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HomeConsider ThisHasnolocks and the Three Pastures - a Parable About How Graziers Change

Hasnolocks and the Three Pastures – a Parable About How Graziers Change

Darrell Emmick, retired NRCS grazing specialist, shared this piece with us back in May of 2014. It describes both good grazing management – the kind that reduces inputs, increases profits, and could have saved many a dairy farm – and the frustration he felt from peoples’ unwillingness to do what would work best for them. It’s something your On Pasture editor can identify with all these years later!

hasnolocksOnce upon a time, Hasnolocks (a distant relative of Goldilocks), a follicularly challenged man of grass in central New York State, was able to attend pasture walks on three different farms on three consecutive days.

Hasnolocks’ heart was overjoyed. For he remembers days gone by when pastured dairy cows were few and far between and he was viewed as a crazy man for telling people they could put their dairy cows back on pasture. Now after almost 30 years, there were enough pasture-based dairy farms in New York State that Hasnolocks was getting to attend three pasture walks in three days!

too tall grassHowever, on arriving at the first farm, Hasnolocks’ heart was saddened. For on this farm, he saw dairy cows walking around belly deep in headed out, stemmy, stalky, extremely low quality orchardgrass that the cows were trampling, peeing and pooping on, but mostly not eating.

Although dismayed by what he saw, Hasnolocks attempted to explain to the farmer why having his cows in grass that tall was a waste of good grass and was causing him to spend way too much money on barn feeding his cows.

The farmer replied “I feed corn silage, haylage, and grain in the barn, and on this pasture, my cows make about 70 pounds of milk per cow per day. What could possibly be wrong with that?”

Hasnolocks tried to explain again.  He said “Sir, if your land was capable of producing 4-tons of dry matter per acre, with this style of management, you would be lucky to  harvest about 1-ton of it per acre. In other words, you would be wasting 75% of what you had grown. Would you be comfortable growing 4-acres of corn silage but only harvesting 1-acre of it?” In addition, most of the 70 pounds of milk your cows are producing is not coming from low cost pasture; it is coming from your high in cost barn ration.

The farmer thought about this for a few seconds and replied. “I have plenty of land to harvest hay from and grow crops. I do not need to manage my pastures any better than what I do.”

SadHasnolocksHasnolocks got in his car and drove away. For he knew that pastures that are tall and rank (forage heights greater than 10 to 12 inches) cause cows to decrease bite rate, take fewer bites, take longer to fill up, and produce less milk.

Hasnolocks also knew this man was right. Until a man finds his own reason to change his mind, he will not change his management.

The second pasture walk was on another dairy farm a county distant from the first. On arriving at this farm, Hasnolocks was again saddened. For on this farm, he saw cows foraging among the thistles on grasses that were not even as tall as the stones in the field.

too short grassAlthough dismayed by what he saw, Hasnolocks attempted to explain to the farmer why having his cows in grass this short was a waste of good grass and was causing him to spend way too much money on barn feeding his cows.

The farmer replied “I feed corn silage, haylage, and grain in the barn, and on this pasture, my cows make about 70 pounds of milk per cow per day. What could possibly be wrong with that?”

Hasnolocks tried to explain again. He said “Sir, if your land was capable of producing 4-tons of dry matter per acre, but with this style of management you only produce 1- ton per acre, you would be reducing your yield by 75%. In other words, you would need 4-acres of land to produce the same amount of food you could produce on 1-acre if you applied better management. In addition, most of the 70 pounds of milk your cows are producing is not coming from low cost pasture; it is coming from your high in cost barn ration.

The farmer thought about this for a few seconds and replied. “I have plenty of land to harvest hay from and grow crops. I do not need to manage my pastures any better than what I do.”

SadHasnolocksAgain, Hasnolocks got in his car and drove away.  For he knew that pastures that are low yielding and grazed to less than 2 inches cause cows to graze longer, walk further, reduce intake, and produce less milk.

Hasnolocks also knew this man was right. Until a man finds his own reason to change his mind, he will not change his management.

On the ride to the last pasture walk, Hasnolocks’ heart was filled with dread.  After what he had observed on the first two farms, he was certain that his 30 years of research, teaching, and preaching had gone entirely unheeded.

just right grassHowever, on arriving at the last farm, Hasnolocks’ heart was filled with joy.  For on this farm, right before his very eyes, he saw cows foraging in pastures consisting of grasses and clovers about 6 to 8 inches tall. No pasture was grazed lower than 2 to 2.5 inches, and the cows received a fresh paddock after each milking. When

Hasnolocks asked the farmer how his cows were milking, he replied “I could not ask for more. I feed only 6 pounds of high-moisture corn per cow per day plus minerals, and I provide them with all the high quality pasture they can eat. My cows average about 70 pounds of milk per cow per day, and my barn feeding costs are practically nothing. What could possibly be wrong with that?”

Hasnolocks replied, “Nothing,” for he knew that well-managed pasture with the right mix of grasses and legumes and grazed with an appropriate strategy, is an excellent food for dairy cows that perhaps needs only be supplemented with a minimal amount of energy to maintain body condition and milk production.

hasnolocksWith a contented heart and a happy grin on his face, Hasnolocks got in his car and drove away, for he knew this man was right.

Until a man finds his own reason to change his mind, he will not change his management.

Are you interested in enhancing your grazing skills? Then our new ebook and online courses could be just what you’re looking for!

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Vothhttps://onpasture.com
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for reprinting this. I think the little parabolic tale probably speaks just as clearly as fifty analytic studies. (OK, maybe 37 studies.)

    Aside: There are times when people may let a field grow to maturity and then let the cows wander through, biting here are there for reasons that are not economic. They may, for example, have set aside that field for ground-nesting bird cover for the spring/early summer.

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