Posts Tagged ‘pasture rotation’

Belly Deep in Grass

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
The herd walking into a new field.

The herd walking into a new field.

Pasture rotation plays a critical role in our grass fed beef business. Throughout the years of drought prior to this year, we have struggled to rotate more often and keep the cattle on grass. We had to supplement with hay and alfalfa cubes in order to keep our business going.

Well this year we are on the flip side. Even though technically we are still in drought conditions. In fact according to the US Drought Monitor, we are in a moderate drought. However, you cannot tell it based on the condition of our pastures. We are belly deep in tall, lush green grasses, including our cattle.

After we let the herd in this pasture, we realized how deep and thick the grass is growing. My husband contacted a local hay maker. He asked my husband what we had done to get grass like this. Lane answered, “Well, two years ago we shallow disked the land for aeration purposes and spread composted manure over the ground.”

The hay man replied, “Huh?! Well whatever you did, it worked. You don’t see pastures like this everyday.”

If you notice, there is not only very green, very tall, and very thick grass, but notice what is not in the field–weeds. The grass is choking out the weeds naturally without chemicals or sprays.

If you watched our interview with Dr. Ward Bond for his show, Think Natural, then this is the very same pasture in which they filmed our herd. THere is a stark difference. It is amazing what careful pasture management and a little rain can do.

We moved the cattle off this field after a day of grazing to another similar one and decided to make hay while the sun was shining. The square bales off this pasture will be used mainly for our horses.

Coincidentally, my mom is traveling the country right now. She told me how intensely dry some parts of New Mexico and Colorado are right now. She told of whole herds standing on fields of dirt without any blades of grass. I thanked her for bringing this to my attention. We might be enjoying times of feast, but others are in times of famine. We have been there; we know how hard it is. Please join us in praying for the farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken parts of the United States.

The Most Beautiful Sight

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
The Most Beautiful Sight

The Most Beautiful Sight

I know that the Thanksgiving holiday has already passed.  However, we still have blessings to count here at Cross Creek Cattle Company.

You might get tired of me writing about the drought, but I cannot reiterate enough how difficult this past year has been on ranchers and farmers.  Any occupation that is dependent on good weather has suffered this 2011.  It has been extremely hot and dry here in Texas while other parts of the United States have had too much rain.  Weather patterns are beyond our control, which is why I feel that people in these businesses tend to be dependent on God and His provision.

We planted winter grass seed in faith.  Even though it did not rain seemingly all spring and summer, we took a chance and invested in seed.  Since then, God has blessed us abundantly with rain showers.  We have received close to eight inches of rain this fall.  We are still far behind in our annual rainfall, but you have to start somewhere.

More rain is expected even this week.  Sunday and Monday have high chances of rain as more fronts sweep through the area.  We could not be more happy.  Our rye grass is growing.  Its rich green color is such a beautiful sight in the midst of the gray and browns of the surrounding area.

After this next rain, we are going to put our calves that are being finished for beef on this pasture.  They will think we let them into a candy store.  With proper rotation and management, we will hopefully be able to resume our usual pasture rotation program.  We are very excited about that prospect.

Things are looking up this winter.  As we continue to count our blessings, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the recent rain and the protection we enjoyed throughout this year.  We know from whom all are blessings come and we thank God for them.

Soil Aeration

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

Since our cattle rely on high quality grasses, Cross Creek Cattle Company is interested in doing all we can to improve our pastures.  Proper pasture rotation is critical for not over-grazing.  It also prevents erosion.  It aids in weed control.  But what else can we do to naturally improve our pastures?

The answer is quite simple: soil aeration.  Aeration is the method of removing small plugs of earth from your soil.  When to Aerate lists the following benefits of aeration.

  • reduction in the amount of weeds
  • a greater amount of nutrients reach the roots
  • prevention of soil compaction
  • an increase in growth of your grasses
  • improvement of oxygen circulation at the root level
  • an increased activity of vital organisms, such as earthworms

According to our local co-op, soil aeration yields a 15% improvement to your grass.  With just the aeration, you should see quite an improvement.  Adding compost tea or composted manures to your soil after aeration increases that percentage even more.

Knowing when to aerate is key.  The best times are late spring and early fall.  If you have mostly clay soil, you will want to aerate both of these times.  Ranches with mostly sandy soil can choose either time, but most aerate in the spring.

My husband is busy aerating our open pastures.  It is the perfect time to start reaping the many benefits from soil aeration.  From your pasture to your yard, soil aeration offers a way to improve your grass naturally.

