Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What to Do, What to Do...

Yesterday evening I drove the tractor out to the farm and pulled out the hay rake because I was getting tired of people commenting about the fact that I had a tractor in town! No, really I took the stuff out there so I would be able to get to work. But, while we were out there we decided to take a walk across our 26 acres of soon to be pasture ground and again the wheels in my mind started to turn. In the past I have considered mowing, baling, or burning, but none of that has happened for various reasons. First of all I don't have a bush hog, secondly it probably wouldn't work to well to mow with our haybine because of the anthills and brush, and finally they haven't made it to my name on the burn list yet (Have I mentioned it has been very wet).

So, as I was walking through the pasture-to-be yesterday I began to think about a fourth option (one of the comments mentioned this) which is just sticking the herd out there and trying to graze it down. There is quite a bit of green grass coming up between the matted down tall switch grass and if they were given enough area they would have plenty of food. Also, I was thinking/wondering if their hooves tramping around the pasture would break down the old switchgrass?

Of course this would be the most inexpensive way to begin conditioning the pasture and it is beginning to feel like it would also be the fastest. With the late planting season this year it has been difficult to borrow/hire/work with other farmers. They just are so focused on their planting right now it is impossible for them to get the old bush hog out of the shed or do baling in May.

So, what do you think? The downside is that I probably wouldn't be able to get as much hay off the ground this year as I had thought was possible. I may be able to scrounge up a pull behind mower in the next week or so and then maybe I would just mow it all, but maybe doing some mildly high intensity grazing along with spots of mowing would be the best bet. Also, Dexters do have a reputation for browsing ... that would help with some of the brush that has sprung up in a few areas.

I look forward to hearing what others think on this subject. Click on the picture above to see a bigger picture of what the pasture looks like.

10 comments:

Dave_Flora said...

I'm for going ahead and grazing it with the Dexters tightly packed. It will give you a feel for what the herd does to the land, and also give you a look at what kinds of forages the Dexters prefer. I've read that there's no more efficient grazing mix than cattle and sheep together, but since grazing is cheap and you can do it now, why not? You can always mow other areas of the farm when you can line up a mower later.
-Dave

Ryan Houts said...

I recommend feeding the herd Sugar Cookies and Red Kool-Aid.

Maybe play them some bari-uke.

Steven said...

That may be better to try with hogs... Maybe like pre-sugar-curing.

Scott or Pam said...

You might look into ultra high density grazing, this might accomplish your goals faster.

Rich said...

There's a form of less intensive rotation grazing where your available pasture is divided into 4 paddocks, then you rotate your cattle through only 3 of the paddocks on about a 30 day rotation. The 4th paddock is saved as a reserve in case of drought, but usually is just left as a fallow pasture.

In the next year, the fallowed paddock is put into the rotation and a different paddock is allowed to lay fallow for a year. As an aside, it is debatable if there is any actual benefit to letting a pasture lay fallow.

Except for the brush, your pasture is essentially in the same state as a pasture that was fallowed, and in this type of rotational grazing plan would just be grazed like normal (without brush-hogging, etc.).

From the viewpoint of a grass plant quickly regrowing after being cut, it it supposed to be best for a grass plant to be clipped by grazing, second best is being sheared off by something like a sickle bar mower, and mowing is the hardest on the grass plant growth (since it tears the leaf more than cleanly cutting it).

So, even though your pasture might look more "ragged" when you just stock it with cattle and let them start grazing, the growing grass might actually be healthier by not brush-hogging the entire pasture.

Personally, I would just start grazing it, and when I got tired of looking at the brush I would "spot mow" it by driving around the pasture, mowing the brush as I came to it. (It sure makes you look and feel like a fool as you weave back and forth all over a pasture while mowing scattered pockets of brush)

Ethan Book said...

Boy Houts ... I think you nailed that, I mean it worked for us!

I think I am with you all, I'm just going to get my fence up and start grazing it. Then as was mentioned just go out there and spot mow where I need to. I may not get as much hay with this method, but with all of the rain this spring we should get a lot from my dad's land.

Anonymous said...

I have 14 acres planted in switch grass at my uncles farm, for training my springer spaniels. I am trying to talk him into getting a cow or two once again. Does switch grass with a mixture of brom make good grass for cattle to graze on?????

Ethan Book said...

Anonymous - From what I have have read and hear switchgrass can make a fine grass for grazing (it is a native grass), but that it is most palatable for the cattle when it is around 6 to 8 inches or so.

Anonymous said...

I think if you check out Joel Salatin's article on Tall Grass Mob Stocking in the May 2008 Acres Magazine you will find it address your situation as well as answering some of your questions on Ultra High Stock Density. Actualy it's on line. Here's a link to it: http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/May08_Salatin.pdf

Anonymous said...

Sorry the last part of the link is getting cut off. It should end May08_Salatin.pdf

Or you can just do a Google search for Tall Grass Mob Stocking

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