Tag Archives: weather

Grazing Patterns

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).

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The recent grazing history for this paddock #23 is 3 days of grazing in early June 2019, 5 days of grazing mid July 2019, and 7 days of grazing late December 2019.  They are just now returning to this paddock for the first time since December 24, 2019.  That doesn’t tell you the whole story of course – how many cows/calves/bulls were there? (i do have that information),  but my point here is to illustrate the importance of plant recovery and every year and every paddock will respond differently to varying amounts of grazing pressure.  Observation is key.
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This is a patch of the paddock i spent a lot of money renovating it.  I’m still on the fence as to whether or not it was worth it.  The forages now are much more desirable (before it was 90-95% toxic endophyte fescue) and now there is an amazing array of diverse species.  However, overall production of forage is about the same as measured in cow days per acres.
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This native warm season grass is proliferating all over my farm more and more each year.  Slow to recover the first 10 years, but now, like other natives, coming on more quickly.  Only by allowing the forages to recover by managing where the animals loaf and graze will this happen.  This yummy Eastern Gamma Grass is called the ice cream of warm season grasses.
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Close up of seeds of the Eastern Gamma Grass starting to form.
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Red clover in the foreground.  The smaller purple flower is alfalfa.  I’ve never planted alfalfa on my farm.
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See the small green plant in the foreground with tiny leaves growing close to the ground?  that is lespedeza – livestock and wildlife graze that in the fall and will get fat!!

 

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This is the same paddock where you see lush forage growing.  Not all the severely eroded spots have mended.  May never heal in my lifetime, but i will keep trying with the managed grazing.  My farm was heavily farmed for years in its earlier life and it is far too steep to have ever had a plough put to it, but it was and there is very little top soil left.
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Setting up a polywire with step in posts in super tall and thick forage in 90 degree heat with high humidity is not my cup of tea, but i will do it a few time for the good of the land.  Here you see the polywire, which is electrified and keeps the cows where i want them.  They have grazed and laid down the unpalatable stuff so that soil microbes will  now have ready access to nutrients they need to build more soil.
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This is just another view of the laid down forage though you can see here they did more grazing before trampling what they didn’t want to graze.  More dunging here will hasten the breakdown.

 

 

Purdin Paddocks 23 and 24
For fun, here you can see how i stripped off smaller segments of larger paddocks.  This was to facilitate better utilization of the forage, whether by grazing or trampling.  The cows were in the paddock strip defined by hwy Y and the blue strip first.  They had access to the timber to the north for shade and walked to water in the ditch or to the pond to the north (not shown).  They were allowed access to each subsequent paddock going to the left (west) without a back fence since they had to go back to timber for shade.  If i didn’t have time to do this, i wouldn’t, but this management scheme increases days of grazing without being detrimental to the land or animal performance.  Today, they were given access to the strip between the orange line and lime green line.  No long having access to timber because there is plenty of trees in this temporary paddock and there is a water tank below the large pond to the upper left.  For an idea of scale, the lime green division fence is 1/4 of a mile.  The perimeter of the two paddocks (red line) encompasses 38 acres.  Most of my paddocks hover in the 20 acre range.

Vina’s Brownies

Wowzer!  the wind has been blowing like a banshee all day and temps dropped from 75  to 45 in about 2 hours this afternoon.  Will spring ever arrive in earnest?!  Vina’s Brownies to the rescue.

VINA’S BROWNIES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Cream together the softened butter and sugar, then add eggs one at a time.  Continue mixing and add remaining ingredients then bake in a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Bake about 40 minutes at 350°F oven.

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I sprinkled some dark chocolate Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Baking chips on top this before baking.  Turned out pretty good!  Chips available at many venues, i got mine online at Wal-Mart.

 

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Too Many Farmers & Ranchers?

In these slow times made so by inclement weather (snow, cold, ice, wind, mud, rain), my energy level increases because i’m not working as physically hard.  These past couple years, too, i’ve begun going to our local YMCA at 5am to walk and lift weights for a couple hours.  All this contributes to a restless feeling that i’m not accomplishing all that i can.  My children, now grown, are good at reeling in my ambition and crazy ideas a bit, which is good because i have a natural tendency to get too many irons in the fire.

However, the perspective of age has tempered and honed those expansive ideas as either increasing work or increasing investment.  The latter is much more attractive to me now as my physical strength wanes.

