more residue experiments update 1


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It has been eight days since I planted these buckets with cover crops.  all buckets have been watered equally and pretty regularly

The bucket with no residue only has a few seed germinating….I think some seed started to germinate and then got baked on a couple of the hot days we have had….they are still visible in the bucket…

no-residue-not-much-growth-or-germination

Below is the bucket planted to the green cover mix and this bucket had the tall summer annuals and so it has heavy mulch….it was at least a 4 inch thick layer of mulch and the mulch is weighing down the new seedlings but they are beginning to show thru the mulch and certainly around the edges.

thick-summer-residue-4-inch-layer

the below bucket is the one that had the goosegrass residue chopped up and it was sown to my home cover crop mix of the day.   While some plants are beginning to show thru the residue…..the entire residue mat is being lifted off the bucket.

lighter-residue

the below photo is an attempt to show that the residue mat has been lifted a couple of inches off this bucket.

light-residue-is-being-lifted-of-the-bucket

the seed scattered in the still living chicory is beginning to come up but since it is slower and not nearly as thick as the residue buckets and it is the same seed mix.

seed-disbursed-in-the-chicory-are-finally-germinating

 

more residue experiements


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Building on the curiosity I created within myself with my gravel tubs, I have embarked upon another experiment.

In the early summer I brought four of my cover crop buckets to work.  One had chicory planted in it and the other three had various summer cover crop plantings….

Bucket require almost daily watering because the have limited soil reserves and these bucket did not do well over the long hot summer…too many days I was not here to apply water.

But I endeavor to persevere.

This morning I cut back everything but the chicory, a perrenial.  and I applied cool season cover crop seed to all four buckets and watered it in thoroughly….

the bucket on the left is the chicory….I sprinkled some of the mix I am seeding with at home on it and watered.   the bucket on the right started out as a summer cover but was taken over by goose grass which apparently came form the fraction of horse manure that was in the bucket.  this one was sprinkled with the same seed and mulched with the residue from the plants cut off.

chicory left goose grass right

below is a photo of a partially harvested residue….I cut it off and then cut it up with hand shears and then reapply it to the bucket after seeding.

part of the residue from the left bucket

in two other buckets I had two more treatments.  these two buckets both avoided the goose grass infestation and had what was left of the summer covers….  I had begun harvesting the bucket on the left when it occurred to me that I ought to take a picture….

summer stuff left half harvested

These two buckets got two different treatments….

The bucket on the left was seeded to some old green cover sample jar seed that was two years old….so I put it on pretty heavy…then it was mulched with the residue from the summer plants.

The bucket on the right was seeded with the same mix I used at home and was unmulched with no cover.

after seeding left mulched right not

I worry that it will feed the birds but nothing ventured nothing gained.

unmulched my mix

the seed mix from home   This is the volume usually broadcast on a single grazing paddock of about a tenth of an acre….I just grabbed a few handfuls from a mix to seed two buckets…

BARLEY 10#,  ASHLAND PASTURE MIX 1 #,  PURPLE TOP TURNIP 2 OZ, DWARF ESSEX RAPE 4 OZ,  CRIMSON CLOVER .5#, HAIRY VETCH .5#,  KOREAN .5#

 

the label from the green cover seeds has seen better days …..I can read

black oats, winter peas, crimson clover, nitro radish, forage collard, purple top turnips and I think barley.

since this is at the front door of the our office I should be able to keep up with it in a reasonable fashion and will try to post observations….Or you can stop by and watch for yourself….

I planted chicory at home and was thrilled with it…six or seven feet tall and beautiful blue blooms most of the summer…Thus I am including it in my seedings again this fall….I found that it can be frost seeded or spring seeded or fall seeded…..what I wanted was a deep rooted perennial…..deep rooting limits its ability to grow in buckets especially crowded so it is not showing well in the buckets.   The stock devour it….

 

 

Experiments around the farm


 

 

Jim Tate

Jim Tate

PDF FARM EXPERIMENTS

8/28/2016

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I liked the new letterhead that I made for the OP-ED article so I am going to use it again…The mule is my good friend Stewarts good little mule Dancehall Dixie….The jackass riding the mule is yours truly.

 

I have a lot of photos I took of various things this morning as I was working.  The photos are from the cell phone and I cannot see to aim the thing in the sunlight so the photos are not as good as my regular camera.  The phone camera is just as high a quality but if you cannot see to aim it the photography suffers.

 

This is the mornings work area…the three pvc pipes are the left hand boundary of the two lots grazed by the heifers this past week…this area will be broadcast to cool season seed mix and bushoged and closed off while the cattle move to the next lots up the hill.

mornings work area

In sowing yesterdays lot my shoulder bag seeder when kaput….so while I was out yesterday afternoon I stopped by home depot to get one they advertised on line….but they failed to have one in the store….

