Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Record calf prices

I will continue to suggest that you refrain from complaining about the high price of corn. Clearly the price of corn and the price of beef are not necessarily negatively correlated. As I have stated in the past, if you would consider yourselves grass farmers instead of cattlemen, you would love to see corn prices rise. Do you think wheat growers complain about high priced corn? Soybean growers? So why would grass growers complain? The fact is, although not as closely related as wheat or beans, grass is definitely a complimentary product to corn....so that as the price of corn rises, the VALUE of grass rises as well. If grass traded on the CBOT, you can bet your last dollar that you would see the same recent rise in it's value as we have in corn, wheat and beans...it would track very closely to grain commodities. This is not to say that there would not be occasional disparities or spikes/shocks for various reasons....I am making a "general" statement. All too often, beef publications are ignorant to macro-economics and instead focus on short term issues like: well if corn prices rise by 10 cents today, it will cost me more to feed this calf to slaughter. While that statement may be true, it ignores the greater market forces that drive up the value of the grass that cattlemen are producing which in turn drives up the revenue the grass farm generates (assuming the quantity of grass harvested remains constant). So ignore what the pundits are telling you about the dangers of high priced corn. Celebrate our government's supporting of the ethanol industry and be happy for farmers that will be putting more money into their pockets this year and in years to come, because you are right behind them!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

If you rent grass, think about locking in a long term lease

I know I'm getting away from my mob grazing posts, but it's kinda boring right now at the ranch (thank God)...nothing is dying, no scours to report on, life is pretty good. So I thought I would try to share some of my thoughts on other ranching related issues. I really enjoy following the price of corn. Beef producers love to complain about ethanol subsidies and the related high price of corn. But the truth is that higher grain prices makes your grass much more valuable, and that what we really are, grass farmers. For that reason, if you believe that high corn prices are here to stay (which I do), now is the time to lock in your leases long term...I will not sign a lease less than 7 years long. First, I can't afford to make the necessary improvements usually needed only to be gone the next year, and secondly, just like farm rents must go up with corn, grass rents will follow. Locking in your lease rates now will save you lots of $$$$ in the future and will allow you to make decisions to improve your place that you can't make with short term leases.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Don't complain about high corn prices

Despite what you might read in Drovers or Beef, high corn prices are actually good for the cattle industry for a number of reasons. First, our two big competitors (chicken and pork) are much more reliant on corn for gain than we are...true they are more efficient gainers, but unlike cattle, they can't substitute grass gain for grain gain. And that's the key. Stop thinking about yourself as a beef producer and start thinking of yourself as a grass producer...the cattle are simply your combine. Since grass can be a direct substitute for grain, the higher the price of grain, the higher the value of grass...it's really as simple as that. I love high corn prices. I hope corn goes to $8 and stays there. Cow/calf producers will see some downward pressure on calf prices, but it will be temporary...as the price of competing meats goes higher, the value of beef will go higher, that will bring calf prices back up. For grass stocker operators, high corn is a beautiful thing. If feedlots cost of gain is $1, they will be willing to pay something close to that $1 for grass/forage gain. The future looks bright.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Moving to Stockers

Well we are getting close to making a decision on how we want to go forward with our operation and we are leaning heavily toward going to stockers. The problems that we had this past calving season (calving while mob grazing) coupled with the recent spike in corn prices (I think high corn is here to stay, for a number of reasons) makes the decision to move to stockers relatively easy. I love cows and will miss calving season, but I won't miss the mental stress of trying to calve while mob grazing or the heartbreak of losing calf afer calf from scours. So we will be liquidating our entire cow herd next spring (probably in March)...they're a hell of a good set of cows and I hate to have to do this but I think it's the right thing to do. The plan is to then rest our grass, stockpile as much forage as possible, and purchase 2000-3000 head of stockers in December, mob graze them until June, supplementing them with about 3# of ddg and hoping for 1.6# per day gain. My biggest challenge is sourcing and merchandising our stockers, but I'm going to start working the phones.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Early weaned calf weights

We weighed all of the calves that we early weaned today. 172 head of calves averaged 328 lbs. We moved all 172 head to Mickeys where there is knee deep forage...it hasn't been grazed all year. We will be supplementing 1 lb/cwt of ddg per head per day. To make things work easier, we plan on rotating the calves every 3 days and feeding them every 3 days in bunks. I hope we can weigh these calves out in March and will post the results.

Questions moving forward re: mob grazing

Well we've done a lot of soul searching since tallying up the sobering numbers last week. One thing I knew before this latest kick in the gut, but was certainly reinforced last week, is that mob grazing is fantastic for the soil and grass but not so great for the grazing animals. I knew our weaning weights would suffer (we've certainly seen lower weaning weights) and we would lose condition on cows that couldn't compete, but we have seen other side effects to mob grazing that have been much more costly. We aren't ready to abandon mob grazing all together, the improvements in the grass production and carrying capacity are just too great to ignore, but we need to tweak our system. One of those tweaks might be to early wean all of our calves at 120-150 days of age. We have another location that we could take them to to carry them thru the winter as we supplement them with ddg, and then maybe we could reintroduce them to the mob at green up to take advantage of the spring flush, selling them off of grass at the end of June. We early weaned the calves out of our heifers this year and are going to do a test run with them. We weighed them out and should get a pretty good idea of the types of gains we can get by running them on grass and 1#/cwt of ddg. We will weigh them again when we pull them out in Feb-Mar. Of course I will post the numbers to show our results. I've run the numbers and we would need to get around a 10% increase in conception rates to pay for the extra cost of both the feed and the time/expense to feed them. Since we had a 94% conception rate last year, in some of the better years, a 10% increase isn't even possible. I do feel, however, that there will be additional added benefits other than simply an increase in conception rates....healthier calves, healthier cows, heavier weaning weights? This will be a good year to compare our two groups. I know this has no effect on our biggest issue, scours, but we will address that issue in the future as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A mob grazing pic and a video

mob grazed sulphur weed

I am posting a picture of what's left of 10 foot high sulphur weed in the North Rock Barn pasture after it was mob grazed. It was a banner year for ragweed and sulphur weed and the weeds in this pasture were literally over the top of my SUV prior to turn in. The pic will show you what's left after a day with the mob. Again, we are getting fantastic utilization out of the weeds (forbs) that are present in our pastures. The video is a tribute to Hal and all of his hard work designing and building our new set of working pens on the west side of the Goat Ranch. We used these new pens for the first time last week to work all of our cows and calves thru and they worked flawlessly. In fact, I can't think of one thing I would change. Congratulations to Hal for a job VERY well done! The key to the pens is the "Bud Box" on either side of the entrance to a double alley way. The "Bud Boxes" allow cattle to be brought in from either side and loaded into the alley way. The double alley allows as many as 8 cows to stand in line waiting to enter the chute. The cattle remained very calm and moved very well thru the set up with very minimal balking. Not only did we not have a hot shot while working, but you will notice in the video that the person loading the alley way doesn't even have a sorting stick. That's how well this set up works. We worked 565 head of cows with 4 (and sometimes 5) people in under 7 hours. It just worked fantastic. You can also see the cowboys in the background roping and dragging our calves. We find that this has the lowest amount of stress on the calves and is much easier to castrate the calves than working them thru the chute. The cowboys absolutely love this "work". We hire them for the day and quite honestly it's money well spent.