All that shared to relate an irony of agriculture in the United States.  Although, some would cry ‘save the family farm’ few actually have a real look at what the family farm is.  Are we dooming the modern family farm by idolizing the farms of the past?  or those small holdings in distant lands?  The reality is that farming/ranching has never been financial lucrative in the sense of ‘getting rich.’  Margins are slim, startup is pretty much insurmountable now, and i never thought i’d say it out loud, but i fear there are too many farmers/ranchers in the United States.  That is to say, that despite the average age of farmers is 58 or 59, farming of the agrarian sort (actually farming/ranching – not some related field) is more competitive than ever!  Outside investors and to an even greater degree, neighbouring prudent and successful farmers with disposable income bid up land to amounts beyond production value which keeps new farmers from entering.  Oh, yes, i know that mantra is that you don’t have to own land to start in farming, that is absolutely true, but at least here in north Missouri, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything to rent – pasture or crop land.  And, to be honest, most of the land in our county is not crop land, yet it’s been under the plough for decades and much has washed down the creek.

How did this happen?  Technology, bigger and better equipment, government support programs, and the never ending pressure to produce food cheaply.  All these contribute to fewer farmers necessary to farm the massive number of acres to produce crops with slimmer and slimmer profit margins.  Often, the only profit is the check collected from the federal government (you, the taxpayer).  But don’t blame the producer!  It’s just our system.

For some time now, interest rates on saved income has been lower than the inflation rate, resulting in outside investors hoping to get some return on their money, whereas farmers buy land to spread out the equipment costs.  Consider that for a row cropper here, land to purchase (it’s a rarity to find) will cost upwards of $4000/acre. (a small parcel just sold in the county next to us for $8000/acre!)

There are a few farms asking less than that, but most are worn out (soil loss, erosion, and fertility may take decades of proper farming/ranching to reverse or restore) and should never have been cropped in the first place (steep slope, poor production indicators, etc).  Yet, the asking price is out of reach for anyone wanting to raise livestock.  One such farm near me would take at least $400/acre up front cost to restore it to even marginal pasture.  Add that to the asking price, and already it’s over $3500/acre! (Racks & Tracks listing)

So, is land more expensive now than in the past?  Consider my property just across the road from the above listing and of similar topography.

1857 – $1.83/acre – Today’s dollars = $53.19/acre

1870 – $13.41/acre – Today’s dollars = $258.87 (this buyer lost the farm)

1872 – $3.90/acre – Today’s dollars = $80.84/acre  (appraised value was $64.67/acre)

1875 – $4.79/acre – Today’s dollars = $110.12/acre

then several surveys and set aside for Morris Chapel Church and cemetery – finally back together in 1945

1945 – $11.97/acre – today’s dollars = $168.17/acre

1949 – $26.95/acre – Today’s dollars = $286.36

1966 – $92.81/acre – today’s dollars = $724.39*

2018 – $3100/acre – today’s dollars = $3100/acre (asking price of farm across the road)

Working backwards – what would a $3000/acre farm bring in 1949?  $282.34

*1966 is when my grandparents purchased the farm, it shows, too, another reason land owners won’t sell property – basis.  Since this farm was gifted to me, the basis from 1966 remains in place.  In other words, if i sold the land for $2100/acre, capital gains tax would be paid on the difference between $92.81 and $2100.  This tax could be as much as 23.8%!  However, if i die and the land passes to my heirs, it can be appraised and establish a new basis.

Tenants compete for acres by bidding up rental fees because of their massive investment in machinery.  Absentee farmers and investors generally accept the highest rent bid (which is usually the one that will least take care of the soil) and hope the fertility and productivity outlives them, then the property will sell.

Change comes one funeral at a time.

Rather than me stumbling about putting together numbers, here’s a great article written in 2017 with sample startup costs for someone wanting to start and make a living farming.

Cheers!

tauna

HOW MUCH $ DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A FARMER?

THIS IS WHAT IT TAKES TO GO FROM ZERO MONEY TO A FARMER.
I was talking with a couple of farmers recently, discussing the barriers to entry for new farmers. Some numbers were thrown out as to how much capital it would take for a young man or woman to get started into farming.“$1 million, $2 million, more” were amounts bandied about. This made me curious, so I decided to drill down on the actual capital requirement.

First of all, we need to decide what kind of farmer we are talking about here. For this article, I’m assuming someone with no family farm who wants to become a full-time grain farmer in Iowa, Illinois, or Indiana.

The first thing a budding farmer might do is get a degree in agriculture, since he/she would not have learned farming on the family farm. This will cost somewhere between $20,000 and $120,000, depending on where he/she goes and what scholarships are available. The average of those two numbers is $70,000, which will require student loan debt for most young people. Of course, a degree is not required, but it might come in handy for convincing banks to loan money or landlords to lease cropland.

The equipment requirement could be an extensive discussion; however, I’ll try to keep it as short as possible. One could buy all new machines, but to get started, let’s assume the acquisition of decent used equipment – about 5 to 10 years old.

