Multi-species Grazing for Sustainable Farming


Again, I’d like to also welcome
everybody to this afternoon’s webinar. I think it’s an exciting topic,
as we were trying to plan for this year’s series
on organic and sustainable agriculture topics. We try to put a special emphasis
on livestock, as today’s presentation will
clearly indicate, along with the one in April about
integrating livestock into a cropping system. So a little brief about our
presenter, Greg is an old timer like me. He’s got 34 years of
NRCS experience. But yet, you’ll find excitement
in his voice even after all those years. He’s been the state grazing
specialist of Tennessee for over 18 years. And before that, he was the
district conservationist at various locations
in Tennessee. And Greg has just accepted
a new responsibility. He’s going to be Tennessee’s
new state soil health specialist. So congratulations
on that, Greg. I’m sure you’ll do a
great job on that. And in addition to that, to add
some more credibility to what Greg’s got to say, not only
does he know it, he can talk the talk. he also walks it
as he manages his 350 acres of pasture that he’s going to
be describing throughout his presentation. So without any further ado, I
turn it over to you, Greg. OK, thanks, David. And I appreciate the East
National Technology Support Center having me join them,
and also appreciate people joining the conference
and listening in. In my lifetime, I can’t remember
a more exciting time to be in agriculture. It’s just really neat that
we’re rediscovering sustainable ag, and we’ve
advanced as well. So I think we’ve got so many
tools to work with today. And I hate to take any of
them from the toolbox. But the challenge is
to keep it simple. Typically, management
is the weak link. And as we focus on soil health
and managed cover, green and brown, and try to keep it fresh
like with rotational grazing, I like a three-day
rotation or less. Then also, manure distribution
and grazing distribution are other focuses that I think
are so important today. This presentation will be
presented more from a producer view than a grazing
specialist’s view, but they’ll overlap. Wanted to give a little
background. My dad bought the place,
the farm, in the ’60s. And I was a cattle producer. And then, about 2005, my
brother and I took over management of the operation. And the first thing was to
reinstall a perimeter fence. He’d let it get ragged
and dilapidated. So right off, we said, we
might as well fence for multi-species. So we started that. And I’ll go through the
evolution of this cattle farm to a multi-species farm. It’ll be part of the
presentation. He got up to about 300 cows and
rotated about once a week. In my opinion, grazed
a little close. But I do appreciate what he did
and what land we had to begin with to start with. Starting off with some reasons
for multi-species grazing, weed control, you know they
become forbs if the other animals eat them. It’s not going to control
all weeds or all plants. There’s still jimsonweed,
cocklebur. But some of the worst ones are
nimblewill, perilla mint, and wingstem that I have
some issues with. And we’ll address those
with trampling. Or we can have them eat them. But we have to realize we’re
sacrificing some animal performance when we make
the animals do a job. Nutrient recycling, that’s
always a focus. It’s so important. And we’ll look at some numbers
in that, as well, and the value of it. The hay savings– sheep are one operation on the home farm. They hardly ever eat hay. We’ve got some– we keep some
standing grass most all year. So we cut the hay way back. And of course, the rotation
helps in that regard, too. The cattle, you know how they
avoid grazing next to where they’ve defecated. Well, the sheep and goats
don’t hesitate to graze that area. And now, the sheep and goats
don’t avoid grazing next to their own poop. And also, that’s not an issue
other than we’d rather them avoid it a little bit so they
didn’t pick up internal coccidiosis. But they don’t share parasites
between cattle and goats, or cattle and sheep. Now, goats and sheep do share
internal parasites. Increase stocking rate
is another benefit. You can run one to two goats
for every cow without affecting the grazing
of the cow. And actually, you’ll improve the
grazing because if there’s not a briar there, or if it’s
not as tall of a briar, you’ll be growing more grass
and clover. And goats don’t like clover, so
it increases in the system. So that’s another benefit. Now, the sheep, my estimate–
and this is just an estimate– is one ewe for two cows would
be, I think, reasonable to not affect the grazing of the cow. Increased income, it
would increase all of these other benefits. You’re going to get some
increased income. Then fun and entertaining,
you’ll see some pictures of some hogs. I just added a few
hogs one time. And very entertaining
to watch them. Some more reasons for adding
the small ruminants. The gestation period
is a big factor. The five month gestation
period is a quick turn. And then, they can be bred
at 10 months old. So a ewe lamb can be
bred at 10 months. And the goat’s a little less
successful at 10 months, but they can, too. And you don’t have the lambing
or kidding problems that you do with heifers. So we rarely pull any small
ruminant babies. We average about 1.7
babies per female. And that’s pretty good. You want to beat the
1.5 if you can. Another benefit is they’ll
wean– or at 10 months of age, they’ll have enough in the
babies like the lambs that will equal the mother’s
weight. I don’t know of another species
that can do that. And dollars per pound, when
you go to sell them at the auction in this area,
are equal to cattle or even higher. Goats right now are the highest
selling species. So here’s– and we’ll go through a little
evolution of how we went from a cattle farm to a multi-species
