Need some pasture advice.

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by GANGGREEN, Aug 23, 2006.

  1. GANGGREEN

    GANGGREEN Active Member

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    I've got a 7 acre parcel that I'd like to seed to grass this fall or next spring for pasture for a few steers. I live in northern Pennsylvania, the ground is relatively flat and relatively fertile. I suspect the ph would be in the 6.5 range although I haven't had it tested in a few years. It's been in corn for the previous 4 or 5 years.

    The corn will be chopped for sileage, likely in a few weeks. When should/could I reseed it? Immediately or wait until spring? What type of seed should I use? Orchard grass, fescue, trefoil, ryegrass, etc.? How long must I allow the pasture to establish itself before putting some animals in there? As I mentioned, it's 6 or 7 acres of flat, fertile land and I'm only looking to put 2 or 3 steers in there so I wouldn't think they'd overgraze it but I'd like it to get off to a good start.

    Thanks in advance for any/all advice.
     
  2. Hammer4

    Hammer4 Well-Known Member

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    I'd seed this fall as soon as the weather cools off, as far as what to seed, I would put a mixture of grasses, warm and cool weather, and legumes ( clover, etc ) on there.

    Check with your ag extension agent and find out what grows well in your climate and soil......you can also find out what ph to shoot for.

    Maybe consider a nurse crop on top, ryegrass or something to help hold the other seed in place and help it get established.

    If you can get it started this fall I would think you could put the animals on it next spring easily.
     

  3. brenda42633

    brenda42633 Member

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    You Got Some Very Good Advice Already. If You Let Your Land Sit With No Cover Crop Planted You Let Erosion Sit In. So, Plant Your Grazing Crop. What He Stated To You Is Very Good For Grass. The Best To You - Brenda42633
     
  4. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    GangGreen- To offer you my best advice, I would request further info:
    A.) Does your area experience 20 days+ stretches of NO rain?
    B.) Are you willing to tear up field and replant every 4-5 years, or would you prefer a good stand that lasts 10-12 years?
    C.) Will you be dividing land with fencing and rotating stock, or practicing set stocking where animals roam entire area all year?
    D.) Will you desire having the option to make hay, or do you not have haying machinery at your disposal?
     
  5. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    ..."To offer you my best advice, I would request further info:
    A.) Does your area experience 20 days+ stretches of NO rain?
    B.) Are you willing to tear up field and replant every 4-5 years, or would you prefer a good stand that lasts 10-12 years?
    C.) Will you be dividing land with fencing and rotating stock, or practicing set stocking where animals roam entire area all year?
    D.) Will you desire having the option to make hay, or do you not have haying machinery at your disposal?"

    A-- Yes
    B--Yes
    C--The former is preferred, but no fencing yet...north-facing hillside! No.Central Idaho
    D-- The latter

    I could use your recommendations, too, UpNorth...Thanks a bunch!
     
  6. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    JulieLou- Every year thousands of people buy something they don't need.
    The humble drill bit. What they really need is a hole. Now, they could make a hole with a punch or an awl. A punch makes a hole faster and an awl makes a hole cleaner in some materials. Yet they buy a drill bit. Why?
    Because it is the first thing that comes to mind.
    When one seeks to improve a pasture, the first thing that comes to mind is to till it up and buy seed. But the "hole" you seek is perhaps to have your animals provided with more green, palatable, tender grazing. Perhaps you wish to increase the carrying capacity of your land, either in terms of more days of grazing per year for the stock you have or being able to carry more stock. You have a unique environment - Extremes of heat and cold, and (correct me if I am way off) 16-20 inches of average rainfall. So you have semi-arid rangeland in a cold climate.
    If I owned your land I would plant fenceposts. Enough to divide existing pasture into 6 or 8 separate grazing paddocks, laid out so they all lead up to your water supply and milking center.
    The plant species that would do well are allready there. They are the Native Range Species. The dormant seeds are there, lying in the ground and blowing in the wind. I don't believe that tilling them up and trying to establish new species in your climate will yield much benefit. But managing the existing species can yield great benefit.
    Before you respond , I would ask you to walk your land. Walk the existing pasture and look at what's there. Then walk the native rangeland outside of the fence(where cattle don't graze) and look at what's there. Then visualize what you would have if you had mowed that rangeland 8 or 12 times this year, with intermissions for the plants to collect any available moisure.

    I think rotational grazing is the tool you seek, rather than replanting...cheers.
     
  7. GANGGREEN

    GANGGREEN Active Member

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    Up North, you make a good point and I'm listening. A couple of things to consider.....I have decent rainfall, probably 35-40 inches a year and rarely have what most would consider a drought. Still, summers can get pretty dry.

    I'd prefer not to be constantly in there replanting but I'll do what I need to do to insure healthy pasture and good weight gains.

    I'd like to get involved in rotational grazing but may not do so initially with just one pasture area to play with initially and a small number of cattle.

    Ideally and eventually I'll have more land to rotational graze and my own haying equipment but initially I'll likely buy any hay that I need to feed supplementally.

    Oh, one other thing. As I said, the land has been in corn recently and was sprayed and tilled before planting so I'm not sure that allowing it to revert to native grasses will work as well as it might for someone with an existing pasture. I don't know much about it but wouldn't I be risking having all sorts of "weeds" volunteering in my pasture?

    Don't have time right now to get further into it but as I said, I'm very interested in any more opinions that anyone has, it's highly appreciated.
     
