Effects of Grazing Mistake

While there is an abundance of stockpiled forage, this standing forage in February is not good quality. For dry pregnant cows, it’s fine – but not for nursing pregnant cows which have suffered condition loss despite having high protein tubs on free choice offer throughout the winter since protein levels are too low in the available non growing forage for that class of cattle. There is a way to have better quality stockpile even well into winter.

Going forward into this year of 2023, the plan is to graze one time through the forages in the spring when the plants have reached sufficient growth levels to not cause diarrhea in the cows. This will be when the lower leaves are slightly yellowed, plant height maybe 6-9 inches tall, though that will vary in plant species. This will allow the plants to start their final growth to maturity a little bit later in the year so they will not reach maturity until the very end of the growing season rather than late summer, resulting in more green (protein) in the plants thereby providing better nutrition for cows during the winter non growing season.

The challenge is to find that sweet spot so that the grasses can be non selectively (total grazing) grazed through yet not overgrazed (regrazed before forages are recovered) by set stocking (not moving or bothering) the calving cows (mine begin May 1). Managing cool season and warm season grasses requires observation.

To compound my problem of allowing the young and old nursing cows to lose weight was to push them too hard in grazing dry forages which had no nutritive value. Though it will benefit land next year, the practice caused the cows to lose far too much condition. The decision i made to give the cows some relief and start their return to good condition before May 1 calving was to wean their calves by February 12.

Winter total grazing cattle here one can see i forced the cows to eat old sedges which are typically unpalatable with little nutritional value.

Not to be forgotten is the importance of selecting genetically adaptive cattle. To increase the number of mouths on my farm, i purchased 40 Angus 3-year-old pairs which originated from Montana and South Dakota – clearly not our high humidity, deep cold, toxic endophyte fescue environment with managed grazing. They have had a tough time getting used to life in north Missouri and a few have fallen out. There are also several first calf heifers and ancient cows which have struggled in maintaining body condition.

Not having enough stock last spring is a large part of why my pastures were not grazed properly and resulted in the poor stockpile. However, Jim Gerrish reminds us too stock for winter grazing. This may mean removing enough animals to graze without hay through the winter. Real Wealth ranching protocols is different than more well-known grazing schemes in that one will know earlier in the year whether or not there is enough forage available.

Create beauty and harmony in your life!

Spaced-Bale Hay Feeding

In the past, i’ve been a proponent of and have often used a common practice of feeding livestock and distributing manure and organic matter in a chosen area. It is still popular and may still have purpose. If you need to feed hay, it can cut down on labor and the amount of time feeding out when it’s bad weather.

However, my experience is that it concentrates organic matter and nutrients (manure included) so much that it takes years for grass to grow back in those areas. The photos illustrate my point. Those spots are at each place a hay bale was set (truckload of 38 count 1350 lb bales) in the fall (be sure to remove netwrap in advance of setting on the ground) and now it is 3 years hence. Still no forage of significance.

Jim Gerrish has a fabulous six-part series of nutrient management with feeding hay and i highly recommend reading through it before making hay feeding decisions. Find video series on other topics on his website; American Grazing Lands.

I’ve also used, with better impact unrolling hay bales. This reduces intense trampling and distribute manure much better. However, a huge drawback is having to feed the hay in the winter, with special large equipment. Oftentimes it may be muddy which will make huge ruts in the pasture. Greg Judy sells a hay unroller which would help mitigate this, but the hay would have to already be stored near the pasture your stock is in and accessible with equipment able to grab the bale and unroll. Deep snow or ice would make this difficult. My farm is 35 minutes away and in some cases not accessible until ice and snow melts. Your situation may be different and require different decisions, but always put a sharp pencil to the situation and remember family and harmony.

So, after 30 plus years of managed grazing, what do i do now? Total Grazing! By utilizing the principles of total grazing outlined and taught by Jaime Elizondo, Real Wealth Ranching, there are few reasons to produce, haul, buy, feed hay. In fact, it really cuts profitability to do so. This has entirely eliminated feeding hay to cows for two years now and i see no reason to ever feed again unless there is a huge blizzard and 3 plus feet of snow. Which could happen, but rare in north Missouri. In which case, spaced bale feeding may be the only option since it’s already in the pasture or let the cows find their own tall stockpile. Adjust your livestock numbers to match your winter resource.

