It seems as though we often begin these articles with weather-related comments. Obviously, there is very good reason for that, since we are yoked to the weather closely, whether we like it or not. At the moment, we don’t like it very much. Our grazing year had begun with good weather and dry conditions, and we were beginning to develop a solid routine and making excellent progress.
That all changed in the last few days, with heavy flooding rains. Our floodplain pastures are now flooded, and tile lines and small creeks and ditches are still full and flowing. So, it is going to be a while before we get our north group out of the sacrifice pasture and drylot and back into a satisfactory rotation. We are reminded that things can change rapidly. In 2013, following our record flooding on April 18, we trended into a very, very dry summer. Again, there it is, be careful what you pray.
We received all of our steer yearlings – 132 — on April 11. The two loads weighed in at 710 and 715. They were a pleasing green and lean, wormed and implanted. After a few days in the drylot training to the electric fences, we were grazing both groups on April 19. We kept them at groups of 66 each, even though we have usually gone to an 80/50 split.
We were thinking we had more grass in the north side of the river bottoms than ever and less grass on the south fescue, due to the pugging damage during winter grazing last year. Now, we are feeling wronged by the flooding and thinking of making an adjustment. Overstocking in a grazing program has great potential for disaster and that needs to be closely monitored.
Also, we have had to evaluate carefully the potential for damaging paddocks that are too wet for high density traffic. Even though we would like to move daily after removing about a third of the forage, that much density looked too high for conditions in several paddocks. Our rate was working out to be about three to four acres per day for the groups of 68, a density of only about 15,000 pounds per acre. But the forage left behind was pleasing us, and the regrowth has been very good despite the cool temperatures. I really feel like any higher density may have been too damaging.
The other consideration was that the frost-seeded red clover looks really good, although small, in all our paddocks, and for that we are grateful. So far, we have moved our south group on the fescue 14 times in 18 days and the north group seven times in 14 days. Some of those were using temporary polywire fencing, and some were not. I am pretty confident that as the weather settles down and ground firms, we will be finding it a good routine to move daily around 2 p.m. after removing about a third of the forage.
We were scheduled to host the WIU Beef Class on May 2, but a 5:30 to 5:45 a.m. 1-inch downpour on top of already-wet conditions caused me to call Dr. Trennepohl and move the venue to a classroom. The class was a pleasure to work with, and we ended up using the full 1 hour and 50 minute lab. Working with a good group of young people always lifts the spirits, and I viewed our problems here as more solvable when I got back.
The Western Illinois Grazing Group met at Midwest Grass and Forage on the April 24. Thanks to the Lant family — Donna, Laura and Craig — for hosting and refreshments. We had a slim turnout due to working field conditions and a forecast for rain, but we had a good evening with lively discussion. Thanks to Jay Pittman, Brad Bates, Elton Mau, Jim Draper, Julie Melvin and Leo Arnold for attending. Our next meeting will be held May 22 at a location to be named later.