Tuesday, March 30, 2010

With temperatures quickly rising towards the seventies, all graziers are rejoicing in that we are hopefully beginning to leave the horrible weather of the past months behind us. Years from now we will talk of the repeated efforts digging out trails of snow just to get to our animals to feed them only to be followed by the bigger challenge, wallowing through the mud to get late winter, early spring feed to animals getting closer and closer to birthing. There are many "experts" who chime in that supplementing ruminants with winter feed is silliness and the difference in making a profit or not. They would say that making hay is foolishness. I would agree that the less hay you make and the more grazing you do, the better off you will be financially, unless . . . Mother Nature forgets to read the rule book and decides to dump heavy snow on you the first week of December and then follow that up with another 30 or 40 inches mixed with intermittent ice storms and rain effectively completely shutting off any grazing from December through April. Those cattle and sheep have to eat. The challenge becomes feeding them as economically as possible once you find yourself in need of feed. We are using cornstalk bales, CRP hay and excess forage we harvested off of our pastures last spring. Some would argue that there are better combinations and I would love to hear what you're doing. The best thing I did the past year was to hold off the beginning of breeding season for both our cows and ewes. As of today we still have no little critters on the ground and have dodged many of the horror stories I've heard from fellow producers trying to save animals in the past month of mud, rain and cold weather. Next year, I'm going to back up the onset of our calving season yet another two weeks. Good grazing to you, Bill

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 25, 2010 Grazier Blog

Welcome to my first "grazier blog" entry. As I watch the rain coming down, slop through the mud choring and bemoan our cow's body condition, it would be easy to slip into a dialogue about the bad weather and the very, very tough past four months of winter. I will instead, focus on a brighter future and list my goals for this farm's grazing operation in the coming year.

1)Delay the start of breeding season until July 15th.

2)AI the yearling black heifers to a calving ease polled Hereford bull.

3)Combine the fall calving and spring calving herds into one unit.

4)Try some high density, controlled grazing on mature grass stands.

5)Continue quail habitat/grazing trial plot work

6)Focus our long term beef breeding program on 5 frame cattle with easy fleshing characteristics.

7)Raise the money to facilitate the purchase of a newer big round baler capable of baling crop residues, especially cornstalks.

8)Install rip-rap in at least one washed out crossing

9)Convert the syphon watering system on the Ryan pond to a through-the-dam system with a hydrant to allow for year round livestock watering.

10)Continue removing unwanted trees and brush from our pastures, especially honey locust tress and multi-floral rose bushes.

11)Continue to expand our sheep herd using Ile de France breeding stock.

Each of these goals could be a blog topic in themselves and I hope to touch on all of them in later blogs. Email me anytime with your thoughts and questions. Good grazing to you, Bill