in the pond bank so they stay damp year round. I also unhooked a section of fence which was not longer necessary since the cows could water out of the ditch. Both of these practices made a better ‘snap’ and bumped voltage to 9.2. The good news, all these efforts paid off! The cows were in place when i checked on them Sunday afternoon.

Lesson 3 – Check paddock fences occasionally during growing season

Since i’ve moved the cows to start grazing on their winter stockpile, I’ve discovered that my 2 wire hi-tensile fences are largely ‘down’ and/or sagging badly. This is mostly if not entirely due to the large numbers of white tailed deer in our area. The deer cause not only damage to fences but also graze out a lot of the tender grasses and legumes. The work comes in at having to repair all the fences and allow the forage loss when calculating the amount of feed available to one’s livestock.

Since choosing total grazing, one half of my farm has been allowed to grow nearly an entire grazing season so it is beautiful, thick, with fat roots, and seed production. A fence that is down will be buried beneath the grass and entirely ineffective as a psychological or even quasi physical barrier. Pulling the wires up from underneath the mass of forage is a bit of a struggle and time consuming. I plan to stay ahead of that by keeping an eye on deer damage during the growing season and repairing fences so this doesn’t happen.

Hauling Hay With Ease!

This entry was written late summer of 2019 and it’s now December 2021 and the weather patterns have continued with rain in spring and into early summer – seldom coming as gently slow rains, but ‘rain events,’  In other words, we receive 4-8 inches in a few hours or a day.  Then it completely dries up from early August until late October or even into winter – this is the critical period in which we depend on voluminous growth of grasses for winter stockpile grazing.  In summer of 2020, I decided I would no longer feed hay – it’s too much work and very expensive.  At nearly the same time, I was introduced to Real Wealth Ranching developed and taught by Jaime Elizondo and this was the direction I’ve embraced this past year (fall 2020 – fall 2021) and plans are in place to graze through the winter using Total Grazing protocol.


Last winter (winter 2019) was a nightmare of feeding hay.  We knew that winter stockpile for grazing was in short supply because we’d had two years of drought followed by wet weather AFTER the growing season in the fall.  We sold about 30% of our cows and had a normal supply of hay yet that wasn’t enough because winter began much earlier and wouldn’t let up until late May.  This was the second severe and harsh winter in a row.  Cows came out of it this spring in pretty rough condition.  Not wanting to ever get in that spot again, we researched inline hay trailers to help us haul hay home from local purchases.  After watching a lot of Youtube videos and learning about the various brands and what to look for, we decided on a Missouri built model Freedom Hay Trailers that we purchased from a Raymer Farms Sales & Service near Green City, MO.  (Actually just accidentally found them on Craigslist whilst searching for more hay this past spring (2019))

Allen purchased another 270 bales here just a couple weeks ago and the weather was perfect for hauling on gravel roads and dumping into pastures, so i got crackin’ and ended up pulling 11 loads to my farm about 13 miles from the hay field to my farm and includes mostly narrow, uneven, hilly, bumpy paved roads followed by 2 miles of steep single lane gravel/dirt roads then pulled into the pasture.  Except for loading, i handled the pulling, net removal, and dumping by myself.  Allen had hauled several loads from another location earlier this year.  I don’t know how we got along now without it!  Very convenient time saver.

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I’m sitting in the pickup watching Dallas load 7 bales on the 36 foot hay trailer.  My first couple loads on such rough and narrow roads with a trailer that is 12 feet longer than i’m used to, i tended to be pretty cautious.  After that, seeing how the trailer is reliable and able to handle the conditions (and i got used to how differently the longer trailer took corners and handled), it was business as usual – roll on!

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When loading and hauling by yourself, you’ll need to cut a length of 2×4 to hold down the foot brake; the parking brake will not hold when the tractor is shoving the bales on from behind.

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With the board holding down the brake, I can jump out and snap a photo of Dallas loading the last bale.  It takes Dallas 6 minutes to load this trailer with 7 count 1400 lb bales.

