October 19, 2021

From the Barns: Timing is everything

Whoopee! Grazing season is underway and all is grand. In the last two weeks, we have had an absolute forage explosion. It has exceeded anything I have experienced. We seemed to have gone from 4 to 6 inches to 10 to 14 inches almost overnight in some near-perfect — at least for cool-season grasses — conditions. It has been a sight to behold.

With 150 heifers out here at River Oak, we suddenly need more. Our first thought is, thank you, dry lots and sacrifice pastures, for keeping us out of the grazing pastures until they were really ready. The second thought then is, of course, did we wait too long? However, dismiss that thought because a lot goes into when turnout will occur. The stored feed that will spoil needs to be used. The AI program needs to be properly completed. The cleanup bulls need to be present, checked and ready. The grouping for cleanup breeding needs to be done. So, it is not just a matter of looking at a paddock and opening the gate.

We have three groups right now with cleanup bulls assigned. All have settled in and are honoring fences and responding well when moves are needed. This is our first year ever with no home-raised cows present to lead the heifers. However, each of the groups has girls who were here for winter grazing last season. That experience seems to be working very well when movement is needed paddock to paddock.

On the new south 20 where we administered our Environmental Quality Incentives Program last year, our red clover/fescue/Italian ryegrass seeded March 8 last year is once again making things difficult. The red clover that we grazed really hard last winter to hopefully help our grasses start this spring is once again outgrowing everything and is already at 18 inches and heavy. We pondered strip grazing very small areas to increase trampling and decrease consumption, but the heifers will still need to fill on something and that would simply mean another strip and more red clover.

So, going against everything we want to do normally, the decision has been made to cut for a hay harvest. Wet, dry, or somewhere in between has not yet been determined. I have always wanted to cut a pasture at about 5 inches in this scenario to replicate a normal graze, but not sure what we want to do with the red clover in this situation. We will see if someone out there has some experience with this dilemma.

It looks like crop planting is winding down rapidly here. Our conditions have not been perfect, but windows have opened and allowed work to progress. A lot of corn has emerged and soybean planting is wrapping.

Hope you all are able to enjoy the springtime. Be safe and sane and take time to smell the flowers.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.