So I stopped at tractor supply and found this one for a little more than half the price and I think I am going to like this one.

ground work

Metal gears that are exposed and can be lubricated.  Metal seed opening adjustment.

metal gears

Real good seed distribution.  Easy adjustment for volume and easy cranking….

seeding rate

Below is a step that I got behind on this year…and I have been paying the price.  I did not trim under the electric fences the first time we grazed and then the crops got over them and I have been trimming fences ever since…this works for me as well as anything…a mower with the wheels set as high as I can set them….lot easier than a string trimmer..I have a wheeled string trimmer and it is worthless.  This little mower handles blackberries and small trees and poke berries and the residue.  More on residue to follow….residue is important…Part of what I want to illustrate is the amount of residue I am leaving….in this paddock the residue probably averages 8 inches high or more…I could make them eat more…

But that does not leave anything for the livestock underground….building the soil microbia is a key component to building the soil….this takes underground roots and surface residue…my goal is for the livestock to take half and leave half and I think we have come closer to it this year than any year in the past….a good part of the credit must go to the timely rains we have had most of the summer….water is the most important nutrient.

residue mower

I have learned some things this year…It is not awful for grasses to go to seed.  I have a couple of wet paddocks that I could not get into to seed or bushog after grazing….these paddocks had a pretty good mat of walked down residue and I wondered how it was going to affect the grass…the orchard grass and fescue  had put up seed heads and they had matured before it got dry enough to even let the horses in that area.  Now a month or so after grazing I have new grass showing all over the lot.  Natural reseeding.  I am also seeing increased red clover in areas where I have not seeded red clover in a couple of years.  In addition if the livestock grazed those seed heads they help with the reseeding.  Yes I get a few weeds but weeds have some value as long as they do not take over…bush hogging after grazing will control the weeds.  I actually need more goats to graze with the cattle for better weed utilization.  My lazy goats are not hungry and lay about the barn most of the day.

The morning light was not the best for the photo below. It shows the stages of the lots mown and sown the last three weeks.  Last weeks has barley up about three inches tall today.  The grasses are too fine to see.  Clover is starting to become apparent.

last three weeks

I mentioned above that I have lots that did fine without mowing…the only reason I mow regularly after grazing is for weed control and to suppress the existing vegetation to allow the new seed to get established.  A good grass stand will not allow much competition to get established.

Below is where I will talk about what I learned about quantifying the value of residue just this weekend.  Some background is in order.

A couple of years ago I attempted to set up an aquaculture experiment…raising fish in rain water tanks and using plants grown in gravel to filter the water and fertilize the plants…My experiment did not work because I could not find an economical 12 volt pumping system…small pumps would not pump enough water and the fish did not get enough aeration, and pumps of sufficient volume killed the battery beyond solar charging capacity.  So for a couple of seasons now I have just scattered seed in the tubs full of gravel and observed what would grow.  Last summer I dropped some improved crab grass seed in these tubs and grew a whale of a crop….no nutrients just kept it watered growing in pea gravel.  In the fall I dropped some cool season cover in it and had a decent spring cover crop, again just gravel and water….when the cover crop faded with summer heat the crab grass came back,,,naturally reseeded…I normally water my cover crop buckets daily and also water these tubs…

Now, these tubs have a valve system to keep them from getting water logged and if full, the drain opens and drains the tub…sometimes a heavy rain will trigger the valve and I have to refill them…so I check the water about every day….Normal transpiration will use about two to three quarts of water per day.

I decided to drop some cover crop seed in the gravel again this fall…the crab grass and buckwheat had overgrown the walking area so I decided to cut it back…I took some shears and cut it back to about six inches and generated a pile of residue.  After I generated the pile of residue….I thought why not chop this up and mulch the seed with it…the second tub I did not cut as it was not in my walking area.  The residue I took off when chopped up made about a five gallon bucket of mulch….I put it on the seed and it made a layer at least six inches thick….All this was late Friday afternoon.   I did my regular watering during that evenings chores.  Saturday afternoon the tub with no mulch required the regular two quarts of water.  The tub with the mulch require 1 pint of water….only one quarter of the normal amount.  I will try to see how long the effect lasts.  Same on Sunday….two quarts in the tub with no mulch and about a pint to the tub with the mulch.

Photo below is the mulched tub and then the two tubs side by side.

Update 9/7/2016

the mulch tub is still only using about a pint or less of water per day…..the unmulched tub is using a quart and a half to two quarts depending on the heat of the day.   the fall cover crop is coming up in both….more easily seen in the unmulched tub but the cover is coming up through the mulch in the mulched tub.  will try to get some new photos

 

mulched tub

two tubs

 

 

 

PDF Aug 7, 2016


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big triangle west seeding 8/5/2016 BROADCAST BUSHOG rye 7#, basic mix 5#,dwarf essex rape .5#, apm 1#,  cc .5#, hv .5#, turnip 2 oz,
ell 2a seeding 8/6/2016 BROADCAST BUSHOG rye 7#, basic mix 5#,dwarf essex rape 2 oz, apm 1#,  cc .5#, hv .5#, turnip 1 oz, , blue grass .5#,
ell 2B seeding 8/7/2016 BROADCAST BUSHOG pearl millet, 4#, tate summer small seed mix 1#, cow peas 4#, korean 1#, cool season high diversity mix 3#,  rye 3 #,  crimson clover .5#, hairy vetch .5#