farm. We focused on the
boundary fence. But the first animals that came
in, we put in the what we call the hub, or
I call the hub. And it was woven wire. I don’t have much woven
wire on the place. But I do put woven wire up. And this hub or catch pen, it’s
always nice to be able to lock them down if needed. Now, we use mainly high
tensile wire. And the lowest wire is
the most important. And usually, it’s run about– I run it at seven inches off
the ground, is the target. But six to eight inches off
the ground is important. And then, from the hub, we
started off using electronet and making paddocks coming
away from the hub area. That’s how we started. Now, we use three electric
polywires for some temporary fencing. We’ll use some electric net. And then, the permanent fence
is four strands of high tensile radiating
from the hub. And I’m not talking about
a pie shaped. But they lead the animals
back to the hub, or the corral area. We started off with cattle. We added the goats. And then, we added sheep. And we were so pleased
with the sheep, we added more sheep. And now that I have about 300
ewes, that amounts to about 800 or 900 animals when
you count the lambs. And that’s so many in one herd
that I’ve gone back to cattle. And the cattle are more
impressive now that we’ve culled back and got
better genetics. No hay is made on the farm
because the value of hay is– we like to bring in
those nutrients. It’s about $25 worth of
nutrients brought in in a 1,000 pound roll of hay. The break even price of hay
is $80 to $120 a ton. And we can get it delivered
for $35 a roll. So it just makes sense
to buy the hay. And we want to graze
those fields. Here’s a current inventory of
what we have on the place. And it’s very dynamic. It goes up and down. Part of the philosophy is to
keep fewer females and keep the calves longer. And we’ll even– since everything’s grass fed and
we don’t feed any grain, it takes a while to get the
lambs up to 70 or 80 pounds. So we keep them a little longer
than the people that crate feed or feed
their lambs. But usually, we grade well. They’re number twos
at the market. And we will talk to direct
marketers, and give them the opportunity to buy some. I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve got that further on. But on the home farm, we’ve
got 16 permanent paddocks. And we’ll divide that up with
temporary fence and make 45 throughout the year. I wanted to point out the goal
of this particular operation is a low cost, low stress
grazing operation that improves production and the
environment while being consistently profitable. So that’s what we try to
think about in all the tasks that we do. When we introduce a new species
to the farm, like lately, I’ve brought
in a llama. And we’ll put it in the
hub, the woven wire. And it has offset electric. It gets them used to
the electric fence. And then, we’ll graze the
herd beside them. And they give them strange
looks for a while. And then, after about three
days, we’ll turn them out. But we’ll turn them out when we
rotate the whole herd to a new paddock. So they’re not defending
the paddock they’re in. And they’re preoccupied
with the fresh grass. And you’ll see a little
arguments between the new species, checking
each other out. But they’ll find their place
in the pecking order. And the llama connected more
with the cattle than the sheep and goats, which is
not what I wanted. But it’s OK. The cattle serve as predator
control, too. Animal types and number
of each species, again, it’s very dynamic. I base the goat stocking
rate on iron weed as my key species. I want it to be about two
feet high or less. But I don’t want it to
disappear, because it is a forb in a forage. I just don’t want it
to be dominant. And then, the sheep, they
have a broad diet. And they key in on buttercup. But as the grass increases,
we increase the cattle. And like I say, the cattle
have improved. And we’ve got a deep
body, wide body. And then, we’re selecting also
trying to pay more attention to their mouth and
a long head. And we’ve got some
good stock now. This is a view from the past. This is back when we had single
wire for the cattle. And the goats would
go under the wire. This was before we got
sheep in 2006. And we started buying
goats in 2005. Somewhat a dry time there. But the cattle are held back
with that one wire. So the goats were always the
first grazer, which is not that bad with goats. But when we added the sheep, it
became more competitive for the cattle. And you could see the body
condition dropping somewhat with the cattle. Yeah, that’s good. I’m going to go through the
months of the year. And I thought it would be the
best way to show different management techniques
throughout the year. One technique we’ll use
sometimes is bale grazing. 42″ high wire will hold
my cows back. It’s electric wire. And so the steers can
forward graze. Or if we’re feeding hay, then
they’ll have a little better hay than the cows because
the cows are dry. And then, the goats and sheep
are also going under. They’re getting the
better hay. And they require a little higher
quality diet, too. And then, three wire or polywire
will hold back the sheep and goats. And that three wire, we just
space it seven inches off the ground, then eight,
and then 12. And that holds everything
back real well. If we want something for the
special mineral for the goats and sheep, we’ll put it beyond
between the 34″ wire and the three polywires. When we place rolls out in
rings, we’ll put it on weedy spots or low fertility spots. That’s a big part. Every time we place a roll, we
try to think about that, and we always put it in a new
location every time we place a roll on our farm. We continue the rotation
throughout the year, rotating about every three days. That’ll differ throughout
the year. But usually, about three day
