Tag Archives: healthy-living

Why Rotational Grazing?

Since this is a question that has been asked several times over the past weeks, we decided now would be a good time to discuss what actually drove our decisions.

A few years ago, we allowed a local large-scale dairy farmer to utilize the 80-ish acres of tillable ground for producing crops for his farm. What we didn’t realize at the time was how he intended to use the ground. After tilling the soils around  half of the farm this first year, we started noticing some issues with soil retention. We held conversations with him to communicate our concerns about the erosion and run off issues. Unfortunately, our concerns fell on deaf ears or he just didn’t care.

He continued to till the ground from lowest to highest points, providing “alley” lanes for the water to just run toward our pond. Water wasn’t the only concern, it was also the over abundance of manure waste from his farm that he began applying as well. Every field slops toward the pond.  Concerned over contamination of our pond, we started really paying attention to what was going on. Even to the extent of documenting through photographs what was happening. Our Department of Environmental Conservation started doing water samples too. Low and behold, the phosphorus levels started to increase in the pond water. Not to the point of dangerous…but close.

Look at the top, you will see bare ground and corn stubble
A closer look at the “silt” or soil erosion
All the water funnels to a pond…can you see the “silt” along the ice?

There are ways this could have been prevented all together!

With just the simple motion of NOT plowing the field straight up and down the slope, much of this erosion would have stayed in the field instead of heading directly into the ponds. Cover crops that establish root systems would have worked too. Unfortunately, neither happened and now, we as the land owners need to repair the damages.

What started out as major concerns over erosion and run off, we stumbled across some information that has undoubtedly changed the course of our entire farm. The recommendation to start rotational grazing for our small herd of cattle has altered our whole perspective on farming. In April of 2012, we started rotational grazing on the lone 4-1/2 acre piece of the farm that wasn’t plowed up and bare dirt. We spent around $800 for step in post, braided wire and an energizer. It took us a few hours to put in the posts and another couple of hours to string all the wire.

We started grazing April 1st, 2012. We started noticing after the first month that the grass was getting greener in spots from the cow manure patties. We started noticing less and less water running across the field too due to the small pieces of matter laying between the plants. We noticed that our grass was still growing in July when every one else’s in our area had dried up and turned brown. Benefit after benefit started to show.

We planted the highest elevation piece into grasses for hay and future grazing too. 30 acres were planting with grass and legumes. After the first three weeks, we noticed less and less run off from that field too! Another 14 acres was reseeded and we started noticing spots of no growth. That got us to wondering why some spots were growing great and others barely at all. After walking through the field, the explanation was simple! All of the topsoil was GONE! Literally, it had all flowed off of spots and deposited in others. All that was left was the shale rock base. We knew right there that something had to change dramatically!

After talking with our Natural Resources Office and our local county Soil and Water representative, we all came to the same agreement. Based on the success of our rotational grazing trial and the erosion issues, we would all work together and apply for some grant funding to put the entire farm into Managed Grazing. March brought us the approval and the contracts for two separate programs! We are happily reporting that the full 90 acres of acre we deem as “farm” will soon be pastured and used exclusively for rotational grazing and hay production ONLY. There will be no more tillage, other than by cattle hooves.

Which do you think would be better if it was your property?

Erosion from water on tilled ground that was left bare after the corn was harvested fall of '12
Erosion from water on tilled ground that was left bare after the corn was harvested fall of ’12
Water draining out of the pasture.
Water draining out of the pasture.

 

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Friday Surprise

Yes, I know….It’s Sunday but, I haven’t really had time to sit down and think about writing  since Friday morning.

That morning, I went out to do my morning chores and while gathering up our milk cow out of the pasture, I noticed that one of the Dexter’s was missing. The other two laid up on the diversion ditch with their calves, relaxing in the early morning sun.

I figured I would do my morning chores of milking and feeding and then once I turned Belle, our Jersey cow, back out into the pasture, I would take a walk through the wet grass to find out how Minnie, our smallest Dexter, was doing.

So after chores, I turned Belle back into the pasture paddock. By this time, all of the Dexters had disappeared from sight. Down over the small hill I go. As I crest the top to the point where I can see the lower end of the paddock…I see one, two, three black Dexters and next to them: one, two and oh wait…what’s that dark lump right there in the tall grass?

THREE CALVES!!! Our last and final calf was born! We haven’t been running too good on our stats for female calves, otherwise known as heifers. I was excited and couldn’t wait to see if it was a girl…I walk next to them. The mother was fine with me being there as long as I didn’t bend down or squat but finally…I got to check! IT’S A GIRL!  With a big Woo-hoo whoop, I managed to scare the calf and her mother…but all settled down quickly.

