Sunday, March 27, 2011

Very Good Article...

I found this article to be very interesting...anyone in agriculture should spend the time to read it. As we continue to use crop land for the production of energy instead of the production of food, and as China continues to demand more and more resources, commodity prices will continue to increase. Now would be a good time to execute long term leases on the land that you are leasing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This is why I'm so disappointed about our conception rate

This article explains that BCS at calving is the key to rebreed rates. And I know our cattle were in good shape at calving and didn't lose much condition between calving and rebreed.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stocker gains on E+ fescue/legume pastures

When I ran stockers a few years ago I fed 3 lbs per head per day of pelleted ddg all spring and summer. The stockers gained 1.6 lbs per day. I am really hoping that we can get 1.5-1.6 lbs adg on stockpiled forage and spring growth without ddg supplement(Feb 15-July 15) because ddg prices are sky high and feeding it really takes a lot of profit out of the calves. I think we will try it this year and keep our fingers crossed. I plan on having ddg on hand and feed it as the calves manure dictates, but I'm hoping that is seldom if ever. Interestingly, there is a ton of info on the internet about stocker gains on fescue and fescue/legume pastures, unfortunately results range from under a pound to 2.5# adg....hardly anything to rely on. If the stockers only gain a pound a day, we'll likely lose a chunk of money, but I think it's a chance worth taking. I feel a little like the degenerate gambler who's lost the past 10 hands but who's now thinking "I'm due!"

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring has sprung

The grass is really starting to green up at the ranch. I'd say we have an inch or two of new growth and with a nice rain a few days ago and 75 degree sunny weather today and tomorrow, I'm hoping the grass really starts to pop. We are pretty much out of stockpiled forage and so will now begin the very frustrating task of "chasing grass". With only a few hundred head of our calves and a few hundred cows at the ranch now, the grass should handily out pace them. We hope to have everything off by July and stockpile forage until bringing stockers in in Dec-Jan. I have to say I'm pretty happy with the grass at the ranch. It looks a little better than the neighbors and I'm confident that it will quickly out pace any other pasture in the least that's what I'm hoping. I was going to take some pics, but there just wasn't anything very compelling to show.

Our calves are framey and not overly fleshy so should do very well on the spring flush. The biggest concern is the high protein in this early grass/legumes that produces the sheet-cake manure...I don't think the calves do very well when that rumen is clearly out of sorts. I've discussed with Hal (at length) the possibility of keeping stockpile all the way up into May so that the cattle are never eating that new growth fescue/clover that creates issues. I also hate chasing grass...I know that when the grass is only 3-6 inches tall, a single bite takes it down to the ground and that is NOT what any grazier wants to see. To run on stockpiled forage up into May will require a lot of management, and most likely push our stocker purchase back into late Jan or even Feb. We would like to keep the stockers for 150 days. If we want to run on stockpile until May 1, then we would turn cattle in 75 days prior to May 1 (Feb 15) and pull out 75 days after (July 15). I am very concerned about water quality if we keep the calves into July, but have decided that if we make 150, 10 acre pastures (about what we have done in the past), we could move twice a day and hopefully be able to get to fresh water at least twice a day. I think this is very workable. I will go through my calculations in a future post of how we are going to determine our stocking rate.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Preg checked the cows and worked the calves

I think I'm starting to understand why this blog is popular with people: everyone reads this and instantly feels much better about their own operation. So we preg checked the cows at the goat ranch last week and we got a 55% conception rate (for a 75 day breeding window). We've never had a number that bad and of course a logical person would blame the mob grazing. Maybe I'm just blind to the obvious, but I'm not ready to do that. We calve in May and June which means we breed in August and September. This past summer was record hot and Hal and I think that it had a significant effect on our bulls and to a lesser extent our cows. The cows were in pretty good shape (BCS=5) at calving and we know that is by far the most important factor in getting them rebred. I just don't understand how the mob grazing could have had much of an impact. Anyway, I'm extremely disappointed and will now be selling off nearly half of our cows in a few months (we're going to hold them for 60-90 days to try to get them bred before we sell them). I think the future is extremely bright for cow/calf producers, but I have to admit I'm looking forward to running stockers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

News flash...

