• If you are having problems logging in please use the Contact Us in the lower right hand corner of the forum page for assistance.

Any zero till/regenerative ag experts?

Help Support CattleToday:

OP
R

Rydero

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
154
Location
Manitoba, Canada
25-30 elk will run right through it. Happened this year on my SS cover crop blend when I was breaking the field into 2 day segments. Last year on (Canadian) Thanksgiving a couple feet of wet heavy snow flattened the electric fence on my swath grazing. No chance of me putting 90 pairs of mostly black cows on a half section with only polywire beside a busy highway, lol. I love electric for breaking down my pastures but I'll have barbed wire perimeter fence so I can sleep at night. I'm up to 15 paddocks for the pairs before I start using my spools and step ins to break them down further.
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
I've successfully converted a fair amount of crop ground directly to grazing in the very first year/seeding year the past two seasons. Doing a bunch more again next year. Planted winter rye in the fall immediately after harvesting NT soybeans and corn @ 70 - 80#/a, using a JD750 NT drill. If early enough to let them get a start in the fall, I'll put red clover and hairy vetch in too, but I'll put the rye down even onto frozen ground, regardless of late date, if that's my only option.... but the earlier you get it out there, the better the crop will be the next spring (I could tell a difference on plantings only 12 hours apart last year... seriously! that was on a Nov. 3 to a Nov. 4 seeding... so very late and "just freezing" soil... so an extra 12 hours in "unfrozen but cold" soil could make all the difference... CAN'T STRESS ENOUGH HOW MUCH EARLIER PLANTING HELPS COME SPRING!!!! ). Then in spring, I come back and frost seed everything else when the ground is still frozen with a standard drill (much more dependably even distribution than you can get with a spinner, especially with light seeds...I use a JD 8300), with oats as a carrier. I'll put this down through several inches of snow if I have to, without any concern at all for the job I'm doing... seems to work just fine, regardless. It's actually kind of nice to have a light snow cover, because you can see where you went with the drills and not miss anything! Even better if you can put it down on the soil and then get a snow on top of the seed! I prefer that it be "just frozen", but beggars can't be choosers. If it's like I WANT IT though, my 8300 openers will kind of cut a groove about 1/4" deep... just enough to get that seed in contact with some dirt directly. Don't care at all that it's not getting "covered"... the frost/thaw cycle and the spring rains/snows will take care of "incorporation".

Here's what I put down last spring per acre... 1.2 bu. of oats, 2# orchardgrass, 3# Meadow Brome, 2# Timothy, 1# Meadow Fescue, 1# Kale, 2# Grazing Alfalfa, 2# Creeping Alfalfa (spreads from tillering, supposedly helps avoid the autotoxicity issue), 3# Medium Red Clover, 1/2# Hairy Vetch, 2# Alsike Clover. I've heard from guys that have done it in our area that tall fescue is really nice to have for going into winter, so might put some of that in the mix this spring too. I blend it all with a mixer mill (my "Handy Dandy Seed Tender Blender"), and put it all in the main seed box. Works great!

The cattle REALLY like that kale... first thing they go after when you give them a new break, and they'll strip every leaf, then come back across for the grasses and the clover, etc.. It develops a terrific deep tap root, and from what I've seen, I think it'll do everything that a Daikon Radish or turnips might and then some for compaction, and it'll do it more dependably. Won't "push up out of the ground" like radishes/turnips will, but will drive that big tap root right down through anything you've got out there, about like a Burdock that way. And it'll do this WHILE feeding the cattle with something they really appreciate. It's an annual though, so it won't overwinter (which means that tap root is going to decompose leaving a really big, deep hole down through the compaction!).... but from what I saw, it'll set alot of seed in the fall, so I'm hoping that I'll get plenty of volunteer coming back again next season. Very fast recovery after grazing, nutritious, and it stays green well after the killing frost. I've STILL got plants that are "trying" to push "some" regrowth, which is amazing this late into the season (December 2 in SE Minnesota). Cattle pretty well have stripped it down to a stump though by this time.

