Making our Cows Work for Us.
Grass is a funny thing.
There is either too much...
Or not enough of it.
Many cattle farmers actually consider themselves grass farmers. While we are raising cattle to either breed or butcher, we wouldn't have these cattle if we didn't have grass to feed them.
Grass farming is one of the biggest challenges we face. We have to balance having enough grass to feed our animals, but not so much that we have to mow it down with a tractor.
On top of the spring and summer grazing, we have to prepare for the winter months. Some fields have to grow in order for us to harvest hay for the non-growing season.
It is a constant juggling act.
Each year is different due to constantly changing weather conditions and different numbers of cattle. Some people are better at managing it than others.
But, for all of us, the goal is to put in the least amount of effort to gain the most amount of feed.
This spring has been a bigger challenge than normal for us.
We are in the in-between stage where we have too many cattle and not enough land. We either need to get rid of some cows or buy/lease more land.
But, until we make those decisions...we have animals that are hungry.
We are struggling to keep up with our pasture supplies, while allowing the hay field to grow. Last winter's hay supplies are gone, so we can't make any mistakes.
Each pasture must be eaten down with great efficiency, leaving nothing behind, while allowing other pastures to grow to their desired height.
The hay field looks probably the best it has ever looked.
We are just waiting for a stretch of dry weather to be able to cut.
In the mean time, we are getting a little anxious.
But, we have found a solution.
It is time to put the cows to work.
We mow a 2 deck wide strip all the way around our hay field.
This may not make a lot of sense, but it works for us.
This border around the hay field keeps the hay wagons away from all the overhanging branches as well as keeping the hay out from under the shade of the trees.
It also makes for a great 4-wheeler track. We can drive around the field to check on the progress of the hay without driving through the hay and flattening it. We also have a fire pit in the back of the field that we can then access without damaging the hay.
This leaves us with a section right along the fence that does not get mowed. The fence row is rough and has a little bit of an incline to it. It is not prime real estate for the zero turn mower.
In order to keep control of the weeds along the fence, Daniel hooks up the bush hog about once a year to knock down the grass and unwanted weeds.
Now, we have some warm blooded lawn mowers.
There is no point in burning fuel and our precious time to mow the fence row. Instead, we decided to run some of our electric fence and let the cows graze on the lush grass.
Not only does this add several days to our pasture rotation, it keeps the fence row cleaned out.
We use fiberglass step in posts to divide all of our pastures into smaller sections for grazing. We then string electric polywire. The wire tied around a piece of our electric perimeter fence, easily electrifies all of our temporary fencing.
We have used this method for years and it has enabled us to control exactly where and how much our cows can graze. And believe it or not, the cows respect the single wire of electric fence.
For the fence row project, we ran 2 strands of fence because the calves are so little, they tend to walk under a single strand and then get lost in the hay field.
The fencing runs from the barn paddock all the way across the front of the hay field and then along the hay field to the back fence. This allows the cows to graze the entire fence row, but also go back to the barn if they want more water or shade.
It is probably a half mile from the back corner to the barn water trough, which is too far for the cows to travel for water. They can walk that far, they just usually won't.
We knew that we needed to provide closer access for water.
We hooked up the water storage tank to the pallet forks on the front of the tractor. We filled the tank up at the barn and then headed out to the fence row.
We dug out our supply of empty mineral tubs.
By the way...don't ever throw the mineral tub buckets away. You will be surprised all the things you can find to do with them.
We put a mineral bucket under each tree and then filled it with water from the water tank.
This gives the cows a place to refresh themselves in the cool shade of the trees.
We opened the gate and the cows knew exactly what to do.
And they don't discriminated against the weeds.
It didn't take them long at all to start mowing down the fence row.
Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures, but desperate times sometimes just make you use your head. The only two options we were left with was to buy hay or find more grass. More grass doesn't have to be a perfectly shaped, flat, previously manicured pasture. Grass is grass and the cows don't care where there food is, just that they have full bellies.
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Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.