So, we had this crazy idea we were going to make some significant changes in the way we run things around here. They were met with a mixture of opinions for all we talk to. Most were not on the positive side. Here is the scoop and the update.......
Well, tired of operating in the conventional manner we were accustomed to, we wanted to change things. We realized that we were breaking the bank every year on feed costs. Planting and harvesting corn silage and baling hay. Corn is costly. More so than cash, it takes its toll on our precious soils. The soils we depend on. Through the process of conventional tillage and growing of corn, we watched as our soil became less fertile and more dependent on pharmaceutical applications (fertilizer and spray). That was eight years ago.......since then here is what we have done, and it has worked wonders for our ground. We have quit applications of chemical sprays, fertilizers, and herbicides to our soils. COMPLETLEY! We have quit growing silage corn and GMO crops. COMPLETELY. We have quit brush hogging pastures. We have minimized tillage and reduced ground disturbances when seeding. We have allowed the ground to rest between grazings a minimum of 60 days, most often 90+. We have begun intense cattle/chicken rotations of multiple moves a day. The grasses get grazed, then left alone by back fencing allowing optimum regrowth, We have employed non-selective grazing techniques that require the cattle to eat all forage, not just the best forage. We have carefully chosen genetics that fit our program--small frames, large guts, easy keeping, and docile cows. We have stood by our convictions to make our grasses and soil better using our animals, not a chemical consultant. We have eliminated many things that our neighbors refuse to give up and tried many things that most think can't be done here. They, however, have paid huge dividends for us.
The results.......nothing short of excellent. We have seen this year as our most productive year to date (with the exception of our sweet corn--but that was a weed issue, not fertility and is fixed for next year already) on the farm. Our grasses and pastures were highly productive. We planted no silage corn, therefore reducing fuel, labor, and material costs. Also forcing us to think ahead and plan. The plan, stockpile grass--save it in the field for fall and winter use. And that we did. Through careful planning and rotations we have now just begun to touch our stockpile, and we have a lot. At current pace, we will be eating stockpile grasses until February (which is the month I plan to feed hay due to snow fall and icing). Our pastures are green and full. Regeneration has been the key to our success. Non-selective grazing (which is not a very popular method among most graziers or government agencies in our area) has given our land a new look. That look is one of fullness and lush pastures. Our pastures are no longer spotted with bunch grasses and empty spots. We have allowed the grasses to fill the entire field with green solar panels of grass. We are stocking about 50,000 pounds of animal in about 1/16 of an acre plots. Moving 3 times a day. That is high density at its peak. The rewards are obvious. We have not depended on a bale of hay as of yet this year. Other years we are 3 weeks or more into the silo. Our neighbors, they are feeding already. Our cows are grazing. The grass they are eating is equivalent to, but probably better than, any hay I could store in a barn. It is free in the field.
We will continue to update you on our progress. The GRAZE GOAL as of now is January 31, 2017. It is a lofty one. But quite reachable if the weather patterns continue as they have historically been going. We monitor our herd daily. They get our utmost attention. If things begin to look bad, the grass fail, or the cows need extra attention, we have a back up. We would never push our cows beyond their capacity to gain on pasture.
Click the youtube link to watch the girls in action.... and scroll down to see what we look like in action.