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A Greener Pastures walk

'Hayride' took producers on a tour of hayfields, bale grazing areas, and pasture pigs

The day was July 12, 2014. The sun arose early, the animals were all grazing, and I was still in bed. July starts to slow down for me and I get to enjoy a lot of the nice days with the family. This day was no exception, except for one thing — I had to work. I am lucky that I have the ability to merge my family days with my workdays. It was the day of our Greener Pastures Walk, a family event.

Our pasture walk is more like a hayride as we all travel as one group on a flatbed trailer. The trailer was hooked up the day before, the picnic tables were tied down and the pool was filled. Yes, our pasture walks include a swimming pool. I was all ready for the day and not much was left to do. Snacks needed to be set out and coffee to make. Our producers started to show up around 8:45 a.m. and the networking began.

Our tour began with the pasture pigs. Everyone enjoyed our live, four-legged packages of cute bacon. We showed how we move a portable cage around the pasture and the use of electric netting to rotationally graze the pigs. We discussed rations and soil improvement. The piggies were popular.

We then headed off down the road to see some steers, but on the way we got to see the prep work for the “Red Neck Cattle Drive” that was going to be a big event in a day or two. Once at the pasture we did briefly observe the herd of 400 steers but as this year’s herd at home is a bit spooky, they took one look at this large group of people and headed for the bush. We looked at the pasture and discussed the residue remaining and when the cattle need to be moved. The true measure of when to move is a combination of residue remaining and rest period desired. We also picked through a few dung pats to find some dung beetles. We discussed how important our soil life is and what they like and what they don’t like. They are my employees and they work for room and board.

Seeing as though it had been a hard day already for all, we decided it must be time for lunch: back to the base for barbecued pork patties and salad. If you have never tried pasture-raised pork patties, you are missing out.

Our next stop was the bale grazing site from two years ago. The grass was tall and thick, and after a discussion of the benefits of bale grazing, I let the producers know that this pasture had already been grazed once this year. This was the second growth we were looking at. Bale grazing is a no-brainer. Just beyond the bale grazing was the turkey’s nest. This is one of my watering areas that uses an elevated water reserve to store water, and a siphon system to feed a trough. Works like a charm.

Bouncing across a pasture we next came to the natural gopher control area, which no longer has gophers. I would say the raptor perches are working.

A little bit farther and we came to our second watering sight. This is a true gravity flow system, an old tractor tire cemented in with a siphon hose running from a dugout about 500 feet up the hill. No power, no work, no headaches. I love it. It is my favourite system.

Off to the next site, “weed” control! We observed an adjacent continuously grazed quarter covered in buttercup. Across the road at Greener Pastures, the pasture was green, not yellow. For more details, see my last issue’s article on “weed” control.

Then we were off to the next field where we saw a very thick crop of alfalfa. Up to now we had seen lots of clover and alfalfa mixed into all the pastures but this one was 90 per cent or more alfalfa. The only pasture that did not have legumes so far in the tour was the bale grazing. I’ll leave you to figure out why the bale grazing did not have any legumes.

This quarter was an old hayfield that I took over with a very high percentage of alfalfa in some of the paddocks. We discussed how to manage high legume grazing without products or aids but just grazing management as that is what I do every time. There is more economic loss today from the fear of bloat, than we would ever get from bloat. Learn how to manage it.

We also looked at another watering site in this field. This was a recycled semi tanker that was used as a storage tank. Here, a gas-powered water pump filled the tank which then gravity flowed to a stock trough. The trick is to set it up so you don’t have to watch the water pump!  In addition to this, we had just had a load of wood chips delivered to level off around the water trough.

The walk concluded with some more networking and socializing back at the ranch. It was a fantastic day with a great group of producers out for another great pasture walk.

Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta., call 780-307-6500, email, or find them on Facebook.

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Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta. You can email him at [email protected] or call 780-307-6500.

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