Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Comeback Farms :: Chapters 12 Book Report

Greg Judy does not use a tractor (at least that's what it sounds like in this book). He purchases all the hay he needs and moves it around with his truck and a bale trailer. He uses this set up to move the bale around and to unroll it. Besides that it sounds like he uses his ATV quite a bit for everything else. So, the topic of chapter 12 seems to be right up his ally. In this chapter he talks about reducing his fuel consumption and letting the animals do the work. I think I need to agree with him!

Just yesterday I looked out and saw all this brush sticking up in the pasture that I'm going to reseed in the next week or two. I decided that I need to go out there and knock those down with the mower (you have to realize that these are basically just sticks coming out of the ground because the cows striped them bare last summer). So, I fired up the tractor and hooked up my 5 foot brush hog. After a couple of passes I realized how wasteful this was really going to be. It wasted my time and my money and all to knock down a few sticks! There are a couple patches that I need to knock down with a saw, but really I don't think they will hamper the no-till drill any and once we get out there grazing I'm sure they will disappear under some cattle pressure.

This all leads me to what is really on my mind right now ... pasture seeding (I know that was a short book report, but it was the end of section one of the book so it was a good break). I am now on the list to use the no-till drill that is housed at our County Park (funds for it coming from multiple sources) and I need to get my pasture seeding mixes nailed down.

Last week I mentioned the Grassfed Webinar that I listened to online and I was very excited to see the "pro" (in this case Doug Gunnink) offer a good pasture mix for Iowa that he likes to see people use. Here is the mix he suggested:
  • 35% Pradel Meadow Fescue
  • 35% BG 24T Perennial Ryegrass
  • 13% Baraula Orchardgrass
  • 10% Green Spirit Italian Ryegrass
  • 7% Alice White Clover
I think all of these varieties are from the Barenbrug company and I'm not sure yet if I will be able to find them in my area. So, I was wondering if anyone out there had any suggestions for pasture mixes. Mr. Gunnink suggested seeding that mix at 25 lbs. per acre. I'm going to hit part of my pasture this year and then see what happens next year. Thanks for any thoughts or help!


Anonymous said...

That is a great point. I attended a seminar a while back summarizing results on a research farm. They cited fuel as being the biggest hitter for expenses. And not just in the expected places- they tracked everything, like driving to town to buy a bolt for a repair, or someone driving to the farm from their home to work there. Apparently it was a lot of these "little things" that really added up to make fuel be the biggest cost. It resonated with me, I can be sloppy about leaving the tractor or ATV running while I'm doing stuff, or make multiple trips with said tractor or ATV because I forgot something at the house, and have to drive back up to get it.

Rich said...

I was finally able to listen to the archived webinar a few days ago, and I think the pasture mix was called Eagle Pasture Mix (no mention of who actually sells it).

I got the impression that he also suggested using BMR sorghum-sudangrass to 'fill in' during the summer when the pasture mix was producing less forage and as a finishing forage. Locally, I've seen sorghum-sudangrass double-cropped after winter wheat for hay production, and a small dairy down the road usually plants it into grazed out winter wheat in early May for silage and grazing (it seems to grow so fast that you can almost see it growing).

Are you planning on using some sort of starter fertilizer? As expensive as seed is, it might be cheap insurance to broadcast a little fertilizer (~30 lb. of actual N/acre) or some 18-46-0 in furrow if your drill has a fertilizer box.

As long as you have the drill at the farm, why not try experimenting with some small plots of sudangrass or millet? Or, drilling some corn for grazing? Or, plant a 50 lb. bag of oats from the feedstore just to see what happens (or if you get a 'volunteer' stand of oats next fall or spring)?

Anna Banana said...

I find it interesting that Gunnink doesn't recommend any alfalfa in that pasture seed mix -- is that because it won't stand up to rotational grazing or just too rich for ruminants?

I also have a 4-acre field I need to reseed for pasture -- it's currently alfalfa, orchard grass and red clover that's been mowed for hay the past 5+ years (I just purchased it). I was thinking about reseeding with a blend of ryegrass, orchard and/or bluegrass, white clover and a small percentage of alfalfa. I wonder if I should reconsider the alfalfa.

I don't have a tractor either and am planning to just reseed slowly over the next year using my sheep and horses to overgraze the areas I want to reseed. I'm considering getting some pigs to follow the sheep, to root and till, in the Joel Salatin method.

Rich said...

Anna Banana,
I think the reason is that alfalfa is less tolerant of shade, which means that a thick stand of grass will start to thin out the alfalfa. Red clover is supposed to be able to compete better in thick grass.

Alfalfa also has a more upright growth, while white clovers grow closer to the ground. Supposedly, white clover will keep growing and spreading even if it is clipped extremely short, while alfalfa is less forgiving.

But in spite of all that, it won't hurt anything if you try planting some alfalfa and managing your grazing to suit the healthy growth of alfalfa. Or, plant a mix or some test strips of different clovers and see what happens.

Rich said...

Adding to my comment "...Or, plant a 50 lb. bag of oats from the feedstore just to see what happens..."

There is some more information about that idea at:

Summarizing the article, if you plant a spring oat after the day length starts to decrease (summer solstice), it will produce forage instead of grain, giving you the chance to extend your grazing season and/or allowing stockpiling forage for winter stripgrazing.

According to the ideas of pasture cropping advocates, drilling oats (or other small grains) into your existing perennial grass pastures for either grazing or grain harvest can significantly improve your native grass pastures.

Steven said...

I just wanted to say that we really like the alfalfa in our pasture mix but I don't think it would work well at all without MIG and plenty of rest. We have lots and lots of legumes, alfalfa, ladino clover (great!), and some medium red clover, but I don't think we have enough actual grass. We have orchard and later we planted some Max Q Fescue but it only took hold in select areas. Since then we've planted some annual rye. I really wish that we would have focused on having more varieties of grass and then adding the clovers/alfalfa in smaller amounts or later because (at least the clovers) are very prolific. DON"T WORRY about bloat... as long as you ease them on it, ours have had NO problems.

Rich said...

Steven, I have no experience with grazing alfalfa, but shouldn't you be able to manage your grazing to favor either more grass growth or more clover growth? After all, the whole idea behind MiG is varying your grazing management to suit the type of pasture growth you desire.

As an example, a shorter or a longer rest period might encourage more grass growth instead of clover growth. Raising or lowering your stocking density might change the ratio of clover to grass. Varying both rest periods and stocking densities should give you even more management possibilities.

Steven said...

At this point I don't know how I would adjust the managment to increase grass over legumes. I just graze hard and give lots of rest (50 days min). We tried grazing a little less dense for a few days and instead of even grazing we got spots grazed to the grounds and untouched areas.

GT said...

First off i've gotta say I'm a huge fan of your blog! Me and my partner are still at the planning stages of starting our own operation and are currently looking for our piece of paradise.

Fuel consumption is one of our big concerns in the agricultural front. I may be a little biased but I think horse power is a great alternative. It may take a little longer to hitch up a team but when you consider the freedom it provides from a dependency on fossil fuels it really is worth it. It may not work depending on the scale and work your doing but for things like feeding round bales or logging or going out to check on your herd/flock. There are tons of implements out there for pretty much everything that you can do with a tractor and with powered forcarts you can pretty much use normal implements as well.

We currently own two draft horses that we board in the area we'd like to buy our farm and we help out with a lot of the farm work with our horses and its great practice for when we have our own property not to mention a hole lot of fun.

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