Monday, April 26, 2010

Third leaf stage, secondary tillers, mob grazing

Just a reminder to 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 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.