Hay fields

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novatech

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Some thoughts have come to mind in the past and I'm board so I thought I would go ahead and ask. (Probably dump on my part)
1. It is a well known fact that crop rotation works on crops. Wouldn't it work just as well on hay fields? Instead we have dedicated hay fields, removing organic mater for years upon years.
2. Why do most people plant mono cultures when a multi culture can produce a symbiotic relationship, improving production and may also aid in the nutritional requirements of the livestock?
3. Why do so many place so much importance on the quality and quantity of their hay yet on the other side of the fence little attention is placed on the pastures that are grazed most of the time?
These questions are based on my little part of the world and I realize it is not the same everywhere. I just don't get out much.
 

regolith

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yes to the first issue raised.
I'm not sure a lot of people understand how cattle spread fertility - I'm not sure I understand myself, I only know that my unique system of consecutive 24-hr rotational grazing has the effect of spreading fertility *evenly* around the farm where other dairy farmers using day/night paddocks or skipping to the longest grass create an uneven pattern of spread. my policy for hay paddocks is to choose the best, most fertile ground... and cut somewhere else next time. That's great on a nice flat farm where the tractor can go anywhere.

Monocultures (ryegrass and clover) are more productive than mixed species swards, according to an article I read lately.
I think this was it: http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Newp ... younie.htm
there's a table near the start that shows comparative yields. Now that article is talking about British native and planted grasses, but it makes some sense of the situation I'm in now where the farm I moved to a few months ago is growing 1/2 - 2/3 of the grass I would normally expect to be measuring. I've figured four or five separate challenges to grass production and species mix is only one of them... but to me, it doesn't matter how 'healthy' the herb mix is, starvation is not healthy.
Now there's good arguments for planting mixed species, more so perhaps in dry climates where deep-rooted plants are beneficial. But for me at this stage it's all theoretical - the theory sounds great, the practise isn't looking good at all.

In my part of the world the opposite is the case on issue 3. We could go a long way in improving the quality of the silage and hay made.
 

dun

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novatech":24ddob3u said:
Some thoughts have come to mind in the past and I'm board so I thought I would go ahead and ask. (Probably dump on my part)
1. It is a well known fact that crop rotation works on crops. Wouldn't it work just as well on hay fields? Instead we have dedicated hay fields, removing organic mater for years upon years.
2. Why do most people plant mono cultures when a multi culture can produce a symbiotic relationship, improving production and may also aid in the nutritional requirements of the livestock?
3. Why do so many place so much importance on the quality and quantity of their hay yet on the other side of the fence little attention is placed on the pastures that are grazed most of the time?
These questions are based on my little part of the world and I realize it is not the same everywhere. I just don't get out much.
1) is probably the cost of renovating a hay field. With crops you eliminate the old crop then put in the new. The value of hay just isn;t high enough to warrant doing that.
2) Typically you would want (in a hay field) plants that would mature at the same time and cure after cutting at the same rate.
3) I don;t know since that isn;t the way we do things.
 

shaz

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Seems like everyone arpund here has the same strategy.
The best part of the farm is the hayfield and it's the only thing that gets ANY inputs.
Don't put anything on the pastures, bushhog every year or two. Spray when it gets hopeless.
Try to see how much hay you can make (one guy feeds for 6 months)
If you keep running out of hay, reduce stocking rate.
Start feeding hay in Nov or maybe earlier.

And last but not least, continous grazing is THE standard.
 