I'm very confident that next spring I'll have exceptionally good grazing really early on these "converted cropland first year grazing acres", because I put winter rye (70#)/red clover (2#)/hairy vetch (1#) out with a broadcast fertilizer spreader in very early September (9-4-20) in my bean fields (barely could find anything starting to turn yet), and the fields were already green underneath when I took the beans off. Pretty good "turf" out there now. Broadcast was done with a single spinner spreader... didn't do the best job of distribution, threw it more to one side than the other...and double spinner would probably be better... went back in with the 750 drill and put down another 45# of winter rye on all of it, just to ensure a really good stand next spring, and that got up and growing before it froze hard too. Still planning to frost seed the "spring seeding mix", but that rye is going to be some awesome grazing come early May.

We've still got some pretty nice weather here for Dec. 2 ( mid teens at night, 30's during the day forecast for the next week at least, no snow cover although we've already had about 10" of snow for the season), so I'm busy doing as much of the needed fencing as I can get done before it gets nasty! (None of my ground had any fencing on it). I've got all of the perimeter end/line posts in place, just need to pull in the remaining wires, and then it's just interior subdivision fencing, and I have the end posts in place for that already too...... I'm well ahead of the game compared to where I was with the last two years that I've done this... wasn't able to have the fence ready for cattle until mid summer on those! Took a first crop off as bales... that wasn't the end of the world either though! Prefer to take it off with the cattle the "cheap way" though!

Frost seeding to convert crop ground to grazing 3-21-2020
1606970713681.png
Spring 2019 Frost Seeded Converted Crop Ground on 5-31-2020

1606970959943.png
Spring 2019 Converted Crop Ground 5-31-20
1606971100137.png
Spreading winter rye, red clover, hairy vetch into soybeans 9-4-2020
1607007396009.png
 
Last edited:

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
BTW, I haven't used any herbicide that has any residual for several years, because I'm concerned about potential impact on establishing my cover crops. THAT is a really important factor to have considered when trying to establish follow up crops, especially in the cropping year. Might be something that would cause you some issues..... some of those can linger and have impact for 18 months or more!
 
OP
R

Rydero

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
154
Location
Manitoba, Canada
Thanks for all the detailed info on what you're doing RDFF. Your crops look great. How many grazing days per acre do you think you're averaging? How do you think the income compares grazing it vs cropping?
 

Stocker Steve

Well-known member
Joined
May 2, 2005
Messages
10,512
Reaction score
152
Location
Central Minnesota
I've successfully converted a fair amount of crop ground directly to grazing in the very first year/seeding year the past two seasons.
Thanks for the detail RDFF. Sounds like things are going well in SE MN. I spent a lot of time in Preston during a previous life.

I have never tried Kale in a mix. I did not like to eat it myself, but I will give cows a chance next year.

I have avoided early planting of perennial mixes due to a concern about spring frost damage. Have you seen any of this?
 

Stocker Steve

Well-known member
Joined
May 2, 2005
Messages
10,512
Reaction score
152
Location
Central Minnesota
Thanks for the detail RDFF. Sounds like things are going well in SE MN. I spent a lot of time in Preston during a previous life.

I have never tried Kale in a mix. I did not like to eat it myself, but I will give the cows a chance next year.

I have avoided early planting of perennial mixes due to a concern about spring frost damage. I have seen legumes killed by frost in the past. Have you seen any of this?
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
Well, I'm still working on figuring out what the potential is for grazing days, and for $$$ vs. cropping. I just got back into cattle in 2019 on the ground with the "converted crop ground" photos. The one of the drills is on 2020 spring conversion ground, and the spreader is in the soybeans from this year obviously. Haven't gotten the stocking density high enough to figure out what the carrying capacity potential can be yet.

I converted about 70 acres in 2019, started back into cattle by doing custom grazing. Did that again this year too, and will be next year too, and probably for some years to come. My "C/c guy" and I are on the same page and so far get along really well, great relationship where we both understand that we need each other, and it has to work for both of us, or it won't work for either of us. We can tell each other what we need, and get understanding... both ways. Anyway, from what I've seen so far, I think I could probably get to about 1.3 acres per C/c pair... we'll see. On 4-500# stockers, I think I could probably be at about 1.7 head/acre and carry them for the summer.

