Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Each Spring around this time of year, many farmers have the drive and the curiosity and the anticipation to get things rolling for yet another year. Is the grass high enough? Did we get enough snow this year? How well was the ground cover over the winter? These are but a few of the questions my wife and I ask ourselves

This year is different than some. We have had our cow grazing for about a week now. Mostly through the yard areas around the barn and the house. The grasses there tend to be a little taller and more established than those out in the pasture and the regular rotations. Our goal is to have the animals in full rotation
by the end of March. Which that has to be some kind of record.

In January of this year, we had 4 days with temperatures above 70 degrees. The beginning of February brought our only noticeable snow storm. This storm left about 13 inches here at Darby Springs Farm near Ceresco. Within a week there was no snow left on the ground. We did get a cold spell about the middle of February but than the gradual warming took place. By March 1st it felt like May 1st. I don't think we had a day below freezing in March. Temps by the middle of March were pushing 90 degrees. Certainly something was up. Mother Nature was fooling us and was going to drop a monster storm that would kill any budding trees or plants. So far however the extended forecast shows that well into April, temps will remain warmer than usual. Good news is that we'll also have decent chances for precipitation which is the next part of the equation.

We use a mix of multi-species pasture stacking combined with a somewhat management intensive grazing program all inspired by holistic management principles to manage our pasture and wetland. We were fortunate enough to have taken the Farm Beginnings Nebraska program put on by NSAS and had Terry Gompert as our Holistic Management Educator. This laid the foundation for what our vision was for our farm.

The NSAS List Serv is a great resource to bounce ideas off of fellow farmers using sustainable and organic practices and principles. Last year we posed some grazin
g questions to the list and below are some of the answers.
  • If dry take put them in sooner, or take out later, or if really dry, put in fewer at a time in a paddock.
  • Perhaps an issue of hay supply. If you can feed hay for a week or two more, the new pasture will grow faster than the hay they consume.
  • Use a sacrifice paddock.
  • Get grazing as soon as possible so the grass doesn't "get away."
  • Turn out when grass has three leaves
  • A concern is grass tetany, http://beef.unl.edu/stories/201003030.shtml
  • Suggest feeding a little hay to slow fresh grass traveling through and cattle not taking up enough nutrients.
  • It all depends on everything. Your grass type, stocking rate, how heavy you'll work the grass over the summer, etc.
  • Just keep dry hay or even straw available to them free choice and they should be fine. They are still grazing standing hay as well as fresh grass.
  • Start them slow and ease into grass
We began grazing with our small herd around the end of April in 2011. So getting an extra month on the pasture will certainly allow us to catch up with the pasture. This year the cows and horses will be together in one paddock and following them will be our pastured poultry flock. We have debated moving every 12 hours, and will probably increase the size of our paddocks.

You can find more resources on pasture readiness, livestock, sustainable farming and more on the NSAS website. A majority of these resources are free to use. Another great resources is the NSAS Library. This is free for members of NSAS and there is a nominal fee for non-NSAS members. But why not join! There are numerous benefits, and even an exciting way to
join right now during our 30 for 30! fundraising drive, which participation gets you a membership!

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