Tuesday, August 25, 2015

cover crop

The cattle are grazing the cover crop now, representing a second harvest for the June 6th planted crop.  First harvest took place on July 27th when we cut and wet baled the crop.  The oats, soybeans and peas terminated with that cutting, but the sorghum-sudan, the rape/turnip hybrid, the ryegrass and the red and crimson clovers came back.  The sorghum-sudan is about knee high at this point.  The crop looks thick and lush even without the annual plants, but as always when we graze crop fields, I am impressed with how quickly the cattle can turn thickness into bare soil showing everywhere.  Permanent pastures don't do that even if the paddock is grazed hard for two consecutive days.

It looks as if the cattle will take about two  weeks to graze the field, so it would be accurate to say the 32 acres of grazing will replace perhaps a thousand dollars worth of hay to feed the fifty plus head.  Additionally, we hope to get a November grazing out of the rape after the sorghum-sudan freezes off.  This is all additional to the seventy five ton of silage bales made in July, which should make excellent winter feed for the market animals. 

Next year, I would like to try a similar seeding that would be allowed to go all the way to freezeup before grazing as a further attempt to shorten the hay feeding season.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Turn of time

This is the time of fairs and shortening days.  The earth tilts away from the sun, the nights get cooler and the seasons begin the slow and then speeding march toward winter.  The farmer wonders if the crops will have enough time, if the feed pile will be sufficient for the livestock, if the buildings can be made ready.  The cooler and longer nights are appreciated and now some of the work can happen in more comfortable temperatures.  We are excited to find out if the cover crop silage bales will make a suitable high energy supplement this winter for the sow herd, thus lessening our work load, and improving their diet.  The cover crop was an experiment, new this year, and it seems likely we will continue with it as we like its effect on weed control and soil improvement. 


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

county fair

It's fair time again, with our county fair running this week, to be followed in about a half month by the start of the state fair.  Fairs are good for rural communities, giving us the opportunity to turn off the internet and get into a physical person to person contact with someone, anyone, who may be doing work similar to ours and whose life features some of the same problems and opportunities as does ours.  We are in increasing danger of losing that and it cannot be replaced by more electronic gadgetry. 

But the livestock shows, and the teams of livestock judges who run them are an increasing problem for those of us who see things a little differently.  They are about the packer, the processor and the meat industry, farmer be damned.  Try to take one of these first place winning "breeding gilts" home, breed it and get it to farrow a decent litter of pigs and come into milk right.  These animals are ultra lean, more grotesque in their shape and outline every year, and the most attention the average livestock judge will pay to maternal characteristics is to tilt his head over a bit and pretend to count nipples.  There is no difference that I can see between the judging standards for the breeding classes and the market animals.  This is to say to the farmer that what he needs in an animal that fits on his (or increasingly "her") operation doesn't matter.  The fact is that the kind of body structure of medium frame and adequate fat cover that makes for a good functional sow is the same needed for good tasting pork.  Ultra lean is a packer's dream and a farmer's nightmare.

Over at the cattle exhibition, some of the same tendencies are obvious.  Beef breeds tend toward the kind of huge dinosaurs that will not finish on grass,  The dairy show is not about animals producing milk on grass.  Yet the use of grass is one of the best economic tools any independent farmer has.  It is best for any serious farmer to view these judging events as a kind of science fiction, and a diversion from reality.  Chuckle at the spectacle, but don't bring the ideas home.


Sunday, August 2, 2015


Well, we are back in proper operation on our main fence charger after lightning took out the fuses in it and also fried a phone in the house.  After checking two auto parts stores and a tool supply for one amp fuses with no luck whatsoever, we finally located the proper part at a fencing company.  They were a bit reluctant to handle it, too, giving me a bit of a runaround on the phone.  Finally, I agreed to purchase four fuses for $18 plus.  Now these little critters are one/fourth inch in diameter by eight tenths of an inch long, consisting of a stainless steel cap on each end joined by a glass tube, inside of which there is a wire nearly too small to see.  This is the fuse.  I wanted four; two to use, and two to tape inside the fence charger box for use next time. That is about four and a half dollars/fuse.  

According to the note taped to the inside of the box, the charger was made and inspected in 2002.  Obsolete, I suppose.  It is interesting to note that our economy can make nearly anything cheap enough to qualify eventually as garbage, but those of us interested in repairing and continuing to use what we already have are increasingly out of luck.