Second herds and mirror images

I like my column to be fun but also a little educational. The few
points I feel well-versed enough about which to speak somewhat
authoritatively include beer, our cats and cattle pasture. This week
you get the cattle pasture talk.

I could almost hear the ground stretch this spring as it shook the
stiffness from its awakening structure. The winter came and went with little snow so the
land slept lightly without a blanket this winter. As a result, the
cold penetrated more deeply and there was little melt water to kick-start the growth.

We have received approximately 4/10th’s of rain this spring until
last Friday so the topsoil is dry and hard. As I dug some fence posts
recently, I found standing water at about three feet. There is also
subsoil moisture so I have left the pasture alone to allow the grass
to grow and establish a mirror image of roots deep into the ground
and also a canopy to prevent evaporation. May 19th was the first day
off the sacrifice paddock and onto my finishing pasture. The
sacrifice paddock is some tough, old native pasture that defies abuse
and always bounces back from over-grazing.

I have two paddocks to renovate this year. I would prefer some cover
on these two pads however the alfalfa was almost gone and I need
legumes to help me finish the steers quickly. I sprayed Round-up then
no-tilled some corn and soybeans into the first pad and a mixture of
alfalfa, orchard grass and fescue-for late season grazing-into
paddock number two. Honestly, I wish I’d left last years cover in
place however my crystal ball doesn’t pick-up the Weather Channel so
I have to decide when to renovate a paddock and let God decide when
to let it rain. I also picked up a little red clover to try in a few
paddocks that have plenty of grass but declining legumes. Legumes
include clover, birdsfoot trefoil and alfalfa, all of which create
nitrogen which is inhaled in great volumes by the grass roots.

The cattle receive 3-5 days on each paddock which means they take the
tips of the plants and move on, gotta preserve root depth. The roots
of most pasture plants create a mirror image of whatever plant
material is above ground so the higher the plant, the deeper the
roots. Deep roots take advantage of subsoil moisture which we may
need if rain gets short. We will focus on mashing the overgrowth down
in June to create a nice pasture mat to decrease evaporation and make
the soil cool for the worms and microbes. Worms and microbes are the
“second herd” on the pasture and eat up some of what the cattle leave
then turn it into elements beneficial to the soil. Other than that;
it is up to the sun, fresh water, the cattle and my management.

I create the workplace, the cattle are now at work. I will update you
later about how well my new paddocks are doing and how much sugar the
pasture plants are creating. That is the kind of technical
information that should make even the most interested reader’s eyes
glaze over.

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