Sheep bale grazing near a small patch of timber back in 2015.

Kick the Hay Habit by Jim Gerrish is the book that really convinced me to explore and implement the move completely away from feeding hay. The only time i might consider feeding (purchased) hay is in the summer on exceptionally poor ground which has never produced forage. Unroll it and have the stock eat it so as to add microbes to the soil profile. Saliva, manure (having past through the gut will shed microbes), hoof trampling, may all stimulate and improve soil health without breaking the bank.

Create Something Beautiful Today!

In the foreground is clear indication of where a hay bale sat three years ago surrounded by tall stockpile forage.

To Burn? Or Not To Burn?

Burning grasslands is a landscaping management tool used by many to burn off old, thatched grasses and forbes which are preventing new seedlings from growing thereby creating dead zones where nothing is growing. It’s not necessarily a ‘bad’ management tool, but i prefer not to use it because:

  1. it releases carbon and smoke pollution into the atmosphere
  2. completely eliminates all habitat for small wildlife
  3. often burns up those small critters overtaken by fire and smoke
  4. can be dangerous by getting away due to high winds and massive fuel (dry grasses)
  5. for safety, burning requires multiple people and management equipment to prepare the site in advance as well as continued monitoring

These are reasons i choose not to burn -plus honestly, fire simply scares me. Brush piles, i’ll burn, but even those can get away.

Many articles will argue first that fire is nature’s way of managing grasslands. Hmmm – maybe, but unless the prairies and plains are mismanaged, there are very, very few situations in which fire is ‘natural.’

It is true, however, that if you have land enrolled in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) and you receive payments from the government for letting land lay idle year after year, then mowing or in some situations fire or chemical is required to keep those payments coming.

My choice is let the livestock, and to a lesser extent, wildlife, manage the grasslands with far less danger to man and beast, less erosion, natural fertilization, increased forage diversity, no pollution or carbon release, and small creatures, like mice, turtles, voles, moles, and other ground nesting animals are completely unharmed.

I am talking about a managed grazing technique called ‘Total Grazing.” Total grazing is not over grazing, it’s not grubbing the plants into the ground, it’s not selective grazing. All plants are grazed AFTER they have been allowed to grow tall and even to full maturity if needed before being grazed. This results in a balanced diet for the animals, habitat for nearly all wildlife until grazed, and lets those plants develop deep roots which stabilize the soil and prepare for growth. Thatch is grazed along with the green portion of the plants opening up the space for more desirable plant species. Deep roots create humus, organic matter is not humus. Organic matter still needs to be broken down and incorporated into the soil profile before it can even think about becoming food for soil microbes. Roots are ready made snacks. Grow fat roots for fat plants for faster recovery, but don’t graze until the plants are at the proper stage and don’t allow that second bite. Total grazing spreads out the manure across the paddocks for even coverage of nutrients.

Total grazing requires a good amount of education, just like burning, before diving in. Animal adaptation, observation, mobbing and shifting stock at the appropriate time, not allowing that second bite,

OR

CREATE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TODAY!

Landscaping

Having been involved in total grazing protocol for only 2 1/2 years now and still being understocked for such a venture, I’m only starting to see some grazing pressure on tree sprouts and multiflora rose bushes. Therefore, i’m still full on with cutting sprouts and treating stumps with Tordon.

Granted, control would be much faster if the time spent moving the cows 4 times a day at the right time would be effective. However, distance, time, and weather simply won’t allow it. However, i bet i’m getting close to at once a day over the course of the year.

This morning, at long last, i’ve met with a couple men who are equipped to clean out the junk trees along my ditches and draws so that quality trees can be allowed to grow (if they are away from the ditch), the ditches will be cleared of shade, so mud will be greatly reduced, which should result in my losing fewer cows to getting stuck and dying each year. On top of that, without trees on ditch banks, deep rooted native grasses will be allowed to take hold and stop the erosion caused by rushing waters. Trees simply are not designed to hold soil in place. Managing trees and brush will much profit the land, wildlife, water quality, viewshed, and timber harvests of the future.

Using livestock and a few small tools early on is a good plan, but, in my case, i’m way behind the eight ball, so big equipment, strong backs, and expertise will be the most effective use of time and money to get my farm in good working order quickly.

