VFGC Spring Forage and Grazing Field Day 4/21/2015


Spring Forage and Grazing Field Day
Tuesday April 21, 2015
A Review ……photos below click on any photo to see it larger…..use your browser back key to return to the blog

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Venue, Beautiful weather, Great speakers, Fabulous Barbecue Lunch, great attendance……

It don’t get much better than this.

The Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, The Monacan Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia NRCS, and local extension offices combined to put on a terrific field day, hosted at the farm of Ronnie Nuckols.

The crowd of over 200 attendees was split into two groups and the entire program was put on twice, with the two groups alternating stations after lunch.

The theme was Using Forage Crops and Grazing Management to Build Soil Health and Extend the Grazing Season….

Examples of these management strategies were in abundance. The star studded line up of speakers addressed a wide variety of topics….For the group I was in the day began with David Kriz, John Nicholson and Ray Archuletta discussing soil health and soil structure and the principles of soil health…with demonstrations and a soil pit where they displayed soil layers and root penetration among other things.

From There my group went to J.B. Daniel who took us on a tour of nine acres which was planted in five different blends of winter cover crops. He explained the management and grazing history and handed out literature which documented biomass and nutrient quality of the various blends. He discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each blend and how crops selected should be influenced by planned use and purpose.

Then a great Barbecue Lunch catered by Hickory Notch Grill. After lunch Jon Repair, President of the VFGC and Jack Bricker, State Conservationist with NRCS addressed the consolidated lunch crowd.

After Lunch my group loaded up on Trailers and went on a walking and riding tour of the farm which was led by the Farm Owner, Ronnie Nuckols, Dr. Chris Teutsch, forage agronomist from the Blackstone Research Station, and Keith Burgess of Monacan SWCD.

Mr. Nuckols explained his management and his goals and we looked and both successes and opportunities for improvement in his pasture and operations. At one stop he demonstrated moving a single polywire fence to move cattle from one paddock to another in his managed grazing system.

At the next stop we were shown the fundamentals of the farm livestock watering system with a critique of the benefits and the changes planned for the future….All the live water features on the farm have livestock exclusion fencing and alternative livestock water facilities. Mr. Nuckols said, that at first he was stressed a bit about giving up the buffer area around the water but knew it was sound ecologically and needed. He determined that he needed to find ways to utilize the buffer so that it was not “lost”. He manages his buffer by creating a trail all the way around his property and he can now access any field from the outside pathway which can be travelled by ATV, tractor, Truck or on foot. In one place he had even created a playhouse for his grandchildren in the buffer near a beautiful creek that ran along a sloping pasture. This Piedmont located farm has some significant slopes to the fields and erosion is always a concern but is held in check by healthy and varied grass stands and managed grazing by small groups in small paddocks with frequent moves to allow the grass to rest and recover….
The next topic was the use of annual cover crops to augment grazing….

The farm had historically been a cattle grazing operation and was primarily a conventional fescue based operation. When Mr. Nuckols decided he wanted to make better management choices another change that he made was the incorporation of Annuals to augment grazing….

He routinely plants both summer annuals and cool season annuals as a part of his pasture rehabilitation. He took us to a field that had been a weaker Fescue pasture and he was planting annuals in it to build the soil and extend grazing by producing more biomass and controlling the grazing using temporary portable fences to intensively manage the rotational grazing. The field had been in summer annuals last summer and then was replanted to mixtures of Cool Season annuals in the fall and as we walked about and listened and questioned we were supervised by a group of cows in an adjoining paddock who were up to their bellies in a beautiful stand of mixed species cool season pasture….

The next stop for my group was a demonstration by Chris Lawrence, Virginia Crop Land Agronomist for NRCS. Chris first did some basic evaluation demonstrations of soil health demonstrating the slake test and the infiltration test. With this background, Chris used the rainfall simulator to demonstrate over several scenarios, how management decisions effect environmental outcomes.

All in all a wonderful and worthwhile field day and I want to extend my personal thanks to all who had a hand in it…

Chris Lawrence and his lovely assistant

Chris Lawrence and his lovely assistant

Ronnie Nuckols discussing the pasture

Ronnie Nuckols discussing the pasture

cool season annuals in the fescue

cool season annuals in the fescue

Keith Burgess atop 4500 gallons of water storage

Keith Burgess atop 4500 gallons of water storage

Dr. Teutsch narrates the cattle move

Dr. Teutsch narrates the cattle move

Ronnie moving the cows

Ronnie moving the cows

Mr. Nuckols sets the stage for what we will see.

Mr. Nuckols sets the stage for what we will see.

Nrcs State conservationist Jack Bricker

Nrcs State conservationist Jack Bricker

Source of Good Chow...

