Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things I Have Been Observing This Past Week

The cow are in a particular bad area as can be seen here. The soil can only support mostly moss and Yellow Hawk eye weed but there is a little Bunch Grass and surpassingly Hairy Vetch which is a legume and fixes nitrogen from the air to the soil.
As can be seen here these mossy areas tend to be on the hillsides. This is from erosion when the field was crop farmed many years ago. Notice it is green in the hollows the grass grows better here do to more hummus in the topsoil. I have been moving the cows three times a day through this area. I want to keep the herd impact the same so I have kept the paddock the same size but move it three times to compensate for the lack of forage.
The green to the right in this photo is where I started the rotation two weeks ago it is amazing how fast it has come back even though It was grazed completely down to the dirt as can be seen in on the left.
One thing I have noticed is that the cows eating behavior has changed, they eat every thing in sight even the plants they normally avoided when I gave them a bigger area to graze. Also there is more manure being dropped in this poorer area then last year do to the cows eating every thing down to the dirt not just eating the choice morsels and then going to a better area and dropping their manure and urine in this good spot.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How I move the Cow's fence

It has been a week now since I have increased the herd impact. I like what I am observing and how the animals are eating more of the grass in the smaller paddock. The cows were able to stay in an area for a week which I normally would have let them graze for a few days. This dose not mean that there has been a increase in the forage. What I think is going on is that since the cows are not roaming all over a large area they cannot be choosy of what they have before them to graze and they are forced to eat the undesirable plants. I have been giving the cows about a 90 x 20 foot strip to graze at a time. I am presently grazing the cow on the land next to our land it has some good soil and some poorer soil. The owner lets us graze our animals for free as long as we do not use permanent fencing this has worked out well for us and to have this extra land(about 18 acres) and we don't have to pay land tax! I am using pollywire and fiberglass posts to fence in the cows. I really like this wire it is very easy to set up an area to graze and can be quickly taken back down by reeling it up on a hand cranked spool that hangs on my neck. To set up an area I guess about how big to make the main fence and set this up. Then I take a second spool of pollywire and make a cross fence this makes the fourth side of the 90 x 2o foot strip paddock. So once this is all set up and the cows are in it only takes a few minutes to move the cows by moving the cross wires.
After the cows grazed this area I noticed that there is a lot of dead grass from last year. This is okay as it will add a lot of humus to the soil as it brakes down.
This is where the cows grazed last week the new growth can already be seen.

One thing I have been taking notice of is non grass plants in the pasture. This is a plantain plant we use it as a antihistamine when we get a wasp sting and I am sure that it also a good plant to have in the pasture since the animals eat it. Many plants that are called weeds are actually very good to have in the pasture since they are high in minerals and vitamins which unlike the trace minerals and vitamin shots is in a ready plant form that is not rejected by the body.
This is Rocket a type of wild mustard
This is Chicory it has a deep tap root that brings up minerals from the subsoil.
This plant looks like a grass but is actually a type of Sedge it grows in wooded areas. Also there are wetland Sedges that grow in swamps.

This is a Michigan native bunch grass it seems to be dead but new bunches are coming up next to it.
A close up photo of the new bunches
This is a good example why I like polywire. The fence line happened to intersect the backdrop of our shooting range it is very easy to make it follow irregulars in the landscape.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pasture Observations

I have been moving our animals every day onto fresh pasture for 10 years.
Notice the animals are anxious they know I'm about to move them. It is very easy I just lift a section of the fence and they run into the next paddock.
Here they are on the other side contentedly grazing.
Here can be seen how I have the fence divided up into three paddocks, this is something new for me. How I had it before was one 82x82 foot square I still have it set up like this the difference is the that now this 82x82 square is divided. And I am moving the herd three times in 24 hours at present. By doing it this way I have increased the herd impact on the the area fenced in.
Look at this photo it has a noticeable greener thicker path of grasses and weeds. This was where we fed hay 3 years ago when we ran out of grass. At the time I thought grass seed from the hay made this spot grow more grass. But now I am more inclined to think it was increased herd impact. The hay might have had a little seed in it but I now think that the hay concentrated the the herd within the 82x 82 foot paddock much like I am doing now.
Before we started grazing this land 5 years ago this photo and the one below would have looked much the same. All that could grow was moss, but by grazing it the moss has been disappearing more and more each year.
This photo of the moss was taken only 15 to 20 feet away from the photo above. It is amazing what grazers can do. I hope to do a better job this year of concentrating the herd impact on this moss and see if it go away faster.
Also since concentrating the herd I have notice that the manure is more evenly dropped about and stepped on.
Recently I learned that in three years there should be a cow pie dropped on every square foot of the pasture. The greener spots are where an old cow pie is so it is ease to see that this can be accomplished soon.
One thing I have noticed is that on the poorer ground the manure dose not rot fast and can sit for years. This is because there is not very many earth worms, dung beetles, and microbes. I hope that this will change with the increased herd impact.

These are sheep droppings that have not rotted ether. With the right herd impaction all the dead vegetation will be pressed in to the soil by the herds hoofs. This will increase the hummus and in turn the earth worms, dung beetles, and microbes.
On the good soil in our pasture there is a better balance of earth worms, dung beetles, and microbes. This lush spot of grass is where a cow pie was last year, it has completely disappeared.
The dung beetles have started to clean this cow pie up. When a animal is treated for parasites with a chemical wormer it makes their droppings poisonous and kills the beetles.
I will be taking a photo of the grass between these three stones once a month to monitor the growth.
I have been doing the same thing with the cows too, and since they are a heavier animal it is easer to see what their hoofs are doing to the soil.
As can be seen here, notice the impression in the center of the photo.
Another new thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as over grazing but should be called under rested. And that a paddock should not be re grazed for a minimum of 90 days. Notice the definite grazed and ungrazed line.

This post is not to teach the concept of healing land holistically, but is what I am learning at present, and what I have observed in the past. I want all the praise and glory to go to The Creator and maker of the plants and beasts of the land. And many thanks to those who have set me on the right track of holistic grazing, primarily Cody Holmes of rock'n H ranch, and Julius Ruechel through his book Grass-Fed Cattle.

My New Blog

This blog is where I'll post my learning experiences and photos of my newly learned holistic approach to livestock grazing and forage management. So check back soon for more posts.