See the video here: new working corrals

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I Need A Hug

The Ugly Numbers

On Feb 20, 2010 we preg checked the herd and kept 352 pregnant cows at the Goat Ranch. To those 352 cows, we added 26 pregnant cows from Oklahoma, 42 pregnant E6 heifers, and 61 pregnant Arkansas heifers, for a total of 460 head of pregnant cows. We also added 15 pairs from Oklahoma and 131 pairs of Arkansas heifers for a total of 146 pairs. So we had a total of 606 head of cows at the goat ranch with 146 calves as of the end of April (minus the cows we lost during March and April, which I know is several).

On October 4, 2010 we worked all of the cows and calves and pulled the bulls. We had 565 cows and 377 head of calves. The simple math says we lost 41 head of cows and, assuming all of the pregnant cows calved (I know we had a few Arkansas heifers that we culled that were still pregnant and hadn’t calved, but only 2-3) we lost 229 calves (I also think we lost several pregnant cows after we pregged in February). Even if we assumed that none of the 41 head of cows we lost actually calved (which I know isn’t correct because we just lost 12 cows just last month that we know calved), we still lost 188 head of calves. So we probably actually lost around 210 head of calves this year (36%), almost all of them due to scours. Even more alarming is the fact that we lost only a couple of calves that we purchased as pairs. So if you subtract those calves off of the total (377-146=231) we have 231 live calves out of 460 pregnant cows. Ugh! This should make everyone reading this feel much better about their own cow/calf operation.

The worst part about all of this is that we (and when I say “we” I mean Hal) worked our asses off this year spotting, catching and treating sick calves. We spent a small fortune on drugs. Hell, I spent over $2000 on Zinc Sulfate and Zinc Oxide alone in a futile attempt to reduce scours. These numbers aren’t a result of a lack of effort.

Ending numbers:
October 4, 2010

83 cull cows sent to Joplin
2 cull bulls sent to Joplin
23 E6 heifers moved to Sullingers
459 cows kept at the Goat Ranch (457 worked, 2 left in South Center)
204 calves kept with the cows at the Goat Ranch
173 calves early weaned and going to Mickeys
9 Bulls hauled to Sandy’s
2 bulls left in South Center

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Reason for This Mob Grazing Blog

I got this email yesterday and it reinforced just why this mob grazing blog is important and how we can all utilize each others experiences to make our operations better and more profitable:


I am a fellow mob grazer and have been looking for solutions to our massive scour problem. It sounds like you have experienced similar in a large mob situation. We have 350 cows in Virginia on 1000 open grazing acres. We have had scour issues this bad in the past but found the solution with the sandhills calving but this year were determined not to split the herd. What a nightmare- needles, drenches, and pills. Dead calves and buzzards circling. after the first 100 we split the herd but two weeks later its in the second herd we have split again and I think it has hit the third herd. We have talked with sources and they have said to much protein save more residual and move but that did not work. Vet says vaccinate next year with scours bos 9 but was hoping for a low input survival of the fittest operation but that will break me.I dont know if we should just plan the herd separation in our grazing plan (sandhills calving) or maybe it does not work anymore but I believe we just got scours started and once it starts you talk about a plague. Yellow scours, white scours, grey scours, and coccidiossis. By the way we fall calve starting in late August and will finish by middle of Oct. Just hoping we can find a solution to this problem as their our not many large herd producers with these issues and mob grazing. Maybe change calving to late april, may? Lets figure this out.


As most of you that read this blog are aware, we went thru very similar issues earlier this year and I'm hopeful that by sharing this with Brian, we may be able to learn more about what is causing these problems and how to mitigate them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow Up: How Hard to Mob Graze A Paddock

I just thought I would revisit the mob grazing/oak sprouts issue for those that may be new to this blog. You can go back and look at pictures from last year that clearly show the issues that we have with oak sprouts. There are even more pictures here that give you an idea of just how bad these sprouts are. As mentioned, grazing only 25-40% of the forage just won't get the job done as far as controlling these sprouts thru mob grazing. We simply have to put more pressure on than most graziers might to try to get some utilization and control of these sprouts. As previously stated, if you don't have brush and weed issues, you may want to lighten up on the pressure, 25-40% may work just great for you. We just simply don't have that luxury. A word of caution: if you are only taking 25-40%, you better make sure that the remaining 75-60% is tromped down onto the ground. Otherwise you are really defeating the entire purpose of mob grazing. If you look out into your paddocks and see standing forage, you simply don't have enough pressure: increase your densities or graze longer/harder.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You'll Never Have to Read Beef or Drovers Again

Here you go:

1. Crossbreed
2. Precondition your calves
3. Preg Check
4. Cull
5. Worm
6. Source and Age Verify
7. Fenceline Wean
8. Use a set calving season
9. Rotationally graze
10. Don't buy a lot of stuff / It's generally cheaper to buy hay than to make it yourself

There you go. Pretty much every issue discusses the exact same thing, and yet few actually do any of it. For more of the same articles go to beef magazine.

If you aren't already doing these very simple things, forget about mob grazing. Start with the low hanging fruit.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How hard to mob graze a paddock

One thing that I'm still not sure about is how hard to mob graze each paddock. I read a piece in the SGF that mentioned mob grazing 25% and tromping 75%. The old saying is "take half leave half". I've seen Greg Judy quoted as saying he grazed 40% and tromped 60%...I've also seen the reverse. Part of the reason (there are many) that we are mob grazing is to get better utilization out of the grass that we do grow. I don't think 25-40% is very good utilization. I think it is important to find a happy medium between utilization and trompage. I'm not sure what that number is, but we are trying to figure it out. One thing that ties our hands a bit on this ranch is the tree sprouts and brush. We can't get the sprouts and brush eaten unless we are hitting the paddocks pretty hard. Eating those sprouts is just critical for us because we are trying to control their growth as well as utilize them as forage. When we eat less than 50% of the standing forage, the cattle do very little damage to the sprouts and brush. I think we need to be up around 70-80% utilization to get proper brush control. I can tell you that sometimes I just cringe when I look at a paddock that we have grazed too hard...it just looks like a wasteland. The first few times this happened, I really beat myself up thinking I had made a huge mistake and worrying that the grass would never come back. In every instance, within a few months the paddock is green and vibrant and I can never tell which paddock was grazed significantly harder than another. Obviously the key is grazing for only a day (or less) and giving the paddock ample time to recover...in our case, that's a little more than 4 months. This sounds a little weird, but I would rather overgraze a paddock than undergraze it. If we didn't have the brush, I would likely feel differently about that, but if you are trying to utilize weeds and brush, you almost have to graze the paddocks with more intensity than if you aren't.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Expanding on the Greg Judy article in SGF

The Greg Judy article in the Stockman Grass Farmer this month is a very good article...I would like to expand on it. It's always very difficult to determine when to turn out on Spring growth. If you are like me, by the time Spring rolls around, you're looking for a pasture with something to eat....ANYTHING to eat. As much as I would like to turn out onto fully grown, mature pasture, it's just not very realistic. In order to do that here in SW Missouri, I would need to wait to turn out until at least mid May. Grass stops growing here in late October. So do the math, I have to get from mid October to mid May on stockpiled forage...that's 210 days. Simply put, I need 210 one day paddocks of stockpiled forage. If I'm mob grazing year round with the same number of animals, I need a seven month rotation to make it through winter. Do you have that? If you don't have at least 210 one day paddocks, you don't. We are currently running around 160-180 one day paddocks. We won't make it thru winter on our stockpile.

