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A Walk Through Greener Pastures – for Sep. 6, 2010

Last month we held a pasture walk at Greener Pastures that was very well received by all those in attendance. Each year we plan a tour around different parts of the ranch. The walk has two purposes. 1) It is for producers to come out and learn first-hand and see the grazing concepts and principles in action. 2) It is also for my landowners and potential investors to come out and see the services we are providing for them. I always believe the human resource side of the business is the most important part. Let’s take a walk through our pasture and see what we saw. (Actually it was more of a hayride.)

We started out in the morning at Busby Hall for a basic introduction on grazing management and talked about the sites we would be visiting. The kids headed out to the playground as we always have a babysitter available so that the parents can focus on learning. We learned about the four grazing concepts and how they apply to our land and cattle management. Graze period, rest period, stock density and animal impact. We saw how these concepts help us manage the water cycle, the energy cycle, nutrient cycle and how they help us build soil health. We had a fantastic beef-on-a-bun lunch and then headed out to the pasture.

Our first site was looking at a Turkey’s nest. This is an elevated water-holding reservoir. It is an inexpensive water-storage tank that allows me to have a four day water supply with very few headaches. The Turkey’s nest is filled via a gas-powered pump and then gravity flows to a trough — easy, cheap and reliable.

Site 2 was last year’s bale-grazing paddock that very clearly showed the increased production due to the extra water-holding capacity from the residue and from the added nutrients. There was some impeded growth but very little. When we dug into the soil with a spade, it was very easy to see how moist the soil was under the bale grazing compared to the paddock across the fence in the non-bale- grazed paddock. When you see the results from bale grazing, it is a no-brainer.

Site 3 was a drive by as the land was too bumpy to drive through. Not surprisingly it was a piece of land that is currently under a natural gopher-control program. We have installed four raptor perches in a newer paddock that has been overrun with gophers. The raptor perches give the hawks a place to sit and hopefully, an easy meal. To install a raptor perch, I pound in a fence post, and nailed a 16-foot 2×4 to it with a 2×2 “T” at the top. We will see how this experiment turns out over the next couple of years. There has also been some “lead fertility” added to this site to help with the symptom.

We moved on to Site 4, which showed us some new fencing I recently installed and a watering site. The Powerflex posts and the braided poly wire are new to Greener Pastures but so far I sure like how they stand up. I also used their electric bungee cords to set up a watering area. This is one of the best products I have seen for making electric gates and watering areas. I am very happy so far with the bungee cord. We also did a fencer comparison at this site and tested two different fencers under the same load. Hmmmm… Wouldn’t you like to know the results?

Site 4 also showed a gravity-flow watering system that we installed. The tire trough is filled from a dugout about 500 metres up hill. Make sure you use a good float valve and protect it from the cattle as there is a risk of draining your dugout dry. A learned experience at Greener Pastures! Cheap, no power and very low maintenance. I love it!

We were also able to see some dung beetles in action at this site. Num- bers are low this year but I am always thinking about my underground army of workers. Nutrient recycling is a very big part of our operation so we always get our boots dirty on our walks.

The cattle were at this site so we were also able to see what kind of residue I like to see left in a paddock after it has been grazed. The kids also played hide and seek in the grass as the next paddock had a very nice stand of very tall stage-two grasses as well as some alfalfa, some alsike clover and some wild vetch.

Site 5 was an example of Mob grazing that I started. I increased the stock density across one paddock to over 300,000 pounds per acre by moving an electric fence six times a day. This is the first year of the experiment and not much difference was noticed between the mob grazing and the daily moves in the adjacent paddocks. The experiment is to determine if the benefits from mob grazing will outweigh the labor. Here we also could see the difference between a late stage two paddock and an early stage two paddock. In late stage two, the forage would have the root reserves refilled and would be ready to regraze. In early stage two, the forage looked good but the roots would still be weak and regrazing at that point would be detrimental.

All in all it was a good day. We had a nice relaxing ride through some rolling hills. Other than the flat tire, a perfect day. Thanks to all those who came out to enjoy it with us.

SteveKenyonrunsGreenerPasturesRanching

Ltd.inBusby,Alta., www.greenerpasturesranching.com, 780-307-6500,email

[email protected]

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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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