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novatech

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dun":3jo8uj3v said:
novatech":3jo8uj3v said:
Some thoughts have come to mind in the past and I'm board so I thought I would go ahead and ask. (Probably dump on my part)
1. It is a well known fact that crop rotation works on crops. Wouldn't it work just as well on hay fields? Instead we have dedicated hay fields, removing organic mater for years upon years.
2. Why do most people plant mono cultures when a multi culture can produce a symbiotic relationship, improving production and may also aid in the nutritional requirements of the livestock?
3. Why do so many place so much importance on the quality and quantity of their hay yet on the other side of the fence little attention is placed on the pastures that are grazed most of the time?
These questions are based on my little part of the world and I realize it is not the same everywhere. I just don't get out much.
1) is probably the cost of renovating a hay field. With crops you eliminate the old crop then put in the new. The value of hay just isn;t high enough to warrant doing that.
2) Typically you would want (in a hay field) plants that would mature at the same time and cure after cutting at the same rate.
3) I don;t know since that isn;t the way we do things.
On 1 I didn't mean change the crop but change location. For example in a rotationl system of grazing, the hay field would move from one location to another.
On 2 I see your point.
On 3 I wouldn't either but around here it is the norm.

I found in reading articles from different methods,organic, no til, sustainable, etc they are pretty much one sided giving all the benefits and no downside.
 

Stocker Steve

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1) I rotate . Still fine tuning - - but right now it is 4 to 8 years of pasture, one fall of cover crop, one year of corn, and then back to a pasture mix. Maybe 10% is cut for one crop of hay each year and that gets bale grazed later.
2) I think mono cultures are easier to manage but I prefer seeding complex mixes with 2 or 3 legumes and 2 or 3 grasses. With our seed bank we get some eastern meadow grass and red clover regardless of what we plant.
3) I think the main reason folks ignore pastures is they don't want to do the work. There is more labor involved and the response from native species is often less the the response from improved varieties. That said - - my kids will be cutting and burning during part of the Christmas holiday.
 

Caustic Burno

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I have baled every pasture here when I was bailing but I fertilize and lime my pastures as well. I don't use Grazon so my winter pastures of clover and rye grass come back every year.
 

JSCATTLE

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I have a friend that bought 300 acres a about 10 years ago . It was wooded. When he finished clearing it he set up his place to rotational graze . He leveled all of his pastures and planted bahaia and clover . He can bale his whole Place . He's running about 100 cows. He only bales a pasture once every other year . I was impressed by how thick his grass is .
 

hayray

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Crop rotation pays off alot better on annual crops as oppossed to perennial pastures and hay fields. It is more economical to impliment meausre of pasture improvement such as frost seeding, no till, bale grazing, MIG etc. Cattle don't pay for expensive improvements like crop farming can, low input is the best way to go.
2) Most hay fields are one -2 grass species mixed with a legume in the North, getting too crazy about species diversity causes harvest issues, i.e., species maturity, dry down, regrowth - feeding palatibility - etc.
3. Regolith has some good points about pasture improvements but you are right, majority pay no attention to pasture improvements and this may because many producers have cattle as a accessory business and do not manage pastures as if their living depends on it.
 
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novatech

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Well here is the deal and partially why I brought the subjects up. As I have posted before on other threads that I have had to sell off the cattle because of economic reasons. I never lost a dime while raising cattle. I beat any interest I would have gained on the money invested. Well I do not own the land I lease it. This lease will stay mine as long as I continue to improve the property. I sublet the property, making money on that. I have total control of the number of cattle grazed and how the grazing is managed. There is also a reserve in the contract that allows me to take any part of the property for hay meadow. So given this the plan is to take one section at a time an turn it into hay meadow. The money from the sub lease will pay for this, fertilizer and planting. The section will be sprigged with a hybrid bermuda, fertilized and hayed for about 2 years max. The K will be built up into the soil (I have more than enough K) which will stimulate the growth of the native clover. Then I will move on to another section. The profits from the hay will also be reinvested. At some point I will have cattle again and the pastures will have been greatly improved.
As with any business cutting costs or controlling costs is an important issue. With the escalating cost of equipment and fertilizer I am searching for ways to help control these costs. This involves gaining knowledge from all sources including organic gardening, sustainable farming, no-til farming, permaculture, soil physics, microbiology, the experience and knowledge of the people on these boards and anywhere else I can get even one idea from.
So given all the above your replies have been important to me and appreciated.
To one and all Have a very wonderful Christmas and please remember the real reason for the celebration.
Christmas or Christmas Day (Old English: Crīstesmæsse, literally "Christ's mass") is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
PS
This is said to be the season of giving. Well I give you all thanks for being on these boards and to the folks that bring the boards to us.

