6/1/19 Grazing Season
I held the cows off the new grass until it was 12 inches high. Because of the cool weather we've had this spring that didn't occur until after the second week in May. I was also waiting until we could ship two of the steers to Strauss Brands Grass Fed Beef Company. So the cows got their first taste of new grass on May 21 and they've been on it ever since. Most of the paddocks are knee high already and some even approaching waist deep. The grass hit its peak nutrition by May 28. It will decline rapidly through June, but I'll let them clip the seed heads as it ages and keep them moving. They pick the tops first and some of the understory although more of it will get trampled as a result. The trampling will help retain soil moisture as the summer gets hotter and dryer so that will benefit the regrowth.
Finally had time to get backon the blog. We've been hunkered down for the past few weeks with some of that sub-zero windy artic cold. Kind of revealing as to how cold it got was when the daily round bale feeding felt warm a few days later after the winds subsided and we go to 15 degrees air temperature! Today's 58 was T shirt whether. Sunday JoEllen and I snowmobiled over on the state lands, and by the end of today most of the field snow was gone. I'll be at Parry's farmer's market on Saturday. It's held every second Saturday from November-April. Stop by for a visit! They have lots of cool stuff in addition to our farm products!
Got some unexpected visitors today. Santa and the Mrs. had to drop down to make some necessary repairs to his attire in preparation for the big day in a couple of weeks. They enjoyed the heat wave we've been having down here in NY.
The artic winds kicked in just before noon today. I think it was gusting pretty steady between 30-40 mph and we got several blasts of Lake effect throughout the afternoon. The cows stuck to the treeline for most of the day, so I fed them in the trees and scrub brush where the winds don't penetrate. I've been rolling the bales out for them so everyone has a chance to eat. Once they've had their fill they like to lay on the leftover hay to stay warm and dry. We also get the benefit of the cows naturally spreading their own manure down through the line feed which really helps the soil fertility during the growing season. I put out extra hay this afternoon due to the bitter cold. Cows stay warm from the inside out by ruminating on what they eat. The rumination process releases nutrients to help them grow and maintain their weight and health as well as heat which keeps them warm. They have access to as much water as they want from the springs in the hill. Some of the cows choose to go the watering trough, but most of them drink directly from streams of water that bubble up out of the ground. The unrestricted access to feed and water keeps them going even when it gets nasty out. They have access to the shelter of the barns if they choose to go there. Most of the time they choose the open air outdoors. Its 7 degrees fahrenheit and still windy as I write this.
The first inch of snow arrived on November 10. Since then we've had about 10 more inches of snow. Had to put the snowblower on the tractor last Friday. The snow pretty much finished off the grazing season. There wasn't much grass left, but if you shovel off the snow the grass is still green underneath and there are still a few hearty insects down there doing fine under the insulating snow blanket. Weather.com says we are in for a long cold winter with substantially below normal temperatures particularly heading into February. I'm feeding 2 round bales a day to the cows. They'll be eating more if it gets really cold. Here is the house on November 19 and the cows a week earlier on the 12th.
October 27, 2018 Today was the final closing day for the 2018 Hamilton Farmer's Market. I was able to attend every Saturday this year from May 5 through October 27. Today was a cold 36 degrees and wet. Luckily the rain held off until after I got setup, and the wind didn't really pickup much until after 10:30am. I finally succumbed to the cold around 12:45 pm and packed everything up for the short drive home.
October 19, 2018. The paddocks have been quite lush for the past month. However, with the decreasing sunlight and cooler temperatures the regrowth on the forages in the pastures has slowed down considerably. I have enough grass to get to November 1, but we're not going to get enough regrowth to enable much grazing beyond that. I'm planning to leave about 4 inches in the pastures to allow the plants to winter over and start next year with some root reserves. The cows will have to be eating round bales from November 2018 through April 2019. It would be wonderful If we had another 40 contiguous acres next to my grazing fields as that would get us into late December before going over to hay feed. I will likely have to travel with the cows some where else if we want to do that unless we decrease the herd size. This time of year all I have to do is look in the direction of the cows if I want to move them to the next paddock. They are simply roaring to go. They start hollering before I get any where near the gates and I don't even need to call them for everyone to come running.
