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Old 02-09-2013, 08:14 AM
carl.net carl.net is offline
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I thought through your grass last night while I was sleeping and have had some thoughts. Based on your being willing to take some time to prepare your field before you put cattle in it I believe you can do some things that most people never have the chance to do. So here is my multi step plan for field restoration that should get you back into the grass business with a bang and keep you from having to reseed your pasture every five to ten years and fertilize every few years.

I am going to assume that you did not chip all the trees you took out and spread them back on the ground so you have lost all their stored nutrients. So the first thing we will need to do is replace those mined nutrients so you are not starting with a net loss. I would suggest buying poultry litter and having it spread. It is much more expensive then it used to be but it is still cheaper than chemical fertilizers and adds both nutrients and tilth to your soil. Do not be stingy on this as you are trying to replace what you have lost and build up a bonus. You will want to lightly till this in (not deep) so that you get the worms working for you. If you donít have many worms go buy some and seed your field but make sure to get north American worms north European imports and you do not want night crawlers as they are lazy.

Step two, you are going to need a good source of nitrogen to feed the decomposition of the woody portion of the poultry litter so you will want to plant legumes. I would plant a mix of red clover and alfalfa to fix nitrogen for you (both are heat tolerant and med to easy to establish vs the other choices of legumes). Most folks who use poultry litter do not realize that for at least the first year the litter will be robbing nitrogen from their soil while it breaks down. So during the initial breakdown period they get significant amounts of fertility but their soil becomes poorer until the nutrients can be rereleased. Whereas, by planting the legumes you will replace the nitrogen which is being consumed during the decomposition of the litter and will end up with the full benefits of the decomposed litter and the extra nutrients from the legumes.

Step three, plow your field of legumes back into the sold and plant your final grass mix. This should be done at least one year after your field of legumes was fully established. Once plowed you need to reseed with your final grass mix. I would chose this mix to have a large balance of cool season grasses (60%), some warm season grasses (30%), and which ever legumes (10%) did the best from your first planting. Some seed from your first planting of legumes will already be present in your field so you will end up with more than 10% legumes in your mix. Give this grass about a year to get established before you put your cattle on it.

Step four, section off your field so you can rotate your cattle around the field. This is a very important task as what you want is to force the cattle to eat the grass evenly and then move on to a new section. If you do not do this they will eat all of your warm season grass and kill it and your field will have less of the diversity you need. Also by rotating them you bank part of the grass for slow periods of growth so that you do not have to buy hay.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:05 AM
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Step four, section off your field so you can rotate your cattle around the field. This is a very important task as what you want is to force the cattle to eat the grass evenly and then move on to a new section. If you do not do this they will eat all of your warm season grass and kill it and your field will have less of the diversity you need. Also by rotating them you bank part of the grass for slow periods of growth so that you do not have to buy hay.
Carl, you bring up some very valid points. I especially liked your comment about the "Grass Farmer". A good healthy dose of chicken litter is a very good suggestion. You are also correct about utilizing worms. They do a great job of breaking down organic material as well as aeriate the soil.

I will add this though. Wherever a person is, it is best to use the types of grasses that are most common in their particular area. There is no need to reinvent the wheel as others have already done what Kev is doing and they have figured out what works.

Warm weather grasses
Coastal bermuda
Common bermuda
Water grasses such as Bahia and Dallas grass

Cool weather/Winter grazing
Fescue
Clover
Winter wheat (reseeded every year)

Some people do plant alf alfa in their pastures is this in Kev's area, but not many. Most just put it in thheir hay meadows. Going along with what you said about chicken litter, if he plants bermuda grass and does not overgraze it, he will have an abundance of warm weather graze. I have seen bermuda grass meadows produce up to 6 1500# round bales per acre when chicken litter was spread right before a good rain. The bermuda does a really good job of spreading itself. In the ares that are shaded seem to do really well for fescue.

He lives in a great spot for grass production and he has a long growing season. With some planning, he should be able to get by with needing very little hay each year. Again this will be determined by how many head he runs and whether or not the land is over grazed. Usually in East Texas, chicken litter is fairly reasonable. It may be prudent to spread some for the first few years to get some nitrogen in the soil to assist in the breaking down of the trees and organic material that is left below ground level.

If it were me, I would plant the grasses and give them a chance to become established for atleast a year but preferably 2-3 before I stocked the land. During this time he will need to stay on top of weed management. East Texas is a very fertile region and will grow just about anything. Weeds are a big problem if not controlled. With only 13 acres to worry about, a spray rig on a 4-wheeler would work fine.

If the cattle did begin to overgraze one particular area, or neglected a certain spot, a solar fence charger and a few posts would solve the problem. An intense cell grazing system could be implemented with the use of an electric fence charger. A few minutes work every couple of days would guarantee even grazing and would be beneficial to the ground as well. This is where gentle cattle come in. Most of the cattle in Kev's area have some brahma blood in them. They are great for heat tolerance, but they dont do well with electric fences. Be sure and tie surveyors tape on the wire every so often as a flag.

