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The Grass Whispering Journal or WWGWD? (What Would the Grass Whisperer Do?)

By   /  May 20, 2013  /  Comments Off on The Grass Whispering Journal or WWGWD? (What Would the Grass Whisperer Do?)

Contributor Troy Bishopp has been tracking how his spring grazing has gone so far so that you can see his adaptive grazing management in progress and how he uses his grazing chart to best advantage. Troy is a great photographer, and pictures are worth a thousand words, so this story has lots of them. Click on them when you’d like to see them larger and enjoy!

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April 1, 2013

It’s spring in New York and you never know what the weather is going to hand you.  Blink and the weather changes.

April 1, grass is growing

April 1, grass is growing

April 2, now it's snowing

April 2, now it’s snowing

Troy's Grazing Chart Beginning of April

Troy’s Grazing Chart Beginning of April

Going forward, I’ll share my thoughts and decisions through the grazing season so you can see the the planning and implementation process unfold. Already on my grazing chart is our last frost date, October 10th, our stockpile date August 10th, our wedding anniversary date, July 19th, when I turn “50”~June 22nd, a wine trip in May and our team “Braveheart” participating in the Daniel Barden Mud Run on April 13th.  Oh yea, the 73 heifers will start (fingers crossed) grazing somewhere around April 20th.  You will start to see that animal production needs to correspond to our life goals too as well as environmental.  Farmers, the menfolk, seem to forget this.  I mean really how long does it take to move a fence and then go kayaking? Or sip on a nice NYS Riesling?

April 26, 2013

Fay Benson and the Rising Plate Meter

Fay Benson and the Rising Plate Meter

The heifers are officially grazing, six days late from goal.  Fay Benson from Cornell Extension helped me figure out how much dry matter was there by demo-ing his rising plate meter.  The bunches of orchardgrass and short canopy measured out at about 700 lbs of dry matter per acre.  With leaving a residual there was only about 2 inches of grazeable forage equating to 400 lbs of DM.  Sooo, I decided to give 50 head two acres for the day with supplemental hay to combat the high protein and help adjust their rumens.

This look-see helped me look at the whole farm sward picture and come up with a forward plan (on my grazing chart in pencil) until May 17th.  It will be interesting to see how close my estimates are as I get around the farm.  Stay tuned. GW

Troy's Grazing Chart, April 26.  Click to enlarge!

Troy’s Grazing Chart, April 26. Click to enlarge!

April 30, 2013

Incidentally, the manure indicator is the good range given that it looks and feels like a pumpkin pie (really, I touched it!) and the golden dung flies are enjoying them as brown-green islands.  I also saw some dung beetles darting about getting breakfast.  Happy Grazing is here again!

Incidentally, the manure indicator is in the good range given that it looks and feels like a pumpkin pie (really, I touched it!) and the golden dung flies are enjoying them as little brown-green islands. I also saw some dung beetles darting about getting breakfast. Happy Grazing is here again!

The official forecast says sunny and 70 the rest of the week.  The orchardgrass is now almost 10 inches while the understory is gaining.  The .3 inches of rain the last day or so (money rain to me) has me thinking that the pastures will be bursting.  Should I stay or should I go – isn’t that a song?  All I want is to give the paddocks a one bite haircut at this time of year and move them off.  I think…. “this will stimulate tillering of the plants and thicken the sward.”  I have friends say this is not true and I should not graze until all the plants are in the 3 leaf stage.  I’m perplexed cause I’m a simple farmer also trying to make some money grazing so I need to utilize it now even if its got too much protein and maybe be in controlled overgrazing right now.  The thing is; most of the plants were fully rested and stockpiled last fall before frost so they have a better root system for spring grazing.  This practice of stockpiling is probably more important for spring grass growth than anything.  So already I’m thinking about which fields need more rest for 2014 because they are the ones that are weaker this year and I don’t want to repeat the same rotation.

May 1, 2013

Happy May Day, Grazing Advocates!

I set up the grazing monitoring stick to help you and me run through what the grass looks like as it grows before we graze it again which may be in 17 days give or take.  Not sure about this because after one day the grass grew an inch.  Sooo if that’s true it would be 20 inches before we graze it again.  Lets see if that will happen.

regrowth May 1

Below are pictures of what the heifers are going into today.  Already the plants are getting crazy but the compensory gain will be great.  The orchard grass is over 10 inches.  Looking back at last year’s grazing chart (that’s why I keep one), this paddock (number 6) had 36 days rest before frost before we grazed it so I know it has those stronger roots.