Ideally you would want to reduce your numbers thru the Winter period (to stretch your stockpile) and increase your numbers in the Spring (to take advantage of the Spring flush). This isn't always easy with a cow/calf operation, but it's almost a necessity. Here's what we are going to do. We are working all cows and calves the end of September. We will be culling off any cow without a calf and early weaning a portion of our calves (calves off the heifers). We are also pulling off our Beefmaster cross heifers and moving them to a different location. All in all, we hope to cull down from 600 head of cow/calf pairs to 450 head of cows and 300 head of calves. So that gets our numbers down for this winter and hopefully allows us to stretch our stockpile to 210 days.

Now for the restocking in the Spring part: This year we are going to try the wean-guard nose clips at weaning time and leave the calves with the cows, hopefully until August or September. It seems like it might be a good way to take advantage of the early Spring flush and abundant forage available in the 3 or so months of Spring. So in a nutshell, I think ideally we want a 120 day rotation May thru September and a 210 day rotation thru the Winter. The only way to do that is to vary your cattle numbers. Keeping our stockers is how we are hoping to do that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


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mob grazing 2
mob grazing 3
I'm not sure about you, but here in SW MO it's been a great year for ragweed. This South Center pasture was last grazed in late March. It grew back great with tons of forage, mostly fescue and warm season grasses. But as we got later into the summer, the ragweed started coming on and we ended up with a bumper crop...in a pasture that we didn't even graze during the growing season! I hate ragweed and was concerned about how the mob would react to a pasture full of it. Well, you can find the answer in the pictures. They ate it like they eat everything else. You can clearly see the difference between one side of the fence and the other where they were just turned in. I'm really disappointed with the amount of weeds we have on the ranch this year, I was hoping that we would greatly reduce the number of weeds with our mob grazing and it just doesn't look like we have. But at least we are able to utilize the weeds that are growing by getting the cows to consume them.

Mob Grazing the South Center Pasture

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mob grazingmob grazing
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I'm happy to report that the mob grazing we have done in the South Center pasture really looks great. I have attached some photos to show the results. As most of you that follow this blog are aware, oak sprouts are our primary problem on this ranch. When we do a good job mob grazing a paddock, the sprouts become twigs and the cattle consume all of the vegetation from the sprouts...and believe me the oak leaves constitute a LOT of forage. You can see in the pictures the sticks that are left after grazing. I posted a couple of other pictures where you should be able to see where the temp fence was. We did a good job of grazing one side, but across the fence you can clearly see the sprouts still have all of their leaves and the grass/forage isn't trampled down nearly as much. This is always very interesting to me. This is truly an art...a little too much time and the cattle and grass suffer, not quite enough time and the paddock is underutilized. Overall, Hal has done a terrific job of moving through this 200 acre pasture.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A cure for water quality issues?

mob grazing
mob grazingmob grazing 1
This summer is no different from last. Periods of dryness create water issues as the ponds get a little low and the cows get a lot hot. As you've seen in past posts, we've had some issues with water quality and fish kill. I have attached pics of Hal's attempt to remedy this situation. I love the idea of keeping the cattle out of the ponds, the problem is in the "how". This has some promise and Hal says the pvc one has worked well for the past 3 days. I'm concerned with it's durability but it's a good start. I was also a little concerned with the area...I'm curious of whether it's enough room for 600 head of pairs. Hal says they've established a pecking order and everything seems to be getting to water. We'll see.

There is lots of info out there about watering systems for mob grazing and quite frankly, I don't think they're realistic for large groups of cattle. Fencing cattle out of ponds and setting up gravity flow concrete waterers sounds cool until you start to put a pencil to it. We'd need several hundred of these setups with multiple waterers per installation...it's just not practical. We do need to do a better job of limiting cattle access to the ponds we have, though, and this might be a good start. Water is the most limiting factor in most mob grazing systems, get it figured out before you do anything else.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We are going to try to land apply some milk this fall on a few hundred acres to see how it works. We have a few local dairy's but haven't found a good steady supply of milk yet. I did get the name of a DFA rep out of Springfield, Murray Lane. His phone number is 479-640-6956. They get "hot loads" in Monnett from time to time that they need to get rid of...land application would be a perfect use for it. Here is a link to the benefits of land applying milk:


Saturday, August 14, 2010

A bad week...

I got an email this morning requesting an update...I apologize for the infrequent posts but since the calves stopped dying, things have gotten a little boring...until last Sunday. We had tabbed Sunday as the day we wanted to get the entire mob in and work the cows and calves. Our plan was to work all the cows Sunday morning and use temporary removal of the calves to help get the cows to come in heat. A 48 hour removal is recommended. We were also going to early wean the heifers calves. Well things got off to a good start but by 11:00 am it was starting to get pretty warm so Hal (my ranch manager) made the wise decision to work the remaining half of the cows on Monday. We had trapped around 30 head of cows we wanted to cull and had planned to load them out in the evening. Well, by 4:30 that afternoon, 2 of the cull cows we kept back were dead and Hal was bucketing water to 4 more that were down. The cows had abundant shade, plenty of space and ample water. We decided against loading them out that evening and decided to wait to see how things went. By Monday morning, 12 of the 30 cull cows were dead. Hal made the again wise decision to turn out all of the animals we had left to work, including the calves....we'd work them another time. It was very hot, but I'm not convinced the heat killed the cows we lost. Hal's more conscientious than I've ever been and I've worked cattle in weather just as hot...we work our cows in July/August every year. I'm thinking it was something in the water we hauled to the cows but I'm really not sure...I just don't think it was heat related. Obviously it's easy to blame the heat and maybe that was what killed them, I just don't understand why the cattle we worked and turned out lived and nearly half of the cows we kept back died. The only difference was the water.

As far as the mob grazing goes, things are going well. The cows get 10 acres per day and seem to be leaving a decent amount of residual forage. It looks like we'll have plenty of fall grazing available. I'm still concerned about getting enough stockpiled forage stored up for this winter...600 head of pairs will be by far the most animals we've ever carried on this ranch. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

We turned the bulls in last Wednesday, August 4th. We will leave them in for 45-50 days and will likely work the rest of the cows and calves when we pull the bulls out the end of September. Hopefully we'll have better luck the second time around.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lost my patience....

After reading the latest from the Summer Conference in Colorado, I sent the following to the NCBA and a similar note to the CBB:

I'm sending this email to both you and the CBB. As a lifelong cattle producer who depends on this industry for my livelihood, could I ask that you please all grow up and figure this shit out! Do you really need to act like a bunch of spoiled rotten kids that aren't getting their way? Act like a goddamn professional business, set aside the bullshit agendas and figure out how to increase the demand for our product! This kinda crap is the reason I am no longer a member of the NCBA!

Nathan Sanko
Back 2 Basics Beef

and I got this response:

Hello Nathan,

I just wanted to take a few minutes to address the concerns you raised (and submitted via our website) about the relationship between CBB and NCBA. Your concerns are not unlike many in the industry who have seen the frictional relationship between these two organizations detract from our respective roles in increasing beef demand and protecting the business environment for our industry. I want you to know NCBA and CBB took conciliatory actions this week during the Beef Industry Summer Conference and have agreed to continue working together in our planning processes. I believe this was the first step necessary in mending a joint relationship that the industry needs in order to serve producers such as you.

