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Trying to regrow hay  RSS feed

 
Thomas Clodfelter
Posts: 21
Location: McDermott Ohio
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I purchased a home with about 15 acres of hay on it. Nothing has been done with the hay in more than 15-20 years. It is mostly grown over with weeds. I don't have the equipment to plow and disc it all under and plant a new crop. I've read that if you plant new hay with old it will become toxic. (autotoxification) Is there anyway to plant new hay without making it toxic?
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Thomas - I'd probably consider grazing it. Can you get some livestock on there, even borrowed from someone else? Nice heavy density to get those weeds either eaten or knocked flat. Trampling the old dry grass and weeds into the ground will give a fresh start for new growth to rise from, as well as driving carbon and fertility in to the soil.

Take a look at the TED talk by Alan Savory
http://www.ted.com/talks/allan_savory_how_to_green_the_world_s_deserts_and_reverse_climate_change.html

Before you go ahead spending time and money trying to restore these hay meadows I think you need to work out what purpose you want the land to serve. If you want hay to raise your own livestock you could look into systems that don't use hay, but leave the long grass standing for winter grazing. Alternatively you might want some form of orchard, vegetable growing etc... I don't know what your climate is like, but would the land benefit from earth works to improve water catchment and infiltration?

Think really carefully about what you want to do with this land.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Also - by "hay" do you mean a traditional mixed meadow, or a crop like alfalfa?
 
K Nelfson
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Hay is an extremely intensive crop. Most nutrients are removed. Frequent top dressing with manure is needed to avoid de-mineralizing the soil. Sometimes as much as every cutting. Grazing is another matter.
 
Thomas Clodfelter
Posts: 21
Location: McDermott Ohio
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Michael Cox, Thank you. Right now my neighbors are cutting and baling it for their cattle. What is in there now is hay, but has alot of weeds as well. I have plans on putting a few cattle in to graze it. I was going to put the cows in one part and harvest hay from the other. The cattle would fertilize the field as they go. Then I can rotate them to the other side every two or three years!?
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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I don't keep cattle or any livestock myself, so I don't have personal experience, but it seems like there are problems keeping cattle (or any livestock) on one patch of ground for longer periods of time. In particular the soil builds up large amounts of intestinal worms that the cattle the reingest.

taking the cattle off the land for a couple of months breaks the life cycle of the worms so you end up with healthier animals.

Here is another thread where "hayless grazing" is discussed - basically letting the cows harvest their own winter forage. You rotate them for area to area throughout the year and they eat the summer growth that is still standing in the field.

http://www.permies.com/t/22105/cattle/winter-grazing-hay-hayless
 
Walter Jeffries
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Location: Mountains of Vermont, USDA Zone 3
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Use managed rotational grazing to break the parasite life cycles naturally. Highly effective. We do this with our pigs and sheep. Same is used for goats, cattle, etc. It isn't hard to do.

As to haying, I would suggest working something out with the neighbor who already has the skills, knowhow and equipment.
 
K Nelfson
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Beef without haying. Sounds too good to be true. I suspect that the cattle will survive if there's enough land and the conditions are right. Think buffalo herd.

The nutritional content of the grass changes as it goes dormant. Beef production is heavily dependent on the protein content in the feed---this s the reason there's so much grain-finished beef out there. It's a lot easier to get a reliable (low, but reliable) percentage of protein from corn and brewer's grain than from grass. And using old grass must be even worse than that.

If you're trying to reliably produce beef, even just for your family, a more intensive method is needed. If you have objections to that, choose a more practical animal, like sheeps.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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It is clearly a trade off, yes. But lets say your beef fattens out at 800kg instead of 950kg - you haven't spent any money on hay production or grain feeding. You have healthier grass fed animals and probably end up making the same or similar profit per head.

yes they may lose a bit of condition over the winter, but they regain it again in the spring and summer.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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K Nelfson wrote:
Beef without haying. Sounds too good to be true. I suspect that the cattle will survive if there's enough land and the conditions are right. Think buffalo herd.

The nutritional content of the grass changes as it goes dormant. Beef production is heavily dependent on the protein content in the feed---this s the reason there's so much grain-finished beef out there. It's a lot easier to get a reliable (low, but reliable) percentage of protein from corn and brewer's grain than from grass. And using old grass must be even worse than that.

If you're trying to reliably produce beef, even just for your family, a more intensive method is needed. If you have objections to that, choose a more practical animal, like sheeps.


I have to jump in and disagree almost 100% with this.

Cattle are dependent on energy, not protein. Hugh difference. Dried standing grass is a perfectly adequate seasonal forage, especially if combined with some browse from woodlands.

