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Timely Tips
Great grazing solutions from farmers and ag professionals.

Let Cows Tame Weeds. Doug and Roberta Muzzy, Greene, N.Y., charge only the top wire of their two-wire high-tensile peri-meter fence. That allows their Holsteins to reach under the bottom wire to graze, keeping fencelines free of weeds and brush.

Simple Forage Estimate. Don't guess how much forage is in your pasture. Fluff it up, and use your hand as a ruler to measure it. For most folks, to the second knuckle on the middle finger equals about 2 inches, to the end of the finger equals 3 inches, etc. And if the forage already is up to your wrist, it's getting way ahead of you. Each inch of growth equals about 200 to 250 pounds of dry matter per acre in new pastures, or 250 to 300 pounds in thicker, well-established and -managed pastures.

Keep Track of Your Paddocks. To ease recordkeeping, hang numbered eartags at the entrance to each subdivision. Reflective mailbox numbers improve visibility when checking paddocks after dark.

Low-Cost Winter Feeding. Plan now to cut winter feeding chores and make the most of manure nutrients. As you harvest round bales, place them 20 feet apart on center in rows also 20 feet apart in well-drained, low-fertility areas in your pastures, suggests University of Missouri beef-grazing specialist Jim Gerrish. Next winter, ration out two to three days worth of bales at a time with polywire or polytape and portable posts. A 1,000-pound bale will feed 30 average-sized cows for a day, he estimates. Limit feeding in any one area to two to three weeks at a stock density of no more than 10 to 12 cows per acre of pasture, unless the ground is frozen. Feeding areas benefit from the extra manure and usually heal quickly, Gerrish reports.

Set Posts In Frozen Ground. Don't let frozen ground keep you from using temporary fencing to control animals or parcel out feed. Simply use a cordless drill equipped with a masonry bit to predrill holes in the ground before inserting fenceposts.

Enjoy A Stroll. In spring and early summer, take a weekly walk to inventory feed in your pastures. Observe and record height, thickness and species. Analyzing these simple records can help you better budget for slower growth during the summer slump.

Smooth Water Connection. Michael Battisti, Eaton, N.Y., uses common faucet "sillcocks" to attach portable water tanks to his main line. "A plastic barbed adapter screws into one end to hook into the black plastic line and the other end is male hose thread," he explains. The sillcock and adapter cost about $3.50, and are available at most any hardware store. "I've also found it more convenient to replace the male end of the connecting hose with a female end, so that both ends are female. This makes it much easier to make connections without tools."

Great Grazing Mix. Sarah and Henry Kyburg, Lyons, N.Y., have found a pasture mix that most years gives their Black Angus three great grazings and provides two additional cuttings of hay: half orchardgrass and a quarter each alfalfa and ladino clover. "It comes on fast in the spring so you have to start grazing early to stay ahead of the orchardgrass so it won't shade out the legumes," says Sarah. "When it's hot and dry in the summer, the alfalfa's long root structure comes into play. We've found that bloat isn't a problem unless alfalfa is the only species present."

Cool Idea. Ohio grazier F.W. Owen uses an inexpensive, home-built mister to keep his cows grazing when the mercury soars over 90 F. He glues a plastic cap to one end of a 10-foot section of 3/4-inch rigid plastic pipe, and a hose fitting to the other. Then he twists a sharp knife into the cap to form two or three tiny holes. (The holes will be too big if you use even the smallest drill bit, he cautions.) Owen secures the pipe to a six-foot step ladder with rubber canvas stretchers, attaches it to his water system, and stands the latter just outside the fence. With no breeze, the misted area will accommodate 30 cows. Even a slight breeze will carry the mist up to 200 feet. Owen suggests moving the ladder two or three times on hot afternoons to better distribute manure. Cows establish a pattern of drinking, grazing, then standing in the mist, and only a few will be under the mister at any one time, he observes. To find out more about Owen's innovative practices, visit his web site at http://www.bright.net/~fwo/.

Low-Cost Spool. Extension cord reels make excellent spools for polywire or polytape and cost less than $10 at most hardware stores.

Cows Deserve A `Break.' Logansport, Ind., dairyman Dave Forgey moves his forward wire ahead to provide his 150 Holsteins with a fresh half-acre "break" at least four or five times during the day and two or three times in the evening. that encourages the cows to get up and keep grazing even when it's hot, and decreases trampling losses.

Muddy Lane Solutions. With the continuing wet spring in '96, more ideas for dealing with muddy lanes poured into the graze-l listserv discussion. One suggestion was to use wood chips or bark mulch if locally available at a reasonable price, preferably underlaid with geotextile fabric to keep them from being punched into the mud. There was also a report of a fortunate Wisconsin farmer who discovered his subsoil had just the right ratio of sand and clay to drain well yet remain firm when wet. He bulldozed off the topsoil and raised the subsoil to form a lane that performed well that season.

Time To Reseed? The January thaw, flood and freeze winterkilled orchardgrass, clovers and even timothy in many New York pastures. And the cold, wet spring left more than a few paddocks a muddy mess by May. "Fortunately, the damage often isn't as bad as it looks right after the cows tear it up," says NRCS grasslands specialist Darrell Emmick. "There's lots of time for the grasses to tiller and fill in the stand during May and June." Don't rush to reseed, suggests Emmick. Wait until July to assess the damage. If you still see mostly bare ground consider a burndown and no-till summer seeding, he says. "But if it's just punch marks with a lot of grass coming, give it some more time to see if Mother Nature takes over and does the renovation work for you." Some graziers report a flush of clover seedlings germinating from hard seed in the soil after stock pug up the paddocks. If weeds are rank, clip to reduce competition with the clover seedlings and recovering grass. Reasses the stand in the fall, and if it's still not what you'd like, mow it close to prepare for a frost seeding, or plan for a total renovation next spring. Disk badly rutted pastures to level them. "But avoid plowing. Then you've got to start from scratch," cautions Emmick.

Prepare For Spring. Allow some paddocks to regrow a bit in fall. They will usually green up earlier in spring than those grazed short, helping you to get a jump on getting staggered regrowth next season

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Home Grazing Gear Up For Grazing Contents Timely Tips

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