The basic list would include: a combine with corn head and grain platform for $175,000; a big tractor for plowing and planting at 125K; a grain truck for 60K; a planter that runs about 75K; a grain drill for 40K; a disk at around 30K; a chisel-plow for 30K; a field cultivator at 25K; a pull-type sprayer costs 35K; a grain dryer is 30K; a utility tractor for brush-hogging/ditching/grading at 35K; a grain cart for 15K; a trailer at around 15K; an ATV for 10K; and a full complement of tools costs 15K.

The building requirement probably includes a couple of metal buildings ($200,000) and at least a few grain storage bins to hold 75,000 bushels, about $75,000. There is no hard-and-fast land requirement. However, the farmers I spoke with said that someone would need at least 500 owned acres and 1,000 leased acres to make a living.

The quality of the land certainly affects those numbers. For this article, let’s assume 150-plus corn bushel-per-acre land for about $7,500 an acre. If you bought 500 acres as a base of operations, the total land cost would be $3,750,000.

Add it all up, and we arrive at $5,157,500. Wow! That’s a big number, and it’s out of reach for most young entrepreneurs.

Because of the cost of land and equipment today, some farmers are concerned about who will be able to follow them into the industry. How will they fund the enterprise, even with family land and equipment?

Because of greater access to capital, more corporate farms are likely.

The problem is not just start-up capital but also surviving drought years and low commodity prices until they turn around. Unfortunately, even though you are already a biologist, engineer, equipment operator, accountant, carpenter, and mechanic, you have to become an expert financier, as well, to get into farming and stay there.

Written by Shawn Williamson, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) MBA in Missouri and Illinois. This article is designed to be a commentary on the amount of capital required for a row-crop farm in the Midwest. It is not meant to be a guide on how to get started in farming. 

Logging Out!

Found a reliable logger locally who got started on my farm several weeks ago.  He has been terribly hampered by weather (especially now that the ground is thawed and we are receiving about an inch of rain!)  With Missouri’s unpredictable and challenging weather, it may be July before he can get back in!

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Spent some time getting this old wire fence cut out and pulling up posts.  Sadly, to no avail, my logger says these trees are not marketable.  But, at least all the nasty down fence is rolled up.  Wasn’t too hard a job.
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Most of my trees grow along the ditches and are of extremely low quality.  Barely worth cutting out and hauling off.  Most will be pallet lumber.  Although, he did sell find two walnut trees he sold to my neighbours for their sawmill  operation.  
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Working in the timber patches is more profitable for him since the trees are somewhat more dense.  Still no high quality trees.  Should have managed my timber and draws years ago to allow quality trees to get started.  Always trying to catch up it seems.  However, once he is done, the result will be a much healthier wildlife resource and ecologically sound biome.
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A few of the logs he’s been able to get out.  Very happy with the work he does since he cleans up the tops and stacks them laying parallel for easier burning.

30 Day Checkup

Time for an update on the annuals.  It’s now been 33 days since planting on the 26th of May and it’s been terribly dry until just now.

The soil had some moisture in it when i tilled the 18 acres the first go on 18-19 May, but then we received a rain (4/10s) which delayed the second tillage until 25 May, at which time my husband seeded the hills right behind the second tillage so we could wrap up this project for the first stage.

Then weather set in hot, dry, sunny, and windy.  Some of the seeds germinated and some even sprouted and grew.  If we didn’t get a rain soon, those brave spindly plants would soon wither and die.

At last, over the course of 14-15-16 June, we received 1.5 inches of rain and temps cooled just a little bit – a breather for plants, soil, animals, and man.

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What a difference a 1.5 rain made – this was taken four days after the rain, but the soil is good here.
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This photo is taken immediately to the east of the previous photo and at the same moment.  Growth exhibited on 20 June, four days after that 1.5 inch rain.  What a difference soil quality makes!

Rainfall has been scarce until 28-29-June, when a gully washer of 7 inches fell in a bit over 24 hours.  Thankfully, not much soil moved because i was careful to leave grass strips and there was still some dead plant material.  Ideally, there would have been new root growth to help, but the previous dry weather compounded by my poor soil restricted growth tremendously.

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Taken day after the two days of 7 inches of rain.

 

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Thilled to see so many lespedeza seedlings.
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Mystery – why is one sunflower so green and healthy and this one right next to it yellow and sickly?  Why did i photograph my shoe?!
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A very little soil movement can be seen in this photo although it is on a slight slope.  Can you believe that this is 33 days growth?  My clay hills are pretty dead which is the reason for trying to bring them alive by building organic matter and eliminating toxic endophyte fescue.
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This shows some definite soil movement after a 7 inch rain, but it didn’t move very far.  Encouraging!

