Category Archives: Total Grazing-Real Wealth Ranching

Cows Grazing Weeds

We know that goats and sheep are excellent for eating weeds and brush and cows – not as much.

However, with adapted, trained cattle in a nonselective grazing protocal really do a fabulous job with a whole lot less labor and infrastructure (ie – fence that will hold water)

Compare these two photos taken before and after mobbing with total grazing principles.

Shabbat Shalom!

To Mow or Not to Mow

Basically this is a math problem. What is the cost of mowing (brush hogging) a pasture vs the benefit of doing so.

Consider the fuel (which is expensive now), wear and tear on machinery, depreciation, and man hours. Now, ideally, one would not own or operate the machinery and therefore would avoid the depreciation (although John Deere tractors actually seem to appreciate in value as the dollar recedes) and hire someone to mow it for you. However, my husband has a lot of tractors and equipment, so we might as well use them, though it still takes someone to sit in the tractor.

So, i don’t know the numbers to make a math decision, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Bowyer Farm, which was cropped for 4 years with soybeans, wil hugely benefit having those suffocating weeds (ragweed and cocklebur) removed as a thick canopy preventing desirable species of grasses and legumes to take hold.

This paddock was the last to be grazed on the Bowyer farm, and like a couple others the results are the abundance of ragweed. The second photo below shows what is left after grazing then brush hogging. For perspective, there are 160 cows, 7 mature bulls, and 90 spring born calves in this photo!

With two tractors going, one with a 15 foot brush hog, and the other with a 20 foot brush hog, it did not take long for Allen and my son, Dallas, to finish the job. It’s particularly a good job these days of intense ragweed pollinating for Dallas because he can sit in the air conditioned tractor cab and get along well. My husband has to do all the fueling and greasing, however.

These side by side photos are important in that they illustrate the difference between a paddock that was grazed in a more timely manner and the ragweed and cocklebur were removed by cows grazing, thereby opening the canopy and allowing an abundance of clover and lespedeza (poor man’s alfalfa) to flourish. The second photo shows that very little is able to grow under 4-6 foot tall thick ragweed. Even cocklebur and foxtail couldn’t get a toe hold in that mess.

About five days ago (21 Aug 22), i moved the cows/calves across the road to a paddock which had been previously grazed (13 Jun-23Jun 2022) via total grazing protocols. We’ve had more than plenty of rain, so regrowth was fantastic and the forages in this paddock are at the peak of grazing readiness to provide the cows a well balanced diet. I’m convinced they’ve gained 100 lbs in just those few days due to superior diet. Clearly, one can see i’m not mobbing them for best pasture results. This is due to my severe allergies and not being able to be outside. If not for a/c in my Gator, I would turn them out in large paddock and not see them for a week or more.

Oh, the ragweed pollen!!!

Shabbat Shalom!

Spring Grazing Observations

As blogged before, since changing to Real Wealth Ranching protocol which not only teaches a change in grazing management, but includes other changes which i believe will make my life easier as well as being more profitable all the while building soil, forage, and animal health.

One of the main precepts of any grazing management is observation of stock condition. If the livestock are suffering under your management, you must change something immediately. Daily or, at least often, observation of body condition, manure consistency, thriftiness, and overall general health including appropriate hair shedding, bright eyes, well hydrated, being alert, calm cud chewing, not bawling or wandering, and ears up demeanor are a few subtle clues to health.

For good reason, up until this year, i’ve set my calving season from 15 April to 31 May. For me, personally, that is not a good time because breeding season is 7 July to 20 Aug and 100% of the time, mid August to late September is high ragweed season which is debillitating to me making it nearly impossible to remove the bulls to keep defined dates for calving season.

However, this year (2022), i’m pushing that back to 15 May thru 30 June, With the change to total grazing and by default and plan i am offering a better balance protein/roughage diet to both cows and calves and hope to avoid the serious scours (calf losses about 30% for a couple years running!) encounter by earlier calving. However, calving that early in north central Missouri has its downsides in that it often can be extremely cold and muddy, plus cows will not be in best condition coming out of winter before calving.

