Turn Out!

What is it about turning calves out to pasture makes me smile. No nanny cows now so will the calves respect familiar boundaries without adult supervision? #totalgrazing

This is where the calves were weaned into and it was getting short on grass! The hay is to help balance their diets so that the protein isn’t too high so as to get the ‘squirts.” If cattle are squirty, that’s diarrhea and they are likely losing weight.
Here’s the forage in pasture for them to graze. As soon as they came off the trailer, their heads dropped and they went straight to grazing! Nonselective (#totalgrazing) grazing in this would be ideal for cows, but growing calves will need to be monitored to be certain they are not being pushed to eat the dead grasses to the point they calves begin losing condition. On the other hand, if allowed to pick and choose only the fresh green forages, the calves’ diet will be skewed towards too much protein and will also lose condition. There is both art and science to grazing and animal husbandry in general. Observation is key, action is critical.

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.

Another Pasture Map Story

*the photo above is an old photo – i no longer use netting along this lane since i found it unnecessary to contain the cows/calves and setting it up was more work than needed. It only takes one person to muster the in cows, but i am always thankful for help when they show up.

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Soon (March 2022) it will be time to wean calves born in May 2021 and with all the stock on the Buckman 80, that means a half mile move to the corral. They can be directed through a gate on the northeast corner of the Buckman 80, but then to control their direction, I will set up temporary electrified polybraid with step in posts.

In the map below, the Buckman 80 comprises the 4 paddocks on the bottom and moving toward the upper right hand of that is the northeast corner through which the cows with their calves will move towards the corral. The light green line illustrates the location i will install the temporary polybraid to guide them to the corral at the upper right hand corner of my property. The green line is about 1/2 mile.

Once the calves are sorted off, then the cows will be taken south of the weaning pen, but have nose to nose contact with their babies. (Next year, 2023, calving and weaning will push back a month – April.) In very short time (starting as soon as 24 hours) the mommas will see that their nearly a year old babies are well cared for and will no longer worry for them.

Google Earth Pro makes fence ‘building’ so much easier. Laying out plans and measuring area are ‘free’ and easy.

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

Arctic Plunge!

Indeed we had a huge drop in temperatures and windchill numbers. Outdoors went from ‘what a blessing!’ to ‘ooh, winter is getting even.’ Above ‘normal’ to ‘well below normal’ which evens out to ‘normal.’

Is there climate change? i haven’t lived long enough to know whether that is a permanent change or just ‘normal’ shifts in weather patterns. I have noticed a shift in having nicer weather almost to the winter solstice, but lingering bitter weather until spring equinox. Annual rainfall tends to arrive in ‘events’ rather than scattered throughout the year and the timing of the rains have changed. But that’s only been the past 5 years – it could be ‘normal’ in 2022. But if the cultural upheaval is any indication, there won’t be normal.

How does total grazing look when it gets this cold? Not much change, except,

  1. i am leaving a bit more residual so the cows and calves will have more ground cover to lay on for protection from the frozen ground and provide better footing on the snow and ice.
  2. Access to more forage allows them to fill guts more easily and completely – the super cold really makes them hungry!
  3. On my farm, there is little need for trees or other windbreaks because the land is quite undulating and there is typically somewhere the cows can lay out of the wind but would be a consideration if one had flat land.
  4. I’m only providing 1 to 2 moves per day. It is so cold, i simply cannot handle being outside. Also, as the ground continues to freezer harder and harder, even that protected under tall forage is becoming more difficult to install step in posts to set up fence. So far, so good on that though.
  5. Keeping the water available has been a challenge as well – even with the leak valve full open, the rising water level forms an ice sheet by the time it reaches the overflow pipe and with not enough pressure to keep it flowing then it doesn’t flow over. The float freezes ‘up’ in the ice sheet as well, thereby keeping that higher flow from entering as well. Thankfully, the intake pipe from the pond has not frozen.

Having the cows run low or out of water has caused great problems with the cows getting out of their prescribed paddock since the mob the tank and push through the electric rope. This is frustrating, but understandable. So, i’ve had to check water everyday for sure.