 

Seeding summer cover at PDF 7 8 2016


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WE GOT AN EARLY START THIS MORNING AND SEEDED A PADDOCK THE CALVES WENT INTO MONDAY NIGHT…THIS FIRST PHOTO IS TO SHOW THE SMALL SIZE OF MOST OF MY PADDOCKS…THIS ONE IS ABOUT 40 FEET BY 100 FEET AND IT CARRIED FIVE WEANLING CALVES FOR FOUR DAYS

SEEDED WITH 4 LBS PEARL MILLET, 4 LBS OF COWPEAS, 1LB OF KOREAN AND 1 LB OF FOXTAIL MILLET.  THE SEED WAS BROADCAST AND THEN I WENT OVER IT WITH MY HIGH TECH SOWING EQUIPMENT

ABOUT 40 FT BY 100 FT

MARIE SENT A SUPERVISOR TO MAKE SURE i DID EVERYTHING RIGHT.

SUPERVISOR

BELOW IS A PADDOCK RESEEDED LAST WEEK

SEEDED ON WEEK AGO

THIS IS A CLOSEUP SHOT THAT SHOWS THE RESIDUE AND THAT THE SEED WAS PRETTY WELL COVERED UP WITH MY HIGH TECH PROCESS.

RESIDUE AND SEED SEEMS COVERED

THIS IS THE CALVES PREPPING THE NEXT PADDOCK FOR SEEDING…YEAH IT IS A LITTLE WEEDY BUT IT HAS NOT BEEN GRAZED SINCE EARLY SPRING WHEN THE GOATS WERE IN THESE PADDOCKS.

PREPING A LOT FOR SEEDING

THIS IS THE ADJOINING PADDOCK THAT WAS SEEDED ON JULY 4TH….IT WAS TOO WET THEN TO PUT THE TRACTOR ON IN. SO THE DOCK SEED HEADS ARE STILL THERE….i DON’T WORRY ABOUT DOCK ON THE COW SIDE AS THEY WILL EAT IT….THE HORSES NOT SO MUCH.  THE SEED SOWN ON TH E4TH IS ALREADY UP

LOT BROADCAST LAST WEEK

THIS IS THE LOT THE HORSES HAD THIS WEEK….FOR NEARLY A WEEK….THREE HORSES AND TWO MINI DONKS.  THEY GRAZED A LOT AND WALKED A LOT DOWN….LOADS OF RESIDUE….TOO WET TO GET ON WITH TRACTOR SO i AM JUST SHUTTING IT OFF AND LETTING THE PRETTY GOOD GRASS REGENERATE.

HORSE LOT JUST GRAZED TOO WET TO GET ON

HERE IS THE HIGH TECH EQUIPMENT….I BROADCAST THE SEED BECAUSE MY EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT DOES NOT DROP SEED EVENLY BUT IT DOES A PRETTY GOOD JOB OF GETTING IT TO THE SOIL…AFTER BROADCASTING SEED THIS MORNING THERE WERE SEED EVERYWHERE…AFTER MOWING AND AERATING YOU REALLY HAD TO LOOK FOR THE SEED.  MY THANKS TO THE LOCAL STARLING FLOCK WHO SENT IN A SPECIAL TEAM TO HELP ME FIND SEED.

HIGH TECH EQUIPMENT

BELOW IS A CLOSEUP OF THE WEEDY LOT BROADCAST ON THE 4TH…SEED IS COMING UP….I USED A MUCH MORE DIVERSE MIX ON THIS PADDOCK THAN i USED TODAY.

BIG BULL 1 COMING UP

THIS IS TODAYS PADDOCK SEEN FORM THE OTHER END.  THE GREEN IN THE BACKGROUND IS A PADDOCK THAT WAS SIMILARLY SEEDED TWO WEEKS AGO.  BUT IT HAS A PRETTY STRONG STAND OF ORCHARDGRASS FESCUE AND CLOVER….WE WILL SEE HOW THE COVER SPECIES DO IN IT.

BIB BULL 2 RESEEDING

PDF FARM SHOTS 6 26 2016


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RANDOM SHOTS FROM AROUND THE HOMESTEAD TODAY

THIS FIRST ONE IS MY FREEZER STEER AND THREE OF COURTS FOUR HEIFERS,  THE FOURTH WAS LYING AT MY FEET

CALVES ESCAPE HEAT AND FLIES

THIS IS THE PATCH OF MOSTLY CHICORY AND CLOVER THAT IS IN THE GARDEN…WELL THE WHOLE GARDEN HAS IT BUT i MOW PATHS BETWEEN THE ROWS.  DECIDED A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO TO LET THIS PATCH GO AND SEE WHAT A COVER IT MAKES.  WILL BE THE SPOT FOR TOMATOES NEXT YEAR.

CHICORY AND CLOVER COVER CROP

THIS IS COVER CROP BROADCAST ON A SACRIFICE ARE IN THE HORSE SIDE…SOWN ABUT SIX WEEKS AGO AFTER GRAZING.

