Spring Grazing 2018 continued


This is a follow up to my previous post about beginning grazing in Spring of 2018.

On Sunday 4/8/2018 I moved the horses into the fourth grazing paddock.  This was the end of day nine with three paddock having been grazed for three days each.  They went into the fourth paddock on Sunday Afternoon and will go to paddock five on Wednesday afternoon after I get home from work.

This is in spite of having yet another snow on Saturday night which was gone by mid day On Sunday…This winter is reluctant to release its grip on us….

In spite of all the cold weather we are still pretty dry in the Arid Zone of Virginia.  Dry weather and cold temperatures have really delayed grass growth and as I go around the area and check cover crops I am not seeing that there has been a lot of corn planted yet…ground temperatures are just not warm enough.

Back to the topic at hand….these paddocks across the front of my place are about .15 to .2 acres each.  They are divided by a single strand of polywire.  Some had some cover crops broadcast in the fall but there is not really a lot of cover crop growth yet apparent.  Sunday we went into the fourth of eight so we have four more paddocks to go in this strip or about another fifteen days grazing….

Here Pete poses for a demo of the just grazed grass along side the new paddock.

Pete poses for a demo shot

The crew was hanging out at the stable when I walked up there with the dogs to change the gates….When I got there Pete was right behind ma and Condi was not far behind.  Perkins and the donks brought up the rear.

whole herd enjoys new paddock

below is a close up of the just grazed paddock.  They really left more residue than I have anticipated.  There was four to six inches of residue left after having the whole herd on it for three days.

residue paddock just grazed

My assistant herdsman is shown below inspecting the just grazed paddock….actually he was looking for a chance to duck into the woods across the road, but he knew I was watching him..

Apache assesses paddock just grazed

As an aside, I planted a lot of native perennial flowers this week….I got an assortment of started plants from Gardens Gate Nursery and planted them in the burgeoning garden around our dog graves.

then I noticed that a lot of my crop buckets had not survived the winter.  These are buckets that I have planted cover crops and other things in for over six or seven years now.  My effort has been to keep something green and growing in them year round…often trimming the residue of one crop and using it as mulch on the new seeding.

With the dry and cold winter, the crops in many of these buckets did not survive for the first time in all the time I have been using them.  I was suprised when I got them all together at how many buckets I am dealing with…29 in this row and a few others.  some buckets have strawberries in them…three buckets of sedum…several with cool season cover crops which show what a bad year it has been in our area for cover crops…they should be at least twice as growthy as they are.  And I have four buckets, two each planted to Eastern Gama Grass and Switchgrass.

I reworked eight of the buckets with dead stuff in them and planted seed of native perrenials…wildflower mix, columbine, rudbeckia, lupine, aster, borage, and two others that are chilling in the freezer and will be planted this week.

some of the remaining buckets will host tomatoes this summer.

29 crop buckets

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Spring grazing my horses 4/1/2018


small ridingby Jim Tate,

Conservation Specialist,

Hanover-Caroline  SWCD

 

Yesterday was April 1, 2018.  It is a normal target for the beginning of grazing season at the poor farm.  So I had an opportunity to take a couple of photos of the horses grazing the lot they moved into on Saturday 3/31/2018.

I must confess that these horses have had access to a couple of paddocks all winter.  After we finished the Artificial breeding just before Christmas I have not had any cows on the place.  The heifers had not finished all of the paddocks before they were turned out so I have let the horses clean up several of them this winter.

The horses get a small handout of pellets every night.  They have access to hay 24 7.  They have access to whatever paddocks are open.  For the last few weeks I have been broadcasting some seed and closing off paddocks to allow the seed to come up and for the present grasses to begin to regenerate.  The horses pretty much stopped eating hay about ten days ago which told me they were getting some pretty good pickings.  Last week I put the horses into the paddocks of Herman’s lot and it carried them for about a week.

On Saturday I moved them to the first of the eight paddocks across the front.   These have not been grazed since fall…there are eight roughly equal sized paddocks.  My plan is to graze each one for three days and then move the stock to the next paddock allowing the grazed paddock to rest and recover.   Pete enjoys the spring grass below.

Pete closeup

Condi is not about to be left out either….her nick name is Miss Curly Tail because she has a little bit of pig in her…

Condi

Looking beyond Pete you can see the next seven paddocks or the next 21 days grazing.

eight lots

Perkins is not in the photos because he hangs out at the stable and lives mostly on his retirement rations but he occasionally hikes out to the grazing paddocks as well.   And the two mini donks, so there are several animals grazing these paddocks.

There is an interesting thing in the photo below.  Notice in the foreground there is some dark green short grass.  Where the horses are is taller paler grass.  The dark green grass is the road frontage that I mow with the mower….mowing is why I happened to be there to get the photo…I want you to notice how much better the pasture grass is than the grass that is mown with a mower.  Grazing animals can be good for a pasture as long as the pasture gets some rest and recovery time.

fence

The paddock the horses are in a few years ago was the worst spot on my property….until the year I broadcast some rye and vetch and just let it go….come fall it had grass and has done well as a part of the rotation ever since….the dark green marks the fence line…it is nothing but weeds and they are sparse…it has not been mown since last fall…you can see that Pete is in grass up to his fetlock.

fence

Below I just walked up to the fence and took a shot of the grass.  Now this grass has already been grazed for about a day and a half so they have taken the young green stuff.   But there is plenty of grass there and they are enjoying it…

grass close

My other point is about the fears that people have of horses over consuming grass.

I am not going to say that horses can not get into trouble with grass.  But usually the problems come from the management rather than the grass.

One of the biggest worries is founder…Founder is caused by a sudden burst of metabolic energy.  It can come from an overdose of any kind of energy of a combination of energy sources suddenly changing.  Horses accessing the feed room unsupervised is an example…

Dry lotted horses on a jail break to a lush field is another opportunity…

It is not the evil high energy grass….it is the sudden change in diet and energy that causes the problem.

These horses have been picking at grass shoots for several weeks….I monitored when they reduced their hay consumption and that is when I first turned them into Hermans lot, where they got a small section of grass….most of you know by now that I am an advocate of good hot electric fence for grazing control….I stick up a portable poly wire and dictate how much grass they get at once…and I gradually increase it every day until they are acclimated…..

Now even Miss Curly Tail, who is still fairly new to our system, will make a foray out to the grazing and graze for a few minutes and then she will go back to the stable area and hang out with Perkins.  They have no need to overconsume….they are already fat and sassy…