Grazing update #3

Our back pasture has not been grazed since the inception of our NRCS grazing monitoring program. While leaving it fallow has indeed helped the pasture, it was the victim of an issue with the drainage of one of our ponds for the past couple of years. The best part of the grazing pasture has stayed very wet because all the water from the pond ends up flowing into the pasture. Since we have to drive through that area, it ends up getting rutted which certainly doesn’t help the grass. Since there are no before and after shots of grazing, I have not included a picture of the grazing marker for this post.

Although we have fixed the drainage problem as of this fall, I doubt we will graze the back pasture in 2018 meaning that this pasture has stayed out of rotation for the duration of the NRCS program.

Whole Duck Now Available

Lucy here on the actual non- recipe part of the blog. We’re still having some internet issues here on the farm.   The store is open tomorrow 2-6 p.m. & Satuday from 8-5.  Erin & Crystal will be running the store while Dan gives tours. SWMBO & I will be off picking up our kiddos and hosing them down after a full week of sleep away camp.

Ninja Cow Farm has a  wonderful new product in stock. DUCK!!! Seriously, we now have Duck thanks to Blue Whistler Farm over in Bahama, NC.  Blue Whistler is a wife and husband owned 5 acre farm. It may not seem like much land, they work it and are producing some great products.

Last year I was introduced to Amy at Blue Whistler Farm. I followed her for a while,  light facebook stalking in truth. What drew me to her was the amount she loved and cared for her animals while they were on the farm. How she is able to provide with love and care yet realize this is a business and you must follow the rules of it to be successful.

Look at those happy faces!

She has tried several animals on her 5 acre farm.  Amy shares her triumphs and successes along the way. Now we can share her ducks with you. Blue Whistler Ducks are pastured raised, while receiving conventional feed rations.

As you can see though they stay in the pasture not in a closed in cage on a factory farm.  Amy is hoping this winter to bring us Duck by the cut as well. Blue Whistler ducks are currently sold whole in our store for $8.45lb. Drop by and see us for a new flavor on your table.

Grazing update #2

This is our second grazing update of the year. This is rotation #2 around the farm. Grazing update number 1 covered our area near the golf course while this update will cover the area close to Old Stage Road, behind the lower pond.

Water has been plentiful this year and grass has been growing readily. It’s in the 10-15″ range with 100% ground cover. Regrowth from the first grazing has been quick and the cows have more grass than they can consume in one grazing allowing us a lot of flexibility. The brood herd is at our leased farm so again this year we are intensively grazing only our finish cows. (Update from the future. We had to pull our brood cows back to the main farm twice this year because there wasn’t enough grass at our leased farm. That pasture needs some work.)

before grazing, with grazing marker in view.
Before grazing, the grass is full and lush. 100% ground coverage and averaging 12″ tall.
A closer view of the grass before grazing
A closer view of the grass before grazing
After grazing
After grazing

We have a lot of trample in this field. There is a lot of residual material left, all of which will either convert into thatch of be part of the regrowth. This field was mowed after the cows moved off of it, as we normally do for all of our fields.

1st grazing notes from 2017

On April 21st we grazed the first grazing stake paddock of the season. This is the one by the golf course.  The cows were in their winter sacrificial paddock until April 16th as we let the grass get established from winter dormancy. We had an unusually dry and pleasant spring so although the grass has certainly greened up, it wasn’t really jumping in height due to the lack of water.

Prior to grazing
Prior to grazing

The grass is just coming up and showing signs of life. It hasn’t had a chance to thicken, or to start covering areas that were cleared during the winter or late fall. Basically the seed heads are tall, but the grass itself is still rather short.

One really great thing to see this spring was that the thatch from last years grazing is still somewhat present. In previous years, the thatch layer decomposed into nothing by spring. Thatch is what makes topsoil so the soil was able to use more than we could provide. This past winter, there was enough thatch to cover the ground, be food for all the little critters, and still have some left over.

The grass itself was only about 6-8″ tall whereas the seed heads were the normal 15-18″ tall. We had about 85% ground coverage and the beginnings of solid coverage for this season.

We are flash grazing the cattle across the pastures for this first grazing. They are getting triple sized paddocks each day allowing them to only browse and not really graze the grass back. By the time we finish the first rotation, the grass should be well into growing and we’ll shorten up our paddock sizes so that they graze more heavily and more importantly, they trample grass into contact with the ground building more thatch.

After grazing the first paddock
After grazing

Here you can see the bare areas still recovering into grass. The grass was about 50% eaten leaving plenty to continue to grow. We mowed the pastures post grazing to bring all the missed grass down into contact with the ground and prompt the next round of growing.

Grazing (not) the back pasture

Grass in back pasture, with grazing stake
Grass in back pasture, with grazing stake

We rarely graze the back pasture. It doesn’t fit our rotation easily. The stand is pretty bad overall. And the pasture is prone to flooding, both from the lake and from overflow of the pond located uphill.

Instead we mow the pasture once or twice a year and that has to be the equivalent of grazing. For 2016, we again did not graze the pasture.

For 2016-2017 we are trying out not mowing a part of the pasture so that we can compare mowed to unmowed and see which area fares better.

Back pasture is left fallow again for 2016

Our back pasture, located at the bottom of our property, isn’t something we graze very often. Maybe once per year, on the off year we do graze it. For 2016 it was not grazed at all.

The back pasture is prone to flooding. It also has a poor stand of grass. It would benefit from more grazing than it gets, and I think it would improve the stand, but because of the location on the farm we simply don’t graze it very often. What we do instead is mow it once or twice a year and that has to do.

Grass in back pasture, with grazing stake
Grass in back pasture, with grazing stake

Here you can see the grazing stake as well as the mowed areas behind the area with the stake. We left the area with the stake unmowed as an experiment for 2016-2017 to see if it does better or worse.

NRCS grazing update

The pasture nearest the golf course continues to be the best field on the farm. This is despite the traffic generated by feeding the pigs.

Driving the tractor over there every day has severely compacted the path we use. Combined with the area the cows lounge in that is now devoid of grass and we have our work cut out for us along that narrow strip. The rest of the pasture looks awesome though. Topsoil continues to build and is now reaching about 2.5 – 3″ of rich topsoil.

Grazing stake and green grass

Pre-grazing grass. About 14″ tall.This picture is well into October and the grass has begun to go dormant but there is still lots of grass available.

Grazing stake, post grazing
Post grazing, 4-6″ grass remaining

Because this was the last grazing, we grazed this area more than normal.

The area where we drive the tractor has begun getting treated with large amounts of wood chips. I’ve given up on recovering the grass that we had. Instead I’m focusing on absorbing the water that is being trapped and adding organic matter to break down and help with the compaction. We also added a new trailer to our plan which allows us to only make one trip vs. 4-5 each day. This really cuts down on the traffic.

When it’s time to recover this area, it will be very rich with broken down chips, heavy with topsoil, and prime for turning back into grass. We also expect dirt to come from a jobsite in Garner, 26,000 yards of it. We’ll use it to shape our swales and get the water to go where we want it. We’ll also raise the areas where we drive so they no longer hold water.