On this tiny plot after total grazing, i lopped about 140 tree sprouts and 30 some multiflora roses! I was glad to find several sprouts had had the tops and buds chewed off, others were broken off. Both signs of cattle molesting the plants for nutrition and a bit of a scratch.

Sure, it’s not knocked back enough to kill it, but smaller ones could be decimated. In the meantime, i keep after them.

Shabbat Shalom

Create something beautiful today!

Pair ’em Up!

Unlike some producers, i choose to ear tag the calves at the first processing – vaccinations, dehorning, castrating, etc. (About 4-5 months) Many producers tag at birth but i find that unnecessary, stressful, and dangerous to me.

This means, however, that the calves need to be paired with their mommas as an older calf meaning ya need to catch them nursing. Not standing close to one another or being licked on by a cow. Nursing – that is the only for sure way of knowing who is raising who. Granted there is the exception of a cow allowing another calf to nurse, but usually it will be when her own calf is nursing properly at her side, whereas the robber will be nursing from behind.

Best times to pair up calves is after an extended time of separation. If time allows after sorting and processing, this is the most excellent time to pair up since nearly all of them will be looking for momma’s comfort, security, and food. I usually don’t get this done because it seems it’s nearly dark before we get done. Second best is the very next morning at dawn just as they are waking up. In my opinion, it is worthwhile to schedule this time for pairing since it will be the most effective time. (Greatest number paired for time invested) After that, it’ll be hit and miss during the day – late evening is another good time, but my experience that is almost too dark to see tag numbers. Perhaps my eyesight is just getting poor.

I found it important to pair up the calves so that i can make cow culling decisions based on the quality of their calves and just as importantly, is to discover any cow without a calf – write down any dry cows that should be pregnant or showing signs of estrus. It’s easy to let cows slip if you don’t have information. It’s far too expensive to keep an ’employee’ as a freeloader.

An important shortcut, if time is really short, is to just pair up the ones with dink calves and sell those.

Happy Pairing!

tauna

This newborn calf should be left alone to properly settle in and bond with momma – no use disrupting his young life nor that of momma as she adjusts to motherhood once again and dealing with all the hormonal changes associated with giving birth and nursing.

It Might Have Happened

With the continuing rain, it’s too muddy to drive in to shift my cows to a new paddock, so once again, I’m ‘hoofing’ it across the previously ploughed ground to their paddock.  Today, as I walked across the muddy ragweed and cocklebur infested paddock, I spotted something very white and roundish on the ground.  Nothing to do when finding something so unusual, but to stoop and pick it up.  Alas, nothing but a broken piece of porcelain, which –  guessing –  was once a drawer pull or door handle.  Not one to just toss away such treasure/trash, I contemplated about the story it could tell.  Possible, if my Grandma Falconer was still alive, this little bit would bring memories – good or bad – we’ll never know.  I found it just back of where the old house, yard, hen house, and cellar once held sway on the Bowyer Farm at which Grandpa and Grandma ‘went to housekeeping’ back in 1940.

 I trekked on down to the little creek (crick, as we say) and washed it off a bit, but carried it to the cows, shifted the cows, and brought it back.  As I passed where the old homestead once stood, I imagined my dad and his younger brother dashing out the door to catch up with their papa on his way to milking cows, with momma hollering out ‘DON’T….. slam the door” as the screen door bangs shut behind the two boys.  Momma sighs…

Of course, I don’t know that any of that happened, but grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, and children are much the same – we say the same things to each generation – some of it sticks and is good and sometimes it seems they/we hear nothing.  And, sadly, too many times now, there is no mom or dad to instruct their children not to slam the door.

Shalom!

Bowyer Farm

Previous entries have referred to the Bowyer Farm in regards to the management or, mismanagement, i’ve allowed on the property. Though i am no longer leasing it out and have begun low input, high animal impact to bring it to better production than before (the goal was to reduce the amount of toxic endophyte fescue and i believe that will be accomplished but it could have been done with much less invasive practices i have since learnt), it will take years.

This entry, however, is to report some history and memories i have put together. It is interesting to me that the bulk of the farm (the exception was those 10 acres which exchanged hands at extremely high price – this is a mystery to me) has stayed in my family since January 29, 1878 to my 3rd great grandparents.

