Summer Project-Cattle on Grass

I like to occasionally take on a project . If I feel the project is interesting, I will write about it and sometimes, even recommend others try it. This week I want to deliver the first installment about a project I recently began.

I like cattle on pasture, they look great and make our farm come alive. I purchased our farm from Lloyd Noreen, who told me that while he felt that while our land was too nice for pasture, I should follow my dreams. This summer we will follow that dream.

First off, I fenced off some of our land several years ago. I did a little at a time so that we could still rent out the land that wasn’t fenced. I have fenced a little more every year and completed fencing last year. That should have been the end of it but I graze cattle a little more intensely which requires more than just a perimeter fence. I laid out fences within the pasture so that I could let the cattle eat in one section then move them to the next paddock while the first one rests.

Two years ago, I laid out our first water pipeline. When you graze cattle intensively, you need to have water close to where the cattle graze. If the cattle have to walk a quarter mile for water, they are burning off their gains plus they’re walking when they should be resting. Our first pipeline was mostly above-ground and consisted of a mad grouping of black water pipe and garden hose.

I have always grazed pasture that consists of quite a bit of alfalfa, along with orchard grass. Alfalfa sometimes causes bloat which can kill quickly so I put out blocks of “Bloat gard.” These blocks are basically molasses with a some soap mixed into it when it’s pressed. The soap reduces causes the gas created by alfalfa, which causes bloat, to dissipate until the animal’s stomach becomes accustomed to the pasture.

I had all of the elements for cattle on grass, right? I had; cattle, pasture, water and fence so that should about take care of it. When you raise cattle strictly on grass, the greatest commodity you must earn is knowledge. It’s called “management-intensive” grazing, and the skills you need to manage are in books, magazines and in conversations with those who’ve already done it. I have been working to be a good manager for the last several years and it’s a process that will continue as long as I have cattle.

It would seem I am done with my project. The truth is, I have just started. This summer, with mammoth help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, I plan to re-do much of the work I’ve already completed. I plan to bury all of our water lines and replace the garden hose with something better. I will remove our poly interior fences and replace them with fence that should last the rest of my life. We’ve already re-planted pasture that combines grass with legume to make a nice mix. Some of my old pasture looks it’s age and I recently no-tilled corn and soybeans into the sod which will be eaten green during the summer slump.

There is much work to do, however I have good help. I wanted you to know what we have we’ve done in the past so you have some perspective as I tell you about the new projects on our farm. I plan to get some pictures, explain each process and how it will help us raise cattle and do it better. I hope you enjoy it.

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