Pushing it back a month means I avoid the beginning and ending of ragweed season. The animals need to be nearly set stocked during that time because i cannot be outside.

However, the final decision was to turn out the bulls on 22 July and will plan a 60 day breeding season. Most will likely breed in the first 35-40 days anyway, but the few which are later may allow me to grow my herd a bit. This is a calving season of 1 May to 1 July. However, the bigger benefit will be that removing the bulls will be after allergy season. By keeping my own replacements, there is a much greater chance of success by having adapted animals to my particular environment. Purchasing stock is a crapshoot at best.

As calving season has come along this spring (2022), I’ve really enjoyed noticing the HUGE difference in condition of cows which calved early/mid April and those few which have calved mid May. Any cow which calved early is very slow to recover from calving and has not shedded out well at all. Will that affect rebreeding? In the past, it has not, but the cows sure look better and are carrying much more weight.

One thing that has given me considerable concern is the number of open cows this spring that were pregnancy checked as being bred last fall. Young cows and really good 8 and 9 year olds have lost. In other words, it’s not been any particular age group or any specific bloodlines. Still pouring over records to see what might have caused this. It was about 5% abortion/fetal loss last year which the vets say is on the upper limits of normal. This year’s percentage is hovering around 7% abortion/fetal loss. This despite giving my cows a Lepto shot last fall, which is not what i usually do. However, a couple of those are purchased cows/heifers which are often not adapted to my environment.

The typical death loss of 1% to 2% sadly hit that upper percentage point this year to some sort of chronic wasting disease, most likely anaplasmosis. Seems like it hits my 3-6 year old good doing cows. Unfortunately, this seems to be just a part of raising livestock.

I’m continuing the Real Wealth Ranching protocol and total grazing plan because it has been an amazing program. Coming up on my second full year of implementation here in a few months. I tell people all i’m doing is providing landscaping tools and my cows do the work (grazing). Well, they don’t run the chainsaw.

Mud, Mud, Mud

The past 5-6 years, the weather has quite deviated from the norm, but this year is more its irritating self. With frequent, yet light rains, drizzles, and cloudy weather resulting in constant mud, even on top of the ridges – there’s not a dry or even well drained spot on my farm. Pugging is everywhere, though thankfully, i don’t have large cows, so damage is mitigated by less animal weight per square inch.

This year is the first year in implementing the ‘no molestar’ (do not bother) concept of not shifting cows and calves to new paddocks during calving season. This has been a real blessing, however, given the mud and misery this year, the cows have trampled their large paddock and from the looks of it have wasted at least 50% of their forage mostly by walking around and trampling into the mud. This has forced me to move them to another paddock which is just as wet and muddy, but with thick forage. They will destroy it rapidly as well. Very thankful that through total grazing, there is plenty of reserve forage for the cows. The concept of not bothering the calving cows was interrupted and i had to find and pack and haul and drive a few calves – i think one has been abandoned – this is precisely why the pairs should be left alone during the important bonding time.

Gateways are becoming quite a mess with both cow foot traffic and Gator traffic

The continued cold, cloudy, and wet weather is taking its toll on the cows’ conditions and that of their calves, though it is most noticeable on those yearling first calf heifers and the really old cows.

Despite the rain, work continues as much as possible to avoid getting completely behind though there are many many jobs which must wait for warmer and much drier weather. Next week is supposed to warm up and not rain. Really looking forward to some warmth and especially sunshine.

Pugging is absolutely on every square inch of the paddock.
Forcing them to eat the brown and the green is keeping manure in pretty good shape, but the weather and ground conditions are taking the toll on animal condition. Plus they are very unhappy and unsatisfied – i’m not sure why except there’s been no sun and no place dry to lie down for a couple weeks. That would make me cranky, too.