I think next year will be the real test. I'll probably be pasturing about 250 acres of converted ground, with only about 80 of that being first year seeding (frost seeding next spring). It seems to yield quite a bit more in the second year (the photos posted previously)....

Piece of advice... MAKE SURE YOU COVER EVERYTHING WITH YOUR DRILL!!! I've still got stripes on my 2019 pasture that's nothing but weeds. Where I had rye because I didn't miss any, it's absolutely beautiful! Guess my poor man's "OUGHT TO STEER" needs some work! :) I'd much rather dump out extra seed than end up with a bare spot! Last year on my fall planting of cover crops on my row crop ground, I had one drill run empty and I went all the way across the field before I caught it. SOLID waterhemp this spring! Where I had the rye.... nothing! I'll include a photo... And what I noticed when I got down off the tractor was, wherever there WAS a rye plant in that patch of waterhemp, there was a circle around that rye plant about the size of a silver dollar with no waterhemp.... allelopathy I assume. That's one of the reasons that I decided to broadcast rye into my beans this fall.... better seed distribution (not just rye in rows 7 1/2" apart), and an earlier start on the rye. And I upped the seeding rate from about 70#, to a total of about 115# (70# broadcast in early September, followed by the NT drill after harvest with another 45#).

1607056246004.png
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
StockerSteve, I'm not concerned about frost damage with frost seeding... I think that the "fur coat" of the winter rye really helps to shelter it for the most part. Nothing starts out as early as that does, and if you can get it started decent in the fall, it comes on really early and really strong... well before anything else will be going.
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
25-30 elk will run right through it. Happened this year on my SS cover crop blend when I was breaking the field into 2 day segments. Last year on (Canadian) Thanksgiving a couple feet of wet heavy snow flattened the electric fence on my swath grazing. No chance of me putting 90 pairs of mostly black cows on a half section with only polywire beside a busy highway, lol. I love electric for breaking down my pastures but I'll have barbed wire perimeter fence so I can sleep at night. I'm up to 15 paddocks for the pairs before I start using my spools and step ins to break them down further.
Rydero, what kind of electric fence are you building with the snow flattening it? Using lighter weight line posts? HT? I've got 3 wire HT everywhere for permanent perimeter including along the highway, some where we get heavy drifting (fence on ditch bank below elevated highway to the west for example). My concern would be for the snow dragging the fence down to the ground and grounding it out... but I'm not concerned about it actually flattening the posts, or breaking the wire or wire to post fasteners. I'm using 1 1/4" fiberglass rod for line posts. (Fiberglass Rod Post 1-1/4" - 6' - – Powerflex (powerflexfence.com)) . I like fiberglass for end/corner posts too... (FP4.5x7 ~ Fiberglass Corner Post – Powerflex (powerflexfence.com)). No insulators to break, nothing to ground it out that I installed at least. Makes a big difference. Would help minimize potential issues with elk too.
 
Last edited:
OP
R

Rydero

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
154
Location
Manitoba, Canada
Rydero, what kind of electric fence are you building with the snow flattening it? Using lighter weight line posts? HT? I've got 3 wire HT everywhere for permanent perimeter including along the highway, some where we get heavy drifting (fence on ditch bank below elevated highway to the west for example). My concern would be for the snow dragging the fence down to the ground and grounding it out... but I'm not concerned about it actually flattening the posts, or breaking the wire or wire to post fasteners. I'm using 1 1/4" fiberglass rod for line posts. (Fiberglass Rod Post 1-1/4" - 6' - – Powerflex (powerflexfence.com)) . I like fiberglass for end/corner posts too... (FP4.5x7 ~ Fiberglass Corner Post – Powerflex (powerflexfence.com)). No insulators to break, nothing to ground it out that I installed at least. Makes a big difference. Would help minimize potential issues with elk too.
The fence that got flattened was a temporary crossfence. 80 acre field w a barbed wire perimeter. I ran a wire of high tensile electric down one side then have spools with aircraft cable to subdivide the field. I use step in posts as I move the fence every couple days when I'm grazing covers or swath grazing.