rotation is the target. More and more, we sense the long
direction and leave the polywire up longer. And then, we’ll still cross
fence with some temporary wire between two long parallels. Here, you can see in this
picture that the cattle condition is a little off. And look at the sheep, a
very high condition. So that’s when we– we don’t do this anymore much. We rarely use a single wire and
hold the cows back because we’re seeing their condition
drop too much. Now, we run them all as one
heard and use the three wire polywire or permanent fencing. And boy, combining herds makes
everything very simple. And it’s one stop check of
mineral, and water, and forage, and hay. It’s just a lot easier. If you did run multiple herds,
then I would recommend doing grazing whichever species is
lactating first, and leave some, just top graze it. Then leave some for the next
day right behind each herd. Otherwise, if you’ve got herds
all over the place, your recovery period is cut short. Hey, Greg, I had a question come
in about, does having a mixed herd like that reduce your
predator problems with coyotes or wild dogs,
or anything like that, on your sheep? I really think it
does big time. The cows, especially if they
have a little Brahman blood in them, they don’t like dogs
or coyotes coming in. And then, I’ve even had the
cows break up a dog fight between the guardians. So I’ve got another
place that I rent. And it doesn’t have
cattle on it. And I’m going to add cattle
because we’re having a little predator issue there. So yeah, when you combine it
like I had, a cow with a sore foot and a lamb with a sore
foot, and I had them in the same pen together. And that lamb would use the
cow as a defense from me catching it. So yeah, it definitely
is beneficial. But it’s much easier to manage
the forage and recovery period when you just have
the one herd. So I’m pretty strong on that. Disadvantage is you can’t target
grazing as much as you might like when you have
them all as one group. The point of this slide is to
point out how important it is to keep the water level
high in the tanks. When the small lambs are kids,
are drinking, they could fall over in there and have
trouble getting out. I had an incident, I hate
to admit, where I lost several lambs. I first put a ramp in there
with some welded wire cloth on it. And I didn’t extend it
down into the water. But that wasn’t the issue,
I don’t think. But anyway, I found
some more dead. And then, I put blocks
in there. I still found some dead
in the tire tank. And then, I raised the water
level up to within two inches of the top. And that’s very important
because if they have to lean over in there, this trough here
is not filled enough in the picture. It really needs to be within two
of the lip of the trough. That would be a benefit. This is some rye that was
interseeded into some bermudagrass and clover. And yeah, they tramped
a lot down. But it’s carbon returning to
the surface and feeding the microbes, keeping it cooler,
and also the moisture conservation. So we look at that
as a benefit. We don’t want everything
consumed. Fertilizer savings, I haven’t
fertilized in going on six years now. And used to fertilize– we do watch and monitor. We soil test regularly, and we
don’t want it slipping out of the medium category. And we’ll keep our
pH up with lime. Hay savings, again, the sheep
are not big hay eaters. So we’ve saved a
lot with that. And we’ve increased the stocking
rate on the home farm, 38%, and overall, 13%. Greg, a question came in about
the water, real quick. Have you tried using any of
those Mirafount or those other frostproof type of– Right. Those work fine. Now, the balls that stand up,
since they’re not as strong, it’s a little harder for them
to push those down. Now, you could take the balls
out, or you could put them down permanently. And they’d work. But they learn to drink
out of all of them. I really prefer the little 55
gallon Rubbermaid trough is probably my favorite trough. And we’ll see some pictures
of that, too. But they’ll drink out
of everything. Sometimes, I’ll put blocks
around the trough to be sure they can get up there
to get the water. But the balls are not supposed
to be tight on those ball waters, anyway. So they’ll figure it out. I hadn’t had issues with that. On this slide here, this
is the rented farm. And you can see it’s got
a good grazing height. I used to think that was the
most important thing. But due to only having four
paddocks, it’s hard for me to freshen up the grass, give it
that rest period it needs. So they get to the point where
they reject it a little bit and just don’t do as
well as they could. This is this past July
or early July. We had some real hot weather,
in the hundreds. And you can see the fescue
just browned out. And fescue is pretty
worthless. Now, the animal that fell
apart the most, I didn’t feed any hay. I was fixing to feed hay
right when it rained. But the sheep began to
have runny eyes. In fact, I thought it was
going to be a disaster. So I was afraid to rotate
away from the corral. But we just started
rotating faster. Because we thought we were
going to have to give an antibiotic. But their nutrition improved. We got some rain. And their eyes cleared up. So this is just in the early
August after the rains. You see, we got a big
response regrowth. This is sericea natural
tannin. It’s a natural dewormer. The briars, this hadn’t
been mowed probably in a couple of years. And you can see with goats,
you can set the height you want it grazed. If you want it grazed
two feet, it’d be one stocking rate. If you want it grazed eight
inches, it would be another stocking rate because they
graze from the top down. Really, sericea is not
a preferred plant. They do graze it. But if they got a choice, it’s
not going to be the most preferred plant. Here’s some briars. And this fescue is way too
