Tag Archives: grazing

Combine Herds and Calve on Green Grass

Combining here the first two points of profitability and harmony since, honestly, they could switch places. Both cut down on labor significantly and typically increase calf survivability.

However, after this entire year plus a few months of almost constant mud and having unfortunately purchased several unadapted cows, I’ve come to realize that if one is to combine herds into one mob, you must allow a great deal extra winter grazing forage to allow for substantial trampling waste to keep them out of the mud. It is true that there is some value to trampling, but feeding the microbes is more efficient by cycling it through the stock. It seems i can never learn all the lessons i need to in the course of one lifetime.

For reasons I’ve discussed before, my cows have been calving in mid-April – knowing that that can be a challenging time of the year. A real problem with calving out of sync is the problems continue through the year with breeding out of sync and weaning out of sync. This year (2023) my cows should start about May 1. Next year, i may move to May 15.

Your time is just as important as anyone else’s – be sure you are paying yourself and others a fair wage with benefits or your operation is a hobby and not sustainable nor regenerative.

Another issue is a problem with calving in a managed/movement grazing scheme is leaving calves behind. This happens all too much. Although it takes some planning, it may be best to not disturb the cows whilst calving and give them plenty of space. Sure, this will result in some loss of grazing efficiency, but having relaxed cows and heifers with better opportunity to bond will likely outweigh the loss of grazing best practice.

Cleanliness is paramount in a calving paddock as is being well drained with no ditches or draws. It may very well be that those need to be fenced out to avoid calves dropped into ditches and cows and/or calves smashed and killed in the mud. This has been a very expensive journey for me in that regard, even in the summer as cows are seeking cool.

Life is a balance. Harmony – Decide your goals, temper them a bit with time and grace to make mistakes. Learn from others’ mistakes since you do not have time to stumble over the same rocks. Do not forget your family and their interests and don’t underestimate how quickly the years will pass and your strength and stamina will begin to wane. Position your operation to handle the unexpected changes life will throw your way. Sharpen that pencil.

Dr Dick Diven (Low Cost Cow/Calf) suggested that in toxic endophyte country like ours in north central Missouri, fall calving may be a way to avoid the highest toxins during breeding season. However, that is completely out of sync with nature and results in huge wintering costs trying to maintain a nursing cow on winter stockpile or hay. The best time for cows to calve here is May-June – the same time during which bison have been naturally selected. Manage the toxins in your pasture and select animals which tend to thrive despite ingesting them.

Create something beautiful today!

Finally, my brethren, whatever is
true, whatever is honest, whatever is
just, whatever pure, whatever lovely,
whatever of good report, if there is any
virtue, and if there is any praise, think
on these things.
Philippians 4:8 HRB

Adapted Animals

Regardless of how you choose to graze, feed, or manage your livestock, adapted animals are crucial to your environment and any possible success. Build your own landrace breed specifically selected for your environment and management.

Point 4 of my blog entry, Quickest Ways to Profitability & Harmony mentions the importance of adapted animals.

I cannot emphasize enough how critical it is to find and develop adapted cattle or other livestock. The difficulty certainly is in finding the initial stock and it’s quite likely you’ll find some you think will adapt, yet it will be – maybe – only 10% to 20% of them can even survive much less thrive under your management, grazing resources, and weather conditions. It’s a long expensive process to get started since you may find that NONE of the animals you purchase will make your selection guidelines for adaptability. Make sure your budget is strong for this stage. Don’t go into debt – have a job or good investments to keep food on the table as you navigate this massive fallout stage. Culling rigorously is critical early on and only keep as replacements animals which have met all your criteria.

For example, a cattle buyer wouldn’t buy calves from Florida to put in an Iowa feedlot! The calves would be completely unadapted and would not do well at all – especially in the winter – although feeding corn can overcome some nutritional deficiencies.

Moving stock from one climate to another is almost always a recipe for disaster or a very expensive selection process. It’s far better to find stock grown in your own weather and ground conditions. Open cows and flat out death less may be substantial. Remember that semen or embryos from a different area will be the same. You will likely be going backwards with each generation of introduced genetics. Be wary of applying bandages contrary to your specific goals or you won’t be able to select the best animals for your purpose.