COVER ON THE SACRIFICE LOT

I AM LIKING MY PLANT TOWERS….PICKED TWO CUCUMBER AFTER TAKING THIS PHOTO

FIRST CUCUMBER

PICKED MY FIRST TOMATOE FORM THE TOWER AS WELL….OKAY IT IS A CHERRY TOMATO BUT ITS MINE.  AND THE WIND HAS BROKEN THIS PLANT OFF TWICE.

FIRST TOMATO OF 2016

GETTING A HANDFULL OF KIOWA BERRYS EVERY DAY FOR A FEW DAYS NOW…

GETTING A FEW BLACKBERRIES

NIMROD LIKES TO LAY IN THIS SPOT TO WORK ON HIS TAN.

HE LIKES IT HERE SUNBATHING

THE SQUASH ARE DOING OKAY BUT THE LETTUCE HAS BOLTED…HAVE SOME MORE ON THE WAY

 

LETTUCE HAS BOLTED

MARIES GUARD DOG….HE WILL ONLY LEAVE HER TO GO OUTSIDE WITH ME.

MARIES GUARD DOG

NEW SEEDLINGS BEHIND THE CHICKEN TRACTOR….I PUT DOWN SOME SEED EVERY TIME i MOVE IT

 

MORE RECENT TRACKS

GUARD DOG ON THE LEFT…..WATCH DOG ON THE RIGHT

MY HELPERS

NELLY IS BACK TO WORK EATING WEEDS

NELLY AT WORK

PEPPERS ARE DOING OKAY EXCEPT THE DEER KEEP EATING THEM…ATE ONE DOWN TO THE STALK THE OTHER NIGHT AND WAS STANDING THERE WATCHING ME WHEN I WENT TO WORK IN THE MORNING.

PEPPERS IN PAILS

i DO LIKE MY PLANT TOWERS…PRETTY AND PRODUCTIVE.  THE COLOR IS FILLING IN WITH THE FOILAGE…THE TOMATO IN THE TOP WAS A BRANCH THAT FROKE OFF OANTHER PLANT AND i STUCK IT IN THE TOP…THRIVING

PLANT TOWER 1

ROCKS AND WATER….THIS IS A TUB OF GRAVEL FROM A FAILED AQUAPONICS EXPERIMENT….i COULD NOT ECONOMICALLY GET THE PUMPING RIGHT….SINCE THEN IT HAS BEEN A COVER CROP EXPERIMENT…HAD RYE AND VETCH IN IT OVER THE WINTER….NOW PEAS AND MILLET

ROCKS AND WATER

THIS MATER IS ABOUT THE SIZE OF A BASEBALL….NOT LONG NOW

SIZE OF A BASEBALL

SPATTER IS HEADING FOR THE SHADE

SPLATTER HEADING FOR THE SHADE

SQUASH AND ZUCHINI ARE DOING WELL IN THE BALE GARDEN ROW.  CUCUMBER ON THE FAR END ON THE TRELLIS

SQUASH AND ZUCHINI IN THE BALE GARDEN

SQUASH ARE BLOOMING AND BOOMING…PICKED THREE TODAY THE SIZE OF FOOTBALLS AND GAVE THEM TO THE CHICKENS.

SQUASH ARE BOOMING AND BLOOMING

SUMMER COVER CROP BUCKET 1….THE DEER LIKES THIS AS WELL…KEEPS IT MUNCHED.

SUMMER COVER BKT 1 THE DEER LIKE IT

SECOND PLANTING OF SUMMER COVER   PLANTED LATE MAY

SUMMER COVER LATER PLANTING

TWO BUCKETS OF THIRD PLANTING SUMMER COVER…PLANTED EARLY JUNE…THESE BUCKET HAD COOL SEASON CROP…i CUT OFF THE COOL SEASON…SCATTERED THE WARM SEASON SEED AND CHOPPED UP THE COOL SEASON RESIDUE ON TOP OF THE SEED…IT WAS MOUNDED UP SIX INCHES AND THE SUMMER COVER IS COMING THRU IT.

SUMMER COVER PLANTED EARLY JUNE

THIS BUCKET OF SUMMER COVER WAS PLANTED MID JUNE…PREVIOUS COVER WAS FED TO THE GOATS

SUMMER COVER PLANTED MID JUNE

SUMMER COVER POT 1  THE DEEER HAVE NOT BOTHERED THIS ONE

SUMMER COVER POT 1

SUNFLOWER HAS SHOT UP IN THIS ONE

SUNFLOWER POPPED THRU

DID I MENTION THAT I LIKE MY PLANT TOWERS

TOMATO TOPWAS A BROKEN BRANCH

TOMATOS…3 PLANTINGS….3 VARIEIIES

TOMATOS, 3 PLANTINGS 3 VARIETIES

OLDER CHICKEN TRACTOR TRACKS….NOW THE HORSES GRAZED THIS LOT IN EARLY JUNE AND i MOWED IT AFTER THEY CAME OUT SO THIS IS ALL REGROWTH.

