This year we have started a new program in concert with NRCS to measure our pasture management. We were given a choice of many programs we could adopt, but this pasture management one fit what we do very well and really was a best practice we should have been doing anyway.
What we have done is to place permanent measurement markers in three different pastures on our farm. The markers have inch graduations from the ground on up to a couple of feet. Before we put our cows into a paddock for the day, we measure the grass by taking picture like the ones below.
This is field #2, which is the one closest to the golf course. As you can see pre-grazing, the grass is about 9-10″ high and the tips are around 16″.This is post grazing. You may have to zoom in a bit to see that the grass is now 4-5″ tall. We have grazed this grass heavier than normal because the cows won’t make it back around to this pasture before it’s time to go onto hay for the winter. We still left plenty of grass for ground cover.
This grazing took place on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014.
It’s actually making me kind of sad to see the last of the grass in the before pictures. We have had a tremendous increase in grass production in our second year of daily paddock moves. The topsoil creation has been very good. I haven’t actually measured it, but we have to be over a few inches based on the one spot I looked. You have to compare that against the 1/8″ or less of topsoil we had when we started this program. I was told that when we started this program, we really shouldn’t except much till about the third year. So far we’ve had wonderful results and that makes me really look forward to next year to see what these “real results” will look like. The grass could be thicker, the weeds could be less. Things can continue to improve, but it’s come so far so fast it’s hard to imagine it getting a lot better. One thing I haven’t done in a while is to test soil PH. I’m looking forward to testing it next year and then comparing it against where we were when we started. I was talking with Themis from NRCS this week and she was saying what I understood to be the case. By building so much organic material on the surface, we should see the soil PH come up from 5.1-5.3 to more in the 7.0 range which would be perfect. Even if we are making progress, maybe in the high 5s, it’s an indication that what we are doing is working and we can continue forward with our current practices, knowing we will get where we are going in the future.