I finished our second cutting hay crop last weekend. To date we have made 588 round bales for the 2018 season of which 175 bales were second cutting. We had over 15 inches of rain in the rain gage over the last month so the grazing has been good as all the paddocks are growing back well. We are on our 3rd and 4th rotations through the paddocks. Hoping to get into November before we have to start feeding hay. With the shorter daylight hours and cool nights the grass will stop growing in another few weeks. I was able to do some second cutting hay raking with Mike, my Haflinger behind the railroad tracks on Loomis Road in September.
The cows were carrying on this morning as I was packing for the Hamilton Farmer's Market so I went out to check on them and there was a new heifer calf next to cow #61. That makes 6 calves this year. So far 5 heifers and 1 bull. Going to tag the new one tomorrow before she gets too fast to catch. Meredith is the last cow yet to calve. She's looks to be very close, probably won't go more than a few days before she drops her calf. Meredith has been with us for 16 years, the oldest cow in the herd now.
I've been round baling some ground off of Tassleberry Road in Pooleville for the last few weeks. Did 6 acres in two fields on Monday. Alot of the hay was down so we ended up leaving alot of stems in the field maybe missed 1/3 of the crop in spots; ended up with 42 bales. Two red tail hawks took the opportunity to follow the baler around the field. They're quite adept at spotting a mouse or toad under the windrows and will swoop down out of the trees to pounce on the windrow and then pull a mouse out with their claws. Then they would flap up onto the closet round bale from which they would proceed to tear the mouse apart and eat it. I watched them do this at least 6 or 7 times. I drove the round baler with-in a few feet of them several times and they simply looked at me and kept eating. The upper field for some reason had quite a few snakes in it. I could smell their scent glands from the tractor on a few that must have been hit by the mower. The hawks are real opportunists and grabbed the dead snakes and took them up into the trees to eat. Amazing to watch them hunt and scavenge. They must be absolutely terrifying to any of the animals that are hiding under the windrows.
Just back from a few days in Maine, yes farmers do on occasion take vacationS! Although for us, its been several years since we've gone far away. Amber counted cows everyday and checked the water in the evening to make sure they were all still there alive and accounted for. I opened paddocks 7 and 8 so they would have enough to eat while we were gone. They were ready to move when we got back last Friday, so I sent them into paddock 9 that afternoon. We've started through the 2nd round of grazing. I've been leaving the grass high and let them trample the stuff that was past its prime, especially through the dry spell. It helped conserve moisture in the soil and with re-growth on the grass. We got 1.5 inches of rain just before we left and another 2 inches while we were away. The paddocks I had taken the cows off of just before leaving had been 4 feet high when they went in. I took them out at 4-5 inches and most of the 4 feet of grass was trampled down, but we have 6 inches of new growth after only 2 weeks rest so having that mat through the dry spell and this recent rain seemed to work out ok. Will be back in the fields again Saturday to finish baling the last of the first cutting, we'll jump right into second cutting after that weather permitting.
Finished haying the Loomis road fields on Sunday afternoon. We did 8 acres behind the railroad tracks. I am thankful Jeannette endured the heat and pollen and was able to rake the field for me, I wouldn't have finished alone. Doubled up the wind rows so I could start earlier and round bale with fewer trips around the field. Then she moved and positioned the round bales for pickup while I ferried some of the equipment home. As it was we got home after dark. I enjoyed watching the deer with their fawns while going around and around the field. One of them had twin fawns at her side. In the end, I was blessed to be able to package up 56 round bales of summer sun, soil microbe produced nutrients, and rain that grew into multiple species of grass and various plants all to be released by the cows when they consume it in the short cold windy days of winter. I'll be remembering these warm sunny days when I drop each of these bales on some bitter January days and that summer sun will sustain those cows through the cold and dark.