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So, bring on the next 30 day!  With that 7 inch rain and little of it running off, there should be a massive increase in forage growth.  Excited!

Cheers and Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

Busy Week

Sunday – Hot, super hot, so first thing I took down, rolled up, and reset three sheep netting through a bit of timber so that the sheep could have shade!  They could die in this heat without.  Took up the polytape and posts that had divided the cow’s paddock in half so they had fresh break of grass.  Set it up in the next paddock, but boy that was work.  Grass was as tall as my shoulders and thick underneath with red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and lespedeza.  Sweatin’ good.  Took it easy in the afternoon and drank a lot of water.

Monday – very early departure for Overland Park, KS for Allen’s Aunt June’s brother’s memorial service.  Visited with family and friend for the rest of the day.  Exhausting and stressful day for June.  Her brother was a just a few days shy of 97;  June, too, is 96 with a birthday in early fall.  She is the last of her family.

Tuesday – Morning chores, then RIck and I went to Chillicothe for appointments with Joyce for back, neck, shoulder treatments.  Back home for a late lunch followed by gathering up the tools necessary to begin work setting for sorting off the feeder lambs.  Couldn’t quite finish the job since we needed more tools.  It’s amazing how many holes there are in a corral when thinking about small animals.  They aren’t even an issue with cattle.  Very hot, so we cut out early – about 3pm.  Later in the evening, I went back up and took out mineral to cattle but found a 150 lb calf stuck in the muddy ditch.  I roped it and pulled it out with the four wheeler.  He seems like he’ll be okay, but he’s not getting up yet.  Will check him tomorrow and take milk for him to eat if he hasn’t gotten up to nurse.  Found a long dead lamb in the electric netting – won’t go into details, but got an idea of what it might be like to have worked the Katrina disaster.  The smell burns the eyes and throat.  Unfortunately, i did not have any rubber gloves with me, but mostly it had deteriorated enough that most fell through the fencing.  Man, it was gross – the maggots had done their work well.  Could hardly stand riding in the pickup home with myself even with the windows open!

Wednesday – up early again for a trip to Kansas City for a presentation as a female farmer to the Farm Service Agency Payment personnel.  I enjoyed meeting everyone and was well received.  But turned around and was home by 1pm.  Quick trip – took just a hair over two hours each way.  Now i have a few hours to clean house before taking out this evening to check on the down calf and muster the sheep into the corral just before dark (after it cools down).  First thing in the morning, we’ll sort and load the feeder lambs for weaning and turn the rest back out.  If it’s not raining. (Calf died 😦

Thursday –  Dallas, RIck, and I met at 6:30 at the farm for sorting and loading the older lambs from about 150 ewes and 100 spring born lambs.  We finished off the chore in short order despite the heat and humidity – we were thankful that it remained cloudy for the duration.  We hauled the lambs to the Lamme farm and unloaded them into the already prepared paddock to contain freshly weaned lambs weighing 30-50 lbs.  Then back to our house to gather up the 10 orphaned lambs.  Incredibly, they just followed me straight into the trailer!  We were speechless and and shaking our heads in wonder.  That was just too easy.  After preparing lunch, I headed back to my farm and rolled up seven sheep nettings and installed four of them back around the pond lot.  The sheep will be turned in there tomorrow.  I was so hot, I just couldn’t quite finish since i knew i still had a reel of polywire and posts to pick up to give the cows a fresh break, take out mineral, and just in general check on them.  Water is so important right now, it’s important to check its availability often.

Friday – Excess heat advisory once again today – with heat index at 109 for most of the day.  I checked my lambs first thing and rolled up the three 164 foot electric sheep nettings.  Then moved the lambs to the paddock to the south.  They are chomping through the forage quickly!  This paddock had some questionable areas for their escape, so I set up one of the nettings alongside those areas.  THe other two, I set up in the areas to which they will go in the next few days.  I have eight calves that didn’t sell a couple of weeks ago because of lameness, eye problems, and one had been stung by bees!  So, I’ve been shifting them to fresh breaks of grazing each day.  They are scheduled to go to Milan Auction on monday.  Then went to my farm up north after lunch and rolled up the two remaining nets that were through the timber.  Takes longer because of brush, etc.  Installed that last one needed around the pond lot, then electrified the whole thing and opened the pond lot gate.  A couple ewes and their lambs ventured in but most stayed in the shade – they’ll find it this evening.  Allen is finishing up bushhogging my fence rows.  Really appreciate him doing that – it is a dangerous job.  Helped Rick hook on to the hay baler which was in the barn – WHEW!  Just in a few minutes, I think i sweated off a couple of lbs – too bad they won’t stay off!

Saturday – SHABBAT SHALOM!