Green Grass and Grasshoppers by Megan and Andrew Mosley
n 2010 we had some interesting weather on are farm, Etiwanda, near Cobar, New South Wales, Australia. By August we had 12 inches (300 mm). We typically receive somewhere around 16 inches (400 mm) annually, so as you might well imagine the property is looking a picture. I wouldn’t have to tell any fellow farmer what a sight it was for sore eyes after 10 long years of below average rainfall! On the 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) of fenced and planned grazed country we had an explosion of soft seeded, broad-leafed, native perennial grasses, and they were thick and vigorous. It is worth noting that we have never sown any of these native seeds. They have been sitting quietly in the soil waiting for the right conditions to be created for them to germinate—and it seems they are happy, because they are bouncing out of the ground all over the place! We have been working for the last 10 years to give our country every opportunity to catch the rain that falls through planned grazing, animal impact, and time for the plants to recover. We are blown away by how the native grasses responded to this rain—it seems the more it rains the cleverer
Questions & Answers
we get! Jokes aside, we have had tests done on our current carbon sequestering ability. On the area we have developed, we are sequestering five times more carbon than we are emitting. Along with all that rain and grass came about a bazillion grasshoppers! We had a bus group here the other day of about 35 folks and the grasshoppers were particularly busy that day – one bloke on the bus asked us, “What are you going to do about the grasshoppers?” and well, Andrew, not being a fan of chemicals replied, “Don’t worry about them mate, just keep fencing and grow more grass!” We are continuing to work on regenerating the country on Etiwanda each year and every year we reap the benefits through more feed, healthier land and happier people! We have endless opportunities in this western country. For $30-$40/ acre (47-100/ha) (on licensed country) you can take almost completely unproductive country, covered in woody weeds, growing next to no grass and suffering from very hard capped soil, and turn it into a bounty of healthy natural grasses providing more feed right now than our stock can eat! For more information on the Mosley’s property, Etiwanda, visit www.etiwanda.com.au. This article was excerpted from the August 2010 issue of the STIPA newsletter.
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If You Grow It, Don’t Hay It! From Tony McQuail to Greg Judy
: I enjoyed your article in #135 IN PRACTICE about stock piling and winter grazing. We are in the snowbelt in Ontario on the east side of Lake Huron in eastern Canada. I’ve heard that once the snow is over the eyes of the cattle when they have their head down grazing they aren’t going to do a great job of grazing. The idea of having my hay stock piled rather than baled is an attractive one. I’m curious, does your ground usually freeze before it gets snow covered and what depth of snow do you get through the winter? How often are the cattle likely to graze a piece during the summer growing season and still have an adequate stockpile to graze in the winter? Do you have any hay fields or do you buy hay? I’m working on a paradigm shift here, Greg, but at the same time I don’t want to leave my cattle with nothing to eat next winter or lots to eat but buried and flattened under three feet (1 m) of snow.
: Yes, it can freeze rather deep here, but with a nice heavy sward of grass covering the soil surface, it is very easy to step in a tread-in. It is much harder to get in a pigtail, which we do not use. Any area devoid of litter or grass is impossible to get a post in without a cordless drill. Even a very thin layer of litter on the ground after grazing be enough to keep the ground from freezing. The most snowfall at once that we have grazed through is 24 inches (600 mm). Our cattle did fine. We had a giant sward of stockpiled green fescue waiting on them under the snow. It is the only grass that stays green most of the winter as long as it is protected by snow or a heavy sward. We have no buildings for our livestock. We do have strips and blocks of timber scattered across our farms. There are also valleys that they can get down into to escape the wind. The cold does not bother our stock much; the wind is another story! We do not backfence in the winter as
the cattle rarely go back on the grazed strips and it also allows them escape cover from storms. We never graze a farm more than 3 times a year. We have found that we can grow more grass and have healthier plants with longer recovery periods. It also allows us to put down more litter because some of the plants are over mature. This litter is not a waste because for every leaf trampled, we get two back. We never bale hay on our farm. If pastures get mature ahead of us and we don’t need it, we skip it and go on. Later in the summer, we can come back and make a withdrawal from it if needed. We buy 8 days of hay for the winter. If we don’t need it, we unroll it with our homemade bale unroller powered by an ATV in the early spring. I am not sure how well your grass will stand up under three feet of snow. I would definitely stockpile as much as I could on a portion of your farm and see what happens next winter.
Tony McQuail can be reached at email@example.com and Greg Judy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Land & Livestock
March / April 2011
Balancing on The Slippery Slope of Grazing to Perfection—Advanced Grazing Courses with Ian Mitchell-Innes PEGGY COLE . . . . . . . . . . . ....