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In Practice a publication of Holistic Management International

JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2013

Improving Pasture Forage—

NUMBER 147

W W W. H O L I S T I C M A N A G E M E N T. O R G

by ELYSA BRYANT

~ INSIDE THIS ISSUE ~

To Seed or Not to Seed

Pasture Seeding

I

’ve been practicing Holistic Management and planned grazing for about 2-3 years now. In those two years that I’ve been learning and practicing Holistic Management, I’ve been in a number of classes learning about how the planned grazing improves the diversity of forage in a pasture. Almost without fail, when the instructor says that the forage will improve, without even reseeding, participants just can’t quite seem to believe it. “Then how are those new grasses, legumes and brassicas appearing,” a participant will often ask, to which the instructor replies “from the seed bank.” Oftentimes the question emerges again, the group often perplexed at how this could possibly be true. Pressed for more information and types of seeds they should be buying, the instructor explains that given time and practice with the planned grazing that improvement in forage species will steadily occur. Buzz will linger, people will ask again, sometimes repeatedly, “but I must have to buy some seed.” I’ve only been part of a group once where the instructor was persistent in making the point: you don’t have to buy seed to see an improvement in pasture if you’re using planned grazing.

CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

FEATURE STORIES The Lazy R Ranch— Seventy-Five Years and Four Generations SANDRA M. MATHESON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Drought I’ve Known ART ROANE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Land & Livestock

I was doubtful at times and I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it for myself every time I walk through my pasture. When I began moving my animals through the pasture, it already seemed pretty healthy. It was vibrant green with some clover and grasses. I think the first time I did biological monitoring I saw about 8 different species and I thought “maybe I don’t even need to do planned grazing.” I decided to go ahead anyway because I wanted to see if you really could get greater diversity in forage, and therefore greater diversity in the environment overall, without spreading seed. I had heard about the concept of the seed bank in the soil, but honestly, it was knowing something without really having the experience to know it. I had doubts in my own mind, too, about whether I could rely on the seed bank to provide increased, and improved, forage diversity. That doubt gave way to a small purchase of seeds the first spring two years ago. I bought some field peas and some triticale and spread it by hand. I had my poultry rotating throughout that pasture the first year and the triticale and field peas emerged. The animals did well and after my first season was under my belt, I was satisfied to see how healthy our animals (and their eggs and meat) seemed to be. The forage looked kind of beat by the end of the growing season, I had made some mistakes, but overall the results with the animals reinforced my own desire to keep trying the planned grazing. I didn’t notice much of a change in the species of forage as I looked out over the top, but that changed the next year. Last year, after a full year since starting, and going in to our second year as a farm, I noticed that the forage emerged from the winter hibernation full and lush. I noticed much, much more clover. We decided we would not mechanically graze the pasture, instead we would let it grow and then make paths through for the Electronet fencing to continue with the planned grazing. It was after the first time that we took the weedwhacker through to make paths that I got a more complete view of the diversity of the forage from more than an ‘across the tops’ perspective. Once the forage was cut away in swaths, you could see the understories and layers of new species that had developed.

Many producers have found that with increased recovery periods and greater stock density, they are able to regenerate native grasses from the seed bank already in the soil. Learn about the scientific and on-farm research that explores this topic on this page and on pages 7 and 9.

Why Grazing Native Grasses Is More Profitable Than Resowing Or Cropping GRAEME HAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Grass Comeback GRAEME HAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Merlin Ranch— Improving Land and Animal Performance HEATHER SMITH THOMAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Cattle & Mule Deer CHRIS GILL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

News & Network

The Experiment

3 5

7 9

11 14

From the Board Chair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Grapevine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Development Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Kids on the Land . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Book Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Certified Educators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Marketplace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21


#147, In Practice, Jan/Feb 2013