February 27, 2024

From the Barns: Keep on hopping

We have had a few showers here at River Oak, but only showers. We are in need of some substantial moisture for growing forage, as well as bringing home the row crops. A few tenths is all we seem to muster, but we know from the news that we should be careful what we wish for. Some of the rains not far away have been way too much. If we can get some cooler nights to stretch moisture, that always helps. I do feel the cool of August and September nights starting to come.

I just returned from a family vacation to the “Copper Country” in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We rented a house on Lake Superior and found the area to be very interesting and unlike any we had visited. The nightly dominoes tournament was a great family enjoyment and our day adventures along the lake area were quite interesting. Carson and Ashley had their vacation earlier in the month and I proved to still be up to the task of running River Oak all by myself — at least I have not been told that I messed anything up too badly.

Our act now is to try and rotate carefully enough to treat all our paddocks with care and proper rest and at the same time keep all the girls and calves happy until we begin the process of weaning or shipping or shuffling or whatever you might want to call that challenging transition from normal rotations to fall residue and then to winter grazing.

If you think it is too early to plan winter grazing, think again. We will begin to rest fescue paddocks throughout August and no later than Sept. 1 for them to have adequate time to rest and grow the winter graze. At the same time we are trying to manage to finish out our needs with the reeds canary paddocks. It is always a challenge, but easier with some adequate and timely rains.

We had a hard time deciding what to do with the five paddocks that we call the South 20. We had held the mature fescue and ryegrass for the Illinois Beef Association Summer Conference, but the weather did not cooperate so there were no equipment demonstrations.

Even though we had a lot of trample, we decided to go ahead and graze the 42 pairs for one day on each of the three acre paddocks followed with a 5-inch clipping to knock out the rest of the seed heads and coarse material and give us a more vegetative state going forward. That would equal a density of approximately 27,000 pounds per acre. It looked like a terrible plan for a little bit, but the result was near perfect and the paddocks are re-growing very nicely.

Weaning will start next week with the early spring calves and our fall calving group will soon be starting. It will keep things hopping. We will continue to cut fence brush sprouts and spray some. I have to keep track of our progress on a ranch map so we hit all the fences.

Carson was able to do some of the fence line and woods trails mowing while I was gone, but some need completion. We have a project to place railroad ties perpendicular to some eroding cattle trails down to two of our gravity flow pond tanks. This creates a step-like pattern that has worked well to stabilize these areas and still leave easy access for the cattle.

I need not name all the events that crowd the August calendar, but still hope we can work in a couple of grazing meetings in the wider area. It is good to see Tri-County Cattlemen touring grazing operations and Environmental Quality Incentives Program projects on their big Aug. 20 event. Keep a look out for all that is happening and, as always, stay safe and sane.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.