May 20, 2024

From the Barns: Can we make money?

Here at River Oak we are nearly finished with the last rotation through our fescue and clover paddocks. We started the process the first week in August and will complete it by the time you read this. Our goal is to not graze those 24 paddocks after Sept. 1, so we are a little behind, but taking it easy on the last few to allow for quicker recovery. Those 24 paddocks will be ready for winter grazing sometime in mid- to late November, after a hard freeze — 24 degrees or less — or two. We should have 10 to 12 inches of forage and the quality will be fantastic, if we have some rain by then.

I am very happy to report that we have had a nice flush of red clover from our February frost seeding. The season has played tricks on us, as we saw early small seedlings and then their disappearance during the early summer drought. We thought we had another failure. But, to our surprise, following “derecho day” on June 29 and the rains that fell over the next events, we now have a really good stand of red clover throughout most of our fescue paddocks. We are delighted, as we see the effect that has on grass growth and how we feel the cattle are working the fescue paddocks better.

The cows have pregnancy tested very well, too. The all-fescue-all-summer group was 87.5% bred — without two effected by our lung worm incident, 91% — and the all-reed canary group with calves at side were 95% pregnant. We can live with those results during a less-than-ideal, drought-plagued summer. Both groups have good body condition scores now and ready to work through the reed canary grass until we have to provide other supplemental feed until winter stockpile. We have no annuals or corn residue available.

I know the studies all indicate very negative factors against us with the use of endophyte-infected fescue, but we continue to successfully work through with good rotational adaptive management and red clover as mitigating factors. We can also testify that STF43, a top Barenbrug brand of soft leaf fescue, does not withstand drought well. Also, I am getting to the age where I want to leave a complete overhaul of our fescue acres to a younger generation.

The upcoming grazing schools planned for you by the Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition — southern at Farraway Farms near Mt. Vernon on Sept. 8 and 9 and northern at All Grass Farm near Dundee on Sept. 15 and 16 — will be worthwhile events for beginning as well as practicing regenerative grazers. If you have decided at this late date to attend, email Logan Karcher at for the southern or Christian Lovell at for the northern.

Can we make money grazing? That will be my topic at the schools. Look forward to seeing some of you there. Stay safe and sane.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.