TRACKS OF THE CHICKEN TRACTOR

PETE IS ALWAYS CURIOUS AND ASKING ……WATCHA GOT?

WATCHA DOING

Managing Fescue in the 21st Century


Baby Jim in Living Color

Baby Jim

Photo courtesy of The Old Cowboy Archives

Reconsideration of an Old Idea

1/30/2016

One of the hazards of living a long time is that people tend to become confident in their accumulated knowledge, and subsequently complacent and resistant to change.  I am as subject to this as anyone else.  Sometimes I hear of new ideas and summarily dismiss them because they do not fit my accumulated conventional wisdom.

Occasionally, I have my belief system successfully challenged.  Such an event has recently occurred at the 2016 Virginia forage and grassland council winter meetings.

The topic of the meeting was Understanding and Managing Tall Fescue in Grazing Systems.

I have been dealing with tall fescue for most of my life.  For the last 30 years or so I have been trying to manage the good parts of tall fescue and also trying to manage around the problems of tall fescue, and thought I had a pretty good understanding of how to manage around them.

Like so many others, I thought I was doing okay.  I was not losing ears to frostbite.  I was not loosing tail switches.  I had never even seen a case of fescue foot but knew it was horrible.  My cows were breeding back.  My calves were pretty vigorous and with thirty years of selection for growth and performance they would step on the scale pretty hard.

Yes, in the summer time they would all be in the pond (until we fenced the cattle out of the ponds and streams for the environmental good).  After that they would fort up in the day time in the woods and create mud wallows like hogs.  I thought this was normal.  I had seen black cattle avoid summer sunshine all of my life.  One of my concerns to this day is that when we fence cattle out of streams we are often fencing them out of shade as well.

I could identify the couple of poor doers every year who did not shed off and who seemed to suffer more than their herd mates.  Eventually those rough haired and poor doing cattle would usually sort themselves out and leave the herd.  On that basis I was pretty sure there was a genetic component to dealing with fescue toxicity.  This genetic component was identified a few years ago but testing was not commercially available.

What I did not know was how much the entire herd was having performance squashed by the effects of fescue toxicity.  At the VFGC winter meetings the leading researchers on the topic from across the Fescue Belt, presented side by side comparison of the animal performance stolen by the toxicity.  Things like calving percentage, milking ability, direct weaning weights, rebreeding conception, depressed calf gain are estimated to cost cattle producers in the Fescue Belt over a BILLION dollars per year.  As the silly tee vee commercial says, part of that “is my money and I want it now.”

The further news is that the toxicity is not just in the seed heads.  We have been advised to clip seed heads for years to reduce the problem.  This is still a valid strategy.  But the endophyte in fescue that causes the problem is a completely symbiotic life form dependent on the fescue plant.  This endophyte does not have reproductive capability outside of the fescue plant.  The only way to spread the endophyte is to spread the infected fescue.  The symbiosis is complete because the thing that gives fescue its persistence and strength and character is the endophyte inside the plant.  Management that makes the fescue stronger makes the endophyte stronger and anything that makes the endophyte stronger makes the fescue more toxic.  But while the endophyte can only be spread by sowing infected seed, the endophyte lives in all parts of the plant, seed, stems and leaves.

With all that said, why on earth do we continue to have fescue as a part of our livestock programs?  There are several reasons.

  1. It is the hardiest forage plant (Because of the endophyte).
  2. Animals select for it by grazing all other more palatable plants in preference.
  3. It has tremendous growth and production.
  4. It is the preferred forage for stockpiling and winter grazing in well managed grazing systems.
  5. It will survive overstocking and mismanagement better than any other forage species. This is a critical reason why it is so dominant.  It survives the poor management.
  6. Fescue and Kudzu are two of the best conservation land covers that are available to us to stem and prevent erosion and to heal mismanaged land. Kudzu is at least limited by its intolerance to cold weather.  Fescue is not so constrained.
  7. Producers have voted by their actions that they are more concerned with the hardiness and persistence of the fescue than they are with the problems associated with the fescue.
  8. A fear that time and money spent renovating old fescue stands would be wasted as the infected fescue is ubiquitous and would soon take over again.
  9. And finally a resignation to what is perceived to be a lack of alternatives.

For at least the last twenty years I have been in the camp of mitigation.  That is, I have tried every strategy I could implement to reduce the impact of the toxic fescue and improve my animal performance.  These are still valid strategies and in my opinion are currently the very least that livestock managers should be doing.  I have not been able to implement them in entirety because I have been dragging more tradition bound folks along with me.

Smoking is not the only bad habit that is hard to break.  It has been my experience over the last 17 years at the district, that an ingrained agricultural habit can be every bit as hard to break as a nicotine habit.  Maybe worse as the practioner usually sees no valid reason to change what, in his mind, works.

What is mitigation.  Mitigation is anything that can be done to make the existing situation better.