mature, of course. But you can see how they
hone in on the briars. And these briars
are in trouble. If we wanted to kill them,
we’d stay on this. And they would keep getting
that little bud. And these briars would die. We want to keep the briars
about a foot to no more than 3 feet tall. Fescue you know, the fungus
endophyte is the strongest in the seed head. Goats are really drawn
to the seed heads. And doesn’t seem to affect
them as much as it does the cattle. So that’s another benefit of
having the multi-species. I grazed some corn this last
year, and was rather pleased with that. We just planted seed corn. And if I’d had time,
I would have done a germination test on it. And I would recommend
anybody do that. But we planted it with a drill
and planted 150,000 plant population. That’s about five times
higher than the grain producers plant. When I turned the animals
in, you can see they weren’t used to it. And they didn’t– they were
grazing around the edge. They didn’t jump
in on the corn. But later that day, it looked
a little different. They really got into it. And we strip grazed it. And you can see the
sheep there. Now, the cattle are
back in the corn a little bit, I believe. Here, we just knocked down the
corn with my truck and then put up the three-wire
polyfence. And you see four insulators
on there, but there’s only three wires. And we’re using the braided
polywire now. I wouldn’t recommend these
red pig tails. They tend to break down on me,
at least the brand I bought. So I’d get the white ones. Wanted to point out the
different grazing nature of the animals. Sheep, the heads are down
in the background there. And the goats, their
heads are high. And they naturally
segregate, too. Now, there’ll be a
little overlap. But the cattle are back in the
corn, and they’re probably eating the ears. This is overgrazed. I don’t like seeing anything
like this. This is– we didn’t back fence. We just let them come
back to water. And this was definitely
too much grazed. But in that last picture,
you probably saw the– let’s see if I can go back. There’s some spiny
amaranth in here. And you can see that they
really took it out. There’s nothing left. So I guess reaching for the
light, it was succulent, and they ate everything. I wanted to point out a steer. I harvested this last year. And I overdid it. He was high choice. I really wanted him to
be the low choice. And he was 36 months old. I just kept waiting for
him to get fat. And after grazing 18 days
on the corn is when we harvested him. But he’s got some tail
fat cover, and got some fat in the brisket. I thought it’d be worth
pointing that out. Here’s looking at the
segregation of the animals to see how the cattle– they’re on the top
of the hill. There’s no fence. I’ve just drawn these lines
to show the segregation. And the sheep are in the
middle hill, mid-slope. And then, the goats are
in the lower slope. There’s more briars in
that lower area. I think that’s why
they’re there. I wanted to point out the
ear tagging technique. We use a red ear tag to signify
something we’re wanting to sell. And we just keep an eye on. And they’re a bad actor. Then, I use an ear notching
technique that’s really on the tag. But if they have a limp,
then we’ll notch the bottom of the tag. If it’s bad famacha score,
anemic, then we’ll notch it close to the ear, to the eye. And then, if it’s bad hair coat
with sheep, usually then we would notch the top. We don’t cull real
hard on that. And then, if it’s a messy tail
and only 20% or less have a messy tail, we’ll notch the
back, away from the eye. Hey Greg, before you move on
past the corn too far, is there a magic time when you try
to turn them into that? Or do you ever let them
wait until the corn’s a little more mature? Or how do you judge? Yeah. My understanding is the
nutrients in the corn, the nutritional value, is about
the same no matter when you graze it. So you use it when
you need it. I used it in August about
90 days after planting. And it was in the– I’d call it the nubbing stage. I didn’t want it to be
in the grain stage. I tend to like to– my target
on all grazing if it could happen is to graze at
the boot stage. I think that’s the compromise
of quality and laying down biomass. But you can graze– one way of doing the corn is
graze at that V5 stage, counting the leaves except
for the whirl. And that will make it sprout. Or not sprout, but tiller and
give you a heavier plant population. But after that, the growing
point’s too high, and you would kill the corn. So the nutrients move around
within the plant. They’re either in the ear
or in the leaves. And I think the best balance
is the early head or boot stage. This is late November. And we’ve got the rams in. This is the ram in the
foreground here. With the one herd, we’ve got to
be concerned with copper. We know that wool sheep are
very sensitive to copper. With hair sheep, we really
don’t know the limit. I’ve been feeding 100 parts per
million copper for about four years now. And haven’t had any issues. But I’m not recommending that
people feed that because we need research to validate
what the limit is. It’s a cumulative effect. So it builds in them. So it could cause a problem
at any time. But if we want to feed a high
copper mineral, we’ll feed that to the cattle, or make it
available to the cattle in a barrel hanging in a tree,
or hanging somewhere. And then, we can run a 34″ wire
to hold back the calves and the cows and feed a
more expensive sheep mineral or some kelp. We feed that time as well. I wanted to point out a grass
that I’m really pleased with. And we overseed the
hay feeding sites. And then, we’re extending. I used to not think it was a
good idea to feed around the edge of the woods. But now, we’re trying to extend
the grazing of the pasture into the edge
of the woods. And this prairie bromegrass, the