We cant forget mineral. Just like vitamins for people, cattle need theirs as well. There are several different brands and most have a mineral blend that will be formulated for whatever region a person lives in. You can also gather a soil sample and have it analyzed (this is cheap) to find out what minerals you are lacking for cattle production. Keep in mind that mineral needs are different for beef production than they are for dairy. I mention dairy in case he decides to have a nurse cow and raise leppy calves on her. I really like Vigortone products. They make a super mineral and they also make a really great milk replacer that will keep the calf from getting a pot belly and looking bummy.

One last thing for now. Kev you can check with your extension office about having a small pond (stock tank) dug. Sometimes they will have programs to help with getting ponds dug. They will come out and help determine the best spot for a pond, as well as how big it needs to be. They will help livestock producers, just dont tell them it is for recreation. Once the pond is in you can start stocking it with whatever ever you want. I would go fishing and bring my catch home and let loose in the pound. Within in 2 years we catching fish and had a healthy population that was sustaining itself.

Good luck.

Tex
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:50 PM
Houndhunter Houndhunter is offline
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We own and operate a cow/calf operation of (at this time) 20 cows/18 calves (as of today) + a bull. Our numbers are down due to culling, 8 were killed due to getting a load of feed that had fertilizer mixed into it and it's just been so hard to keep replacement heifers with the sale prices these days. Since we are down in numbers we are working on our 65 acres of pasture, 15 acres of hardwood timber and 25 acres hay field. I also lease an additional 100 acres for hay. My plan is to fence off the pasture into a rotational grazing pattern and work with 2-3 acre parcels. We are planting warm and cool season grasses in different parcels to extend our grazing season. In addition to this we are going to create a 5 acre "sacrifice" parcel near the barn that will be used in the winter months when we won't rotate them and only feed them hay. After green up I'll work up and plant this "sacrifice" parcel in corn most likely that will be picked and used as feed. This, we hope, will keep our weeds down in our rotation parcels. I am thinning our hardwood forest and planting back Dunstan Chestnuts, Allegany Chinkapins, and Hazel Nut trees. These trees produce acorns quickly (within 2 years in limited numbers) and along with the already mature pecan, hickory, red and white oaks will help fatten our hogs in the fall, cutting down on our feed useage.
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:11 PM
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If you have brush that you want cleared out, or briar thickets that need to be gone, let the cows do it. Winter feeding time is the best to accomplish alot of clearing. When you put out a bale of hay, set it right in the middle of the thicket or brush that you want gone. Keep setting the hay a little farther in and eventually the cows will have it all knocked down and churned up. In the summer you can plant something in this spot, or have easier access to the trees.

Tex
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:12 PM
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8 were killed due to getting a load of feed that had fertilizer mixed into it
That is one of the reasons my cattle eat grass only, directly from the field. No feed, hay, corn, etc. If it did not grow in the field they are standing in they do not eat it. With the exception of snacks to keep them friendly.

Sorry to hear about you loss of the cattle. I feel for you!
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Old 02-09-2013, 09:00 PM
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Well my input should be taken with a grain of salt.

Our cattle (SW MO) are out in the open 24/7/365, if you have trees/treeline they will use it as a wind block or shade.

Water is extremely important, we have pond access in each field with some being spring fed. We also have the spring tapped that feeds a backup water supply if it gets really hot/dry.

Breeds, that personal choice mixed with your climate... We've raised purebred/registered Santies (Santa Gertrudis) they do VERY well in the heat (was hard to locally find different genetics locally to keep switching bull bloodlines). We raised purebred/registered Angus, was so-so, found it was $$ to $$ cost comparison for purchasing/selling. Currently we are running Limousins cows breeding to purebred Red Angus.. they give dark red calves that finish out high/lean with good marbling, they do well at market usually in the top 10% for $/100

If its ok to give some suggestions:

1) Use a bull that throws calves with a small birth weight, but weaning weight is ~avg.. this will help your heifers and cows with calving issues, potentially saving you big headaches and $$

2) Change up your bull every 1 1/2-2 years if your holding back your heifers for breeding. Calf to breeding age is ~2yrs.. this will help lower genetic issues.

3) If you have a "crazy" cow/bull, send her/him to market. Dont assume that you can "tame" them down.

4) Your older cattle should be bred back and sent to market in the 3rd period to keep your stock in good health/age.. the older they get the less likely they will get preggo. 3rd period cows will bring a higher price than one unbred. Same hold true if you buying..

5) Dont skimp on bull genetics!!

6) Work you field up with some quality pasture grasses (check with your local Extension office on what would work best for you).. Even the best genetic line cattle will produce horrid cattle if you don't have grass/feed to produce.

7) Soil test every year.. stay on top of keeping your fields in top condition..

