January 18, 2022

From the Pastures: Looking for oats

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. For all those in the non-farm public, many casual conversations start with sports, but many of us in the farming community will usually start with a rain update, at least during the growing season, and then it turns to snow and cold topics. Since our livelihoods are bonded closely to the vagaries of these weather events, it’s only natural. All this to say we finally got some rain — not a lot, but at least now we can burn our accumulated trash and the threat of field fires is alleviated.

The pastures are still green, even though growth has been minimal. I was considering planting wheat after bean harvest to rotate the organic row crops with a break crop and then follow up with a cover crop of annuals for winter grazing. Since the beans aren’t yet harvested — we’re late, I know — it’s doubtful.

I just had a call from Ron, a friend who manufactures horse feed for clients in Chicago who is earnestly looking for 10,000 bushels of oats. It seems they are, at least locally, in short supply and therefore quite pricey compared to the low prices of the last few decades. When I used to farrow sows, I always used oats in the sow ration as a good filler to prevent overfeeding, as well as good bowel function, and in the starter pig ration, too. As a kid, we had milk cows and Dad would grind ear corn along with oats for feeding while in the stanchions getting milked. And, of course, all the ponies and horses got their share of oats, too, since corn was too fattening.

I have long thought oats to be more deserving of a respectable — and profitable — part of a crop rotation plan. Now maybe is a good time to implement that here on our farm. Since we don’t feed grain anymore to our ruminants, it would be a cash crop followed by a cover crop or as a nurse crop for a hay or pasture crop. I normally do that anyway, but now hopefully with a better short-term payback. However, I wouldn’t want to encourage anyone else toward this enterprise as that might flood the market before I could benefit, so just wait until I can test the market first and let you know if it’s worth your time.

We have had several lambs go through our slaughter room last month. I thought it must be a holiday that I was not aware of, but, no, just a hankering for good lamb. We’ve taken two beef to the locker last week and keep getting repeat customers whom we value greatly. More hogs go in next month and we just delivered another 150 organic broilers for our meal prep chef whose business is really taking off. Hooray, Alyssa!

With the parade of the colors of fall and all of the other sights and sounds of the season like the geese honking overhead on their annual migration and the beautiful fall sunsets, let’s take time to enjoy all the joys our Creator has blessed us with as we continue with this most noble effort, harvest. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.