I also want to make sure you know NCBA’s policy division continues to be a strong voice for cattlemen in Washington, DC; defending the interests of producers on issues important to maintaining your business, such as pushing back against burdensome environmental regulations and the death tax. I do hope you will reconsider your decision to not be an NCBA member. Having worked in Kansas for many years, and closely with your dad on membership initiatives, I know how important it is to you to have the freedom to operate your business, as you wish. NCBA stands behind and protects those principles every day. If you change your mind regarding membership, please know we welcome you back. If I can provide more details or answer any questions, please contact me.


I still haven't heard from the CBB.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wet July

Well we've had an unbelievably wet July with a couple of rains in excess of 2 inches and one in excess of 3. The weather has been very hot with heat indexes in excess of 100 on multiple successive days. At this point, 10 acre paddocks in the Stocker Pasture are handling the mob nicely....600 cows and I'm guessing around 500 calves equates to a total mob weight of around 800,000 lbs....so a density of 80,000 lbs per acre. We will be working these cattle the first week of August and culling anything without a calf and early weaning around 150 of the heifers' calves. So the mob will get significantly smaller in a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Stockman Grass Farmer

I truly enjoy reading the Stockman Grass Farmer, but a recent statement found in the current issue is part of the reason behind my starting this blog. In response to a reader (seeking to move to mob grazing) asking about weaning calves, SGF states "Weaning is done by putting the calves and cows on opposite sides of an electric fence where they can still see and call to each other. After about four days, the weaning is complete with no stress or sickness." Really? So it's just that easy? We fenceline wean during the right sign of the moon utilizing a very good woven wire fence with a standoff electric fence and we still get calves that end up back with their mommas. This advice very much reminds me of the advice I got from mob grazing proponents when I was having scour issues. "Feed zinc sulfate and zinc oxide free choice and scours will go to zero." Well, no they won't. I'm very much a proponent of mob grazing, but the information out there makes it sound much easier than it is.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Low Cost Producer

While being a "low cost producer" is an admirable goal, it's really pretty irrelevant. I would suggest that we all strive to be the "high profit producer". If I can spend $1 and get back $1.10, I'll do it. Concentrate on maximizing your returns, not simply reducing costs.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Seed Cutting

Fescue seed is selling for around 20 cents this year which isn't great. I jumped at the chance to get mine harvested and get the seed heads off the fescue. I'm guessing we cut around 400 acres, would like to have cut 700 or so but the seed just wasn't heavy enough in some of the pastures. All told, we netted $6600 on seed this year...$6600 more than we would have gotten had we not mob grazed.

It's hot and dry this summer. We've had a few .25 inch rains but that's about it. Each system that's come thru seems to dump a few inches to the north and south of us but we just can't seem to hit it. I guess it could be worse. It's interesting to look at the regrowth on paddocks we've moved thru. In the spring, after a week the grass has popped back up and looks green and healthy. Now, it's brown and ugly and I'm left wondering if it will actually regrow or just die. I'm glad each paddock will get 5-6 months of rest before we graze it again....they may need it.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Good news...and bad

Well I think I can safely say that we are finally finished treating for scours. I'm sure we may have one or two moving forward but we haven't treated anything for a few weeks and the bulk of the calves are getting to the age where they are past the major threat. The bad news is that we have lost around 10 head of calves to very quick, severe respiratory issues (6 this week alone). I have no idea if the stress from the mob grazing is contributing to this outbreak or not but would imagine it is playing some role. I do know that others in the area (non-mob grazers) are having some respiratory issues. It's been unseasonably hot here, well into the 90's the past few weeks.

After speaking with Hal, he's comfortable saying that he feels we had scour "issues" with 80% of the calves this year (yellow squirts, not all bad enough to treat). All told we've treated 117 calves, the bulk of those were the Charolais cross calves out of our older cows which number around 320 head. That said, he's not ready to give up on calving in the mob and points to a stretch of a week or so where we had no issues. It was when we were quietly taking down fences (instead of calling), leaving the 2 prior paddocks open and simply moving the mob up a few paddocks behind. I'm not convinced this is the cure. I really think we will move to a hybrid Sandhills System next year during calving. Both Hal and I feel introducing the pairs a week before we started calving was probably a big factor. We are hesitant to blame the mob grazing for all of our problems but we are both pretty hard headed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Waving the White Flag....kind of

We continue to lose calves at an alarming rate. I'm guessing we've treated over 30% and have probably lost around 15% of our calf crop. I'm convinced the stress caused by the daily moves has significantly contributed to our losses. We've absolutely worked our asses off (and by "we" I mean Hal) to identify and treat sick calves. He's done a fantastic job. Three years ago we used the Sandhills System and weaned a 97% calf crop. I think we will move back to something like that next year, at least during our 45 day calving season. It will mean no mob grazing during a critical time of the year (May and June) but I just don't see any choice. We made a valiant effort to calve in the mob but I simply think that the drawbacks outweigh the advantages. I'm very disappointed.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Savory Institute

The Savory Institute has a front page article and link to a 15 minute clip "We Are What We Eat" by Aaron Lucich. Here is my forum post to the Institute:

"I am relatively new to Holistic Management and the teachings of the Savory Institute, so please forgive my ignorance. After watching the 15 minute clip (linked on the home page) "We Are What We Eat" by Aaron Lucich, I am starting to have serious reservations about associating with the Holistic Management movement. Is the Savory Institutes agenda to destroy all forms of beef production that are not "grass fed"? The inflammatory comments by persons interviewed in the clip were exactly the types of comments generally reserved for the Humane Society of the United States. It's a shame that "grass fed" supporters have to denigrate and disparage other forms of production to promote their products and further their agenda. It's not enough to have to counter the attacks of the vegan radicals, but we also must counter the attacks of other beef producers as the"grass fed" group simply stokes the fires of the "anti-meat" crowd by claiming that a person is essentially committing suicide by eating grain fed beef. "They would spit out the bite of meat they have in their mouth if they could see what I see as a veterinarian." That quote could have come directly from the HSUS, but is instead found in the 15 minute Lucich clip. Is this truly productive? Is this the the true agenda of the Savory Institute? Would love to know the Institutes stance on "Food Inc.". As much as I respect Allan Savory and his grazing and management methods, I have to question the wisdom of aligning the Institute with this type of thinking."

