Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Quality Pasture" :: Chapter 3 & 4 Book Report

This continues to be an interesting read, and as I read more and more I continue to believe that I know less and less! I have noticed Mr. Nation bringing up dairy cattle a lot in his analogies and stories, but this was to be expected because I read that on a few reviews. Dairy cows require a higher level of forage to continue to produce high levels of milk so this information is important to dairy grass farmers, but the higher quailty forage surely doesn't hurt the beef producers.

This chapter is specifically about year-round grazing in temperate climates, and he discusses different plans and grasses/legumes that would be practical to use in this climate for year-round grazing. Grazing your animals through the entire year is an interesting concept and is one that I am somewhat familar with through "All Flesh is Grass" by Gene Logsdon. To me it seems like it would take a lot of inputs (seed and soil amendments). I don't know how the numbers would work out, but I question if it is just as economical, or more economical, to make hay during the spring/early summer flush when your grazing can't keep up with the pasture growth and feed that hay durining the winter months. Also, by using a hay shed type of feeding system like Joel Salatin does I think you may also be able to save more nutrients rather than them hitting a potentially frozen pasture.

There was some interesting information about promoting clover growth among your pasture grasses. The grass can easily outgrow the clover so it is important to keep the grass clipped so the clover can thrive. Another thing that has come up in this book, and in "All Flesh is Grass", is the idea of feeding standing corn (green ... and by the way corn is a grass) along with brassicas (rape, kale, turnips, swedes, and cabbages). These are all interesting ideas, but I don't know if I am ready to tackle any of them just yet. I think they would be great if I wanted to stock the pastures at a higher level than would be expected even with excellent pastures, but really there is no reason to go to all the work if I don't have the animals to harvest all of this exceptional food (Mr. Salatin says that a lot).

The great thing about reading a book like this is that it gives me a glimpse into all the possibilities and gives me hope for the small farmer ... even in Iowa ... the king of corn, soybeans, and really BIG green and red tractors!

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