May 1 Pasture at Troy Bishopp's Place

May 3, 2013

Here you can see the growth on the 2nd and 3rd.  It’s almost fast enough that if I had time to stand around and watch grass grow, I might actually see it in progress!

GrassGrowing

 

May 8, 2013

Below you see grass growth from the 5th to the 7th. Would you graze this now?  Or should the understory of the plants catch up with the orchardgrass?  Answer:  It depends on what you want to create and the needs of the animals and soil biology.

may7.5 copy

May 9, 2013

I’m modifying my grazing chart now from the original plan because I am going where the best grass is instead of following “the rotation” I had written down.   Below you see 20 inch grass in the paddock I’ll be sending cattle to vs. the 11 inch grass on the right in the paddock I’d originally planned to use.

20inch_grass

If you click on the charts below to enlarge them, you can see my original plan (on the top) and the revisions I made (bottom chart) after looking at all the paddocks and seeing the explosion of forage and considering my goals and livestock numbers, etc.  Its important to continue to push yourself and monitor and inventory your forage on a regular basis (in pencil) or on a computer so you can rest easier if you run into a weather related event.  I can tell you this:  It relieves alot of stress in grazing if you know you have feed 30 to 60 days out.  Take control of your destiny and have fun.

Comparing April and May Grazing Charts

May 11, 2013

Troy Wears His Grass Whisperer Thinking Cap By the Way - if any of you ranchers who work off of AUMs (Animal Unit Months) would like to share you version of this math with Troy, he'd love to see it!  AUMs aren't as commonly used as a measurement tool where he's from.

Troy Wears His Grass Whisperer Thinking Cap
By the Way – if any of you ranchers who work off of AUMs (Animal Unit Months) would like to share your version of this math with Troy, he’d love to see it! AUMs aren’t as commonly used as a measurement tool where he’s from.

Here is something many of you ask me about.  How do you figure pasture size? The real answer will be in tomorrow’s picture.

Here’s the setup:  I have 49 head of dairy heifers and 3 beefers which I think may weigh 650 pounds each.

I am figuring they will eat 3% of their bodyweight daily.

Sooo, 650lbs. x 3% = 19.5 lbs. of dry feed per day x 49 head = 955 lbs of dry matter per day.

I looked at my #16 paddock and made an educated guess and put up the subdivision fence.  This happened to be 210 ft x 165 ft or .8 acres

If you go to:  http://cnyrcd.org/planned-grazing-participants/ and look for the grazing planning worksheet you can figure too.

In doing my grass whispering math,  I looked at the forage density and height (which takes practice) and determined that there was 10 inches of grass and the thickness was 250lbs of dry matter per inch per acre (pretty good feed).  This gave me about 2500 lbs of dry matter per acre, give or take.

The cows need 955 lbs ÷ 2500 lbs in the field = .4 acres per day (If they ate all the feed).

If I want them to leave a decent residual behind, say 4 to 5 inches, they would actually eat about 1000 to 1200 lbs which means the math does work to get you in the ballpark.  My guess they need about .8 acres because I only want them to eat half does seem to be fairly close.  After 27 years of grazing management, I should be fairly close to the math.

There are other ways to handle this paddock too like strip graze it, move them twice a day, let it grow taller and mob graze it later or make hay or let it fallow for bird habitat.  Cows are just one of the tools to help you manage this awesome resource.

Here's the pasture as the cows arrive

Here’s the pasture as the cows arrive

IMG_0560

Here’s a closer view of what they’re going to be grazing

May 12

Here you can compare the before and after pictures of the pasture that I set up on May 11 using the math that I described above.  Because I left so much residual I added arrows to help you see the grazing line between the grazed and new pastures.

before_and_afte

The residual afterwards is generally in the 4 to 5 inch range with some tufts left at 8 inches.  (That’s just the cow’s way of leaving bird habitat.)  Leaving residual is almost as valuable as taking because we are after animal performance, soil health and faster regrowth.

And how is our little grass sward regrowth monitoring going since May 1st?  It’s over 15 inches tall and according to many, too tall for grazing.  But, But, I won’t be back to it for another 2 weeks!  This is the quandry of spring growth- the explosive nature of a spring flush.  After last year,  I absolutely love it!!

Grass Growth

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About the author

contributor

Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is an accomplished professional grazier of 27 years, grasslands advocate and media guy who owns and manages Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raises dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased organic native pastures. The whisperer routinely asks customers, Is there any grass in the animal products you buy? Beef grazed on the farm has been served at President Obama’s inaugural dinners, restaurants and to diners as far away as Japan. Troy also works for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist and is a free-lance writer, maintaining a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com

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