I am awaiting their response. It's sad that the "Grass Fed" crowd stoops to such lows.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Additional Benefit of Mob Grazing

Even though the current mob contains twice the number of cows that we were running just 3 short years ago, we have only grazed about half of the ranch this year. So I have partnered with a local seed cutter to cut fescue seed off of the half that we haven't gotten to yet. The seed is pretty heavy and I'm hopeful it will produce well. A huge advantage to us is that we can get the seed heads off the grass. Fescue seed causes all sorts of eye problems and is the primary location of the endophyte that produces all sorts of problems in cattle. This is clearly a win-win situation. We will likely have over 700 acres of ungrazed pasture cut for seed in the next couple of weeks. This is clearly an advantage of mob grazing...we would likely not have this opportunity with any other grazing system.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Forage update in one word..."Incredible"

The grass/forage that we have this year is simply unbelievable. We have never had the quantity and quality of growth that we have this year, and it has nothing to do with weather (it's actually been a little dry). The incredible improvement can only be attributed to the mob grazing we've done, beginning last year. If I used the word "miraculous" it would be an understatement. We have pastures that look to be pushing 2.5-3 tons per acre production of the most beautiful, dark green forage you could imagine (fescue, orchard grass, various legumes and grasses I've never even seen before). It's actually difficult to drive the four wheeler through some areas the grass is so thick and heavy. The only places that could use improvement are the side hills. Many of the side hills look like the entire ranch looked a few years ago, thin, light green grass with little undergrowth. Overall, I couldn't be happier with the results we've seen from a forage standpoint. Even the pastures we grazed in late April and May have grown up to the point that the grass is so thick and heavy that it's laying over...and it will be 3-4 more months before we get back to graze it. Simply phenomenal.

Moving pairs vs moving stockers

For the past few months, moving the 600 pairs every day (or twice a day) has involved a brief run through the group to check for sickness, calling the cattle, opening the gate and then rounding up all of the stragglers and calves that did not call through. The process generally takes several hours and many times, getting all of the cattle to move to the next paddock is sometimes simply impossible. Compare this to last year when moving the 800 head of stockers took 10 minutes and most of the time could be completed in less than 5 minutes...I NEVER had a stocker animal that would not immediately move to the next paddock. Even the very sick and lame ones would move, trailing the main group (making them easy to spot and treat) but never failing to move. I am hoping that as the calves get a little older, moving them becomes easier. For now, we routinely spend an hour or more rounding up stragglers with the four wheeler, pushing them to the next paddock. It's been very frustrating and time consuming.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Temple Grandin - Humane Livestock Handling

I am providing an excerpt from Temple's book for review. It discusses the specifics of moving cattle to a new pasture:

“Moving cattle on pasture works on a continuum of behaviors, from hardwired instinctual behaviors to completely trained cattle that can be led by a handler. On smaller farms and on ranches using intensive grazing, mother cows and ewes can be taught to come when called and be led by a person or a vehicle to new pastures. Animals can be trained to respond to a specific call or horn and not just to the sight of a vehicle or person. This completely voluntary movement is not stressful to the animals when done correctly. Animals should always be moved at a walk.

Nothing is worse than babies being left behind while the mothers are hungrily chasing your truck around a pasture while you are fixing fences. This is very stressful for the calves and the lambs and can slow down necessary weight gain. If you blow the horn for a few seconds before putting out feed, the animals will learn to associate the horn with being fed instead of the sight of the vehicle. This keeps the cows from following the truck when you are trying to do other chores.

Livestock movement to a new location should always be controlled. The animals must never be allowed to run into a new pasture or out of the old one. The handler should drive or walk close to areas where the animals are grazing before calling them. A vehicle or a person should stay in front and lead the animals through the gate or park at the gate to control movement. Remember: Don’t let cows or ewes get in the habit of running or those babies will be left behind.”

I will provide my thoughts and recent experiences in my next post.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Cows leaving their calves behind...

If you are reading this blog, you are acutely aware of the issues we've had with cows leaving their calves behind when they move to a new pasture. It's created significant stress on both the calves and us...there's not much worse than observing a hundred baby calves walking around an empty pasture, completely lost, bawling and trying to find mom! I'm confident this stress has been an integral part of some of the sickness (and death) issues we've been dealing with. We've actually had cows walk away from calves that are still wet when they have a chance to go to new grass. This can't be good and it's been probably our biggest challenge. I've just finished reading Temple Grandin's "Humane Livestock Handling" and Temple addresses this exact problem. Unfortunately she doesn't provide a step by step guide of how to eliminate this behavior, but she does offer some advice. We will be attempting to implement some new "moving" procedures that I hope will curb some of the issues we have with the cows leaving their calves behind and hopefully reduce the amount of stress experienced by the calves (and us!) Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

More death...

Just an update. We've lost 4 more calves to what we think is BRD (certainly respiratory related), the weather went from one of the cooler May's on record May 1-18 to 90+ degree days. It's been a challenging spring. We also lost another calf that got stomped to death under the shade...this has to be a death that's directly attributable to the "mob" and it's our second death due to "stomping". We've treated over 80 head of calves and lost (guessing) around 30 (out of about 350...we've got 600 cows but some of those were purchased pairs with bigger calves and we haven't treated any of those calves). Actually the overwhelming majority of calves we've treated and/or lost have been Charolais cross calves out of our 7-8 year old northern sourced Angus cows. The numbers are ugly.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rotational vs Mob Grazing

I posted these pics to show the difference between rotational and mob grazing. The cows escaped and we were able to get them back into a 30 acre paddock where they stayed for 3 days. You can clearly see how they spot grazed the pasture (left side of fence), picking some places into the ground and leaving others barely touched. Compare that to the right side of the fence that was mob grazed, 1 day on 10 acres. It's amazing how much better utilization you can get moving each day versus even every 3 days.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maternal Instinct is Critical when Calving in a Mob

As you know, I was very apprehensive about trying to calve out 600 head of cows while running them as a mob. Well I've learned a TON the past month, and one of the most important things I've learned is that maternal instinct is critical when calving in a mob. And I will be the first to admit that my northern sourced Angus cows just don't have it. It's been interesting to see the difference between the northern cows (they're all 7-8 years old) and my newly purchased Arkansas heifers. One of my heifers had a dead calf and wouldn't leave it for 2 days...and nothing touched that dead calf! (note: I adopted a calf onto her and she's been a fantastic mother.) Several times I've had northern cows walk away from calves that were alive! I had to drive one cow back to her calf 3 separate times! The maternal instinct just isn't there and it has certainly caused some problems. We have several calves that rob from other cows (I'm assuming they've been abandoned) and moving the mob the past few weeks has been exceedingly difficult as the cows will move and leave the calves behind. The calves start balling and it's chaos. It's stressful not only to the calves, but to me. The Arkansas heifers are always with their calves and when they move, they take their calf. Most of the Arkansas heifers have a touch of Brahman in them and that may be helping. I'm sure they were raised differently than my northern cows. The calves are getting older and consequently moving the mob is starting to get easier. The last move I made took 5 minutes...that's the way it's supposed to work. Needless to say I will be culling the majority of my northern sourced cows this year and replacing them with southern sourced cows with some Brahman influence.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pictures are fun

I know people love pictures and trust me, I take hundreds. The problem is that pictures just really don't do justice to the unbelievable progress we are making on our pastures. The results are just incredible. I think one of the biggest advantages of mob grazing is the utilization of forbs (weeds) that cattle will normally not touch. The question has been asked "do you think this grazing will kill these weeds?" and my answer is always "who cares?" The nutritional value of most forbs equals or exceeds even the best grasses so as long as the cattle will eat them, why do I want to get rid of them? I have pictures of so many different types of eaten weeds that I could never post them all. It's always fun to turn cattle into a paddock that's full of brush and weeds and go back the next day to see the results...it's very rewarding.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It takes forage to make forage.

