This installment seems like a twisted version of Bill Murray’s “Groundhog day”. From November 29th to December 7th, we started with snow, then rain and mud and Sunday ended sunny, frozen and dry. It’s tough on animals and tougher on plants which have been standing for over 100 days. Because of muddy conditions and impacts to the land, I chose to move through paddocks 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 quicker (see chart I lost 2 days of the plan).
Saturday brought 50 hearty souls to the farm in the cold rain to see the realities of trying to find a balance between animal performance, land impacts, riparian management and making money. It’s no wonder folks feed in the barn and control inputs after sloshing around in the mud. Some very good discussion came out of the day plus some future research monitoring on the effects of leaving the stockpile over the winter versus grazing it down. (I put some posts by the plants to see what happens to growth rates this spring) I’m also comparing the hooved-up paddocks versus a lighter graze with less impact.
I was happy to hear from the majority that the cows looked good. Someone even challenged that I might have fed grain. There was some conversation that the heifers had too much feed and I could give them less which would make them graze more tenaciously and alleviate wasting grass by dirty feet. My actions are dedicated to keeping them from making mud and setting my paddocks back for spring so it’s definitely a struggle to figure out the best course. That’s why frozen ground rocks!
I appreciate everyone’s suggestions and participation while being transparent to what is actually happening and how to manage through the nuances of weather and keeping animal performance acceptable. I had our guests fill out a buffer questionnaire to measure their interest in managing stream corridors. Most would only implement a buffer that was 30’ wide and agreed flexibility in how each farmer manages their land was important. Most agreed their water resources were clean but improvement was still needed especially with all the close to stream tillage practices. The group, being grass farmers, thought sod was the best buffer and that human management of streams and their animals need more attention.
I’ve been working with Delaware County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator April Wright Lucas, of the Precision Dairy Feed Management Program, Cornell’s Larry Chase and Penn State’s Craig Williams to evaluate the stockpiled forage value. Using these programs: www.das.psu.edu/dairynutrition/documents/forages.xls, www.uwex.edu.ces/dairynutrition/spreadsheets.cfm, www.sesamesoft.com they came up with these results from paddock 8 and 6 forage tests based on current prices.
Corn = $5.32, SBM = 520, Alf hay = $220 – Grass hay avg was $156/ton and Grass pasture was $62.79/ton Corn = $4, SBM = $400, Alf Hay = $180 – Grass hay avg was $138, Grass pasture was $53/ton Corn = $3, SBM = $300, Alf hay = $150 – Grass hay avg was $128, Grass pasture was $47/ton
So today (Monday, Dec. 8th) all the stock are moved over to the right side of the farm to begin the final 25 days of grazing, give or take. The “Groundhog day” movie will be back in play this week as snow, rain and lake effect are forecasted. Oh goody, just in time for me to travel to the PA Farm Link conference to speak. Because the meteorologists can’t seem to figure how much we’re getting, I’ll be planning for the worst and giving the heifers plenty of grass and some hay in the yard just in case. I don’t need anyone at the farm dealing with any stressful situations. Check in next week to see what really happened. Don’t ya just love this not knowing? especially since we planned this out in August. Have a good Christmas shopping week.