Monday, January 3, 2011

Extreme Grazing

It was below zero again today, which makes ranching chores none too fun. It’s hard to put on enough clothes to stay warm. 

We’re renting corn stalks from a neighbor to graze the older cows on this winter. We’ve found that daily fence line moves keep the cows happier and yield the best utilization of the stalks. Mark hung an electric string along the length of a center irrigation pivot so that it can be walked across the field daily. The cows learn quickly to come to fresh feed as the pivot moves. They hope to be first in line to dig out the few remaining ears of corn. It’s a two-person job, Mark drives the 4-wheeler to turn on the pivot and monitor the string, someone else tends the end to keep the string up and keep the cows from going around the pivot.

Cows are diligent and efficient grazers. It’s enjoyable to watch them wrap their tongues around the stems to strip off the tender leaves and yank the stalks to get them out of the snow. They receive a loose mineral/protein supplement too, as corn stalks aren’t a balanced diet on their own. Monitoring the herd’s condition - their body fat - is critical this time of year. They’re holding their own despite the temperature.

This is a new endeavor for our area, corn being a recent addition to the crops of southeast Idaho. This is our third year, and every season is different with many lessons learned. It’s cheaper than feeding expensive hay - not a windfall, just enough to make it worthwhile. 

We see it as a win-win with our farming neighbors. Not only does the farmer receive a daily rental, he gains the benefit of the urine and manure fertilizing his fields, enhanced by the mineral supplement going through the cows. 
We appreciate this neighbor who sees the advantage of cows on the land, using a crop residual, and doing what comes natural. 

Anna and Mark - doling out a fresh "break"

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