It has been a long time since my last Farm Friday. The good news is that I am back, and the farm is still active and full of stories to be told.
Spring has come and gone, our crops have pollinated, and soon we will be out chopping corn silage. These are things that will happen each year here on the farm, and it is a beautiful thing to watch a new crop from beginning to end. However, let’s just say this operation likes new challenges, projects, and adventures. This summer’s adventure is becoming pasture people.
This February, Farmer J and I made a big investment. We bought some land near us with the intent to graze cattle on grass. The farm was in rough shape and hadn’t had cattle on it for years. It needed new fence, water, and a lot of locust tree removal (they have big spikes that aren’t good for tires or cattle). This purchase officially made us pasture people.
Farmer J and company have been VERY busy this summer rehabbing the new farm. He has been cutting trees, planting grasses, and building miles of fence to keep the cattle in the pasture. He and the crew have pounded every post and wrapped every wire on the place. It is a labor of love. Farmer J had a vision for the farm when no one else really did. (I will admit even I didn’t really understand what he saw in the place . . . but I trusted his judgement).
In early June, we had just enough fence to bring in our first load of cattle. The response has been good, as they are eagerly eating the grasses and resting under the shade of the old oak trees. Having cattle in a pasture has been a little different than the feedlot environment. We now have to check fence daily to make sure they haven’t escaped past the electric fence and into a nearby creek. We now have to supplement their grassy diets with minerals and salt, which are already present in their feedlot rations. Last but not least, we don’t have to feed them . . . they feed themselves!
As winter comes and the grass stops growing, these cattle will come to our feedlot to finish growing. We don’t have plans right now to have cows and calves or raise grass-fed beef. Rather, this pasture allows us to buy smaller (and hopefully cheaper) cattle and grow them more slowly with cheaper inputs before bringing them into the feedlot. Having grass capacity gives our operation another layer of flexibility and hopefully a bit of a competitive edge.
It’s been a lot of work (for Farmer J), but it has been worth it. I am really proud of our little piece of land and the vision we have for it. We are excited for many more adventures as pasture people!