  1. Dilution by adding clover.
  2. Dilution by adding other species
  3. Managed grazing
  4. Supplementation
  5. A strong mineral program
  6. Seed head suppression
  7. Performance selection for tolerance
  8. Changing breeds of livestock
  9. Adopting new forage species

This last strategy is one that several of our Cover Crop Project participants stumbled on over the course of our project.  It was the use of multispecies cover crops for grazing.  Both cool season and warm season cover crops had a good contributing effect for these producers.  These cover crops are excellent quality forage that yield good gains and are particularly beneficial during periods of summer slump for cool season grasses.  They provide an abundance of high quality forage that is without toxic effect.  Several of these producers are increasing their Multi Species Cover Crop grazing acreage.  Their thought process is that even though there is an increased cost for planting annual cover crops that the performance and productivity boost justifies the cost.

Now for the good news from the conference.

There is a new bovine genetic test for tolerance to fescue toxicity.  As I have previously stated elsewhere I am going to test all of the females in my small hard….the cost of testing is supposed to be in the area of $30.00 per animal.  I have contacted the two places from which I obtain semen to breed my cattle.  One is a closed herd and they are testing now.  The other is a commercial bull stud and they are not yet testing.  They are waiting for reliability and repeatability numbers to confirm the strategy.  One must remember that the entire cattle market is not in the fescue belt.  So for a big part of the country this is not an issue.  For me….I will most likely adopt a strategy of using the best quality bull I can find that tests well for fescue tolerance.  There is some thought that the cow may have a greater role than the bull in progeny adaptation, but this is unproven as yet.  So to hedge my bets I am going to begin to use bulls that test well for fescue tolerance.  My logic is that there is little value in testing and improving my females if I then breed them to a bull that has less genetic tolerance.  The calves would then be more affected by the fescue than the cows.

I have just learned today that I can send a straw of semen to the testing lab and they can test and tell me the status of the bulls I have in the semen tank.  I am going to look at my inventory this afternoon.

Secondly there is now a test to determine how badly your fescue pastures are infected.  Matt Booher and John Benner have been doing testing at 14 sites in the Valley of Virginia and have had startling results.  The sampling being done by these extension agents is being tested at a commercial lab.  I think they were operating under a grant to do the testing.  I have no idea of the relative cost of the testing.  But the process is a bit complicated.  The data they have generated has been tremendous at revealing in terms of the magnitude, extent and timing of when fescue toxicosis is at its worst. Long story made short is that you can now determine if you have a problem and how bad it is.  It will probably take some assistance from your extension agent.

And last but not least…I am modifying my position on pasture renovation to eliminate infected fescue.

One factor has been seed cost.  Until lately there has only been Max Q Endophyte Friendly.  The seed cost was north of $5.00 per lb.  Now there are six named cultivars of Endophyte Friendly fescue and competition should bring price down.  Also given all the costs of renovation seed cost alone is less of a factor.

In the past I have discussed this with quite a few producers.  Now I think that I may have given some of them bad advice.  My biggest fear is that the pasture would end up repopulated by infected fescue over time.  Since I am unable to look at a fescue plant and tell if it is infected fescue or novel endophyte fescue, I could not tell when and if reinfection took place.

The evidence I heard from the researchers at the conference is that reinfection would be more likely to occur thru management issues than from natural occurrence.

Infection requires the introduction of infected seed to the soil.  There are four basic ways this will occur.

  1. Planting infected seed. I can think of no valid reason to plant an unimproved fescue variety, be it K31 or other varieties, in any situation that might involve livestock.
  2. Dirty equipment. For example bush hogging an infected field and then bush hogging a novel field without washing off the bush hog.  You are reseeding with the infected plant seed.  Or similarly carrying seed from field to field with a mower or baler.
  3. Feeding infected hay on a clean field. This will not only introduce the infected seed but the livestock will work it into the soil and fertilize it for you.  Alternatives would be to not feed hay on a novel endophyte field, or feed only uninfected hay, or feed something other than fescue hay or at the very least feed second cutting hay that should have limited seed heads.
  4. Cows moving seed from field to field. The experts said that digestive processes would reduce the number of viable seed going thru the animal.  But some seed would go thru.  A simple management strategy would be to have somewhere uninfected for cows to go for three or four days before going to the novel endophyte field and the danger of then having livestock broadcasting infected seed would be greatly reduced.  This is another case where having a few days of grazing on small grain or multi species cover crops could serve as a buffer to seed transmission.

I foresee an opportunity for progressive stockmen to take advantage of a couple of new innovations and reduce the vulnerability of infected fescue.

I have already mentioned the benefits of using multi species cover crops in a grazing operation.  Our Graziers who used them actually were among the most vigorous supporters of our project.  They all saw immediate benefits from grazing the cover crops.

The standard recommendation for renovating an infected field is to Spray – Smother – Spray and replant.   That is to spray the infected fescue in late May or early June with herbicide to kill it.  Then plant a smother crop such as millet or sudan or sorghum or MSCC…graze or hay this crop…then in the fall spray herbicide again and plant the novel endophyte.  For those that wish to resist the use of herbicides, your best course is to stick with mitigation as Fescue and Bermuda grass once established are not going to be terminated through cultural means.  I have planted enough cover crops into existing pastures over the last three years to testify that without suppression of the grass, the cover crops will not compete and will not perform well.