Some will encourage you to purchase bred heifers or cows, but I’ve been unable to justify that decision since there are simply no stock to be found – even expensive stock – that will stay in the herd for long (cows, bulls, or replacement heifers). After 30 plus years of trying to introduce animals, far and away the best is to retain my own heifers and bulls (some say you need a minimum of 100 cows to be able to select bulls from your own herd). Take your time, build slowly. Buy the best you can afford from reputable breeders who grow animals as close to how you will – won’t be perfect, but it’s likely the best place to start.

The cost of raising and developing your own replacements is substantial – compare that to buying and having a lot of fallout. Remember to include the extra labor and pasture to develop them. Will you hold them an extra year before breeding? then a separate pasture is needed to keep them from the bulls. Farming and ranching have expenses coming at you from many angles! Beware.

Another consideration that i have fallen prey to is buying cows in my area that seem adapted, only to find out they’ve been on corn since they were born! It is very likely that their rumens will ever adapt to grazing and may even die especially with highly toxic endophyte fescue pastures. That’s an expensive mistake – speaking from experience.

Other important decisions before buying:

  1. what are your marketing goals – commodity or special niche? Both can be upgraded to ‘value added’ status. Value added in commodity may mean breeding for black cattle, but consider whether or not they will thrive without expensive inputs. It’s all a balance
  2. Selling adapted breeding stock is a long term commitment. Until you establish an adapted line and build a reputation, much of your production will go the commodity route. Don’t think that you will receive a great premium at the get-go. Overestimating your income will come back to bite you in a hurry.
  3. What class or species of livestock most closely meet your skills, market, and interest? What is the weather like in your area? Some places are simply not fit for man or beast in the wintertime. Especially as we get older and fighting the elements also gets old.
  4. Build an excellent perimeter fence on your property BEFORE getting any livestock. Contact your local extension agent for the definition of a legal fence in your state or county, then build better. Stock getting out is a good way to ruin relationships with your neighbors and you will need to be on good terms with them.

Compare these two Angus cows. Photo one is clearly not adapted to my management and is very likely not bred. This is one of the 3-year-old cows i bought as a pair in spring of 2022. She suffered through the green growing season, raised a poor calf, and has not done well through an admittedly tough, very muddy winter of stockpile grazing. However, the 6-year-old cow to the right is an adapted home raised animal, raised a good calf, is in acceptable condition, and looks very much bred to calve early in the season. These cows were grazed in the same mob these past 12 months.

No hay was fed, but protein tubs were provided to help utilize the mature stockpile.

The above photos show the great importance of selecting for adapted cows. Do not make the mistakes i’ve made.

CREATE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL TODAY!

Shalom

Consider this 3-year-old purebred Corriente cow with her first calf. She raised and weaned off a healthy calf grazing right alongside the two cows pictured above. Her calf sold for $250 MORE than what she cost for me to purchase. Now, there is very strong calf market in spring 2023, but it does show that careful purchasing of adapted animals can result in good profitability. Be mindful, however, that thin breeds like the Longhorn or Corriente will always bring less at salebarn and grow more slowly. Study the market and buy what seems to be undervalued.

Mistakes Into Positive Change

Not all changes are right, good, or positive so it’s imperative to evaluate the considered change in thinking or action as to how it will impact the environment, culture, family, and mental or physical health of you or those around you. Expand your thought process into the ripple effect of your decision. Try to determine the unintended consequences BEFORE they are upon you.

In regard to my last blog entry and the lack of early grazing in spring which led to poor quality stockpile, i failed to consider how that decision would so drastically lower the condition of the young and old nursing, pregnant cows. With more animals this year, grazing the land chosen for stockpile will surely be attainable.

It is further exacerbated by having calved early (15 April) and therefore needing to wean in early February, which led to feeding hay to weaned calves for far too many weeks before springtime grass is emerging. Another impact i had this past year (2022) was that i’d purchased 56 first and second calf heifers (25 of which had March born calves at side!) plus had taken in several of Allen’s ancient good cows hoping for one more good calf out of them. All these animals suffered the most in nursing their calves through the winter on low quality stockpile despite the offer of high protein lick tubs.