Another observation is that with nonselective grazing, keeping stock focused on their work and not escaping to ‘greener’ pastures is more difficult than with selective grazing. Even with brown looking stockpile, the calves and sometimes followed by the cows, will find the smallest break in the fence such as a new washout under the hot wire and nearly every animal will soon find it and escape. I’ve had to bolster the paddock they are in to fix this situation. Bad habits are easy to start, harder to break. There are even a couple cows who seem to suddenly want to jump the hi-tensile fence to get to the other side even though what they have is exactly the same – they just are ‘free’ from being next to their mates.

Here’s a sample of forage the cows and calves have now to eat. This paddock has actually been rested since May 25, 2020. It is more mature than the real wealth ranching/total grazing protocol, but it’s what i have. Hopefully, this coming grazing season, i can do a better job by having more livestock – unless we have a drought. Who knows what the new year will bring. I’m thinking of keeping this good steer calf and growing him up as my lead steer/nanny for future calf weaning events. An adult in the room always seems to help youngsters learn the ropes of growing up and accepting new responsibilities. They can’t learn well from their peers.

Lesson for This Week

Oh my, ranching and managed grazing can be completely frustrating and discouraging. That was my week. My plan was to total graze from the corral through part of the timber, then on to the ridge to the south before moving them to the northwest paddock of the Buckman 80. The plan went along fine until they hit the timber. I was using a polybraid and step in posts (white line on map) of about 1000 ft. The turquoise line is another reel.

The fuchsia lines are my proposed fence changes. I’ve already shifted 1/2 mile of 2 wire hi-tensile wire fences and my plan is to finish up this winter with the remaining fence changes. But i’m old, so we’ll see how i get along. Driving even fiberglass posts is starting to wear on me, but it sure builds muscles in my back and shoulders.

To the far right of the photo (this map is from 2015), you can see the white line which is the temporary polybraid which the deer took out 4 times this week, releasing my cows from their confines. The turquoise line represents polybraid as well, but was primarily used to guide them to the paddock on south with the red line drawn east to west (700 feet). Between it and the yellow line south of it are where the cattle are now. That little patch is about 3 acres – by allowing the recovery period to be over one year, there is at least 6000 lbs of forage per acre (about 18,000 lbs total). For my 135 cow/calf units eating about 30 lbs per day (about 4000 lbs) there is more than enough to provide them with quality forage for Shabbat (saturday 11F), Sunday (too cold for me 13F), and Monday afternoon (i might survive being outside). I’ve already strung out the next allotment so i won’t have to be outside for long, although i will have to allow time to drain and winterize a water tank i forgot to do before the cold temperature plunge. UPDATE (8Jan22) temperatures have entered the arctic zone and it is important to leave more residue for the cows to lay on so they avoid resting on short grass and have better footing over the snow and ice. Additionally, the cows have increased their forage intake to combat the brutal cold.

So what was the discouraging parts. DEER! I spent about 8 hours this week chasing cattle back into their appropriate paddocks for total grazing of the their winter stockpile and repairing broken poly braid and replacing busted step in posts, and straightening the metal probe on those posts that were bent. I still managed to finish up driving all the fiberglass posts and re installing the wires on the fences I’m changing (my back, neck, shoulder, ribs, hips, feet, skull adjustment appointment is Wednesday, so i was really wanting to finish that beforehand, so i can rest and recover from the physical pounding).

As it turns out, since i gave up chasing cattle, i moved them all to the Buckman 80 and drove them to the far south of that paddock. I plan to total graze them away from the water. Winter time, i don’t have to worry with regrowth, so with even my few number of cows, this is a workable plan. The move was perfectly timed – we are now in snow, cold, ice, wind. the day before was 51F, today (the 1st) the high is 12F. The cows and calves have plenty of belly deep grazing and access to wind cover so that my next trip will be Monday afternoon when the temps rise above freezing and hopefully a bit of sun.

The other silver lining to my deer problems is that i went back to the drawing board on Google Earth and rerouted my proposed new fence placement to go around the timber. Deer on the run will not respect electrified fences no way, no how for any number of years the fence is there. It’s weird, but that’s the way it is. Since i don’t want to be fixing fence everyday, i will simply not put it in there. Now, that is not to say that i won’t have to fix fence. There will be plenty of that because the deer take down all the fences eventually, but to avoid their favorite runs seems to be wise.

Faith, Family, Farm

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