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What Makes a Good Pasture Walk?

By   /  December 11, 2017  /  3 Comments

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We have a grazing group that meets several times a year. I guess it could be called graziers anonymous or some such thing. But actually it has a name: Southeast Graziers. Most of us in the group live in the Florida parishes of Louisiana which are located between the Mississippi river on the west side and the Pearl river on the east side which is the boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi. The North boundary is the state line between Louisiana and Mississippi and the South boundary is Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain. Our area is named the Florida parishes because it was not part of the Louisiana Purchase but a part of Florida at that time. This country will grow grass 365 days a year, but is the home of just about every insect and parasite known to man as well as the annual threat of hurricanes. One of the mistakes that we as a group are trying to correct or maybe a better word would be overcome is the idea that we can emulate what goes on in other parts of the our country. And that is the reason that the pasture walks are so popular and helpful. At a meeting not so long ago one of the government guys attending said that he thought we had just about reached the limit as to what we could accomplish with pasture walks. Evidently this guy has not been on many pasture walks. I don’t recall ever being involved with a pasture walk that I didn’t meet folks who were attending for the first time. But before trying to explain how we operate maybe a little history of our group is in order.

In June of 2003, the 12th-14th to be exact a workshop was held in Amite entitled Louisiana Grazing Land Management Workshop. Dr. Ron Morrow and Dr. Ann Wells were the featured speakers and did a great job. This workshop was the beginning of Southeast Graziers. A few months later using the sign-in sheets from this workshop letters were sent out announcing our first pasture-walk. Over the years the attendance has ebbed and flowed. For some events the attendance will be fewer than hoped for and other times more than we can handle. But we have developed a group that are faithful attendees and over the years have added much knowledge and help to make these gatherings successful.

One of the things that we have found is that there are, as mentioned, new people who really have not used Management-Intensive Grazing (MIG) or any of the things we are trying to teach. This can create a problem for the folks who are really using all the things we are talking about and can become bored hearing the same the same stuff at every pasture-walk. So what we came up with was the idea of dividing the attendees into two groups, the first group will be the folks who are using MIG and have an understanding of how all of this works and the second group are the newcomers who are just beginning or planning a grazing operation. Each participant chooses the group he or she will join. We have no say in this at all. Wedge Barthe, who has been part of this thing since its inception and has worked very hard to make this successful, provides a trailer to haul folks over the pastures. This allows more time to talk about the subject at hand and keeps the group from wandering. (We don’t mind them wondering but we don’t need them to wander.)

The first group is loaded on the trailer and taken on the tour and this is the time for the grazier who is hosting this time to brag, answer questions and in a lot of cases ask questions, after all this is a learning process for all of us. In the meantime the second group is introduced to the principles of MIG and paddock lay out and to the multitude of things that are necessary to know to make a reasonable start into managed grazing. After the first group returns from their tour which we try to limit to an hour, the second group makes the tour. The discussions with the first group after they have made the tour can become very intense, not arguing, just in some cases very technical in nature. The two groups are then brought together for a question and answer session and then lunch is served. With any luck we try to get this all of this done by noon.

Here are the folks who came to learn more about teaching their cows to graze on the weeds in their pastures. Alan DeRamus, University of Louisiana, Layfayette, organized this project and workshop.

This is just a hopefully understandable explanation of how Southeast Graziers operates our pasture-walks and by no stretch of the imagination do we believe we have accomplished all that we can by using pasture-walks. As a foot note A few years ago when Kathy Voth came down here and gave her presentation on teaching cows to eat weeds, a similar format was used- no power point, no slides, just Kathy talking to a bunch of interested graziers followed by a walk to the pasture to see the results. Folks down here are still talking about that day.

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  • Published: 1 month ago on December 11, 2017
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  • Last Modified: December 5, 2017 @ 12:25 pm
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About the author

My name is Don Ashford and my wife is Betty and we live in Ethel, LA. It would be impossible for me to write a bio about myself without including Betty in it. We have been together since high school. I was in the senior class of 1955 and she was in the class of 1957. Do the math. We have raised cattle since 1959 except for a little time that I spent with Uncle Sam. We have grazed stockers, owned several cow- calf herds and custom grazed cattle for other folks. I worked as a pipefitter for more than 25 years. Until we went into the dairy business in 1977 we were as most people down here part-timers or week-end ranchers. Later after we had learned enough about MIG to talk about it so that it would be understood by others we put together a pasture-walk group to introduce it to our friends and neighbors. We belong to more farm groups then we probably should but we get great joy working with other people. What makes us most proud are our son and daughter, our 5 grandkids and our 7 great-grand kids. It has been a hell of a trip so far, but we are not done yet.

3 Comments

  1. John Brown says:

    Donny when is the next southeast
    Graziers get together my wife Jennifer would like to attend?
    Thanks
    John

  2. Lynda Ingram says:

    I am a participant in the Southeast Graziers pasture walks. The group-splitting innovation has been extremely effective. I especially like that the participants decide for themselves which group they belong in, which has seemed to increase the comfort level of the new folks while still allowing the more experienced people to ask questions and discuss ideas that there wouldn’t have been time to bring up in the past. I am a huge fan.

  3. curt gesch says:

    The last two sentences should be required reading for anyone organizing a conference. Thank you. cg

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