Here are some photos of our precious girl and only heifer calf of the Dexter clan!

Our newest addition!
Momma! Wait for me!!!
Mini-Me (aka MeMe) compared to Mr. Farmer’s hand
Here is the first image captured of our little girl~

Marching Forward

******This post contains graphic images of the birth of a calf.*******

How can it be that time seems to stand still for days or weeks on end and then BANG!!!! almost half the year is gone. I think sometimes that we just get so busy that we start ignoring the little things, like the minutes ticking away. I know that’s how it was for us this weekend. It was here, it doesn’t seem like we did anything at all but then POOF it’s gone.

It isn’t like we didn’t do anything. I washed laundry and dishes in there somewhere. I fixed meals and did chores. I did the normal ho-hum of every day life…but I can’t seem to remember what I did on what days and I have to keep looking up dates on photos to get it right. Maybe it’s just old age. Maybe it’s just my short-term memory loss (caused by a car accident in ’95)…..I honestly don’t know. It just seems that time is going by way to fast!

These thoughts start rolling through my head as I watch a first calf heifer trying to give birth to a calf. It was not an easy one and did require some assistance (the front feet and legs were not properly placed). All births make me think of my children being born and without fail, makes me feel old since my oldest son is 14-1/2 already!!! I can tell you, most days that is a reality check for me. In my mind, I think I am still 25 and I am capable of doing so much!

I am not 25, I am actually the ripe old age of 37 and still a young pup in my eyes. Of course, right? I still think in my head sometimes that I am 25. 🙂 I will be that old grandma that still acts like a kid and goes out to throw small square bales around at 70, that is if I live that long and the MS doesn’t take over. I want to be that lady…we all know one or two of them…that goes and goes. You know the one, every time you see her in action you are amazed at how well she is doing and getting around for her “age”.

Anyways…now that I am done complaining about time disappearing, back to the weekend. Yup, everything was going just as usual. Chores, laundry, meals, dishes, blah, blah blah…seriously, do we see where the farm chores rank! I hate doing laundry and dishes…but I do like to cook! Oh wait, there I go, rambling again….

On Sunday morning (and yes I verified the dates!) I got up early, did the milking, feeding and normal chores. Then I went through my normal morning inspection to “talk” to each of the cows. My morning inspection consists of checking feet, legs, bellies and heads. I check for any type of sores, bumps, lumps or limps. Most mornings this includes a brush and my hands on the Jerseys. The Dexters are a different story…they are just getting to the point where we can touch them. Frustrating for me because I forget sometimes and reach for them anyway…think of it like this: I am standing in the pasture next to one, talking to another and absent-mindedly reach out and touch the one next to me. It usually results in a near-kick and the cow running. Defeats the purpose and then I have to start all over with a nervous cow. GRRRR!

As I am inspecting all of the cows, I notice that #47, aka Annie, is walking rather strange, like her hip is really bothering her. Now mind you, she was due to calf at anytime…so I figured “Here we go!” I decided to give her about an hour and then go check on her. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t wait too much longer to go check too. I found her in the farthest corner of the pasture, bellering up a storm and anxiously pacing. After running, up hill mind you, to the house to get equipment (including the camera) and Mr. Farmer I was so out of breath (haha: old age!!!!) I could hardly move. Upon arriving back in the pasture and next to her, I could zoom in with the camera to see in close up detail what was going on. *Insert note here: Yes, she let’s us touch her…but she didn’t want us around her at this point.

Here is what was going on…..

Notice that the one leg is slightly withdrawn behind the other. This put the nose (which you can see just above the foot) and the front foot all at the opening. She was struggling and was starting to rip. So, Mr. Farmer decided that was enough of a struggle for a first calf heifer and he intervened to assist.

Much easier after the feet were moved…

For me, this was amazing and difficult to watch. I know all about difficult births and I felt bad for her. Once the head came out, the body slid out easily…that is until the back hips entered the top of the birth canal anyway.

Almost there girl…hold the tension Mr. Farmer
FIVE MINUTES LATER! A healthy and lively bull calf!

A half hour later, while debating names…we decided that he is going to have to be steered for beef just like the other bull calf that was born three weeks ago. All of our steers named here on the farm are aptly named for cuts of meat….so his name is now Sir Loin!

Sir Loin and Beefy, ages: 2 days and 3 weeks!

He was a rather large boy for a Dexter, weighing in around 60-70 pounds! He is huge and as you can see in the photo above…the same size as the tradition size of a 3 week old calf!

Needless to say…I forgot everything else that happened this weekend! It just doesn’t seem as important somehow as a new calf!!!!