Source of Good Chow…

VFGC President Jon Repair

VFGC President Jon Repair

cover crop strips

cover crop strips

J.B. explaining the strip mixes

J.B. explaining the strip mixes

NRCS Forage Agronomist J.B. Daniel

NRCS Forage Agronomist J.B. Daniel

Ray Archuletta and David Kriz in the soil pit

Ray Archuletta and David Kriz in the soil pit

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Normal goings on…


Tuesday, April 14, 2015 been a while since I made an entry in the log…Marie had double hernia surgery today….she came thru in well and they sent her home the same day…we were home by 5:30. got her settled and did the chores and then made a run to the pharmacy to get he prescriptions filled. got home and she was prowling around in the kitchen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 I had a dr appointment today so I slept in and had time to get Marie set up the way she wanted and then went to the doctor and on to work…called mid day and Marie said she was fine…when I got home she had my supper ready. Dr. was a little bitchy…I had gained eight pounds and he fussed at me like I was a pregnant woman…I told him that I could lose five lbs in a good days work….

Friday, April 17, 2015 I went back to the chripractor today…this was the third visit….I am going for a pain in the neck but her treatment is making my hands so much better that I keep going back…the pain in my hands from the rheumatoid is not half of what it was before I went to the chiropractor…she loaned me a little portable electro theraphy unit to try for the weekend and I will try it tonight….picked up prescriptions for both Marie and I and stopped by the Ashland feed store…got some more peppers and two more tomatoes…one big boy and one mortgage lifter….already have a dozen tomatos planted and eight peppers…came home and planted the new stuff and alos planted cucumber, squash and zuchini…cranked the push mower and mowed the front up along the road…set up the horses to graze the yard around the barn…got up to near 80 degrees today…Court weaned calves this morning…they were working them when I got back from Ashland.

Saturday, April 18, 2015 Saturday morning and Marie wanted to go out to breakfast…so we went to Dennys and swung by Walmart to pick up a couple of things she wanted….one city girl trait that Marie has never abandoned is the desire to go to a store every day. Stopped at three places looking for a single cayene pepper and a single cherry tomato….no one had them…I could buy a six pack but who needs six of those two plants…. She handled the travel pretty well and actually ate some of her breakfast…Marie is not a big eater and always marvels at what I eat….even after all these years and my reduce intake. let the horses into the yard around the barn again while I cut more grass….the portable electro therapy unit….Doc said it was not as powerful as the office model….but I found it to be much sharper and it would make my ears wiggle at half power….had some trouble keeping the sticky electrodes on my neck…that is my only complaint about it…Doc said I could use it doing normal activity…I have trouble getting the ones on my neck to stay on just sitting on the sofa….tonight I am going to try to put those lower on my neck nearer the shoulder….between the electro theraphy and my new compression gloves the hand are not throbbing as badly.

Sunday, April 19, 2015 Sunday evening now…this morning I set up the grazing lots for the horses for at least the next ten days…moved the goats back up to ell1…cut down, cut up and piled the brush from a good sized hickory….put the spear on the loader and fed a round bale to the calves that Court has weaned……they were songful Friday night and Saturday but they are pretty quiet today…..did the chores and had supper and then put together a pot of ground beef and beans in the slow cooker for tomorrow…Sprinkling this late afternoon…I can hear rain on the roof right now.,,,,,,guess I will go hook up the charger and recharge my batteries…wonder if it will work on my legs,,,,I am so tired that my thighs are claiming that my feet weight a hundred lbs a piece… Marie…she is doing laundry right now…..

Spring at Last


The winter that was so difficult to endure has finally loosened its grip on my life….It did get down to 38 degrees one night this weekend.   But other than that this has been a beautiful spring weekend….

No small part of my jubilation is because my pain has been mitigated a good bit…

For a couple of months now everything has hurt…hands, elbows, shoulders and to a lesser degree the knees and ankles….For the last three months I have had a pain in my neck that practically prevented me from looking left.

I finally made an appointment with a chiropractor…I looked up a local one in my insurance plan and made an appointment…Went in Friday morning…She talked to me a while and asked about my ailments.  Then she did a few strength tests to see if I could move.

She felt my spine and shoulders….and then told me I had two vertebrae which were out of alignment…she prescribed a course of treatment involving heat and electrotherapy followed my mild machine manipulation.  The heat felt good…

When she turned on the electrodes it felt like the best massage ever.  She left it run for a few minutes and I was so relaxed that I almost went to sleep, until I realized that my hands were not hurting.  I was so excited that I almost jumped off the table…. That lasted all day Friday. Shoulder pain was reduced by fifty percent.  The neck still has a little pain but now I can look left.  The pain all weekend has been much less that what I had been dealing with.

Go back tomorrow morning for a follow up.  I have been a life long skeptic but I felt the pain just fall away from me as if it were dripping out of my relieved fingers.  No needles.  No Knives.  No drugs.

I got more work done this weekend than I would ever have imagined.  Mostly because it did not hurt just to move my arms.  I can raise my elbows over my head now.  The right thumb still demands that I be careful with it, but I can now take the cap off of a bottle of water again.  Been using pliers for that task.  Could be that I just Want to believe, but I don’t think my mind is that powerful to overcome the pain like that.