This year the elk ran through both the main and backup wire and pulled it all down. Pulled the high tensile off the side too at the same time since it was attached. I'm happy the 10 insulators broke and I just have to replace them and tighten the wire not replace a bunch of posts. Until you deal w them you probably just won't understand. They move as a herd and are prone to panic. I know people who have had them pull down huge stretches of 3 wire barbed wire - posts and all. You want something to break - ideally the wire between 2 posts. I have a stretch of old fence I'll never replace for just that reason - it's sh*try enough to break between the posts and they cross that fence almost every day. My neighbor w the new fence has way more issues than I do.

I use 3 wire high tensile as well. I like working with it better than barbed wire now that I have access to a staple gun for the insulators. But it just doesn't have my trust as a perimeter in most cases. The electric just doesn't work great in the winter and we have lots of willows and brush growing up on our fences all the time. Batteries don't hold much juice at -40 and the sun sometimes doesn't shine for days. I hate to be the person that says "that just won't work here" but for the most part it won't. I work out and when I'm making hay in the summer I don't want to go and fix fence. I'm pretty efficient at putting up a barbed wire fence so it's mostly just the cost that bugs me. I set a budget every year and do what I can. I usually run out of fence money and patience after a few weeks, lol. Barbed wire is extremely reliable especially when you move the cows often. I got one call this summer for cattle out - one last year.
 

Muletrack

Active member
Joined
Oct 27, 2017
Messages
42
Reaction score
42
Well, I'm still working on figuring out what the potential is for grazing days, and for $$$ vs. cropping. I just got back into cattle in 2019 on the ground with the "converted crop ground" photos. The one of the drills is on 2020 spring conversion ground, and the spreader is in the soybeans from this year obviously. Haven't gotten the stocking density high enough to figure out what the carrying capacity potential can be yet.

I converted about 70 acres in 2019, started back into cattle by doing custom grazing. Did that again this year too, and will be next year too, and probably for some years to come. My "C/c guy" and I are on the same page and so far get along really well, great relationship where we both understand that we need each other, and it has to work for both of us, or it won't work for either of us. We can tell each other what we need, and get understanding... both ways. Anyway, from what I've seen so far, I think I could probably get to about 1.3 acres per C/c pair... we'll see. On 4-500# stockers, I think I could probably be at about 1.7 head/acre and carry them for the summer.

I think next year will be the real test. I'll probably be pasturing about 250 acres of converted ground, with only about 80 of that being first year seeding (frost seeding next spring). It seems to yield quite a bit more in the second year (the photos posted previously)....

Piece of advice... MAKE SURE YOU COVER EVERYTHING WITH YOUR DRILL!!! I've still got stripes on my 2019 pasture that's nothing but weeds. Where I had rye because I didn't miss any, it's absolutely beautiful! Guess my poor man's "OUGHT TO STEER" needs some work! :) I'd much rather dump out extra seed than end up with a bare spot! Last year on my fall planting of cover crops on my row crop ground, I had one drill run empty and I went all the way across the field before I caught it. SOLID waterhemp this spring! Where I had the rye.... nothing! I'll include a photo... And what I noticed when I got down off the tractor was, wherever there WAS a rye plant in that patch of waterhemp, there was a circle around that rye plant about the size of a silver dollar with no waterhemp.... allelopathy I assume. That's one of the reasons that I decided to broadcast rye into my beans this fall.... better seed distribution (not just rye in rows 7 1/2" apart), and an earlier start on the rye. And I upped the seeding rate from about 70#, to a total of about 115# (70# broadcast in early September, followed by the NT drill after harvest with another 45#).