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Upon arrival at the dump site, I cut off the net wrap because i’m going to put this straight out for cattle to eat.  Slice through the net wrap on the side opposite of the dump mechanism.

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Once cut, then go to the other side and pull the net wrap over and down from the bale.

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Remove the red safety bar, then it’s ready to dump the bales.  We purchased the hydraulic mechanism.  Yeah, it’s a bit more money- just get it.  I took Dallas on this trip so i could take photos.

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Remove the net wrap and ball it up on the pickup.   Never leave nylon strings or net wrap out in the pasture.  Here the cradle is reset and red safety bar back in place.

Pregnancy Check 2021

For decades, we’ve always had the veterinarian palpate our cows for chute-side determination of pregnancy. This year, i decided to try blood testing, so i contacted our veterinarian and asked him about the process. He said he’d never done that for an entire herd, but has used the process for individual animals.

There are some reasons for the change, primarily because i thought it would be less stressful for the cow and the vet and i think that is an important issue. If there is opportunity to reduce stress and physical labor, then the option should be explored – especially as we ranchers, farmers, veterinarians, and others are getting old. We break more easily, don’t move as fast, and get tired more quickly.

Pregnancy Tips from Beef Magazine

My cows and especially yearling heifers are smaller frame than many owners’ and the rectum is just not large enough to comfortably accommodate a big arm. Damage to fetus, rectum, and vet’s arm is more likely.

In just a few days, the results were ready and my vet’s office sent them to me via e-mail. The results: (i was very well pleased – especially since 3 of 4 bulls went bad at some point during the breeding season!) Overall, the pregnancy rate was 93% bred not counting 6 first calf heifers i bought (5 were open!). They did milk pretty heavy and are not adapted to managed grazing, so giving them a pass and will keep them another year.

  • Yearling heifers (born in 2020) – 73% bred
  • 2 year olds bred for the first time – 100% bred
  • 3 year-olds – 85% bred
  • 4 year-olds – 87% bred
  • 5 year-olds – 85% bred
  • 6 year-olds – 80% bred
  • 7 year-olds – 100% bred
  • 8 year-olds – 100% bred
  • 10 year-old – 100% bred
  • 20 year-old – 100% bred

After the work, receiving the bill and test information, followed by a chat with my veterinarian, i came away with the following points:

  • Blood testing is similar in accuracy as palpating
  • Blood testing is a bit more than twice as costly to implement
  • For the veterinarian, there is about the same work, but is far less physically demanding
  • Palpating allows chute side call and decision making based on pregnancy check – blood testing takes a few days
  • Palpating at 50-60 days can cause embryonic death due to a fragile time for the fetus. Blood testing would not cause this.
  • Blood testing is far less uncomfortable to smaller framed cows and young heifers.
  • Cows palpated around 4 months pregnant have a higher incident of being called ‘open.’
  • Blood testing takes about the same amount of time in the chute as palpating.

The actual out of pocket cost for blood testing was:

  • Veterinarian charge – $3/head
  • Blood testing – $4.50/head
  • Shipping/Processing – $ .60/head

By Comparison, only the $3/head would be charged for palpating. So, what will i do next year? i haven’t decided, but it could be a combination of blood testing the small/medium frame cows and the 2 and 3 year old heifers/cows, then palpating the remaining. This would greatly reduce cost but would require sorting the cows into two groups before pregnancy check. Is that extra labor worth the savings over just blood testing all?

Here are my new thoughts on processing my cows and calves going forward, but will discuss with my veterinarian to see if it is reasonable. My biggest concern is changing to dates in the winter – our winters can be unreasonable cold and miserable, but usually there are a few days which are nice.

  • 6 August – 20 September – Breeding season
  • 15 May – 30 June – calving season
  • Mid November-Vaccinate calves and preg check dry cows. Hold bull calves in pen to pair up, then wean them.
  • Mid March – Preg check 3 years and older cows i plan to keep (maybe?)- no need to preg check first calf heifers since i would hold them over if open anyway. WEAN CALVES.
  • Any cows which have developed a bad attitude or other reason for culling no need to preg check – they’ll need checking at sale barn.