June 20, 2024

From the Barns: Exchange of ideas

Our weather has turned dry and temperatures are rising, as well. This has taken us from wanting some respite from rain events to hoping for a cooling and invigorating shower. The month of June was sure busy and flew by as we hosted part of the Illinois Beef Association and Illinois Forage and Grassland Council Summer Conference Field Day on June 8. The rain did not hold off and we were only able to provide a partial tour of River Oak and no demonstrations of haying equipment.

The half-inch of rain in the morning not only made us change the schedule, but make last-minute decisions, none of which were easy. Annie at IBA did a great job making decisions and keeping everyone informed. And, better yet, a good crowd came out for the pasture tour and presentation and stayed around to the end. Thanks again to IBA and IFGC for choosing River Oak, but just so sorry we couldn’t do the whole show.

I just returned, June 27 and 28, from a trip south to Mt. Vernon and then out to Burnt Hill Cattle for a two-day field day organized by the Embarrass Grazing Partnership. It was a great event purely on grazing and hosted by the Karcher family in a beautiful shady trees setting.

Ed Ballard, Matt Bunger, Grant Bauman, Logan Karcher and I gave presentations. I was able to share for 2 1/2 hours on paddock design and setup and I also had some time to share how to determine density in a system and then compile the value of the grazing for a complete season. It was very rewarding to share with a very good group of producers, as well as some professionals in the grazing business.

Carson has been really busy making more changes in our own stocking rate here at River Oak. The feeder calves are gone to the feed yard where they can gain cheaper than a group of cows. They have been replaced by cows and we are up over 200 in three groups on our 47 paddocks.

He has a challenge keeping them separated and good meals in front of them. A total of 135 head of fall calvers came in from southwest Missouri. It looks to me like a great purchase. The three pot loads were unloaded here and then 50 of them trailered up to Welsh Cattle headquarters for other pasture. I am sure the 85-are fescue adapted and will do very well here.

We are still struggling to trample, graze or clip some paddocks with an abundance of seed heads. It has not been done without a few eye issues, but overall we really have been quite free of worse problems. I think Jim Draper used a good descriptive word for the situation, when he stated in his article that he hoped the trample created “armor” for the hot, dry days ahead.

We certainly liked that word because our experience in measuring soil temperature has shown soil with a good covering of forage, trample and other organic material is often 20 degrees cooler than bare soil. What a difference that has to make in allowing cool-season grasses to maintain and grow during July and August. That cool difference is yet another reason for managing a regenerative and adaptive management intensive rotational grazing system.

On a personal note, the month of June was not all fun. Friday night, June 24, a very large doe tried to take on my new 2022 Tundra. Head on, the truck was the winner, except for the bumper, the entire grill and some of the mechanics behind it. It was very upsetting, with the truck hardly broken in at 2,700 miles. Oh, well, the good thing was no one or other vehicles were involved and I was still in the comfort of the cab without air bags.

Hope you enjoyed some family time and celebration fireworks on the Fourth of July. Keep an eye out for upcoming Western Illinois Grazing Group events. And, as always, stay safe and sane.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.