one I’ve used and had good success with, was Persister. But it does real well on fertile
sites, heavily manured areas, and shade. And it almost seeds as easy
as annual rye grass. So it’s a very interesting
plant. Has a longer growing season,
into the winter and into the summer, than fescue. And we’re in the heart
of the fescue belt. This is that same site
back in the summer before it was seeded. And actually, it gets much
worse than this. But here’s the hogs
too, there. You can see all the integration
with the dogs, and the hogs, and the cattle, and
the goats, the sheep. So it’s– I’m going to go back to
that to show you. It’s just pretty amazing to
me that it can do that. And it’s a short lived,
reseeding perennial, this prairie bromegrass is. And this is a little off topic,
but I think it goes real well, also. This is actually a garden. It’s not my garden. But I’m working with
a producer. And I told him to use them some
rye, cereal rye mulch. But he found rye grass mulch. But on the left, he used
the rye grass mulch. And on the right, there
was no mulch. And he did three reps. And he did a control spot. And we got 90% control of
the spiny amaranth. So the point of all this is I
started seeding a little bit of annual rye grass on these hay
feeding sides along with the prairie bromegrass to get
control of the spiny amaranth. And it seems to be working
very well. It’s not a year long effect. But it does hold it back,
whether it’s the temperature, or allelopathic, or mulch. I’m not sure. But this was only a 30% mulch
in this particular garden. Hay feeding, a little
short story on this. These feeders, I’ve used
these for a while now. And I used to have plywood
bottoms on it, on these feeders, and fed alfalfa. And the alfalfa leaves would
fall under that wood. And the goats would refuse it. They wouldn’t eat it. Well, I made them eat it by
just leaving it in there. And then, I got listeria. Now, we put tin bottoms
in these feeders. And they clean up every leaf. And of course, that’s
the highest quality. And we feed– we try to make sericea hay
available to the goats and sheep, most all winter. Rumen fill, I think, is very
important in rotational management because we
can yo-yo them if we don’t watch it. But if we want performance,
we want that rumen full at all times. So particularly when they’re
coming through the gate, moving to a new field. And it’s easier to see on cattle
than it is goats and sheep because of the
hair, I guess. In the foreground, in the gate
area there, that’s nimblewill. And that’s also the reason that
I planted this cocktail mix of annuals back here
in the background. That’s where the corn was
back in the summer. And then, I planted rye, oats,
wheat, rye grass, triticale, turnips, radish. And I even planted a little
buckwheat in there. The idea was I knew I wasn’t
going to graze the buckwheat. But in 60 days, it frosted. And it killed the buckwheat. But I thought that tied in real
well to the soil health. And it made a void for other
roots in soil to get deeper in the profile. So we like diversity in all
plants and animals. Here’s the quick coupler,
main water source. It’s just a pipeline with
quick couplers. And then, we put a portable
trough with that. And here’s the little 55
gallon portable trough. And the quick coupler’s
under the disk blade there on the picture. And the reason I started putting
that disk blade on there is the animals could
step off into that hole. So works real good. And not really that important
for freezing. But it does help some
there, too. Oh, another point I wanted
to make is we rotate the water point. Sometimes, I won’t let them
have a water point. And what that does is since the
manure is mainly deposited around the water in the shade,
some of my best forage is near the water points, where
typically it’s the overgrazed area. So to get a big response from
the water point is rest it. In other words, don’t let them
have it every rotation. Another thing that we do that I
don’t think I’ve covered in here is we’ll skip a paddock. Every rotation, we’ll think
which paddock needs the longest rest or needs a
little more recovery. And so we always have one rested
60 to 90 days as a reserve paddock. And back to the water, we’ll
put a chlorine tablet in a Gatorade bottle. And I got this from Ian
Mitchell-Innes. And we just cut holes in the
middle of the Gatorade bottle. And this helps keep
the water clean. Not a total replacement
for cleaning water troughs, but it does help. And you can even place these
in the spring box and clean the pipeline if a person
wanted to. And there’s no issues
with chlorine. The first thing, I understand,
would happen is the animals would reject the water. And we see tadpoles
in these troughs. So we’re not concerned
with that. Oh, here’s the pigs. What a hoot to watch. I thought they would root around
a lot in the manure. And they rolled in it instead
of rooting in it. And so all these pigs are
covered in manure on the left. And had the same effect, it
dessicated the manure where the flies couldn’t
breed in it. So the next thing is I want to
draw birds in, more birds. We’ve got a lot of
wild turkey. But I want to bring
in more birds. I don’t want to raise
chickens. But I would like to bring
native birds in to pick through those piles
a little more. I wanted to say, too, when the
acorns drop, the hogs, you better have the bottom hot. I didn’t, and mine got
away and were out for a month or more. But they love the acorns. They turn into wild hogs
then, don’t they, Greg? Yeah, yeah. I had a question. Go ahead. OK, I just had a question about
your rotating of your paddocks, and how long do you
rest them between regrazing? And what’s the average size of
your paddock based on your system there? Yeah, in general, we’ll rotate
every three days. And we’ll rest 45 days. But in the spring, it’ll
be less days of rest. And we’ve moved to now where we
