Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Winter "Pasturing"

Here is a little explanation of what we do with our critters in the winter. In the past we have fed our animals close to the house where it was convenient to the bales and where we could enjoy watching them throughout the winter months. This is all fine and good but it creates some problems. Firstly, the area where they are kept gets trashed. In the late fall and early spring, before the grass emerges, the cows are trodding about the corral and the ground is completely chewed up and needs to be re-seeded into pasture. Secondly, there is a whole lot of manure and trampled hay to contend with. Even feeding them from a round bale feeder, you would be surprised at how much hay is wasted on the ground. The term "wasted" is a misnomer because we always cleaned the corral in the spring or summer and spread the manure on the various pastures that needed it. This process is problematic because it is terribly time consuming to use the loader to fill the manure spreader and then take the spreader out to the field and actually get it flung! Lots of entire day. Lots of fuel. Lots of repairs to the loader and spreader. Not good.

The solution? Let the cows spread their own manure!

I have to start the tractor each time I need to feed a bale anyways so what's the big deal about driving the bale out to the field instead of the corral in the yard? I simply spear the bale and drive it out to the pasture where the cows are located. I sit the bale on the ground and then move the feeder a little ways down into some clean ground. Then I pick up the bale again and drop it in the feeder. Takes about 10 minutes longer than feeding in the yard.

Now, the cows can poop and trample till their hearts content and I don't have any extra work to do in the spring. No corral to clean. No poop to fling.

This year, the cows are out in the back field where we have grown everything from potatoes to Heritage varieties of wheat like Red Fife. In the spring I will work the ground as I always do and incorporate the manure and wasted hay into the ground for the sake of extra fertility and organic matter. It was a beautiful night last night to go out and visit the cows and take a few pictures for your enjoyment.

I would also like to introduce you to Missy. She is a Galloway and she is by far, the friendliest cow I've ever known. She happily stands munching her hay while I brush her and she was born into a herd of about 200 cows out in a huge leased pasture! It's not like she was bottle fed. Just a friendly cow. Her calf Miley is the same way.

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