Deer Are A Menace

Those of us in certain areas of the US are challenged daily by the abundance of White-tailed Deer. While beautiful and a necessary part of the ecosystem, they are very destructive. Not only do they eat a large portion of crops, graze massive amounts of stockpiled forage, run out in front of your vehicle (keeps the car repairmen in business), but they run through fences like they can’t even see them! Frustrating.

As i continue my journey through Real Wealth Ranching precepts by using Total Grazing protocols, there are issues come up that are not necessarily unforeseen, but brought to the fore as the year progresses.

One of those is the deer taking out interior hi-tensile paddock division fences. Although they do this year round and in any kind of managed grazing system, it is especially noticeable with total grazing because of the long rest period to grow fat roots. There is SO much forage and if the fence has been torn down, the tall grass grows over the wires making it very difficult to pull back up for repair.

This scenario was one of yesterday’s tasks for me on a 1/4 mile of 2 wire hi-tensile. About 2/3rds of the way pulling up both wires, i gave up and concentrated on getting the top wire pulled up and will leave the bottom wire for after the cows nonselectively graze over so it will be easier to pick it up. Nevertheless, I liken this activity to a similar exertion of shoveling 2-3 inches of heavy snow for 1/4 mile. Yes, it was difficult, but doable in the 4-6 tons/acre of laid over and heavy stockpile.

Whilst pulling up and preparing to repair the wire, I came across this kink. Don’t even risk tightening the wire with a kink in hi-tensile wire – it will break. Take the time to repair it now. Cut out the link and attach wires with a Gripple.
Pull ‘tails through and leave plenty of length for the next repair. If this is the regular pathway for deer, you will need to repair it over and over. Leaving plenty of lead wire make future repairs much easier.
Because i leave plenty of ‘tail,’ this wire can be easily reattached by sliding (using a Gripple Adjustment Key) the Gripple closer to the open bit of wire allowing the two wires to be pulled together and through the Gripple. Simple retighten with a Gripple Torque Tool at that point – done and done unless posts are also pulled out of the ground. Thankfully, i didn’t have that to do this time.
Fence is hot!

Oi Vey! Missouri Weather

My best laid plans to wean 2021 calves are once more thwarted by bad weather – rain, rain, rain, mud, mud, mud, cold, cold, cold, and tomorrow’s forecast will add snow. Uggghhh!

So, tomorrow (the 24th) i’ll head up and set up more grazing for my cows and calves instead of mustering in for weaning. Maybe next week!

Was really, really hoping to apply non selective total grazing to this patch of sedge, but impending rain changed my plan to loosen up the animals in anticipation of excessive pugging. Glad i made that decision despite knowing that by doing so, the cows will trample considerable amount of stockpile.

Predicting A Drought?

Having just returned from a 3-week sojourn visiting friends through Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas, there is very serious and visible evidence of continued drought in those areas.  Fire danger is pegged at super high.  Without rain soon, pastures will struggle to start their normal growth.  Whatever ‘normal’ is anymore.

As the short, cold, blustery, gloomy days of winter slowly lengthen towards spring with renewed growth and opportunity, it’s a good time to review the past year(s) and plan to overcome mistakes and explore new pathways towards better land stewardship, animal husbandry, and profitability. Creating harmony is a good goal, so finding ways to accomplish that will mean different paths to each person and will include others and the season of our lives.

For this moment, I want to consider the very real possibility of severe drought and have a plan in place before it might arrive. How can my ranch harmonize profitability, animal welfare, and land improvement if drought becomes a reality.

In our area of north central Missouri, the ‘normal’ time to begin stockpiling forages for winter grazing is about August 10.  However, for the past 5 consecutive years, those late summer/early fall rains have been nonexistent.  This is entirely why I sold about 33% of my cow herd in the fall of 2020 because of my grazing protocol for the past 30 years I had no stockpile and was looking at another winter of feeding hay.  No more I decided, so I sold any cow that had no calf at side and any pair which was not replacement quality calf regardless of age or condition.  Additionally, even though it was hard for me (because I like colorful cows), I sold any cow with ‘chrome’ even if she was a good producer.  Colorful calves are heavily docked in price in our area regardless of quality.