View attachment 1092
Let us know when you figure out grazing days. I'm looking at doing the same thing with some of my land -- convert to permanent pasture. JThink I can run 200 cows on my six quarters East Central North Dakota. But will need some help. Praying for the right son-in-law to come along! Rye is the most nearly perfect cereal crop! Friend of mine sprays out his alfalfa every few years and no-tills rye. Then right back to alfalfa. Says that's just enough to get rid of the pocket gopher mounds so he can keep baling 8 miles an hour. Rye all goes in silage bags.
 

Muletrack

Active member
Joined
Oct 27, 2017
Messages
42
Reaction score
42
Let us know when you figure out grazing days. I'm looking at doing the same thing with some of my land -- convert to permanent pasture. JThink I can run 200 cows on my six quarters East Central North Dakota. But will need some help. Praying for the right son-in-law to come along! Rye is the most nearly perfect cereal crop! Friend of mine sprays out his alfalfa every few years and no-tills rye. Then right back to alfalfa. Says that's just enough to get rid of the pocket gopher mounds so he can keep baling 8 miles an hour. Rye all goes in silage bags.
Vaccinated cows and calves today. Feeling 62 years old! Need younger joints!
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
Sou
The fence that got flattened was a temporary crossfence. 80 acre field w a barbed wire perimeter. I ran a wire of high tensile electric down one side then have spools with aircraft cable to subdivide the field. I use step in posts as I move the fence every couple days when I'm grazing covers or swath grazing.

This year the elk ran through both the main and backup wire and pulled it all down. Pulled the high tensile off the side too at the same time since it was attached. I'm happy the 10 insulators broke and I just have to replace them and tighten the wire not replace a bunch of posts. Until you deal w them you probably just won't understand. They move as a herd and are prone to panic. I know people who have had them pull down huge stretches of 3 wire barbed wire - posts and all. You want something to break - ideally the wire between 2 posts. I have a stretch of old fence I'll never replace for just that reason - it's sh*try enough to break between the posts and they cross that fence almost every day. My neighbor w the new fence has way more issues than I do.

I use 3 wire high tensile as well. I like working with it better than barbed wire now that I have access to a staple gun for the insulators. But it just doesn't have my trust as a perimeter in most cases. The electric just doesn't work great in the winter and we have lots of willows and brush growing up on our fences all the time. Batteries don't hold much juice at -40 and the sun sometimes doesn't shine for days. I hate to be the person that says "that just won't work here" but for the most part it won't. I work out and when I'm making hay in the summer I don't want to go and fix fence. I'm pretty efficient at putting up a barbed wire fence so it's mostly just the cost that bugs me. I set a budget every year and do what I can. I usually run out of fence money and patience after a few weeks, lol. Barbed wire is extremely reliable especially when you move the cows often. I got one call this summer for cattle out - one last year
Sounds to me like you need a fence with a built in shear pin every so far! :) I hate barbed wire just enough to where I think I'd figure out a way to have something like that.... I bet elk meat is sounding pretty good every time they do that to you. I agree with you on the battery chargers... I'm running everything on decent joule AC units. Not alot of options if you have to do battery + solar trickle when the sun doesn't shine strong enough in winter and it's -30. Pretty hard to find a decently big "solar" charger too.... drains the battery too fast.
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
Let us know when you figure out grazing days. I'm looking at doing the same thing with some of my land -- convert to permanent pasture. JThink I can run 200 cows on my six quarters East Central North Dakota. But will need some help. Praying for the right son-in-law to come along! Rye is the most nearly perfect cereal crop! Friend of mine sprays out his alfalfa every few years and no-tills rye. Then right back to alfalfa. Says that's just enough to get rid of the pocket gopher mounds so he can keep baling 8 miles an hour. Rye all goes in silage bags.
I'm sure it'll be significantly different up there than here... rainfall is for sure different, and carrying capacity of the ground too. Don't know what you have to figure for land costs... I'm using $200/a as a kind of average rent that I have to charge myself for my own ground on my spreadsheet. It mostly comes down to density of animals per acre that you can carry though (carrying density, not grazing stocking density). If you look at the numbers I gave you, I'm figuring I can get to 1AU (1000#)/a and maybe a little more, and keep 'em fed all through the summer. I'd like to have some row crop that I grow underseeded/interseeded covers in, and then let them use that as "winter stockpiled feed" once the "summer pastures" have been grazed off.... I think that can have real potential, especially in 60" rows. I'd be willing to leave some corn out there intentionally even for them... like maybe 10% or so, and let the cows do the harvesting.
 