John
 

agmantoo

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novatech

I would like to respond to a portion of one of your posts. Here is the statement I found in reading articles from different methods,organic, no til, sustainable, etc they are pretty much one sided giving all the benefits and no downside..

Would you lists what you consider the downside?

I know that as a rotational/mig grazer I have attempted to share with people on this site the benefits and often I feel that I am the odd man out. I am not seeking acceptance but I do not like the inferred responses sometimes posted by others that I am not truthful with some of the ideas/methods I share. For reasons not understood by me, they is a major unwillingness to depart from conventional production of feeding hay and grain. I even observe this attitude in the neighborhood where I farm. At one time the area that I live in was a major dairy area and today there are only 6 dairies. The reason given for the bulk of the failures is that the costs of production has exceeded the break even cost of the dairies and in turn they went bankrupt. Yet I have read that in NZ and Australia, they export much of their milk and have little or no grain and still make a nice profit. I read most posts by regolith as he is close to doing what I do with my feeder calf operation and I remain anxious to learn. I feel that if we in this country continue to try to make a go the way our ancestors did with the production of beef that the beef industry in this country will not be able to compete. Many beef producers now are either hobby or use the cattle as a tax write off. Why is their the reluctance to make a switch to minimize hay and grain consumption and at the same time improve profits?
 

hayray

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I will respond to ya, the lack of acceptance of more efficient methods may be that the major model of production most of us see to copy is the large scale big ag model that profits only pennies on the dollar. Blame the large lobbies that have the most money, i.e. corn growers. Not much lobby for graziers, just a model of how the end product is raised in large feedlots so the learning curve is tough for graziers because of lack of mentors/examples.
 

shaz

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agmantoo":3gap3w4e said:
novatech

I would like to respond to a portion of one of your posts. Here is the statement I found in reading articles from different methods,organic, no til, sustainable, etc they are pretty much one sided giving all the benefits and no downside..

Would you lists what you consider the downside?

I know that as a rotational/mig grazer I have attempted to share with people on this site the benefits and often I feel that I am the odd man out. I am not seeking acceptance but I do not like the inferred responses sometimes posted by others that I am not truthful with some of the ideas/methods I share. For reasons not understood by me, they is a major unwillingness to depart from conventional production of feeding hay and grain. I even observe this attitude in the neighborhood where I farm. At one time the area that I live in was a major dairy area and today there are only 6 dairies. The reason given for the bulk of the failures is that the costs of production has exceeded the break even cost of the dairies and in turn they went bankrupt. Yet I have read that in NZ and Australia, they export much of their milk and have little or no grain and still make a nice profit. I read most posts by regolith as he is close to doing what I do with my feeder calf operation and I remain anxious to learn. I feel that if we in this country continue to try to make a go the way our ancestors did with the production of beef that the beef industry in this country will not be able to compete. Many beef producers now are either hobby or use the cattle as a tax write off. Why is their the reluctance to make a switch to minimize hay and grain consumption and at the same time improve profits?

Alot of us are trying do what your doing or close to it as possible. You just can't go from continuous w/hay to rotational w/o hay overnight.
Last year I had to build a fence that was 4000ft through the woods mostly on the side of hills.
Yes, people ARE listening and adapting but you can't build Rome in a day.
 

dun

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There is also the matters of climate, topology and soil........................
 

Stocker Steve

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hayray":140g5ge2 said:
I will respond to ya, the lack of acceptance of more efficient methods may be that the major model of production most of us see to copy is the large scale big ag model that profits only pennies on the dollar. Blame the large lobbies that have the most money, i.e. corn growers. Not much lobby for graziers, just a model of how the end product is raised in large feedlots so the learning curve is tough for graziers because of lack of mentors/examples.