June 24, 2018 We just past the summer soltice 3 days ago and the heat of summer is on. Warm weather and cows bring flies. The cows have their own ways of coping- when they go out to eat they'll often graze in groups in straight horizontal lines close to each other, side by side, all facing in the same direction. Then their tails start moving and they swish flies off each other. If it gets too hot, they head for the trees and shade. I'm not sure why this is, but the flies don't follow them into the shade in significant numbers and so they get dual relief in the heat of the day from both sun and flies. We also try to help by using biological controls in the form of fly eliminators which are insects that prey on the fly larvae by laying their eggs on the fly larvae. The juvenile fly eliminators then eat the fly larvae and kill them before they can mature into the cow pestering flys as adults. We see noticeably large drops in fly populations through natural means on our farm with fly eliminators. This is one of the methods we use on our farm to avoid industrial chemical controls and to keep our beef safe and free from man made chemicals. We get our fly eliminators from Arbico Organics.
June 18, 2018 I let the cows into the 9th paddock yesterday morning. They all went up on top of the hill in the trees grazing grass, wild rasberries, and as many tree leaves as they can reach. When they get done the tree line will look like Edward Scissor-Hands went through and neatly manicured everything in sight to a height of 6 feet off the ground. When the cows enter a new paddock they pick the tops off of all the best plants first. They are also quite adept at knowing what minerals are lacking in their diet and will eat specific plants for the mineral content. I don't worry too much about weeds in the paddocks as some of the weeds store minerals the cows need. The mama cows pass the knowledge of which plants to eat on to the calves. When the paddock gets grazed down a ways the cows will start hollering to let me know its time to move them to new grass. I only have to look in the direction of the next gate and they're all right there impatiently waiting and mooing most loudly to get in. I'm still leaving the paddocks with 8-10 inches of munched on trampled grass stalks when we take them out. Trying to keep good cover to conserve water through this dry season. The grazed paddocks are growing back reasonably well even with the limited rain we've had since May.
June 17, 2018 Hi Folks, Finally got a few minutes to get back to the blog. Our first cutting hay crop is in full gear. Made 755 square bales and 78 round bales to date. Hope to re-enter the Route 12/Loomis road fields on Tuesday and mow another 15 acres. All round bales from here on out. We're going to be short I think this year on hay so will be looking for some standing hay to cut in the Hubbardsville area. Not sure if I have any active readers here, but for those of you keeping score, I replaced the truck alternator that went bad in the May 23 post, and I also replaced the drum bearing on the mower, so I'm trusting God to stay ahead of the breakdowns from this point forward- call it: Dave 2, breakdowns now at 0!
Moved the cows to the 4th paddock on Thursday. Grass is fully headed and now standing at 30 inches. Needs to be baled as the quality will go down hill from here. I will let the cows top the paddocks and not cut it right now in case it stays dry. The taller grass will help capture any rain that comes in the next few days. The grass on the grazed paddocks is taking its time coming back, we took the cows out of paddocks 1, 2, and 3 at about 5 inch average grass height. On Friday had to let the cows get under the trees as they were getting too hot in the sun. They were very appreciative and cooled off quickly in the shade.
We started first cutting hay. Baled 24 round bales off of Route 12 on May 25. Hay is still short and thin because of the cool dry weather in May. Will have to skip next week to make some repairs on the mower and truck. The Reese mower needs 2 new bearings in the outer drum. The alternator on the Silverado died in the field in the middle of loading round bales. Got a ride home in the dark from a neighboring farmer.
I let the cows out on pasture for the first time this spring. Grass height was 17 inches. Lots of dandelions this year, the cows like the dark leafy greens too! The omega 3's do go from plant to the cow. They will be on this paddock for 2 days before moving to the next paddock.
Pastures are growing fast with the warmer weather. April 30 grass height was a spotty 3", May 7: 4", May 14 7-8". Slow start with the cooler than normal April, we are behind about 2 weeks from where we were last year. 2017 turnout date was May 5, this year we will start on Sunday May 20. We've been using the last two weeks to cleanup the remainder of last years hay crop. Cows won't want any hay once they get a taste of the fresh grass in a few days.