Monday, June 2, 2014

One step forward, three steps back

This year i'm working slowly on three long-term projects; the first is planting, growing and harvesting forage crops to feed mostly cows.  The second is to raise a group of dairy heifers, 10 of them, to maturity and breed them.  The third is to keep my pig operation on track to increase its production by about 50% in the coming 12 months.  

One tough customer
The forage project has been a mixed result.  I planted grass and alfalfa last year but considered the entire planting to be a loss.  I planted too late in the year, and we had both colder and wetter (a lot wetter) weather to deal with.    So I plowed the whole thing under and tried again this spring.  

The upside was that i got a lot of time with the tractor and implements; I'd never used an in-ground plow, and there's nothing like time in the saddle.  i spent a good two or three weeks working out how to use the implement, and at the end was able to produce smooth straight furrows that disked up well.  

The downside is that seed is expensive, and alfalfa seed particularly expensive.  So the education cost me about $3,000 in seed and about 90 hours of tractor time.    
the squash patch, probably 3 acres.  hard to see how big it is
plowing, and then three passes with the disk, and then carefully reseeding gave me better results this spring.  the true test is how it'll survive the winter.  I chose orchard grass as the primary pasture grass, based that on the advice of other farms in the area as to what grew well and was relatively hardy.  
100% alfalfa (it's grass/alfalfa in the foreground looking green, the background is alfalfa
another 50 acres or so, various test plots out there.
So far so good; everything is coming up well, and we've had enough rain and enough sunshine.  Over the next few days I'll be working on the sprayer systems, so that I can spray the contents of the manure lagoon over the new growth.  The manure lagoon is pretty diluted at this point; the water is green, but it's been at least three years since new manure was put into it.  I'm stirring up it up for some aerobic digestion.  I'll be spraying the squash patch pretty heavily - I've got a couple of days before the plants come up,and I'd like to get as much as I can into the soil before that happens.  

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