Over-Grazing

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
An over-grazed pasture.  This is not part of Cross Creek Cattle Company.

This is not part of Cross Creek Cattle Company, but is an example of an over-grazed pasture. Notice the bare areas and absence of tall grass.

For retirees and young families alike, a common dream seems to be for city-dwellers to move out on acreage in the country.  They buy some land, buy some livestock, and enjoy living in the slow-paced rural environment.  Since we live relatively close to Houston, we are personally seeing a huge increase of ex-Houstonians move into our county.  However, some make a common mistake.  They over-graze their pastures.

Over-grazing your pasture is bad for your land and your livestock.  Without adequate grass on your soil, erosion can occur very easily with any rainfall.  A heavy rain and a subsequent flood can devastate your land.  Grass also resists wind erosion, too.

Livestock must have grass to thrive.  Without adequate grass, horses can get sand in their gut and make them sick.  Cows and other ruminants must have plenty of grass, too.  If there is not sufficient grass available, then you must feed hay.  The last thing you want to be doing is feeding hay to your cows in the summer.  Hay is expensive to buy and/or produce; therefore, you will feel the consequences of over-grazing in your pocketbook.

So how do you prevent over-grazing your pastures?  At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we rotate our pastures regularly.  We want our cattle to be on fresh, green grass daily.  We do not want them to lose their good condition simply because we let them crop the grass too low to the ground.

If the grass is left between 4-8″ long, the plant is able to recover more easily.  Under that point, the grass struggles to rebound.  Therefore, we allow our cattle to graze while we monitor the condition of the pasture grass.  We don’t like the grass getting under 6″.

Over-grazing can also occur if you have too many head on a certain amount of acreage.  There is no magic formula for figuring this out as it depends on where you live.  For example, a rancher in Southeast Texas can have more cattle on a less acreage than a West Texas rancher.  In the more arid areas of Texas a rancher has to have thousands of acres for the same amount of cattle elsewhere.

Let me show you some photographs.  These pictures were taken on the same day, September 2, 2010.  The photographs below are of the front pasture on Cross Creek Cattle Company.  Compare the condition of the pasture and grass to the picture at the top of this article, which is of a place down the road less than a mile away.  Therefore, we have received essentially the same amount of rainfall and the same high summer temperatures.  The differences lie in pasture rotation and the amount of livestock on the land.  We have much more livestock on our land.

In the photographs of Cross Creek Cattle Company, our entire herd of cattle and then our nine horses had been grazing for days.  On the other property, a couple of head of cattle and a few horses have been grazing in the same pasture all summer long.  You are just going to have to take my word on it.

One view of the front pasture.

One view of the front pasture. Beyond the fence and lake is a second pasture. You can see for yourself the length and condition of our grass.

The same pasture under the trees.

The same pasture under the trees.

Another angle of the same pasture.

Another angle of the same pasture. There are no bare spots even though the grass has been baking in the sun day after day.

If you are new to ranching or have been doing this for generations like us, we all want what is best for our land, our cattle, and ourselves.  Monitoring the condition of your pasture is an easy place to start to protect all three.  Even with relatively few acres of land, you can implement an effective pasture rotation program.

Summer Heat and the Cattle

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Summer is in full swing here at Cross Creek Cattle Company.  The daily temperatures are hitting in the mid-90s and staying above 70 degrees during the night.  This is prime grass growing time.

With the new growth of our grass, the herd is on a strict pasture rotation now.  We are in the midst of our time-intensive pasture management.  It is time-intensive in that we check the pastures two times a day.  We are interested in the condition of the grass.  We also look for worn areas in our pastures.  We want to move the cattle before they erode any of our pasture land.

We make sure that the herd has access to plenty of good water. Cows drink surprisingly amounts of water in one sitting.  In this heat, full-grown cows drink about 25 gallons of water a day.  Times that by the head that you are raising and that comes to a high number of gallons necessary to support your cattle.

We use natural ponds as reliable sources of water.  We also utilize well water in one of our pastures.  In another, we pump water out of our largest watering hole into a large water trough using solar energy.  To read how my husband set that system up, read my article, “Watering Your Herd on a Dry Pasture.”

As long as the rain continues to fall, we will be sitting pretty on lush green fields.  I hope that we do not suffer from another drought.  Two consecutive years of drought would be devastating to Texas ranchers.  We did better than could be expected last year.  In fact, Cross Creek Cattle Company was blessed with fat cows and green grass.