try to graze the top third during the growing season,
and take half, leave half in the winter. So then the size of the paddock,
it varies a lot. Where we would love to be at
70,000 pound stock density year round, but I’ve got part
time help and, I’m not up there a lot myself, only
one or two days a week. So yeah, the paddock size, it’ll
vary from 4,000 pounds stock density to 70,000. That’s about our best
way to answer it. And it’s a very rolling
farm or rough form. So it’s hard to– Does somebody have a question? Yeah, that was a question
that came in. But it seems like you’re
avoiding the chickens. Is there a reason that
you don’t include chickens in your rotation? I’m more afraid of a chicken
than a snake. No, they’re are a lot
more labor, too. They would definitely be an
addition to the system. I’ve got kind of a standing
offer for somebody to run chickens. And I’ll buy the infrastructure
if they’ll manage them, and we’ll split the
profit or something else. I just like to have them. And I think they’d be
worth the benefit. But I don’t want to
put the labor in. On the manure, I’m not going
to get real deep into all these numbers. But there’s an astronomical
amount of nutrients in the manure if it hits
the right place. And any crop can be fertilized
with 100 cows for 11 days on one acre. There’s your analysis
right there. That’s what we would
be dropping. If it’s 256 pounds of N,
156 P2O5, and 572 K2O. So that’s over the top
for most crops. So it’s very valuable
to manage it. We’ll make, in a typical year,
we’ll make six rotations. So we’ll graze about 18 days. But we’re not at this
stock density. And then, the organic matter
of the farm now averages about 4%. And that’ll release about 90
pounds of nitrogen for a year. So we feel like– I don’t have a good baseline,
but I did take some organic matter on rotated cropland. And the state average
in Kentucky and Tennessee is about 2%. So I feel like in the last– the conservative would be 10
years, we’ve increased organic matter by 2%. Also, this moisture conservation
with more cover, residue management is
very important. Not only in cropland, but in
pasture land, to keep the evaporation down. Cooler land and more biological
activity, and then the roots of your grass connect
with the root of the fungus or hyphae and extend
the whole root system. So tremendous benefit from
raising the grazing height and doing the rotation and the
residue management. This is how I do my
water points. It’s relatively easy. It’s a lot of gates. These gates, I get them for
about $70 or so a piece, and put up eight gates
around them. And we can rotate any direction
we want to. The key is there’s
no post where these gates swing together. And I’ve got a schematic of
this in the next slide. So there’s no post where these
two gates come together here. Here’s your water point. And then fences come off here. So gives you lots of options. You can even water in multiple
paddocks if you wanted to. Here’s another gate arrangement
that I use a lot. And the key is there’s no
post in the center. And the gates all
come together. They could be anywhere on this
radius, and you could have any number of fields. And we typically
use 16′ gates. And it’ll make a 22 and
1/2 foot opening. It works real well. There’s no water in the
center of this one. And it’s no post. It’s just for livestock flow. Predator control is
a huge thing. It’s probably the biggest
item, biggest hurdle. And as somebody pointed out
earlier, the cattle give some predator control. But I wouldn’t count on any one
species or guardian for total control. This is an Anatolian shepherd
in the upper right corner. And I love to see a dog that’s
overlooking them. It’s even better if she
was sitting right in the middle of them. And if you show up to buy a
guardian dog, you want the one that’s in the middle of
the flock or herd. I think you should have two dogs
minimum, and one for 50. So if you had 150 animals,
you’ve need three dogs. But if you just had 50, you’d
still need two dogs. The self-feeder, this is a big
thing for people that are feeding remote. Use a shade cloth. This is just over an
old dog carrier. And then, there’s a self-feeder
in here. And I’ve been doing this
about two years. And I haven’t had any
sheep and goats go in to eat the feed. So this works real well. It’s an 80/20 shade cloth. I’d like to have at
least one donkey– well, no, I shouldn’t
say it that way. It’s best to just have one
donkey per flock, or one llama per flock, or both, because if
you get multiples, they just group together. And I don’t know if they serve
as well as a guardian. Although I broke that rule on
the rented farm where I got excited when we had a hit. And I got six donkeys. So I’ve got donkeys for sale. I like to buy a donkey or a
llama straight off its mother when it’s looking for something
to bond to. I think that works well. I guess that’s it on that. A minute, Greg. You’ve got a word up there
I don’t recognize. The word “ionophore.” Yeah, that’s like Rumensin
or Bovatec. Those are poisonous
to donkeys or to equine or llamas, camelids. OK. And let me make a comment. I’m getting a lot of messages
about folks not able to see the slides, or they’re
not advancing. I apologize. That’s not anything Greg’s
doing or we’re doing. It’s just a function
of the server that it’s coming off of. And there isn’t anything
we can do about it. But again, this presentation
will be available to watch the replay. And you can have a copy of the
presentation on your own computer later. So again, I apologize
for that. OK, Greg, keep going. Should I slow down or do
something different? No, it’s nothing you can do
about it because they’re advancing fine on our slides. And it’s just the magical world
of computers and stuff. So we’ll just go on. Right, OK. I will try to click them a