History of Bowyer Farm, Linn County, Missouri

US granted to State of Missouri – June 10, 1852

State of Missouri patented to Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad Co – Sep 20, 1852

Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad to Spencer P Bowyer and wife Sarah A January 29, 1878 for $656.08 (82.01 acres) $8.00/acre

Spencer P and Sarah A Bowyer family to Walter M Bowyer, Sep 1, 1898 for 72 acres $1575 ($21.88/acre)

Spencer P and Sarah A Bowyer to Price Bowyer, Nov 27,1899 for $5440 for 10 acres ($544/acre)

Price Bowyer  and his wife, Malinda Bowyer to Lester Phillips and his wife Floy Phillips Mar 27, 1908.  $3000 for 10 acres ($300/acre)

Lester Phillips and his wife, Floy Phillips to Dallas A Falconer Oct 26, 1914.  10 acres for $4500 ($450/acre)

Dallas A Falconer to Walter M Bowyer Dec 21, 1914.  Ten acres for $900

Walter M Bowyer and Edna, his wife, to Dallas Falconer and Hermia (Bowyer) Falconer, his wife, on Jul 18, 1940.  82 acres for $4000.  ($49/acre)

Dallas and Hermia to their son, Virgil Lee Falconer and his wife Virginia Pulliam

              June 13, 1946 the east half of the northeast quarter (82 acres +/-) for $4000 ($49/acre)

              August 31, 1946 the SW quarter of the NE quarter (40 acres +/-) for $1500 ($37.50/acre)

Virgil Lee and Virginia to Tauna M (Falconer) Powell upon his death in 2009.  Appraised to stepped up basis of $1200/acre.

Unfortunately, I do not know much history of life on that farm.  Why do we take interest after everyone who was involved has died?  I do remember working calves and yearlings in the smaller of the two barns left on the property – the one which has the home-built head catch.  Quite rudimentary, but it worked.  Grandpa had feed bunks in a large fenced lot just to the south and east where he fed Silver Moon Grain Plus pellets to his heavy grass yearlings for a couple weeks before selling them at Milan or Green City sale barns.  Until livestock trailers became affordable and popular, we used a ramp to load into 2-ton trucks fitted with stock racks out the south door of the barn previously mentioned.  Up until I took over in about 2011, cattle were still loaded out that south door but in livestock trailers.

When i was a little tyke, Grandpa would let me ‘drive’ the pickup in super low, while he threw small round bales off the back to the cows. Of course, he would put the pickup in granny low even when i wasn’t there, but it made me feel helpful and involved – it is a good strategy for piquing the interest of the next generation.

There is an old cistern/well to the west of the dairy barn which was set up with a very slow electric pump which supplied water to a tank for the yearling cattle when they were shut up the night before load out next morning or whenever it was needed.  The pump took a very long time to fill the tank so we’d turn it on before feeding the cattle or taking out hay or whatever needed doing.  Later, he set some home-made poles in the ground to the windmill in the center of the field and cattle watered out of the Ritchie fountain.  Later, we set up a tire tank with more holding capacity since refill is slow out of the old pond on the west 40.  The windmill and well have long been abandoned by 2010. The west 40 had always been a brome hay field in my memory, but i incorporated it as part of the grazing programme.

In the big dairy barn, we kept our horses for riding out on the farm to check cattle when I was up visiting.  It was handy place to keep them instead of hauling them every day.  I don’t think Grandpa rode as much when I wasn’t there.  He certainly indulged my passion for horseback riding and getting to check the cattle whilst riding with my grandpa was pretty much the top of my life at that time in the 1970s.  It was sad to return to my home in the town of Mexico vs the freedom of the farm, cattle, and land.

I don’t know for sure, but I think my dad, Stanley (b. 23 Sep 1940-d. 04 Sep 1962), and his brother, my Uncle Stephen (b. 23 Mar 1942-d. 15 Jan 2016) spent their earliest years at this house and farm.  I remember Grandma saying that’s where they ‘went to housekeeping’ after they were married on February 10, 1940 (which is also my birthday in 1962!), so that would make sense.  But did my great grandparents also live there before them? When were the house, cellar, chicken house, and barns built? Sadly, i simply do not know.

There was very little of the house to explore even when I was young.  In 2011, I had the old house razed, the well and cellar filled in since all were hazards by this point. My son, Nathan and family friend, Christian Finck picked up and loaded all the old chimney bricks which are in storage and i hope to find another use for them.

Faith, Family, Farm

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