  8. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Once fescue is established, if you care for it it will last indefinitely. I am of the opinion that fescue will grow profusely in your area. Just plant Ky31 fescue (if the land is smooth, sod drill 20 lbs to the acres and broadcast 10 lbs per acre over the top of the drilled) as soon as the corn is removed. Sow the clover in the very early Spring. Keep the cattle off the new grass until after the clover emerges. Rotaional grazing is ideal for someone that doesn't have a lot of time.
     
  9. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    GangGreen- First let me clarify that my thoughts for Julie Lou were site-specific to her situation. My advice to you is entirely different. I suspected you have a similar climate to us here with adequate rainfall and the Great Lakes to the North.
    For your situation I would do as follows:
    Take Hammer4's suggestion and plant immediately following corn harvest. Have soil tested, especially as to Nitrogen needs. Then I would plant a cover crop of Winter Rye at 2 bushels per acre. For your grazing Land Species I would plant a mix of 6 pounds of Empire Variety Trefoil, 2 pounds of medium or Marathon Red Clover, 2 pounds of Alice white Clover, and 2 pounds Brome Grass . That's on a per acre Basis, so 12 pounds total seed per acre.
    Winter Rye is extremely tough stuff and will provide early spring grazing in the coming year. It will take off right away in the fall and discourage weed establishment. Empire Trefoil will withstand extreme grazing pressure, spread itself and thicken stand as years go on, giving you a long run of good forage. It will do fine on flat and wet ground, where Alfalfa would not. It requires little adjustment of PH that Alfalfa requires. But it is a slow starter, so the clovers will fill needs first year or two while Trefoil is getting established. The BromeGrass has deep roots so will give backup forage in event of a drought and will add some roughage to the mix.

    In your situation, not planting would be a disastrous weed patch, just as you suspected. Fescue as an alternative? Don't Know. You would have to ask local AG Folks if it is a species that will survive your climatic conditions.
    CHEERS!
     
  10. GANGGREEN

    GANGGREEN Active Member

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    OK, I'll check with the county agent to make sure that there aren't any local factors to be concerned about but it sounds good to me. Thanks for the advice.
     
  11. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    Thanks, UpNorth for those great suggestions...

    I do have the land divied up in paddocks... on paper! And, I've walked it many times. [The hillsides here have been in pastures and divided into subdivisions of some 5-10 acres each, so everything around me is the same as what I've got...mostly orchard with some bit of timothy thrown in.]

    I probably need to try to re-do the plan on paper and arrange the paddocks in a spoke fashion as best I can. The 7.5 acre lot isn't at all square, in fact it has only 2- 90 degree angles at the rear where it's all treed for about 30'. The one current tiangular paddock of about 1.33 acres has a smaller, triangular 100'-sided pen in it and water tank serves both of them.

    I'm not really sure just what to do with it right now, other than perimeter fence the whole thing!

    Am dealing with a cow in heat and have separated her from her calf so she won't jump on him, but they are not liking it one bit! They are tethered in two different places because I can keep her better when in heat on a tether than in her hotwired pasture.
     
  12. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    That's what I basically have on paper, is paddocks as rectangular or square as possible with a 6' wide access aisle running down the middle between them. Will take a few more water tanks to manage it though....unless I want to schlep the one I have around, every time I move them to another one. One of them is on the other side of our driveway, which is where I tethered her today.

    How long would I be able to leave a cow-calf pair on 1 acre of grass before having to move them? and reset the hotwire? Let's say the grass is as tall as their eyes.
     
  13. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    JulieLou your cows can certainly walk across 7.5 acres to get water. Try sketching out a plan whereby you have a "common" area including water source and access to milking center. Off of this common area lay out entry gates to paddocks. You have Trees! The ideal would be to include some trees in each paddock if possible.
    The main thing is cow(and you) do not have to pass thru a multitude of gates.
    If possible, retain your fence on 1.33 acre as one of the paddocks, build from there. The main thing is to build. Set yourself some realistic goals. For example, commit to constructing the corner of the perimeter, say one each week. A month will pass whether you put in fence posts or not, but if you set goals and stick to them, at the end of that month you will have 4 completed corners, which is the basis for a good perimeter fence. With an odd shaped lot, you may need 5 corners or 6, and they may not be 90 Degree right angles. That's ok. you have to work the lay of the land.
    One trick to cold country fence building is to just plant posts first. Do not string any wire until all corner, gate, and reinforcing posts are installed. You can string wire and finish off gates quite rapidly AFTER ground has frozen, LOL. As long as you have posts to put it on!
    If time and money are constraints, as they are for most folks, consider a plan where you put a good perimeter fence around 1/2 of the land, then use fast & cheaper 1 wire electric subdivisions interior. Consider this 1 grazing cell. then in the future you can fence the 2nd grazing cell and subdivide it.
    Also, consider a manpass, er, womanpass in fence on your most commonly tread path so you don't have open a gate 730 times a year.

    I will leave you with a mind-bending philosophical insight: When I am building rotational grazing fencing on our farm, I am doing it so I can keep cows OFF that piece of land. The ability to keep cows OFF a tract of land so it can rest and regrow is more valuable to me than just a fence that keeps cows on it. Sincerely and Best Wishes. UpNorth.
     
  14. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

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    This will vary with the season, the rainfall, and the cow's nutritional needs. Your eyes will tell you.
     
  15. JulieLou42

    JulieLou42 Well-Known Member

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    UpNorth, you are such great help...again, many thanks!