... I got more but i think ya got the idea
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:11 PM
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Our cattle (SW MO) are out in the open 24/7/365, if you have trees/treeline they will use it as a wind block or shade.
Mine are in the same location in the state. Your advice is quite good so lets take it with a salt shaker... Grin.
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:43 PM
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Where I live and ranch now is a whole different style of ranching than where I grew up in Texas. Here, on a good year it requires about 45 acres per unit. Last year with the drought it took about 65 acres. If we dont get some more snow and moisture from now till spring we will be hauling water to the cattle. Because of the drought hay is costing about $6,000 per semi load of round bales. Because we are so far from any farm country and the drought they suffered as well, range cake is well over $400/ton. Its gonna be a rough year.

Tex
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Old 02-09-2013, 11:57 PM
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Wow, farming is so different over there.

If I were to build up the fertility of the soil i'd put in a crop of brassicas for summer or autumn - probably summer. Strip feed it out over the drought. brassicas grow deep, bringing up a lot of nutrients from low down, leaving a lot of roots in the soil. They also sterilise the soil and kill nematodes - they're a relative of mustard. At the end of that, sow a good quality modern seed mix from American version of Wrightsons - over here it would most likely be a respectable 80/20 rye/clover mix. you'd want summer clover and winter clover. Rye's good protein. A very good quality grass but perhaps won't oversummer so well. Most drought prone areas here have a grass called browntop - very good low fertility grass, survives drought well, is actually superb in lawns but that's another matter. it's low protein, won't fatten animals but will keep them going.

Linky...

After that, when it's come up well, we would use paddocks, ie cut up the "fields" I believe they're called in the US into respectable sizes. Arrange them so that gates are in the corners - nothing like watching someone trying to herd animals out of a gate that's not. don't skimp on strainer posts or you'll know all about it in the next floods. In fact - get a contractor in. it's sooo worth it.

We use rye here because it's got really good protein, most of ours is inoculated to avoid fungus and staggers.

Having said this you still can get staggers in spring. In New Zealand it's often from lack of magnesium, the grass grows so quickly in spring, a land low in magnesium anyway grows grass positively lacking in the stuff and they get staggers.

I have always seen grass as a crop. You get a spring crop, you get an autumn crop. You feed that crop out and prolong it as best you can,, but they're finite crops. It's not constantly growing like you'd think. It needs constant rain to constantly grow. You also need to constantly interfere with its sex life. it's trying to procreate and once it does, that's sort of it. This is something rotation is good for - constantly setting it back to square one.

Rotation is a way to reduce worm burdens on cattle, it breaks the cycle if you give the proper length of time out of the paddock. it also gives the desirables, such as clover, which will be eaten to death otherwise, a chance to recuperate.

You need to work out a fallow year, how much land you have, how often you're willing to go fallow. And how you prefer to do it.

You can fallow your land simply by letting the grass grow rank (don't know what growth you get where you are however) and it will fall where it stands. Contrary to popular opinion if you have a good crop of grass it does not get weeds. What will grow up next spring will be just the same grass so long as you don't turn the soil. Next year you can let the cattle in and it will be chomped down, stomped on, and all that fantastic thatch will dissipate into the ground and upgrade your soil.

another fallow technique is to grow a crop of legumes and turn them under as a green manure. I am less convinced by this - if you have clover in the grass you're getting nitrogen, which is all legumes have going for them. Some people swear by green manure, some argue against, saying that although it gives a flurry of nitrogen this is short-lived and creates an ultimate nitrogen deficit. I don't know the ins and outs of that however. Your other fallow option is pasture renewal - of the brassica --> resow variety.

Now; i'm iggerant. I'm a lifestyler, one of those people who have had homesteads, much like Kev is talking about, so i have not been a career farmer. I thought I should let you all know this - I spent time as a girl on a dairy farm, my mother comes from a sheep farm, but about texas I know approximately diddly squat, and about career farming equally little.

I'm only posting because of this chicken pooh manuring idea stated above, which seems like an insane amount of work for very little benefit. You don't fertilise pasture - you make it grow its own. It's just too expensive and time consuming otherwise.

Yes you probably need an initial mineral adjustment, and maybe now and again another one. But don't get trapped into fertilising your paddocks on a regular basis.
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Old 02-10-2013, 07:51 AM
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Old 02-10-2013, 04:58 PM
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I have highlanders here in Wisconsin, though I have no idea how they would do in Texas. I have them because they are not polled and while gentle to those they know, they do know how to defend themselves and their young from predators. They also do really well in our winters. I don't need much feed for them, even when they are lactating, because they are such good foragers. I just supply a little grain after they are freshened.

I have mine mainly for milk, even though they are a meat breed they do very well for small milk production. I milk OAD and leave the calf with the cow so I don't have to deal with that mess. Of course where there is a calf there is meat in 18 to 24 months so dairy is good, though you need to do your research.

I like the heritage breeds of highlander, dexter, or galloway, but again, that's for Wisconsin. I like these because they drop better than the more modern breeds. I've only ever had to pull a calf once. Many of the big breeds you need to have a pull stall to help the mother along. That can get old really fast for me. Others don't mind though so everyone has their own needs.

If your county extention is a good one see what they recommend for small farmlots. Ours here have a good amount of information to share.
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Old 02-16-2013, 09:40 PM
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Two calves born this weekend. Must be spring!
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