little early and slow down just a little as I click through
them if that works a little better. Grazing the woods, there’s a lot
interest from particularly goat people in grazing
the woods. And the recovery time is so
large, so long that in general, if you have less than
50% light getting to the forest floor, I wouldn’t think
of it as a paddock. I wouldn’t want to invest
in the fence. The recovery time, in my
experience, is like three years or more. And you can see how goats really
hone in on that browse in the woods. There’s great grass out in the
paddock, but they like that shaded woods area. And that’s a common problem. All the species that I manage
like the top of the draw, where the drainage goes off,
where it’s shaded. And I understand deer hunters
say that’s where you’ll find deer as well because the deer
like that cool air coming out of the hollow there. Goats and sheep waste
a lot of hay. And this picture is showing
that mushroom shape of a hay roll. And this has been known to kill
a lot of goats and sheep. It really should be pushed
over when it gets to looking like this. And it should have
a rack around it. I just took this picture to
show what can happen. And it can even kill
a big goat. All right, targeted grazing. Just a few preferences. And I’ve already mentioned
it, I believe. But there’s clover
in this picture. But the sheep went in
for the buttercup. They really do well on the buttercup, or like the buttercup. It doesn’t seem to cause
any issues for them. However, buttercup has a big
growth spike in April, May. And there’s no way they
could keep up with it. So one way to address that is
to graze a different paddock at that time of year, and to
set back the buttercup. Goats, the woody plants, of
course, the briars, the multiflora. Multiflora has tannins
in it, too, and is a natural dewormer. Corral berry, or butt brush,
people call it, those are other preferences. And ironweed, again, that’s
the key species I use for deciding stocking
rate of goats. Because the goats are more there
for weed control on my place than as a meat producer,
even though they’re very healthy and do a wonderful
job now. And we’ve culled them so hard
that they’re probably some of the healthiest stock I have. Cattle, of course, you can do
some big impacts with them. And wingstem, they’ll eat it
better than the other species. But not as a preference
by any means. But we can tramp it a little
better with them. OK, on that timing and
marketing, we breed– the gestation is five months. So we breed in October. And our target is to have late
February, early March lambs and goat kids. The lambs are less prone to
hypothermia than the kids. But their calves are
even stronger. But we’ll breed the
cows in May. And we’re targeting February
15 for the calves. And we don’t have any shelter
at any time other than the woods for the goats and sheep. It’s common for people
to have that. We try to lay them out on a
south aspect if possible, and try to not lamb or kid on the
same pasture every year. It’s tempting because you’ve got
only certain south aspect. We typically sell the
lambs and goat kids in December, January. I may move that back and sell
a little earlier next year. That tends to be
a high market. And then, again on the cows, we
run a low stocking rate of cows and keep the calves as long
year lengths to about 800 pounds, and sell in
July or August. Again, that’s a high month
to sell typically. And we will call some direct
marketers if they’re interested, and they can pay the
previous week’s price on the auction. And don’t have to pay any
commission that way. And this is the last slide. So we’ll take any questions
or comments. If you’d like to ask a question,
you can dial *1 on your phone to put yourself
into the queue. You’ll hear a notification when
your line is unmuted, at which point you can state your
name and your question. If your question is answered
before we get to you, just dial *1 again, and that
will take you back out of the queue. You can also use the Send Note
button on the top toolbar and send your note to
all moderators. And I’m not seeing
any questions on the line just yet. I’ve got a question here. Someone was wanting, they missed
the discussion on the first gate arrangements
for watering. Could you maybe find that
slide, talk about that a little again? Apparently, their slides might
have caught up with him. I think it’s that one, David? Yes, yeah. Yeah, it’s just a matter of
hanging gates off of four posts, pretty much. And they all swing– let me go to the next one. Well, since it’s not refreshing
real well for them. And then, I use overheads. We don’t go under the gates. This is just simpler. And I like to see
my electricity. And we’ll come back down at
an angle with the wire. And we’ll generally
put a switch if we need to on those there. But yeah, I’ll go to the
next slide, too. That system overhead, aerial
view of the gate arrangement around the water point. OK. I’ve got a question here about
what might be your best grass or recommendations for
drought conditions. Or do you keep a sacrifice
field? Or what’s your drought strategy
for getting through those tough times like that? Yeah, I need more warm season
forage in my system. Sheep graze low. So I’m not certain how well the
native grasses would work. Eastern gamagrass is one
of my favorite grasses. And I think it could
work fine. Once you establish a stubble
height with any grass, even fescue, they don’t tend
to graze so low. So there’s lots of options
right now. We’re just doing the grazing
corn for that. I’m looking at over-seeding some
crabgrass into the cool season paddocks. With goats, the native grasses
can work real well because they’re top grazers. They graze from top down. So lots of options, and I think
all of them are decent. And I wouldn’t worry too much
about quality, as long as you graze it, or cut it– graze in my situation– at the boot stage, it’s going
