Friday, August 29, 2008

Grass Finished in the Deep Snow

With all that has been going lately I have hardly had a chance to browse through my August issue of "The Stockman Grassfarmer". But, after working on the house this evening I picked it up and found an interesting article titled, "Finishing Grassfed Cattle Year Around in Deep Snow Country". This is the type of article that interests a grassfarmer from Iowa, although I hope and pray that this winter isn't a "deep snow" winter in Sounthern Iowa!

The article is written by William G. Winter (DVM) who is a consultant for Thousand Hills Cattle Company, a grass finished cattle buyer, and contains ten great points for the grass finisher in snow country. I won't take time to expound on all ten of them, but I will mention a few that I really appreciated.

#2 - Prevent Heat Loss Stress With Wind Breaks: It seems that they advise against barns (I'm down with that), but do stress the importance of wind breaks if you want to maintain good winter gains. He says they mostly used stored forages (net wrapped or tubed), but of course any good wind break would work.

#5 - Prevent Parasites: I loved this quote, "Well-mineralized cattle, whether through the forages, supplementation, or both, do not get parasites. To my mind, there is never a case where poisons need to be used to control parasites." Mr. Winter (fitting name, huh) goes on to write about Basic-H and diatomaceous earth.

#9 - Use Correct Breed Selection: This article suggests English breeds (how about Irish?), smaller with lots of muscling, the ability to develop a think coat, and cattle that are from smart stock. By smart stock (my words) they are talking about cows that root around in the snow, find shelter in storms, and stick with their young through rough weather.

Every single point was great, but I don't want to copy the article word for word! I am encouraged with our Dexters after reading through this and experincing one winter with them.

1 comment:

Rich said...

"...Prevent Heat Loss Stress With Wind Breaks..."

There is an university winter wheat test farm about ten miles away that compares different varieties of winter wheat and the grain yield differences between wheat that is both grazed and not grazed.

The fields are subdivided and every other subdivision is stocked with a group of stockers. Since they are out on an open wheat field for most of the winter, a simple windbreak is provided that is basically a portable Y-shaped wall.

Each leg of the “Y” is about 10-14 ft long and about 4-5 feet tall (something like a corral panel), covered in galvanized corrugated metal. I think the idea is that the “Y” shape provides stability for the wall system while creating corners that allow the cattle to get out of the wind regardless of its direction. In addition, sunshine is reflected off of the galvanized sheet metal and it creates a slightly warmer “sub-climate” around the structure (warming the ground and the cattle).

If a bad storm was predicted, round bales could be strategically placed around the windbreak to provide both feed and additional shelter until the storm passed.

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