Grazing of pasture can improve soil quality and grass yield We've landed on the moon!

Also wanted to include a link to my new case any of you are looking for atv or utv wheels for your four wheelers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm always amazed at the power of the internet...An email from France

Hello Nathan,

I'm a young crop advisor in Normandy, north west of France, exactly 15miles where André Voisin used to farm. My parents are farmer (mainly crops : potatoes, flax, beet roots, wheat...) and even if I'm not a cattle man I read all your blog with a lot of attention.
I did an internship on a farm in Colby, KS in 2008, and met Jey Fuhrer from the NRCS of Bismarck, SD when he came to France. He showed us what Gabe Brown did on his farm ( and I was very interested about "mob grazing".

I'm reading "Grass Productivity" from André Voisin and I am a bit disapointed on some points. André Voisin (and the other who followed him ) told us to begin grazing at 9" and to go out of the pasture at 3" after 3days of stay on the same paddock. It is known that at this high the grass is at its maximum value.
You are leaving the grass to rest for a long time, wich is very good for its productivity, but according to your pictures you are coming back when the grass is very tall. Is there a nutrition reason why you are doing that ? Voisin worked mainly with dairy but he wrote that he was also right for cattle. In the spring he also recommend to run the cattle when the grass is just regrowing to top off all the plants, give some food, and not having to run after grass growth that would be too tall... what is your opinion on that ?

I read some articles on mob grazing and holistic management. I don't understand what is the advantage of having some grass trampled. I understand it can provide food for soil life, but in France I found that leaving some grass behind the cows leads to a poor regrowth, so I don't know what to think.

The flora of your field may change with mob grazing but I think you will see it along the years. I would like to thank you about your blog, I'm checking it regularly, I like the weed pictures and would be curious to see how it will turn this year.


And my response:

Hello Victor,

Thanks for the email. I grew up not far from Colby, KS…small world. Voisin’s book is very interesting and I learned an enormous amount from it. The one big thing I took away was the importance of observation. I spent many hours watching my animals graze…I would never have done that before reading “Grass Productivity”. Voisin was a master of observation.

There is a lot of talk around when to turn back into a pasture to graze it and how tall the grass should be. I just read an article in The Stockman Grassfarmer about the importance of energy versus protein and I agreed with much of what was written. When I ran stockers a few years ago and even with my cows last year, in the early spring we see one to two months of what I call “sheet cake” cow manure…the manure is very runny and green. It’s a clear sign of too much protein and I have seen the cattle perform poorly when they get to this point. It is important to keep your cow patties looking like pumpkin pie. It is a good sign that the cattle are eating a balanced diet. I would suggest to you that you observe your cattle’s manure versus the height of your grass….experiment with it. You will quickly find out what works. All grass is different, so I can’t tell you how tall your grass should be, but you will quickly learn what is too tall or too short simply based on the manure patties. As the grass get’s shorter, your protein levels will increase and your manure patties will get runnier, as it gets taller, your energy levels will increase (and protein decrease) and manure patties will firm up. So it will depend on the class of cattle that you are running (ie: stockers need more protein than cows, wet cows need more than dry cows) and the relative protein values in your grass that determine when (how tall) you should be grazing your grass. I personally like to let the grass/forage get as tall as possible (maximum grass production), it seldom seems that we are lacking in protein, but we have worked hard to get clovers started that are likely increasing the protein levels in our forages, regardless of height.

I think the trampling of the grass is absolutely a critical piece to the success of mob grazing. If you can get the grass trampled down into the soil (or at least making contact with the soil) it’s just like you have fertilized that ground. I have been amazed with the quality and quantity of regrowth we get when we do a good job of trampling the grass in. I’m not sure why you are seeing that it is hindering growth…you need to make sure that the grass is being “trampled” into the soil and you are not just leaving some grass behind. If you are leaving the cows for 3 days, you are likely NOT trampling in any grass. 3 days is way too long to leave the cows on a pasture and it would NOT be considered mob grazing. To get to mob grazing, you need to at least move your cattle every day, and preferably twice or more each. It’s the only way you can get your densities up to take advantage of a true “mob”.

Thanks again for your email and best of luck in your grazing….keep me posted as to your results!