Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What is overgrazing when it comes to pigs - or any animal, really?

Walter Jefferies over at Sugar Mountain Farm has made promoting pastured pigs his main enterprise for  the last 10 years, and he's reached a lot of people with that message.   But every now and then I think he goes off key.

The hardest part of putting animals out to graze is learning how to graze to get the best production of forage off of your land.  How fast the animals eat, what they eat, how much damage the hooves do to the ground, and the weather are all factors.
picture cropped from a larger one at sugarmtnfarm.com
The picture above is one that was used to illustate how the sows "...mow the grasses, clover and other forage down to a almost lawn-like consistency...",

The grass in this picture is less than 1" tall, and is sparse.  there's a fair bit of rock and bare dirt showing in the picture, and honestly, this looks overgrazed to my eye.  Why do I say that?

Colorado state university pasture management
As you can see from the picture above, the roots of the grass are very likely very short, and the total energy that the plant has -- energy used for survival, growth and recovery - is likely to be pretty low, too.  Ideally when you're done with animals grazing there's going to be a good length of forage still available.  The picture that Walter promotes as his practices doesn't show much of any stubble left.  

Rain crow ranch, picture source
In the picture above you can see cattle to the left that are on new ground; just grazing, and a grazed area to the right.  With a rotational grazing system - which requires a fair bit of work, both with extra fencing and extra management to move the animals from place to place on time - you can keep your forage in good condition, and double or treble the amount of forage actually produced.  

As always, when you see something promoted on the internet, take it with a grain of salt.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Busy, busy busy

 So the flu ran its course; roughly 3 weeks of feeling terrible, then a whole bunch of non-farm stuff like federal tax return prep and some other business stuff, and some county-government stuff, and then some farm work.

I've been cutting and raking and tedding 60 acres of orchard grass/alfalfa hay, and will be bailing it tommorow (6-7-2016).  Scheduled in a crew to help me put it in the barn.  No idea on bale count; somewhere around 2,000 bales - the forage has been growing great, the hard part has been finding the right weather window to put it all away.

Seed corn got delayed in delivery, so I'm 3 weeks behind where I'd like to be, but I think it'll be fine.  I'm planting seed corn from alseed.com (albert lee seed company) and picking a shorter season variety to give it the best chance to dry down.  I'm planting 10 acres more corn this year than last, which people in iowa will laugh at - "what, 10 acres?  we plant that on our morning coffee break!" - but for me it's a 25% jump in production and I'll use that corn to feed the hogs this winter.   I'm pretty much fully equipped to handle the corn - disc, planter, seeder, combine, grain dryer, storage bin.  the only thing that I can think that I need is a long auger to load the storage bin, so I'm looking around for one of those.

I purchased a laser land leveler implement, and my intention is to use it to level areas of my fields as I till them so that I can flood irrigate out of the manure lagoon.  I'll write it up and do some videos after I get the hay in the barn.

Had some baler issues today or I'd be baling today.  Since I couldn't bale I planted the corn.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

This isn't flu season, is it?

I've been down and out for the last few weeks with an apparent bout of the flu.   I'm on the mend now, but I've got to say that it' s been challenging keeping up the normal work while sick; I think we all have days when you don't want to get out of bed; for me, that's been the last two weeks.  

The fields are tilled, waiting for the corn to arrive; been ordering from Albert Lea as they've got a good selection of organic corn strains; and shipping isn't terrible, but it does take a week or two to get here.  I'm working on the planter to move the rows from its current 36" rows to 30" rows, so that its identical to the combine and to the cultivator.  

Piglet sales are slower than usual; I've been holding back on selling the pigs that have had a health problem; they're looking ok but I want to make sure that they're past whatever it is before I sell any more of that batch.  I've got new batches that are not showing signs at this point.  So I think we're done with this.