I'm sure you've heard the saying "it takes money to make money". Well that's not entirely true, the saying should be "it's easier to make money when you have money." The same is true with forage. One of the principles in mob grazing is animal density. Density is the lbs of animals per acre. We are currently around 70,000 lbs per acre (600 pairs stocked each day on 10 acres...we double the density when we move twice a day, 5 acres each move). Well it's very difficult to get your densities high if you don't have forage to support it....or you have to move your cattle multiple times per day. If you are thinking about mob grazing, I think it would be a wise move to fertilize your entire ranch prior to beginning (I'd use chicken litter if available). Here's why: If you can get your forage quantity high, your stock densities can be much higher, your manure deposition/distribution will be much better, and your overall results will be improved. It's like getting a head start in a race. It's not that you can't do it with poor forage quantity, it's just going to take longer.

Another Scours Update

Here are the numbers: lost 3 calves early, lost 6 calves over 3 days when the cows all got out during a storm, lost 5 calves in 2 days when it rained 4 inches in 2 days and was 50 degrees, and currently have a few calves that don't look too good...all in all, not too bad. The weather is what killed the 11 calves we lost last week. We had a very cold rain with no sunshine for around 10 days. I really don't think the mob situation had any impact on losing the calves...if anything, it might have helped. The 6 calves we lost over 3 days happened when all the cows broke out into a 200 acre pasture and we simply couldn't find the sick calves to treat them.

We have very few cows left to calve and it looks like we might be past this scours episode and into the clear. The weather is warm and sunny and the calves are looking good.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scours Update

The past week has been near perfect conditions for a scours outbreak. After a warm, sunny beginning of spring, last week we had rain everyday with several days highs in the 50's. Very cool and damp for the past 8-10 days. After only losing a few calves and feeling pretty confident, we've lost 6 calves in the past 4 days, 4 of which we had treated either once or twice. So I think that makes 9 total calves (maybe 10) to date that we've lost due to scours.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Plenty of moisture....and an interesting observation

Well we have had 7 inches of rain in the last 6 days but I'm not complaining. Here is the crazy observation: We've had a very nice spring, warm early, long stretches of cool weather and some moisture. I say "some" moisture because while we haven't been dry, it certainly hasn't been overly wet. But here's what's interesting, the ponds in the pastures are 2-3 feet below normal levels. I don't feel that they would be low if not for the tremendous amount of material that is laying on top of the ground, absorbing water that would normally be running off, filling up the ponds. I can't say for sure that that is the cause, but it makes sense to me. Needless to say, I'm sure the ponds are no longer low after the past 6 days of torrential rains.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Intensive Grazing

Just watched a grazing management segment on RFD and 3 seperate times the host referred to "intensive grazing" without mentioning the "management" part. I rest my case. We need to remove "intensive" from our grazing vocabulary.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Scours Update

I am happy to report that we continue to see a low incidence of scours. We likely only have 100 or so head left to calve (out of 600) and thus far have treated less than 30 head of calves. We've lost 3 calves due to scours. We lost a calf yesterday whose momma wouldn't take care of it (is this a mob issue??) and we've lost a few other calves for various reasons. All in all, I think things have gone pretty well but we most likely aren't entirely out of the woods just yet.

On some side notes, I have to admit I'm pretty jazzed that we appear to be 75% through calving after only 3 weeks...that's pretty impressive. We had a 94% conception rate last year and it appears the bulk of them got pregnant upon first estrus. Not too shabby.

We have made a slight adjustment to moving the mob. We had been leaving the gates open or simply taking the entire fence down when we moved the mob...that allowed the cows to get back to their calves. This seemed to work very well, especially with the newborns that didn't want to move or were hid out. Now that the bulk of the calves are getting a bit older, we are rounding up all of the calves that don't stay with the cows and pushing them thru the gates (there are maybe 40 or so that we have to round up versus a few hundred a week ago). We then lock the gate to the pasture, keeping the mob in the new paddock. We are going back a few hours later and letting the few head of cows back that don't have their calf...they can then go back and get their calf and return to the mob. The problem we were having was that with the fence down, the mob would return to the already grazed pastures to hang out...not what we were wanting. We hope this continues to work. Obviously as the calves get a little older, this should get easier. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Time for a name change

With all due respect to Jim Gerrish, a true grazing pioneer and the person who coined the phrase, I would like to suggest a name change from MiG (Management Intensive Grazing) to simply Managed Grazing. Here's the problem: whenever I tell people about what type of grazing I do and mention "management intensive grazing", all they inevitably hear is the "intensive grazing" part. I've lost leases because my potential landlords weren't sure about that "intensive grazing stuff". Or when explaining "mob grazing" I hear "so you're doing REALLY intensive grazing". I think leaving out the word "intensive" might make things go a little smoother with those who don't understand the concept.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Big Thanks to Greg Judy

I want to extend a hearty THANK YOU to Greg Judy. We stopped into Greg's place looking straight out of city slickers (loafers and all) and Greg was as generous as he could be with his time, loading us into his truck and taking the time to show us several pastures and his mob in action. We spent over 2 hours talking mob grazing! I hope I get the opportunity to return the favor. Thanks Greg!

Scours Update

Well calving in the mob is certainly not easy and creates a lot of mental anguish. All things considered however, things are going pretty well. We're a few weeks into calving and have a few hundred calves on the ground. We've treated maybe 20 calves for scours and have lost 3 (only one of which we treated). We've also had 2 calves born dead, one calf stomped down in a ravine, one calf died with what appeared to be bvd, one calf out of a heifer we pulled was dead, and 2 calves that died as the second born in 2 sets of twins. We've been leaving the back fences open so that the cows can go back and get their calves. Some cows go back and regraze and sometimes it's difficult to keep the mob together to move them to the next pasture, but I think that closing that back fence creates problems....calves just won't go to the cows, especially the very young ones. The cow needs to be able to get back to it's calf, and leaving that back fence open seems to be the best way to go.

As an aside, following the advice of Ian Mitchell-Innes, we have begun offering free choice Zinc Sulfate and Zinc Oxide to the cattle in an attempt to reduce incidents of scours. I'll keep you posted on the efficacy we observe.

Weed Patch Before, During, After

I snapped a photo of a weed patch (blackberry and buck brush)in the Across the Road pasture just before we turned the mob in. I took another pic while the mob was grazing and a final pick after I moved them to the next pasture. Notice how the mob opened up this patch to allow light to get to the ground and allow grasses to start to grow. The mob has done a fantastic job of clearing brush and eating weeds, something I could not get the cows to do while rotationally grazing them last year. They wouldn't touch any weeds, now they are devouring them. I have literally hundreds of pictures of eaten weeds including buck brush, musk thistle, blackberry, dew berry, hedge trees, oak sprouts, sumac, various woody sprouts, poison hemlock etc. I couldn't be happier with the way the mob is cleaning up the pastures.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Third leaf stage, secondary tillers, mob grazing

Just a reminder to self...re-read: For Cool Season Grasses, Springtime Begins in the Fall by Jim Howell. 1. Early spring light grazing until 3rd leaf stage and 2. Be cautious about heavy fall grazing so as not to damage secondary tillers.