to be high quality. OK. I have another question about
your guard dogs, wondering if there’s any issues with the
cattle accepting them. Yeah, that was our main concern
early on, was the guard dogs. And the dogs would run up and
down the paddocks next to the cattle and bark. So one time, we just said,
we’re brave, and we just turned in the dogs, and the
cattle, and the sheep. And we decided to give them a
big 40 acre paddock so they could get away if
they wanted to. And they accepted each
other pretty quick. But they’ve been running across
the fence for a month prior to turning them in. I would not pull up with a
guardian animal and drop it out of the trailer into
the cow herd. You’ll have to be gathering
your cattle for a while. OK, yeah. I’ve got several questions
coming in. I had another follow up. Why the shade cloth
on the dog food? Yeah, that’s to keep the goats
and sheep from going in to eat the dog food. Because there’s a self-feeder
in here. OK, OK. All right, that’s good. And then, I’ve got a question
from somebody in Northeast Pennsylvania. And they want to know what you
would think the rotation time would be for that part of the
country, their climate and so forth, as far as– I’m assuming that’s rotating
through your grazing paddocks, that type of thing. In Pennsylvania? Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s going
to be real similar. We’ve got the Appalachians
down here. And they extend up there. I’ve been up in Pennsylvania. Of course, they’re a little
cooler, can grow some cool season grasses a little more. I really like the 45 day rest
period, the target. But again, boot stage,
try to be in there at boot stage or earlier. But not lower than six inches. And we rarely have this problem
because I don’t stock real heavy. I don’t want the stress
of high stocking. But if they tend to overgraze
and you can’t grow grass, you need to lock them down. And I don’t like locking
animals down. But if you’re overstocked,
you’re going to need to lock them down to grow grass. OK, let me– operator? Emily, are there any questions
coming in over the phone? I am not seeing any questions
on the line. OK, well, I’ve got
a couple more. And then, we’ll maybe bring
this to a close here. What type of crabgrass are
you seeding, then? The Red River is the one. They’ve got the Quick
N Big now. That Red River crabgrass is
the one I’ve seeded in the past, and the one
that seems to– I’d probably do a mix actually
of Quick N Big and Red River. But I’d bias it towards
the Red River. The thing about the crabgrass
is the annual tillage. You could do it with high
density grazing, but it needs an annual disturbance. And that’s a little hard
to keep up with. And any time you do tillage,
you’re releasing carbon. So I’m not real excited about
having to do that disturbance. OK. And then, you showed a picture
about some grass being seeded in the edge of the
woods there. Yeah, that’s that prairie
bromegrass. Matua, a lot of people tried
it a few years back. And the remnant stands are in
the shade, when I go on people’s places. Let’s see if I can
find that slide. I don’t guess it matters. The question is related
to how dense– how much the stocking rate, or
how much trees, or how much shade can that tolerate? Yeah, it would be– I’m thinking on the edge of the
woods, you could go back 30′ into the edge
of the woods. But as far as in open woods,
probably at least 40% light coming through. Yeah, I’d rather have more. But at least 40%. OK, OK. Yeah. One more question, and then
we’ll wind this up. Is there any other–
you said you like the Easterm gamagrass. Is there any other warm season
grasses that you like? Well, I know some people
don’t like this. But the improved bermudagrasses,
I’ve had real good luck with over-seeding
those with clover. And I get great palatability
with them. So whether they’re seeded or
sprigged or cuttings, yeah. Yeah, all right. And then, I’ll ask the
last question. How in the heck do you work this
into NRCS’s prescribed grazing standard? You talked a lot about the
management of things, but is this a challenge to meet our
particular needs as what our standard outlines? Or do you find that our standard
is flexible enough to accommodate a system like
you described here? Yeah, the grazing heights
are respected. And the rest periods and
recovery period is respected. I think it fits right– actually, better than just
a single species. Less mowing. Less mowing and more
management. More management, that’s
the main thing. But that’s the fun part
is the management. OK. And how many people you say it
takes to run your operation? I’ve got a high school
guy that just graduated high school. And he works about 20
or 30 hours a week. And I’m up there one
or two days a week. OK, so it’s not labor
intensive. No, it’s not real
labor intensive. But we’ve already got the fences
in place pretty much, and we’re doing some polywire. We’re not doing hay. So it’s a replacement
of work, it’s a– Yeah, OK. That’s a key point there. Well, listen, Greg, I appreciate
your presentation. It was very informative. I’m sure the 250 plus people
that logged in and listened to it got a lot out of it. I’m sure if you were to contact
Greg via email, he will be glad to answer any
further questions that you might have seeing he is such
an expert in this topic. Again, we do appreciate it Greg,
and appreciate the work you’re doing. And I’m just curious. Do you still do the calendar? I do, yeah. Every year, a calendar
on goats and sheep, and one on cattle. Yeah, which is an excellent– last time I saw one about a
year or two ago, was an excellent publication. With that, I’m going to
turn it back to Holli. And again, Greg, I appreciate
your time and effort and look forward to working with
you in the future.

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