May 20, 2024

From the Barns: Just to make sure

I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. It seems as though that takes a lot of time these days, as I sometimes struggle with the technology advances and everything being “apps.” I am definitely what some call a throwback in my learning styles. I prefer written, but can do OK with verbal, as well. So, in our instant-information world, I sometimes am overwhelmed with all that can be easily accessed.

I will need to, as time goes on, start prioritizing what I am using to keep learning. If you are reading this, I have to think that you have enjoyed doing so in the past, or have some curiosity, or hope to be a learner in doing so. That puts the pressure on me and Steve and Jeff to help you be a lifelong learner. If you can glean an idea or an understanding from anything we are trying to say through printed words, then we will be happy.

Spent last evening listening to Joel Gruver, professor of soil science and sustainable ag at Western Illinois University, speak on soil health. Do listen if you ever have a chance, as Joel is a real resource. His work at the WIU Allison Farm is cutting edge and goes beyond anything we can gain from precision farming. Our next step in regenerative agriculture has to move beyond chemical approaches to the biological side and paying more attention to what analysis of growing plants can reveal.

The night before, I listened to RWE reps as they detailed plans for another wind farm in McDonough County, encompassing 20,000 acres. With the world news ever so urgent, it is difficult to keep up with everything. I like desk time, but need a balance with being outside on River Oak where some good stuff always lifts the spirits.

It is time for a new gate sign. Instead of the old “Toland’s River Oak Ranch” and the oak tree as part of the “T,” we have a “River Oak Ranch” in an arc, with the tree underneath and “since 1951.” Then at the bottom, “Carson Welsh — Operator” and below that “Trevor Toland — Owner.” It really represents part of our transition process, with Carson on the top line and being in charge and me just still around to make sure. You older folks know what I mean by “just still around to make sure.”

Cattle here at River Oak are mostly unhappy as they continually look at us in expectation that we will take them someplace where there is some decent green food. They have been tasked with cleaning up all the soybean fields, lots, lanes, small spaces and everything in between. I am hopeful we will be well along in our winter grazing program on the stockpiled fescue when you read next month’s article.

We have gained a little more green growth in the last three weeks with some small rains, but we will be well short of a normal year as far as volume. We will use two groups of bred cows — 50 in one and 65 in another — to harvest the stockpile. The timing should come out about right to have them into observation places for calving starting in February.

An early alert to place on your calendars: The Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition will be hosting a late winter grazing conference in Springfield at the Northfield on March 12-13. The keynote speaker will be Allen Williams of Mississippi, a sixth-generation family farmer and founding partner of Understanding Ag, the Soil Health Academy and Regenified. As some of you may remember, Allen spent a lot of time in Illinois working with us on the Illinois Grazing Project. I have the greatest respect for him and always am learning when he is doing the talking. So, plan on taking that in and look for details as they come out in the coming months.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to time with all three of my daughters and their families from San Diego, Rockford and Milwaukee.

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.