Thinking holistically has led to an annual timeline tweaking once again. Moving breeding season to 5 Aug – 23 Sep which will mean cows start calving 15 May through 1 Jul. The breeding season will hopefully, be better situated for turning in bulls and mustering them back out after ragweed season. However, this past year (2022) was exceptionally long in that pollen did not dissipate until 2 October!

These calving dates will allow me to push weaning to first week or so of April vs first week of February! Great reduction in labor and feed costs.

One would think that after 30 plus years, i’d have this tweaked out, but each year and each mob of cows is a bit different in makeup which reveals problems that might be unexpected or unavoidable.

Create beauty and harmony in your life!

Shabbat 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.

Thoughts on Heifer Development

I didn’t think i’d ever go back to calving out 2 year old heifers (exposing to the bull at 13-15 months) since calving out as 3 year olds is so incredibly stress free on the heifer and myself. A high percentage of 2 year olds will become pregnant and zero will need assistance at calving.

Since beginning total grazing and recognizing that i need to grow my herd numbers significantly and quickly (due to being understocked), i decided to take a chance last year with the 14 yearling heifers and have them bred alongside the main cow herd. As shared before, these heifers had a pregnancy rate of 76% (vs 90% + as 2 year olds) and one heifer died, along with her calf, at calving due to difficulty (front leg was back) and another heifer had her calf fine, but it was dead (don’t know why).

It will be interesting to see how many of those will breed back this year. However, I have discovered that those which calve first time as 3 year olds don’t breed back at much higher, if any, rate as the 2 year olds. I don’t know why, but that has been my experience.

This year, to hopefully avoid more calving difficulties, I have kept the 21 yearling heifers separate from the main cow mob and they are joined with a 2 year old 1/4 Corriente x 3/4 Red Angus bull out of one of my good adapted cows (#433) and a 1/2 Corriente x 1/2 Red or Black Angus yearling bull out of my good purebred 21 year old Corriente cow (#160). This should eliminate any calving difficulties but will reduce the value of each calf because of the Corriente influence. This should be less of a hit than dead heifers, calves, and/or having to assist.

After, the bulls are removed from both the cow mob and the heifer mob, the two groups will be put together into one group for grazing through the winter.

Another thing i may do is wean the calves off the first calf heifers and feed the weaners through the winter allowing the heifer to rebuild body condition better for her next calving event. Haven’t decided on that yet. Sounds like work.

Considerations:

Pros for calving at 2 years

  1. selecting most fertile stock
  2. entering production a year earlier
  3. open heifers can be kept for trying again the next year or selling as grassfinished beeves.

Cons for calving at 2 years

  1. keeping a separate mob before and during breeding season
  2. possibly having to wean/feed calves
  3. increased incident of calving difficulties

Farming and ranching are dynamic businesses requiring flexibility, creative planning, and constant learning. The ability to identify a problem is a must as is adjusting the plan and expectations to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Finding and purchasing cattle to graze and perform in a managed grazing (in my case now total grazing) is next to impossible. Growing the herd size with your own adapted animals is a slow process, but has shown itself to be the better answer for me in all animal groups; heifers, bulls, and cows.

Shabbat Shalom!

001 is not the fanciest bull in the land, but this 2 year old has shown himself prolific as a yearling, sound on his feet, and clear eyes. He is out of now 8 year old cow who has been a consistent producer. He is quiet and easy to handle. He is 1/4 Corriente and 3/4 Red Angus.
This yearling bull seems to be whispering sweet nothings in this heifer’s ear!
Here’s theyearling bull i chose to join with the 2 year old bull. Although it’s likely the 2 year old can easily service 21 heifers, I’ve had a bad experience having only one bull with a mob – they ALL came up open (not pregnant) That was a very expensive mistake. This 102 bull is also home raised and not fancy, but out of my 21 year old purebred Corriente cow – so adaptation, longevity, and soundness are built in. He is also clear eyed, slick hided, of good disposition, and healthy from birth. He is 1/2 Corriente and 1/2 Red or Black Angus (his coloring makes it tricky to call). His mum is solid red.

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!