OP
R

Rydero

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
154
Location
Manitoba, Canada
Sou

Sounds to me like you need a fence with a built in shear pin every so far! :) I hate barbed wire just enough to where I think I'd figure out a way to have something like that.... I bet elk meat is sounding pretty good every time they do that to you. I agree with you on the battery chargers... I'm running everything on decent joule AC units. Not alot of options if you have to do battery + solar trickle when the sun doesn't shine strong enough in winter and it's -30. Pretty hard to find a decently big "solar" charger too.... drains the battery too fast.
One of the previous owners seems to have thought putting springs in the fence would help, but it doesn't haha. They definitely try your patience but overall I like having them around and occasionally in my freezer.
 
OP
R

Rydero

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 22, 2019
Messages
257
Reaction score
154
Location
Manitoba, Canada
Let us know when you figure out grazing days. I'm looking at doing the same thing with some of my land -- convert to permanent pasture. JThink I can run 200 cows on my six quarters East Central North Dakota. But will need some help. Praying for the right son-in-law to come along! Rye is the most nearly perfect cereal crop! Friend of mine sprays out his alfalfa every few years and no-tills rye. Then right back to alfalfa. Says that's just enough to get rid of the pocket gopher mounds so he can keep baling 8 miles an hour. Rye all goes in silage bags.
You guys have me dying to try rye or triticale. Seeded a bunch for the guy I work for this fall but not on my own fields this year.
 

Stocker Steve

Well-known member
Joined
May 2, 2005
Messages
10,512
Reaction score
152
Location
Central Minnesota
Accounting for conversion to pasture is situational. The traditional easy FBM method (which I don't agree with) is:
- write off all establishment costs in year one
- value at an average local pasture rental rate per acre (which does not account for high RFV forage or quantity)
- don't take any nutrient credit (for lay farming)

Even with this approach the marginal acres which lose money growing corn are good candidates for conversion.
 

RDFF

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 3, 2019
Messages
152
Reaction score
152
Location
SE Minnesota
Estimate what you realistically think YOUR ground will be able to grow, and then "carry"... it's all about animal density per acre of carrying capacity. And then take a look at what you estimate you can do with C/c vs. stockers too. Might surprise you when you do these computations and compare it to the bottom line of cash grains that YOU'VE been averaging. If it looks decent, start small, give it a try... it's the only way you'll ever know for sure if you can make it work in your context.

I don't work with any "program"... just do the best I can figuring every expense I can think of and plugging in a realistic cost into an Excel spreadsheet. I generally use the Iowa State Custom Rate Survey (online) to get applied cost for my machinery operations... have to use some kind of a "standard". I expect that with my older depreciated equipment, I can do it cheaper than the "typical custom operator"... but not necessarily, I figure. So I just use the "average rate" for that. And I don't "cheat" by not plugging in everything, literally.

When I've done it, IF I CAN GET MY STOCKING DENSITY UP TO MY TARGETS, I can do better grazing it than I can cropping it....... and this is on pure "corn/bean country" ground. Sure am getting the neighborhood talking!

My intent originally was to use the pastured cattle and my "soil health practices" as my fertility program for my row crops, instead of buying it from the Coop. I'm beginning to wonder now if the cash grain might not instead end up being used more as a rotational practice to reseed my pastures. Or maybe I won't have to reseed them at all, with proper management. I definitely enjoy working the cattle more than working with machinery!
 

Stocker Steve

Well-known member
Joined
May 2, 2005
Messages
10,512
Reaction score
152
Location
Central Minnesota
Lay farming (rotating annual crops with perennial pasture) worked well for hundreds of years till we had surplus N after WWII. For less than premium land - - lay farming has returned more per acre than continuous row crop in recent years. The econ issue is the amount of OH you may have - - for both equipment and cattle.
 
Top