That was my ‘drought’ plan for that winter even though we really were not in a period of low rainfall; the rains are just not coming at the time needed.  Shortly after that, Jaime Elizondo appeared in my view again, this time via Instagram, so I e-mailed him and asked him what in the world he was talking about! I took his courses and am a monthly subscriber to ongoing education (Fat Wallet Rancher) – game changer!  Within weeks, I now realized my managed grazing program was creating my ‘drought.’

Although, even with having found a few head of cows or heifers to increase mob numbers, I’m seriously understocked.  However, referring back to my trip and the talk of the experts, it could be that Missouri may experience real drought this year (2022). Time will tell.

The point of sharing these thoughts is perhaps to remind myself of a good way to address the unknown and be prepared.  For sure, no one knows if we will have a drought.  It is somewhat dry in our area now, but subsoil moisture is good and ponds are full.  But if one is uncomfortable going into the season fully stocked, then make changes now if livestock prices are good.  And that they are.

  1. Sell any and ALL cows without a calf – immediately
  2. Sell any bred cow with or without a calf at side if she doesn’t have a replacement quality calf
  3. Sell any cow – open or bred – who has missed having a calf at any time in her past
  4. Sell steers of any weight which are in demand
  5. Sell heifers of any weight which are in demand and you don’t plan to keep as replacements
  6. Maybe go through your bull battery and see if there are old bulls that need selling.   Be careful here until after semen check to be certain you have enough adapted bulls for your own herd.
  7. Anything with a flighty or dangerous attitude goes immediately.
  8. Making sure you are calving in sync with nature will be one of the biggest changes you can make to become more profitable, though it’s not the only easy management change you can implement to address drought situations.

Some of our cows may not be good cows – how do I justify selling them to someone else?  Oftentimes, if I have a known poor producer (which thankfully I no longer have – but it takes drastic purging to get to that point), or one which has developed a flighty or dangerous disposition, I speak up at the sale.  But most will be fine in a more traditional herd.  I push my animals to perform in mob grazing, total grazing, and a very short breeding season.

Bottom line is to ask one’s self – if I can’t make money with this cow or worse, she is costing me money, how can I possibly think that simply having another calf to sell is a good thing?  NO!  Even if you go through a time of low inventory and not many calves to sell – it is far better to not have the expense of an unproductive ‘factory.’  Sell it into a situation in which she may perform.  She is simply not adapted to our farm and management and probably never will be.

Perhaps you will need to find a side gig or off farm job to make up the difference for a few years, but when those replacement heifers and possibly home raised bulls out of the very best cows you have start to build in numbers, you will be SO far ahead of the game.  However, that will also affect your cash flow until those heifers start producing.  Cow/Calf production is a long-term game.  Be prepared.

As far as the possibility of a drought, this also leaves you in a position to be very low on numbers.  If you have been diligent and don’t have any of the cows mentioned in the sell list, then it will be harder to part with some.  Maybe wean early (sell the cows) and keep their replacement calves – they won’t eat as much – yet you will still be keeping your best adapted genetics.  Depending on the cost, one may consider shipping the stock to a place where custom grazing is available.

There are times in some areas with years of extended drought – if those are normal, perhaps livestock is not the right use of the land in that climate.  Or maybe just a certain class of livestock will work.  However, in north Missouri, droughts are usually short duration and/or are of our own making. I remember my grandpa telling of a time in the 1950s in which they cut down trees to feed the cows, but am thinking that works well but only for short term.

In Missouri on primarily cool season forages, we typically experience a ‘summer slump’ in which heat and humidity and no rains result in little to no growth in forages in the middle of the summer. This is not drought, but an annual event which can be planned for. Utilizing total grazing techniques can prepare you for this slump by having ample forage for grazing until the cool season grasses start growing again when temperatures start cooling in the fall.

What has worked for you in a drought situation?

Shalom!

tauna