I would suggest that with the use of Multi Species Cover Crops we could improve on this recommendation and implement a program of improved grazing and an orderly transition from infected fescue to a clean operation.

The first advice is to do any conversion over time….not all at once.  Pick the field that needs improving the most and start there.  Maybe 10 percent and no more than 25 percent of the available acreage.

My thought would be to use the spray – smother – spray with an extended smother phase.  What I mean by that is to run two or three sequential cover crops in the smother phase.  This would offer several benefits.  We have already discussed how the annual cover crops can augment productivity in a grazing program.  They can reduce the exposure to the toxins as they are not host to the endophyte.  They can serve to smother the fescue.  But I think it is asking a lot of a single cover crop to smother out fescue in a single iteration.  Also by using sequential cover crops you are not as locked in to a particular season of beginning the transition.  You could spray in the fall and then plant a cool season cover crop (preferably a Multi Species Cover Crop ).  Using MSCC with some deep rooted species and some legumes, gives you an opportunity to build the soil health during the transition period.  Graze or hay that crop as needed.  Then come spring there is a opportunity to spot spray for Fescue that is still there.  Then Plant a Summer Cover (preferably a MSCC ) and again graze or hay as needed.  Then in the fall you have yet again another opportunity to check for and if needed treat any lingering infected fescue and then plant your new crop.

To start in the summer go Summer MSCC, Then Fall Cool Season MSCC, Then Summer MSCC, then fall plant Novel Endophyte.

Using this system you could start a new block every year with no loss of productivity.

By integrating annual diverse cover crops you can actually increase forage production while making the transition to a higher quality novel endophyte with all the benefits of fescue with none of the drawbacks of fescue toxicity.

I hope at least some of this makes a little sense.  I have tried to compress a full days worth of presentations by industry leading researchers and teachers and temper it with my own interpretations.  I confess to being a bit excited over some of these new revelations.  I am hopeful that this genetic testing for tolerance will be a quantum leap forward.  I see a natural role for a project I have invested the last few years in to aid in improving total forage management.  A test for levels of endophyte infection is a major step forward.

To those who might not have planted the Novel endophyte fescues after talking with me…I offer my apologies, as I may have been wrong.

We owe it to the livestock under our care to provide the best environment we can.  The animals health and well being contribute toward a more positive bottom line and it is incumbent upon stockmen to provide the healthiest environment possible to the livestock in our care…

 

 

FALL COVER CROPS AT PDF…..10/3/2015


AS ALWAYS…… TO SEE ANY PHOTO LARGER CLICK ON IT….USE BROWSER BACK BUTTON TO RETURN TO BLOG.

It has been a while since I posted….but it had been a while since we had a rainy and miserable weekend…writing this in the prequel rain event before the non event of hurricane Joaquin…We have had a total so far of about 5.4 inches of rain this week which is ten times the total we have had in the last three months…no that is not right… we did have about 2.7 inches two weeks ago but it has been a hot dry summer…

My later planted summer cover crops did not do very well….the early planted ones were terrific…I have been planting cool season cover behind the grazing since late August and with the recent rain they are finally beginning to come up….I feared that most of them had just fed the birds…but everything appears to have some of the new species showing….

Where we had the good early summer cover crops they have been grazed and mown and reseeded…the photo below shows that the pearl millet and sorghum sudan have begun to regrow but the fall mix is coming up in between….the frost will take out the summer covers and they will contribute to the biomass…

summer regenration and fall emerging

below are two of the three strips I sowed seed on this morning…these are strip 3 and 4 of the corner lot…six heifers have been grazing them this week…I moved the heifers to Ell 1 and broadcast seed…It was too wet to get the tractor on the lots and it was still raining…

strips 3 and 4 just grazed and broadcast

strips 1 and two were seeded last weekend..the photo below shows across 2,3 and 4. the strips seeded last weekend have stuff coming up….strip two appears less green as it was mowed pretty close.

strips 2,3 and 4 in corner

here is a shot attempting to show the new seedlings in corner strip 2….too small to tell what they are yet..

sown one week ago

I am seeding variations of the mix shown in this table below.

