May 13, 2021

From the Barns: Spring on the farm

Greetings from River Oak on a fine wintry morning. Glad we are promised a stretch of warmer spring like days following this cold front. All nine of our ponds are full and overflowing following recent rains. However, a look at the national drought map is concerning with a lot of brown and red in cattle country. As soils warm with predicted sun and heat, planters will start to go, as well.

Most importantly for us, grass will leap upwards and the race to keep up with grazing will commence. Until that happens, cattlemen should keep those cows in that dry lot or sacrifice pasture, until grass is growing rapidly at 8 inches, to prevent premature grazing and damage. I always see some of that poor management occurring and I can be assured the rest of the year will be sorely effected. Weeds will outgrow the desirable grasses and overall recovery will be slow if at all.

From some close observation, I feel like our frost seeding has resulted in poor germination, due to lack of freezing and thawing temperatures to work seed into the top of the soil. The frost conditions we had were for the most part with dry soil. Not the right combination.

Spring turnout is approaching. We are tentatively planning three groups to accommodate better cleanup bull coverage. Following that, combination of one or two groups. When considering grazing density and what works best, know that larger groups resulting in more pounds per acre provide the most uniform grazing and are easier to manage than small numbered groups.

Temporary fencing is required more often with lower densities to ensure a shorter grazing period which results in more complete and uniform grazing. So, we will be challenged somewhat to keep the grazing rotation where we want it with the smaller three groups.

Also, we want to keep those bulls from being next door to each other with only one strand of hi-tensile between them. I will let you know next month how good we do at accomplishing all that. I am asking myself as I look at the fencing corner, are 12 reels of polywire and 150 step-in posts enough?

I have long been a fan and regular reader in BEEF Magazine of Burke Teichert. He announced his retirement in the January issue. I hold firm to many of the best practices he wrote about over the years: if you have to feed hay for more than four months, you should run yearlings; most small producers should buy replacements not raise them; develop heifers in the way they will live as adults and keep their breeding season short; and grazing management should focus on production per acre not per animal and should result in many advantages, including soil health, lower costs and more forage production. Thank you, Burke, and best wishes.

Plans are nearly completed by a committee of the Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition and Natural Resources Conservation Service to host the annual Heart of America Grazing Conference in Mt. Vernon on Aug. 10-11. This conference will be well worth your time at the pasture walk on the evening of the 10th and the all-day in-person event at the Doubletree on the 11th. Details, brochure, press release and registration form coming soon.

Stay safe and sane and be careful out there as you start spring work.

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.