November 30, 2022

From the Pastures: Too many dogs?

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. After hearing about some of the extreme rain events in Illinois and elsewhere the past few weeks, I am very grateful to have been spared those deluges. Here at home the pastures and row crops are faring well so far. And with the cooler temps the animals and I are thankful, as well.

My neighbor, Ken, harvested the organic oats last month and after I shredded the stubble the clover is looking good. I expect to have good grazing there this fall and next spring the field will go back to organic corn with the clover supplying most of the nitrogen. We have mushroom compost piled and waiting to be spread to put on 3 tons per acre, probably followed by some chicken litter for some added N next spring unless I decide to switch to beans instead.

Although those products have not risen in price as drastically as synthetic fertilizers, they have gone up about 50% over last year. Some of that increase is due to fuel and freight costs, as well as being in demand by conventional farmers as a lower cost per nutrient substitute to commercial fertilizers. Even with current crop prices offering opportunities for profits in spite of extreme input prices, I expect, just like 10 years ago, the squeeze will be on those profits in the next few years.

On the animal front, we are getting another guard dog pup, a female Maremma/Anatolian from some folks down near Pittsfield soon. When we first got into hair sheep we talked with a rancher in Oklahoma, Hoss Hopping, who had a large range flock and I asked him how many guard dogs he needed and he said you can never have too many. I believe him. This pup will eventually join the two yearlings we have and relieve our old Anatolian, Dakota, who at over 12 years old spends most of his waking hours sleeping. He deserves the rest.

Ruth continues to milk Ella and gets around 3 gallons a day in the morning and her calf gets her the rest of the day. We will be weaning him and putting two more calves on her later next month. Her first calf, coming 2 years old, will be calving in a couple months, so if anyone would like to enjoy the same thrill as Ruth gets every morning, give us a call. Ruth can only handle so much thrill and I can eat only so much yogurt and ice cream, so we are eager to share that joy.

Back to crops, I had a neighbor, Cameron, going over our bean fields with his weed zapper twice to get the giant ragweeds and foxtail that the tine weeder, rotary hoe and cultivator didn’t get. That is an amazing tool for getting any problem weeds above the crop canopy. It has made my fields look as good as I used to have with conventional non-GMO beans. At a cost of about one bushel per acre per trip, it’s an affordable rescue tool for us.

With the technology of cultivator guidance improvements, tine weeders and weed zappers in our arsenal, there is so much more available to help organic producers and even conventional farmers with resistant weed pressure than just a few years ago. As I’ve said before it’s a great time to be a farmer. Can I get an “Amen?” Happy trails!

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.