The key is, leave plenty of residual! Only graze heavy in the middle of the season when heavy, mature forage needs to be removed.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The mob now totals 600 head of momma cows

I forgot to post that a little over a week ago we added 192 purchased cows out of Arkansas to the 410 cows we currently had at the Goat Ranch, giving us 602 cows in the mob. The 192 head came with 131 calves and the cows are mostly (95%) first calf heifers. We are trying to go with 10 acre pastures but the forage quantity isn't quite there to support it. We are moving twice a day and trying to keep densities at 60,000+ lbs per acre. The pastures are really starting to come on and we have a lot of clover and mixed grasses in addition to the fescue. The residuals are all looking good, I'd score most of them a 3 (on the west side of the North Rock Barn pasture). The mob is doing a good job of stripping all of the leaves from the oak sprouts and eating most of the other weeds. Hal moved the mob across the road today and we hope to get a week and a half of grazing there before moving thru the Rock Barn pasture.
I really like the cows we bought and have been very happy with the way they are eating the trees and weeds and hopefully training the other cows to do the same. They look like a hardy group of crossbred (angus based) cows that will do very well. Most have a touch of ear. So far, I'm expecting to do most of my future cow buying in Arkansas!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Loose stools and calf scours

I've been told that cows having loose stools contributes to calf scour problems. In an attempt to prevent this, we decided to try to feed some hay during green up...we had a bunch of 2 year old hay that we just haven't had to feed during the winter and wanted to get it used up. Well, the cows simply won't eat it. Even when they have grazed down to the dirt, they've refused to eat much of the hay and although I'm sure I could get them to eventually eat it, I don't want to starve them to get it accomplished (plus I really don't want to eat the grass into the ground). I've even sprayed the hay with molasses and they still won't eat it....and it's decent quality hay. The cows stools of course are very loose as the grass and clover is very rich and high in protein....most stools look like sheet cake instead of the pumpkin pie we shoot for. I'm at a loss as to how to tighten them up.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Update on Weed Consumption

I mentioned in an earlier post that the cows weren't eating any of the weeds like the stockers had last year. Well, things have changed. I noticed the 192 head of heifer pairs I purchased from central Arkansas were eating leaves off of big tree limbs while we had them penned up before we turned them out. Since turning them out with the original 410 cows, I have seen a substantial increase in weed consumption. In fact, the cows are stripping the leaves off of all the tree sprouts (except the hedge), eating big chunks out of the musk thistle rosettes, eating leaves off of the blackberry, and occasionally taking a nibble of buck brush (although not nearly enough to make a dent...we have tons of the stuff). I have many more pictures of whats left of the weeds after the mob passes thru a paddock...but I've posted so many similar pics that it seems pointless to continue to post pictures of bare sticks and partially eaten weeds. I'm dubious that we will kill these weeds but at least we're getting some good out of them.
I have a theory...I think the Arkansas cattle have grown up in the brush and are used to eating brush whereas my original cows all came from South Dakota and most likely, never got the opportunity to eat brush while growing up. I'm likely done purchasing cattle out of the north.

Calving in the Mob

Well calving season is well under way and I have to admit that calving in the mob isn't for the faint of heart. The cows are squirting calves out left and right and I'm continually worried about the calves getting trampled, cows claiming others calves, heifers losing their calves, calves getting left behind etc, etc. But through it all, we really haven't had any significant issues. A few cases of scours that we've treated, a few calves we've had to round up, but so far, not too bad. There is a LOT of bawling, especially after each move as cows lose calves and calves lose their moms. Again, it can be a little unnerving. I'm anxious to see how we do with the scours as the calves get older and we continue to have new calves. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mob Grazing the North Rock Barn Pasture

These are 3 pictures showing the progrssion of the mob as we "nuked" the North Rock Barn pasture. I would have scored the residual in each of the paddocks a 0 (on a scale of 1-10). We literally destoryed these pastures and took them down to nothing in the hopes of getting all the goodie out of the huge amount of cheat grass and hopefully stimulating some other grasses and forbes to come into the large areas of barren ground where nothing but sprouts, cheat, thistle, buckbrush and blackberry is currently growing. We'll see how it works out.

Worm Poop

The South Center pasture is really greening up and coming on after we "nuked" it few weeks ago. There is a nice sized mat of dead grass trampled onto the ground and I've posted a few pics of worms we found when pulling back the dead grass mat. Well those worms have now covered the pasture with worm poop. Every time I pulled up the mat I found poop and I took a picture of one such pile. I could have taken hundreds of pictures of the worm poop. It was everywhere. I'm confident we've really gotten the organic life cycle going.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Two More Pics

These are 2 pictures of the same field, from the same location (at the north end of the North Rock Barn pasture). The first is from April 29, 2009, the second one is from April 9, 2010 (20 days earlier!)...a noticable improvement in just one year of mob grazing. Granted the weather has been warmer, earlier this year, and last year was a tremendous clover year (cool, wet spring) but the grass looks so much healthier this year than last.

Grazing Weeds

You will find several posts from last year regarding the 800 head mob of stockers and the way they devoured musk thistle, oak sprouts, poison hemlock and other weeds that I don't know the names of. It was incredible to see. Well, the mob of cows is a little more picky. They aren't currently touching the hemlock or thistles. I have read that younger cattle will try new things more so than older animals and this may explain what I am seeing. I am going to attempt to force the cattle (using smaller pastures) to eat the weeds and if that doesn't work, I plan on spraying some diluted molasses on various weeds to see if that will get the cows to try them. I'll keep you posted.

Mob Grazing Pictures

Here are a few pictures from the South Center Pasture. I call this "nuked". Absolutely destroyed this pasture. You can see from the pictures that there is nothing left, but that closer inspection shows a layer of tromped in grass. We're building soil! The first picture is interesting...on the left is a paddock we just moved out of, on the right across the fence, it has had 7 days of rest. It is amazing how these paddocks will green right up and explode with new growth. We will be back into this pasture in July to graze the regrowth. It has a lot of warm season grasses in it. After moving out of the South Center on April 9th, we are finished with all of the stockpiled grass and are now grazing the new growth in the North Rock Barn pasture.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

2010 Mob Grazing Plan - Goat Ranch

After much consideration, I think the plan is finalized for 2010 grazing. We will be moving from the South Center to the North Rock Barn...should carry us thru the end of April. From there, we will move Across the Road...should carry us thru the middle of May. Then into the Rock Barn pasture for around 25 days. Towards the end of June, we will move into the South Center, then thru the Stocker Pasture and finally into the Cabin Pasture for September grazing. That's the plan at this point.

The mob should number around 470 head of mother cows (and hopefully close to that number of calves by July). Pasture sizes should be around 10 acres (so around 150-160 pastures), giving us a density of around 65,000 lbs per acre. We will need around 3500 lbs of dry matter per acre to accomplish this goal. I think we can do it.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Calving While Mob Grazing

As we head into our calving season beginning April 21st, I am struggling to determine how best to calve them out. Last year we had disastrous results attempting to calve while keeping the mob together. We lost around 8% of our calves to scours. It was a cool, wet year and that could have contributed to our scour problem but I am frustrated that there is nothing available online that addresses the issue of calving while mob grazing. Nothing. Zero. I will continue to post my experiences as we begin calving.

