COVER CROPS =
HEALTHY SOILS =
MORE GREAT FORAGE
MORE GREAT FORAGE =
We're learning that soils are the key to production - what everyone is calling Sustainability. So rather than focusing just on production we've committed to rich, diverse forages that rely on a wide variety of plants to create a functioning ecosystem in our pastures.
That also includes a commitment to not touching the soils, and if we absolutely have to, to minimize what we do, both in terms of each time we do it and the number of times we do it. We hope to only "scratch" the soil when we start working on a pasture and then never touch it again.
We know that no till cover cropping, as practiced by people like Gabe Brown, Jerry Doan and others who use cattle to harvest the cover crops is the best way to improve soils quickly. We don't have the benefit of allowing covers to grow for 60 - 90 days before we graze them, but we know that even 30 days of growth establishes a strong root system that improves the soil - because we leave lots of plant when we finish grazing and then give that plant plenty of time to rest before clipping it again. That also means that we don't force the cattle to eat stalks which maintains gains.
1) ALWAYS have a living root system
2) Leave armor on the soil
3) Diversity of plants/roots
4) Least amount of disturbance possible
5) Integration of cattle into the system
For Cover Cropping
We can't set aside a portion of land for 60 - 90 days (or beyond) to allow the covers to grow without grazing so we've adjusted things just a little bit. First we've established a base forage which is Cereal Rye.
Second, very early in the spring we freshen it by adding some barley or oats or tricitcale (or all three) in smaller amounts.
Third, at the same time we add some of the plants shown at right to provide diversity and to specifically improve the soil. They change depending on our goals which vary by field and year.
Fourth, just before we get cattle (in early May or late April) we'll broadcast warm season plants including some cover types. We then graze with a very high stock density to get the cattle to incorporate the seed
Finally, in about mid August we'll freshen again with more Fall Rye and lots of Cover species so that when the cattle leave the plants have about two months of growth before winter and can maximize their develpment.