While other ranchers in our area were feeding hay to their herds during the summer months, we did not.  I attribute it to many things.  First, we prayed specifically for fat cows and green grass.  To understand this statement better, read my article from Texas Homesteader called, “Pray More Effectively.“  Additionally, we adhere to strict pasture rotation.  These are the two things that we credit our success last year.  God-willing, we will be blessed with plenty of good rain, fat cows, and green grass this summer.

When to Feed Hay

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

In a typical year, we try to not put out bales of hay until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  This is a personal goal of Cross Creek Cattle Company.  With good rain throughout the summer months, our pastures can supply grasses for our cattle until then.  Unfortunately this year we had drought conditions.  For months we had no rainfall.

We prayed for fat cows and green grass, and we were blessed accordingly.  Some of our less fortunate neighbors were having to put out hay during the summer.  It was incredible.  Just yesterday, I was driving in the northern part of our county.  I was amazed at how bad all the pastures looked.  They had their herds on completely bare and brown pastures.  You have no choice as a rancher, but to give hay in this situation.

As the grass season comes to an end and autumn is in full swing, we stop rotating our pastures.  Instead, we open all the interior gates and allow the cattle to forge for themselves.  They can find the best grasses on their own.  They have that innate ability.

Now as winter time approaches, we are preparing to put out hay a few weeks early.  My dad is disappointed, but considering the year we have had I think we are doing well.  In fact we are doing better than most in our area.  The way I look at it, we made it to November.

Extreme Heat and Drought

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009
Drought conditions have cracked the ground.

Drought conditions have cracked the ground.

There are several phrases that a grassfed rancher does not want to hear.  Two main ones are extreme heat and drought.  We have just about endured the hottest and driest June and July that I can remember.  It was really hot and dry in May, too.  Almost everyday these past two months temperatures have soared  over 100 degrees.  The heat indexes are even higher.  This coupled with little precipitation is a two-edged sword.

So what does this mean for Cross Creek Cattle Company and their grassfed beef?  First and foremost, we pray.  We do not pray for rain, though.  I wrote an article called “Pray More Effectively” which explains why we pray specifically for fat cows and green grass.

We work very hard to ensure proper pasture rotation.  This is extremely important.  The roots of grass are about as long as the visible blades.  So if your grass is 12″ high, its roots reach about a foot in the ground.  Shallow roots are going to dry up in hot and dry conditions.  The grass will not be able to rebound as quickly when we get some rain.  Cattle can trample the short blades of grass and really tear up your pasture whereas the longer blades of grass are more resilient.  We do not allow the cattle to eat the grass down below 6″.  They are constantly being moved from one pasture to another.  We do this with temporary electric fencing and permanent barbed wire fencing.

A cow in the mineral feeder while others chew their cud in the shade.

A cow in the mineral feeder while others chew their cud in the shade.

We ensure that our cattle have supplemental minerals to help them maintain their health and body conditions.  At Cross Creek Cattle Company we use a mixture of kelp meal and salt.  We add some diatomaceous earth to act as a natural wormer.  This mixture is all-natural and allowed by the government for use on certified organic ranches.  Even though we have not sought organic certification, we use these products to ensure our beef is all-natural.  This mixture is self-limiting, meaning that the cattle take only what their body needs.  They cannot overdo the supplements.

We are surrounded by traditional ranchers.  Ones that feed out their cattle with grain.  Ones that do not adhere to strict pasture rotation.  Unfortunately, they are already feeding hay and putting out protein tubs.  These are measures usually employed during the winter.  It is also expensive.  Because their pastures are burnt and brown, they must rely on these products to get their cattle through the summer.

Photograph taken July 22nd.

Photograph taken July 22nd.

With proper management, we have made it through June and July with fat cows and green grass.  We are in continual prayer as we know the “dog days of summer” are just around the corner.  Our herd is still looking good.  They are thriving when some cattle on area ranches are only surviving.  Regardless of weather, we are committed to raising grassfed beef.  We take our commitment seriously and are proactive in maintaining the health benefits of all-natural grassfed beef.  It is antibiotic-free, hormone-free, grain-free, and steroid-free.  Our cattle thrive on green grass, sunshine, and fresh air even during time of extreme heat and drought.

If you are interested in placing an order for our beef, go here.  Our website has information on the health benefits of grassfed beef as well as other relevant material.  Go green!  Go grassfed!


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