I have spoken to some of the proponents of mob grazing and they say "spread the cows out while calving"...well that's great and all but the key time for me to be mob grazing is during spring. It's when we can get the most benefit from eating the weeds and brush and knocking back the fescue. I'm hoping we can figure out a way to make this work.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Moving thru the South Center

We're about half way through the South Center pasture...we have about 5 days of grazing left. The pastures we have just grazed look incredible. There is at least a half inch of dead grass layer on top of the ground. We knelt down and pulled back the cover and found earth worms nearly every time. The pastures look like they are in perfect shape to begin their spring flush. I haven't had a chance to go through the Stocker pasture but it looks very similar from the road. I have a few pictures I will add shortly. The spring has been near perfect...weather is in the 70's each day already with lots of sun and good moisture. The forecast looks like ideal grass growing weather. I plan to buy some more cows to put at the goat ranch. I don't think there is any way we will keep up with the grass we've got.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Winter Mob Grazing Complete

Well I am officially announcing the beginning of Spring. The sun is out, it's hitting 70 degrees and the grass is really starting to green up. A few days ago we finished up the Stocker Pasture and moved into the South Center where we have around 110 acres of stockpiled forage available. We are hoping to get a few weeks of grazing out of it and are anticipating that by then, we can start chasing grass. Current plan is to move to the North Rock Barn pasture where cheat grass is very prevalent. We are wanting to hit it pretty hard to 1. get it while it's good (very short window) and 2. knock it back so other grasses can start.

It's been a very hard winter...the worst on record. We've lost a few cows in the past couple weeks that were poor condition and got down in the recent mud (a few large storms created some mud issues). The cows are 7-8 years old and the winter hit them pretty hard. Hoping to put 1 BCS back on the cows before they start calving at the end of April.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2009 calf crop merchandied ....

We sold our 2009 calves at the Joplin Regional Stockyards on March 18th at a value added sale. As stated before, our calves are Angus/Charolais cross calves (Angus cows, Charolais bulls) that are vac 45 and bvd pI negative. We have sold our calves at Joplin for the past 5 years and have been very pleased with the outcomes.

The bulk of our calves sold in ONE group (the calves were very close in size). That group of steers averaged 466 lbs (very disappointing and considerable smaller than last year, but our winter was absolutely horrendous and I'm sure that most ranches weaned smaller calves this year) and sold for $1.46. That was a hefty premium to not only calves sold earlier in the week at Joplin, but a substantial premium to similar calves sold the same day.

We kept 42 head of beefmaster cross heifers that we will attempt to develop into cows (if we can't find others to purchase).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stockpiled Mob Grazing

We've moved through several paddocks now and I'm really happy with the way the paddocks look after we've moved out. There's a lot of tromped in grass and although the cows have picked it close in spots, overall, I'd score the residual a 3 to a 4. We are currently over half way through the Stocker Pasture and even though it's been cold, the pastures we've mob grazed are much greener than the neighbors pastures. The abundant snowfall really pushed a lot of the standing forage into the ground, but 10 acres still seems to be enough groceries for the 370 head of cows that currently make up the mob.

No Wormer - Cold Spring - Shipped Calves

We are trying something a little different this year...we did not worm our cows this spring for the first time. We are hoping to bring back the dung beetles. I have never seen a dung beetle or evidence of dung beetles on any of our ranches. I am hopeful that not worming may bring them back. The plan is to spot treat cows that look wormy, but hopefully we won't treat many.

On a side note, this spring has started off very chilly. The grass greened up a week ago but the temperature fell right back to the upper 40's and low 50's and looks like it will stay there for the next 2 weeks....certainly not ideal growing conditions. Thankfully we still have a few weeks of stockpiled forage available for the cows.

We loaded out the calves today, they sell at Joplin Stockyards March 18. I'm not exactly sure on the numbers but will update in a future blog.

We kept 42 head of weaning age beefmaster cross heifers but honestly, they are pretty small from the horrible winter and I am not confident that we can get them bred. We may sell them in the near future.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stockpile grazing of the Stocker Pasture

We have begun our movement thru the Stocker Pasture. We currently have around 370 cows (weighing approx. 1000 lbs each) in the mob. So assuming 370,000 lbs consuming 2.5% of body weight = 9250 lbs of dry matter needed per day. I calculated that there is approx. 2000 lbs of dry matter per acre in the stocker pasture x 60% utilization = 1200 lbs of dry matter per acre. 9250/1200 = 7.7 acres needed per day. We have 203 acres in the stocker pasture divided into 11 pastures which are then each split again, so 203/22 paddocks = approx 9 acres per paddock. Right now, the cows seem to be cleaning up the pastures pretty well, there isn't a lot of residual left after 24 hours of grazing. Our density is only 41,000 lbs per acre, but thats the best we can do without having to move more than once a day....but I would love to see them tighter. The mob last year was about the same density (800 head x 600 lbs per stocker = 53,000 lbs/acre, but there is a hell of a lot more hoof traffic with 800 head versus 372 head. I am not currently seeing the trompage I'd like to see (and that we got last year) with the cows...when we move back thru this pasture in April, I hope we can cut these pastures into thirds instead of halves. I'm anxious to see if we get the same amount of "destruction" (eating trees, weeds, trompage, etc) with the cows as we did with the stockers last year.

It looks like we should be moving into the south center pasture on March 24 and we should have around 14 days of forage there before moving into the cabin pasture and preparing to move back through the stocker pasture.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 Early Planning

Tomorrow will be the first day we will begin grazing the Stocker Pasture since late summer. The Stocker Pasture has an incredible amount of stockpiled forage that I hope will carry the 414 cows for 30 days. A little over half of the South Center pasture still hasn't been grazed since late summer and the plan is to move there in 30 days to finish graze out as green up begins...it looks like there are around 15-20 days of grazing left in the South Center, fantastic stockpiled forage there. We do have addtional areas that have some grazing left (across the road and some in the rock barn pasture) but I hope we don't need to move there.

The plan now is to move through the Stocker Pasture, into the South Center and as green up begins mid April, move into the Cabin pasture and then back through the Stocker Pasture and South Center to calve. That's the plan anyway.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2009 Calf Crop and 2010 Plans

We worked all of the cows and calves last Friday. We had a 94% conception rate on a 60 day season....331 pregnant cows out of 352 pregged. We will combine 42 purchased bred heifers and 41 purchased cows with the 331 bred cows we kept at the Goat Ranch to form a mob of 414 head of 1100 lb cows. We are currently fenceline weaning the calves and will start moving the cows each day thru the stocker pasture where we have an excellent stockpile of forage. The plan is to move from there to the south center to finish grazing the stockpile there. My landlord informed me yesterday that he plans to spray the south center pasture for thistle, putting in jeopardy all of the legumes I've worked so hard to establish...I begged him not to but he seems dead set on it. Our cattle have proven that they will graze the thistle, and managed correctly, there is no reason that thistle (or any weed) should take over a pasture...it's really a management issue, not a weed/plant issue.

Based on my calculations, with 800 head of stockers and 250 head of cows, last year we ran the equivalent of 400 head of cow/calf pairs. So 414 this year will be a slight increase in animals carried...I'm hoping to find a few more cows to buy to add to the mob, but it's not looking good.

On a side note, this winter has beent he worst on record and we've fed next to no hay, and still have a large stockpile of forage to utilize. It's been record cold with record snowfall, but we've come thru with flying colors and zero dollars of purchased feed. It's supposed to stay cold thru March which may delay spring a bit...it looks like we should still have plenty of stockpiled forage to weather the storm.