May 21, 2024

From the Barns: See the big picture

We have some water standing on pastures and fields. I had almost given up seeing that this spring. Looks like some other events may follow. Ponds aren’t full, but have been improved. I know I am always talking ponds, but with nine on our place and all used for cattle water, their levels are really important.

Our cow group here is done calving with good results, thanks to mostly excellent spring weather. One thing about one-wire, high-tensile fences, they hold cows just fine, but the calves soon learn how to dip the back and go under for that lush green grass. These calves have been the worst. They pretty much roam wherever they want. I looked out the kitchen windows yesterday to find six in the front yard. They scared back easily, but they sure were on an exploration.

A word about grass tetany: Kick with magnesium to avoid. I am reminded of the threat with the cold temperatures and lush grass that will be out there at turnout. An old voice of experience, you don’t want to deal with it.

I hope you all are staying in your lots or sacrifice area until that grass is really ready — 8 inches. Too early turnout can cause your forages to be damaged for the rest of the grazing season.

Fate has thrown us another curveball and I am not talking about the beginning of the baseball season. Highly pathogenic avian flu has found its way into the cattle news and then the internet news. When the internet news happens, it usually is overreaction and then chaos. Hope that is not the case here.

Most experts are downplaying any results, but we need to all be alert and get anything checked with our veterinarian. Having a biosecurity plan is always a good thing. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has a template at Hopefully, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have our backs.

Our obvious situation here in Illinois is that the state has lost thousands of acres of permanent pasture over the last decade. Many of these acres are viewed as less productive and less profitable. But with best regenerative grazing practices, these acres can be quite profitable. With increased interest in regenerative farming practices, improving soil health and introducing livestock to improve that process, many of these acres will be returned to seasonal or permanent pasture. This movement will have a significant impact on the landscape and soil loss and nutrient loss reduction.

Our Illinois Grazing Lands Coalition Grazing Conference in Springfield last month emphasized and reinforced the significant qualities of this movement. As ILGLC negotiates a path along this trend, the goal is to be the voice for grazing in the state and the provider of producer assistance. Please continue to watch for messages about information and events that can help guide new grazers as well as experienced grazers through the practices that will lead to this success.

Looking forward to speaking on grazing for the Illinois Beef Association’s Cattlemen Connect Education Series down in deep southern Illinois at Anna on Saturday, April 13. Following lunch and my talk, we have an opportunity to visit two grazing operations in the area, CJ Simmentals and Hillcroft Farms. I always have enjoyed my trips into southern Illinois and am sure this one will not disappoint. If you need to register for this event, and for more information, go to

As you wade into the planting season, be careful out there and as you go, reevaluate those marginal fields that could make just as much money being grazed. And the big picture is to leave the land better than we found it. Which practices make that possible? Stay safe and sane!

Trevor Toland

Trevor Toland

Macomb, Ill.