My accomplishments over the weekend.  Got the trailer inspected finally…In and out of Conwells in less than twenty minutes…made an appointment for brakes on the Van next week.

Cut the whole yard with the push mower…

Built two bale garden rows…one 24 feet long and another 30 feet long.  Manufactured and erected a panel fence along the short one and planted pole beans in the compost on top of the bales….shoveled and hauled a lot of compost with the wheel barrow.  My two year old compost is very good….deep rich brown and very friable.  The bales are part of the ones I used to insulate the north wall foundation of the house during the winter.  I used thirty four bales for that task.  I was able to salvage and few and fed them but over half were just too wet and moldy so I decided to try bale gardening again with them…had to haul them from the back of the house to the garden.  Mowed the cover crop in most of the garden.

Planted a dozen tomatoes, 6 early girl in the new raised bed and 6 super fantastic in the pallet garden.

Planted a pound of onion sets.  Serviced and cranked the rototiller and tilled in the cover crops in the two raised beds.  One of the plastic wheels broke so I pulled two larger wheels off of an old junk lawnmower and replaced both of the ones on the rototiller….Planted 8 green peppers and some more lettuce…put down paper bag mulch and weighted it down with horse manure….

Marie and I went to Breakfast Saturday at Cracker Barrel and then a trip through Walmart.  Trip to the waste transfer station to get some mulch.  Three trips to Montpelier feed and seed for odds and ends.

Put up two portable fences and rotated the horses to Hermans lot.  The horses are now in the eighth paddock since we started grazing this spring….two or maybe three days per paddock and then move and close off the just grazed area.  The first three grazed have almost caught up to the ungrazed paddocks.  Rest and recovery time is the key to grass management….that and not overgrazing to begin with…..the paddocks I used for Sacrifice areas this winter will not be useful for grazing until late may at the earliest…..We are about  a third of the way thru the horse paddocks in two weeks of grazing…so My first pass should last nearly six weeks…..They will get another new paddock tomorrow evening.  Moved the goats to the tank field…

Broadcast some cover crop seed in the cutover along my driveway just before it rained.  Quick hard Rain Friday night…

Moved the chicken tractor three times and sowed seed and mulched behind every move.   Wormed the goats.   Repaired the broken post in the fence in the second grape arbor.  Walked the early spring seeded fields for signs of new grass…saw enough to be encouraged.

Cooked my breakfast this morning and put together a casserole for supper and was still outside by 7 am.   Learning how to cook on the new cooktop stove….have to turn it up a little bit hotter than the old worn out electric stove.  Planning  for another 30 foot by 2 foot raised bed.  I have always enjoyed growing stuff, but have always hated hoeing and pulling weeds and my new found hatred of tilling and killing the soil has me eager to try new ways of producing food crops….That and the drought in California telling me that if I expect to be able to afford to eat, I better grow something.

Did not have time to cut any wood this weekend.  Did take a few photos with the new cell phone…yeah…I finally broke down and got a smart phone….but it is still smarter than me…

2 weeks post seeding B

2 weeks post seeding B

3 weeks post seeding A

3 weeks post seeding A

paddocks beginning to green up

paddocks beginning to green up

cover crops growing behind the chicken tractor

cover crops growing behind the chicken tractor

cover crops on the bull lot strips...vetch is booming

cover crops on the bull lot strips…vetch is booming

new short bale garden

new short bale garden

29 foot long raised bed

29 foot long raised bed

pallet garden build last year still holdin up

pallet garden build last year still holdin up

super fantastic tomato

super fantastic tomato

Easter Weekend 2015


This weekend it was finally green around the poor farm….I helped Court work cattle on Saturday and then they went out to pasture….

First I need to report that my broadcasting of seed in the cutover area was at least partially unsuccessful…..The oats were too easy a target….When I went up to check the ground was littered with oat hulls….too early to tell the fate of the smaller seed varieties.

But I do have lots of nice vetch coming up in quite a few paddocks….I did not see much sign of it during the brutal winter but it is starting to jump now….no blooms yet but it is growing visibly daily now….

Below is a shot of my chicken tractor tracks….actually this shot is from about two weeks ago….the small grain is about a foot tall now on the two green rows and the third row is greening and we are most of the way back on a fourth row now….I move the tractor about every two days and drop some seed behind it and lately I have been mulching the seed with either hay or straw or compost or manure….mulching seems to help dramaticly.

chicken tractor tracks

chicken tractor tracks

Then there are two shots of small paddocks that were grazed at the end of last week….three horses and two mini donks ad easch paddock was grazed one day and then some seed broadcast and the gate shut….over the weekend they went to a larger paddock in the back for three days and sunday they went to another yet…the large paddock in the back was not grazed quite so closely nor was it reseeded.

Shed lot B after grazing

Shed lot B after grazing

shed lot A after grazing

shed lot A after grazing

My guardians were with me every step of the way…

My guardians

My guardians

these are the daffodils around the graves of the previous guardians….they also have a decent crop of day lilies that have broken ground around most of them…

daffodils around the dog graves

daffodils around the dog graves