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Foods for cattle - non grasses

 
matt sorrells
Posts: 126
Location: Canton, NC
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Hello all!

First, let me premise this with the fact that my uncle, who has been raising cattle for 60 years, says that cattle wont eat anything but wide blade grass, not sedge or any other weeds. I trust his opinion, but I do understand that he comes from a long line of non-rotational, feed all winter, and fertilize (the far) out of it. For these reasons, he says that cattle dont make money nowadays, even with a good beef calf pushing $2.50 a pound.

For the record, my uncle hates the taste of grass fed only. He says you have to finish 'em on corn to give 'em marbling. In his words, grass fed "aint fit to eat". We've eaten grass fed and love the flavor. Another thought occurred to me today in that everything I've ever read says that toxins taken into the body (humans too) is stored in the fat. Why would you want to pile on GMO fat? I dont.

For my cows (I had just the one beefer, but just added 2 heifers about 700 lbs each- about to add several more) he suggested that i fertilize alot and leave my pasture open in one 3 acre lot (about to fence in 12 more acres). I decided to divide up the 3 acres in roughly 1/2 acre paddocks (5 total, with a sacrificial lane to water and barn) and not fertilize. To this, my previous generational family thinks I just like to build fence, and that I'm wasting my time. I DO see the need to fertilize a little bit at first, as I can already see the difference between land a cow has been on for a year, and land not used till recently. In the 12 acre pasture, I'm going to be doing the same thing with roughly 1/2 acre paddocks. So far, the 3 cows are lasting about a week on a paddock, but I think with more cow pressure that it'll be eaten down even better and more evenly.

Funny thing is, these cows are eating everything! (I've seen Salatins vids on them eating a variety, it just disagrees with my families cow keeping for my uncles 60 years, and his fathers 50 or 60 years, and HIS fathers lifetime) The doggone beefer, Tenderloin, goes for the poison ivy first! Dont get me wrong, they love the green grass too, but they go for weeds just as much. Clover, poison ivy, blackberry bushes, and all sorts of nasties that my uncle would never let grow in his field.

These two pics show this. The first is a side by side with the paddock they're in, and the one they're going into in a few minutes. The second is me turning 90 degrees to look down the fenceline in the other direction in the paddock they're currently in and the one they were in 2 weeks ago on past the one t-post way out. They've picked all the oak trees off up to about 7 feet (i have no clue how they can reach that, other than pull them down).

This is all a new thing to me, as I didnt grow up on the farm. Dad left and went into the navy as soon as he turned 16 or 17 and wouldnt let me near farm work till I decided I wanted to do it at 35 years old. He wasnt happy at all. "You'll kill yourself on a tractor!" he says. He has a grandfather that was killed in a rollover.

Anyway, what's your opinions on this? Same experience? Ya'll fertilize? Weed eaters?

Thanks!






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Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3646
Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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I've got a few threads going:
Feeding my cows trees
Feeding my cows more conventional fodder

What kind of cattle do you have? Some, like my Belties are better at browsing then other breeds.

Here's a good quote from Bill Mollison:

So you have [these] strategies, then, with these cattle and deer and goats and sheep.

1: instead of just relying on annual pastures, have areas of permanent, high-mineral mobilization herbs throughout all your pastures-- dandelion, chicory, comfrey.
2: Have evergreens, standing, high-nutrition tree crop within forage range that the cattle will coppice.
3: Have high-sugar summer pods that will carry cattle through the semi-arid seasons. This group is critically important to range capacity.
4: Also, you must have a winter high carbohydrate source--large nuts and acorns.
5: These are the truly perennial components--the fruit of trees that stand in pasture.
 
matt sorrells
Posts: 126
Location: Canton, NC
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The one cow, Tenderloin, was our first test cow and should go to slaughter soon. He is a holstein and eats everything. The two girls are angus and black baldy. I'm pretty sure they're munching on everything too. I'm hoping that watching Tenders eat everything that they'll pick up on it if they havent already. The rest will be angus in the future.
 
J D Horn
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Kudos to you for getting into the grassfed/managed grazing game (despite family head-shaking)! A couple of thoughts from reading your description:

1. For the best cattle marbling, you have to have grass genetic cattle. We are several generations into corn finish genetics, so all cattle will not finish the same way on grass. And grass cattle need more time than feedlot cattle to put on the extra fat.
http://beefmagazine.com/grass-fed-taste-test-shows-south-poll-advantage

2. Change up the laneways to the water. Don't let them compact trails in your pasture.

3. Its fine to wean the pastures off of fertilizer. The pastures are not going to heal overnight. But you need to get litter on the ground to give the worms and soil microbes enough food to begin the healing process.
Greg Judy gives a lot of great pointers on it in this podcast http://www.permaculturevoices.com/podcast/profitable-methods-used-to-heal-the-land-with-mob-grazing-with-greg-judy-pvp045/
 
wayne fajkus
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What's your total acreage available to the cows?

Large animals are destructive. Rotational grazing will help the ground heal but man is it a chore to keep things in balance. What they don't eat will take over the acreage. Maybe adding a second animal like a sheep or goat that will eat other things to keep in balance?

I have two horses. Their ruffly 1/2 acre area turned to bare dirt. We added truckloads of mulch to prevent erosion. We let them out a couple hours a day onto a bigger area. I have to see what they are not eating and manually pull those weeds out. It's a battle as I choose no chemicals. We added sheep but they don't go in the same area till I get better fencing. I think they will be by manual weeders.
 
wayne fajkus
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Something else I noticed when I bought my property. One fence that was hit head on by rain on a downhill slope is 6" taller on the high side. It's acting as a silt fence. Another fence that ran downhill with the slope had as much as an 18" erosion cliff along the fence. No topsoil and very little grew on it. 5 truckloads of mulch followed with 5 truckloads of dirt finally got the land resolved. I've got it replanted and it should last as long as I limit the time horses are on it.

Is there a moral to the story? One solution creates another problem. This may be why temporary fencing is used and moved.
 
Eric Rice
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Wayne

Is the fence line with the 18" erosion running 90 degrees from contour?

Maybe curving the fence or angling the fence would help to break up that very distinct straight channel for erosion.

Maybe swales or terraces on contour above the fence line in the pasture would also help for the other fence line at the bottom of the slope.
 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 440
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Eric, the water ran along the fence so I guess that's 90 degree. Fence is gone now. Erosion is under control as long as the grass doesn't get over grazed by horses. Long small swales were added by taking the original dirt that ended up on the bottom of the hill and bringing back to the high side. It's not huge by any means. Maybe 18" × 18".

My chicken tractor is just down hill of swale and I'd say a noticeable difference in the sogginess in the coup after our last rain. About 15 ft above the sale is a row of a dozen peach trees.

One more swale is being added halfway down.
 
Eric Rice
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Wayne

It sounds like you have things figured out.
 
Daniel Kern
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A good source that i found is
http://www.feedipedia.org/
You can use it for getting Ideas, and then looking at the nutritional analysis of the food
 
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