Managed grazing takes some work, but good decisions yield excellent results as measured by animal performance, increased soil biome, desirable grazing plant species, and good ground cover to protect the soil from heat and erosion. Little to no improvement happens in any of these areas if the land is allowed to lie idle. In fact, if animal impact is removed from the land, the negative effects may increase the opportunity for desertification.
Below are some random photos i took today which tell a little bit of the story and my grazing plans (which change with the weather and time of year).
Research results published November 30, 2017 by Sarah Kenyon, PhD, University of Missouri once again illustrate how grazing the non-native, invasive toxic-endophyte (E+) fescue plant causes health problems in cattle and other livestock, including horses. Other studies show the effects on the soil microbial populations and wildlife. E+ Fescue is pervasive, persistent, and poisonous.
Short grazing of E+ fescue in the last fall/early winter before a killing frost has been used by us and others to manage the spring growth of the plant by shortening the root system which slows spring growth, allowing more desirable grasses and legumes to get a foot hold. This is effective, but a relentless endeavor since it must be done every fall/winter to control the fescue and quite simply, there is no way to manage ALL the fescue at once everywhere on the farm.
I’m thankful for professors and agricultural leaders bucking the status quo and revealing this long-known information to a modern generation and offering solutions to not only mitigate the health issues associated with the toxin, but also ideas on eradicating it. Time will tell if changes will work – it’s expensive to renovate and manage pastures and fields – – and farming and ranching does not lend itself to wide margins of profits to plough back into improvements.
Bitterly cold today and with ground frozen hard, the best job for today is to unroll hay for grazing. The plan is to strip graze it for the remainder of the winter. This will add considerable organic matter to the soil. When the cattle and sheep have cleaned up the hay and pooped all over the paddock, I’ll broadcast legumes and grass seeds over the area. Hopefully, i’ll have a chance to unroll more hay over the top for grazing, but our weather is so unpredictable that that is not a certainly. I may just walk the cattle around on the area to encourage seed to soil contact, then graze it occasionally as the original grasses grow. Once the new grasses take hold and grow (all depends on the weather), then the livestock will not have access for about 60 days for full growth. Sure hope it all works.