The reason there is so much grain finished beef is because of market conditions, not cattle biology. Feeding grain is much less healthy for cows than feeding standing hay. Grain has no place in a cow's diet, it changes their rumen pH to acidic, and makes their entire system succeptable to illness. Brewers grain is about the worst feed for cows, it is so reactive and toxic to their system that it changes the taste of their milk. The myth of grain being healthy for cows is only perpetuated because of industry advertising, bad agricultural practice, and scientific ignorance.

There are many very skilled and knowledgable people raising cattle using standing hay through the winter months. Gred Judy, Alan Nation, Owen Hablutzel, to name a few.
Check out this thread here http://www.permies.com/t/22105/cattle/winter-grazing-hay-hayless

To the OP- choose your information wisely. There is lots of great information out there, you just have to listen to the pros.
 
Thomas Clodfelter
Posts: 21
Location: McDermott Ohio
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Adam,

Thanks for the links. I will check them out.

I'm preparing to raise a few head of cattle, maybe 3-5 on about 15 acres of what ever hay/grass/weeds there is.
I was wanting to fence off about half of it for the cattle and reseed the rest with alfalfa.
What I've read is that unless the hay is pretty much gone, autotoxification will occur.

I've been in Iraq and Afghanistan pretty much since Jul 2006 and bought the house and land in Nov 2007.
Neighbors have told me nothing (fertilization, replanting, etc) has been done since well before 1988 when our house was built.
Up until now a neighbor has been cutting and baling it for his cattle. I don't mind since I'm not there nor do I have any cattle of my own yet.

My original question is, ... Can I reseed without plowing and discing if the hay is that old?

Any help is always greatly appreciated.

VR,

Tom
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Thomas- where is your farm located?

If you have fescue toxicity issues, then yes, I would plow/disc and replant. If you are not in the region of fescue toxicity, then I would not plow, just lightly disc in the new seed.

Location/region is going to be the big factor here, influencing what you should sow and how to go about it.
 
Thomas Clodfelter
Posts: 21
Location: McDermott Ohio
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Adam,

My land is in Scioto County Ohio.
I have no idea if I have fescue toxicity. I started researching about reseeding over old hay and that topic came up.
I don't have the equipment to plow and disc the field under... or to replant it after.

The property hasn't had any rejuvination done to it for over 25 years that I know of.
Our house was built in 1988 and the fields around it already had the hay planted.
The neighbors tell me they can't remember when anyone planted the hay on it....??

Thanks,

Tom
 
philip Wick
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One way to do it is to overseed in later winter with clover. If the grass is shortened in the fall--mown close or eaten--you can overseed medium red clover over the field and you will have clover mixed with the grasses. Alfalfa grows too weakly at first so not a good choice. On our small farm, I have a hayfield that was last plowed and reseeded from field corn in 1964. I've contained to get ok yields from it until this past year when I finally decided to plow and reseed it.

I'm in CT so we have typical NE weather. All of my legumes are clover based since alfalfa doesn't grow as well here and it is hard to dry as hay.

When I do reseed by plowing in the fall, I use rye or spelt as a fall companion crop. You get a crop of straw that is sale able and then a crop of clover. You could use oats but they winter kill here. I like to seed in mid august when the plants can get started and there is more certainty of fall rains.
 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Tom C. & Permies Cloud : Michael Cox is giving you good advice, see the T.E.D. video, the idea is to intensely graze the area, for a short period of time,then put your cattle
on a fresh patch of ground, Grass is grass, whether in a field or on your lawn, as it gets eaten/cut, part of the now oversize root ball is sacrificed by the plant ! This die-back
adds to the fertility of the soil !

Ideally you could get a local farmer to graze your land and make a series of good pastures, that could be left to go to seed or reseeded, some of both in several plots.

By setting up temporary new fencing in smaller paddocks you get the grass revived,you always have two sets of paddocks at one time, the field the cattle are working now and
re-freshing with their manure, and the field your good neighbor farmer will be moving the cattle into, If you have a person you hire to make sure the second set of fencing
gets moved from one paddock location to another, the farmer will be eager to move his cattle onto new pasture! Ideally the man moving fences answers to you, you get paid by
the farmer, it covers your taxes, your helper gets paid by you, and has a back-up job of a few hours helping your good neighbor farmer shift cattle to new pasture !

You may be able to get help on figuring out your rotation schedule from people at your local soil and water district (Yellow Pages under Government, local, county, state )
or you may have to get in touch with organic farmers to find out who is reponce-ably rotating pastureland ! Again we have just got started helping you and your problems
must be solved locally, with luck you could have most of your land in pasture ready to have some of it be restored to hay fields before you get finished! For the good of the
Craft!

Think like Fire, flow like a Gas, Don't be the Marshmallow ! As always,your comments and questions are solicited and Welcome, PYRO - Logically Big AL !
 
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