Yes, monkey see is a big factor - - buying in lots of inputs like corn growers w/o working through the economics of it, and then marketing a commodity product. Wisconsin is the only mid west state I see doing much for grazing advancement. Even there, changing the production model may take a generation.
Another big factor is that if you work through the economics cow/calf does not make a great centerpiece business. Once you consume the local crop residue and rough rented pasture the opportunity cost gets high. So most people with a sharp pencil, who actually want to make a profit, and have some decent topsoil - - plow and buy crop insurance.
The big thing is MIG/mob/high density/direct marketing is an every day job. You can not hit it hard to 10 days in the spring and then watch weather reports the rest of the year. There are a number of "farmers" around me who put in a corp, hire it custom sprayed, hire it custom combined, and talk big all year long in the coffee shop. Nice "work" when you can get it.
 
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novatech

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dun":2q1agibm said:
There is also the matters of climate, topology and soil........................
I think this is the primary thing left out when articles are written about different types of grazing systems, and growing methods.
Here is a n example; Certainly there are many benefits to no-til but how long does it take for P to move down into the soil into the root zone? By plowing you make the K in your soil more available to the plant, which may keep you from buying it.
What I am doing is looking at all methods and techniques in order to formulate the most economically feasible and profitable practice for me. That includes the way you do things.
You mentioned MIG. Well it may work for many or even mos. In my area the hyway department mixes lime with the clay and then compacts it for stabilization. If I practice MiG in one of my pastures that is highly calcareous them I would be compacting it equal to the highway department. However I have other pasture that the soil would lend itself to MIG very well.
 

agmantoo

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Tolerate me for a bit. I never said one size fits all nor do I think all areas are the same soils or the same weather. Each of us has to do what works for us individually. To shift from what has been done in the past does have risks. Staying where we are/were with the high input costs may be even riskier however. As I have stated previously, my neighbors even tell me what works for me will not work for them! I ask why? They parrot that their soil is not as productive as mine and they must buy fertilizer. These guys are nearly in shouting distance with the same soils and weather as on my place. I hear that they do not want to spend the time. What do they think about time when making hay? I watch them trying to get their tractors started in cold weather in order to haul hay in mud. I ride a 4 wheeler to the paddocks and spend a few minutes allocating a new days grazing. Fuel is brought to their place far more frequently than mine. Fuel to the 4 wheeler is supplied in a 5 gallon fuel can by me. I personally get approached to repair THEIR hay equipment. I had a neighbor here just yesterday with that request. I know what it costs to own and operate the machinery. That is why I sold mine. Yes, I did hold onto the machinery for a while as I had doubts of my own with what I was doing. I just knew I had to make a change, one that would work for me. My posts are centered on promoting change. Not necessarily what works for me but changes that will work for the individual that wants to lower his costs and improve his profit. An example, I do not promote selling grass fed beef privately. That doesn't work for me. I sell at the local sale barn. It is up to the individual to determine what he can do to maintain his operation and at a decent profit but he has to start. Sometimes you have to know what does fail in order to know what does work. Without keeping an open mind and trying something different how will one ever know what works on their place?
 

JSCATTLE

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I've been reading lately about rotational grazing . After this years drought I plan to improve my pastures . I've planted clover and plan to renovate my existing pastures . I've let my lease pastures go and sold all. But the best 50 cows . I think the days of overstocking to try and make a profit are over for me . My cows calve in nov. and dec. I'm looking into keeping my calves until the fallowing spring . I've always sold when they were pulled off the cow . My thought is making money on added gain instead of running more cows and having higher per cow winter cost . I guess I'm going to try a few things this year and see how it goes . Only one way to find out what works and that's to give it a try . I've been feeding hay since nov. 1 i should be able to stop feeding hay by feb . Normally I start haying in dec. to April if I can feed hay from dec to feb I'd be happy . So I guess what I'm saying is I'm interested in anything you guys learn or have learned .
 

hayray

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Like Dun wrote, try doing year-round grazing this far North, pretty tough. Also remember that most years you can purchase hay well below production cost from people that don't know their production costs so buying hay in many years is still a profitable way to subsidize the cattle feed program as long as half the year or more they are grazing. Hay still has a place to help increase profit and carrying capacity.
 
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