Untitled

Below is a shot of my small farm drill. I have been trying to find a small used drill or planter for some time but have been unsucessful….the ones I have found have been too big or too worn out or too too expensive…sometimes I am apprehensive about broadcasting and sometimes if the grass stand is strong the cover will not come up…but more often than not…the broadcasting and bushoging and either aeration or dragging a tire has been successful.

small farm drill

the shot below shows the relative distribution of seed caught by a fresh cow pie…also shows the post grazing residue..I grazed these two lots pretty hard and the heifers were fussing at me for a new paddock. Sound of rain on the roof is getting louder as it is nearly time to go out for evening chores….Oh well….I have a good poncho and boots…

seed distribution and residue

below is a shot of the new cover crops from a few weeks ago showing themselves in a spot where the summer cover did not come back due to heavy residue ….it was a mix similar to what is posted above…

new stuff in high residue spot

The photos often do not load in the proper order and it is easier to comment on them as I get to them than to move them around. The shot below was from the yard across the big bull field (field where long ago we kept the big bull) and of the heifers grazing the last strip in the corner lot.

heifers grazing last strip in corner

Below is a shot of the front yard field…this was grazed in two paddocks by the horses and resown several weeks ago…it really did not come up until the rain about two weeks ago…but it is jumping now…

front yard field coming up nicely

another eveidence of seed distribution this morning….that amount in the table above might not seem like much but on 1/10 to 2/10 acre paddocks it is a lot of seed per acre. translates to 100 # of Barley and 10# of the grasses and 5# of the other stuff.

evidence of seed distribution

this strip in the big bull field came back heavily with volunteer buckwheat…It will probably bloom before frost but frost will take it away and it serves as a good nurse crop for the fall cover…buckwheat is a great plant for the pollinators and it is beneficial in soil building as well.

buckwheat reseeded heavily here

this is a view of the big bull field from the far end….five strips make fifteen days grazing for six heifers and four goats…interestingly the goats have really taken to this group of heifers…these are Courts heifers and I am raising them and will AI breed them..

big bull field from far end

final photo of seed on a cow pie….here I can easily see in the photo …barley, ryegrass and or orchardgrass and two kinds of clover…the rape and turnip are too tiny to see and the vetch always hides from me but it comes up…it is one of my favorite fall planted cover crops….Actually I am looking forward to spring,,,,almost every lot has been sprinkled with Crimson Clover and hairy vetch and dwarf essex Rape…there have been smatterings of other things in some mixws…turnips and radishes primarily…but it is too late for radishes to do much now…..but when those three that are everywhere bloom in the spring this place is going to be beautiful….it will be painted in green and crimson and purple and transition to the golden yellow of the rape, with smatterings of white flowers…and all of them great soil builders….then the red clover will take over in the early summer with its pink blossoms.

barley, ryegrass orchardgrass and 2 clovers

The goats grazing in one of the front paddocks when they were on the south side of the farm…

YOUR JOB IS TO EAT THE WEEDS

Just as I was finishing this the mail delivery man drove into the yard with a box too big for the mailbox…It was the 10 lbs of chicory I ordered just three days ago….won’t plant it til spring….I also have 10 lbs of switchgrass that will go in one paddock in the early summer….I have seen some beautiful switchgrass in the valley which prompted me yt order it….If I can get it established it is great summer grazing and is a deep rooted soil building perennial plant that should be good for the rest of my life if the grazing is managed….that I can do….

Farm Update and photos 5/10/2015


As always…to see any picture larger click on it…use your browser back arrow to return to the blog.

It was a pretty weekend and I got a lot done and managed to take a few photos around the farm.

My garden is doing fair…looks like I once again am having some herbicide carryover issues with well composted manure on my tomatoes…three or four of them are showing the knurling that is the first symptom…. The promise of composting killing weed seed is false….I think it is a development zone for lambsquarter…fortunately lambsquarter is easily pulled and dealt with….I have it everywhere I put compost on my garden….

But the cover crop which was broadcast on my garden last fall is really pretty now on the part that has not yet been mown. Photo below.

unmowed part of my garden plot

Sunday I spent a few hours cleaning up where I fed the horses hay in a round bale feeder during the hard weather….I did not realize how much was there until I started hauling…the bin on the left is old stuff that has composted…the bin on the right and the pile are new.

spring cleaning

Part of the chickens are in a chicken tractor and I generally move it every two days or so and then broadcast some seed behind it and lately have taken to covering the seed with something…hay..manure…mulch just something to cover the seed. I did this all winter as well. this first shot is of seeds sown during the early winter…There is no pattern or plan to what is sown…I go grab a cup full of seed and broadcast it behind the tractor…

sown behind the chicken tractor

This is my cover crop on the old bull lot…this is a lot that has had continuous cover crop for two and a half years now…this cover has not been grazed since fall when the goats were on it…now it is shoulder high on me…

shoulder high on me

The below shot is the chicken tractor coming back for a second pass…the chickens are getting the benefit of their labors and harvesting the forage they helped grow….

chicken tractor harvesting

Star Baby and Pete saw me out and thought they would encourage me to open a gate into a new paddock…but they will not go inot that one for at least another month….

how bout moving this fence

My Kiowa Blackberries are beginning to bloom…I love those berries…

kiowa berries blooming

Several folks have inquired lately about Pete, the rescue we took in a while back..he is doing well..his feet have grown out nicely and he is sound all around and has gotten so stout that we had to cut his groceries back a good bit…He is a people type horse and loves attention.

Pete Update

Below is another shot of my bull lot cover crop…Easily seen are rye, barley, vetch, crimson clover, winter peas and rape.

rye barleyvetch crimson and peas

And to close things out…Pete says, “If you don’t have any treats, I’m going to the stable.”

Well if you don't have a treat....

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