Volume 16, No. 9
A reminder that we’re taking the September meeting on the road! Phyllis and Kay Stark have opened their farm up for the monthly meeting. Dinner’s at 7 p.m. See you there!
News, Views and Mostly Other Matters
Paul Westfall, Livestock Extension Agent
According to some folks, summer is over when we celebrate Labor Day. I’m more of the opinion that summer is over a bit later – say maybe when we get a frost or when the leaves start turning color and falling off the trees. Even the calendar says that summer sticks around until near the end of September! There is still some summer to go out and enjoy.
We should start thinking about some fall and winter things, though. For instance, I recently wrote a piece on body condition scoring and its influence on reproduction in horses for the North Carolina Horse Blog. Then I thought that if body condition scoring (BCS) is important for horses, it certainly applies to cattle. I know, BCS is not a new tool for cattlemen, and that we’ve discussed BCS in other places, but perhaps we need to go out and take a look at our cows and make an assessment of their body condition. In the other article, I referenced the BCS scale as ranging from 1 to 9. A score of 1 is a walking sack of bones, and a score of 9 is a roly-poly, extremely fat cow that can roll down a hill faster than she can run down it. Animals ranking on the extreme ends of the scale have a lot of other problems, including abnormal endocrine function and hormonal imbalances. Thin cows and fat cows don’t rebreed well, either.
Most cows should score 5, 6, or 7, depending on the stage of gestation. A score of 5 at breeding is ideal, with a slow weight gain during gestation, and maybe scoring a 6.5 or 7 when the calf is born. The cow then has enough energy reserves to meet the demand for milk and to repair the tissue damage. That has to be done before she will rebreed, so the sooner a cow can get back into shape, the better. A thin cow without any energy reserves stored has to pull energy from somewhere, and they usually get even thinner for a while before the demand for milk lessens and she can eat enough grass and other feeds to begin meeting the lactation demand, body maintenance, and growth needs to repair tissues and get back into shape to rebreed. Remember, a cow cannot ingest enough energy to meet the early demands for lactation to start feeding the calf, so having some energy stores already on hand is a good thing as long as we don’t get the cows too fat.
September is a good time to take a walk through the cowherd and check the overall condition of the cows as we start thinking about winter feed. If they are thin, some higher quality hay and/or some supplements may be needed. If they are in good condition (BCS = 5 – 7), probably some decent hay will be all that is needed until calving. If they are on the high side of the scale, then that poorer quality hay will do just fine for a while. Then you can start feeding the good hay right after they calve.
Speaking of hay – take a look at what hay is stored, how many cows are in the herd, and make an assessment of how much hay will be needed this winter. Don’t cut more hay unless it is really needed. Also, take a look at the hay field and ask yourself: “Is that really what I want to feed my cows?” I’ve seen some very, very mature hay being baled up in the last couple of weeks. I believe that some of that hay would provide less nutrition than a snowball. If you need more hay, but the hayfield is very mature with seed heads and discolored grass showing up all over, then maybe a better strategy would be to go ahead and bush hog the mature stuff down, apply some nitrogen, let it grow a few weeks, then cut some good fall regrowth that would contain some decent protein and energy levels. Cutting hay just because it is out there does not make sense to me, especially if it is low in protein, sugars, and starches and high in lignin content.
Now to the management tips. If additional forage needs are anticipated, consider getting some winter annuals planted. That needs to be done soon, though, for best results. Take stock of your hay supply so additional cuttings or purchases can be made. Send samples of the forage to the lab for analysis. Keep a close check on supplemental feed prices. Corn and byproduct feeds such as cottonseed can usually be bought cheaper in the fall. (Keep in mind that corn is more than $8 a bushel right now). Plan where winter grazing will be over-seeded into pastures. Graze these areas close or clip prior to planting.
Managers of spring-calving herds should wean calves according to pasture conditions and marketing plans. Wean all the heifers and select replacements based on weaning weights and other data you may have. Use weight data to project needed gain between now and breeding (March). Consider options for selling weaned calves, including backgrounding or maintaining ownership through the feedlot. Deworm calves at weaning. It’s also a good idea to separate cull cows from the herd at weaning and get them ready to move down the road. For late calves (weaning in late October or November), consider creep feeding and vaccination for respiratory diseases 45 days prior to weaning.
Managers of fall-calving herds need to move heavy-springing heifers to clean pastures where they can be checked 2-3 times daily. Establish an ID system and tag the calves at birth. Gather and clean your calving supplies. Be ready to assist with calving difficulties and to castrate, implant and deworm calves at birth. Feed requirements of late gestation cows increase 10-15% during the last 30-45 days prior to calving (i.e., about 1 lb. of extra TDN per day). On fall pastures, cows may need a small amount of supplemental feed.
Remember that GCCA members can advertise items in the MoosNews – if you have an item you’d like to sell, or if you’re looking for something that you need on the farm, consider placing an ad right here. $5 for 3 lines each month. Just send Laura an email – firstname.lastname@example.org with the information and she’ll get it in the next issue.
From the President
I hope you all had a wonderful summer. Talked to Steve Walker, said all his fall hay was cut and on the ground. With the weather forecast calling for no rain for the next several days, he should have had it all baled by last weekend. I'm not sure how other people are doing with their hay, but it's a good time to check your inventory. It’s a good thing to have plenty of hay around. This winter could be as different as this summer has been -- we may have to get out our snowshoes.
Our monthly meeting is this Thursday and Phyllis and I are looking forward to seeing everyone out at our farm. The address is 6635 Horner Siding Rd. Come down the asphalt drive and head down to the shop. If you have any problems finding us, call 919. 603.4806 or 603.4809 or check with Paul at the extension office.
We plan to have a short board meeting around 6:10 with fellowship starts at 6:30 at dinner at 7:00. I will have our rental equipment on display for all. Come and bring a friend hope to see all.
Minutes of the August Meeting
The August 8, 2013 meeting of the Granville County Cattlemen's Association was held on the farm of Sandy and Laura Gabel on Sam Young Road. Following a beef meal at 7:00 p.m., Kay Stark, President, presided over the business meeting. Minutes of the July meeting were approved as printed in the MoosNews. The Treasurer's Report was accepted as reported. Thanks were expressed to Charlie Easton for coordinating the Earth Roast in June.
Wayne Hicks agreed to represent GCCA in the upcoming session of Leadership Granville.
Members voted to sponsor the meal for Ag Day on October 3.
Paul Westfall presented a brochure on Enhanced Farmland for North Carolina Landowners, describing the importance of protecting our farming heritage and rural economy. Discussion followed and Volunteers were solicited to serve on a committee to organize an area VAD and to formulate a resolution of support from GCCA.
Members voiced support for providing ag-related in-service training for Granville County law enforcement.
Members were encouraged to call President Kay if interested in the August 16 program on mob grazing.
The September meeting of the GCCA will be held on the farm of Kay and Phyllis Stark.
The meeting was adjourned.
Jean Y. Gill, secretary
Field Trip notes…
On Friday, August 16, Martha Mobley of the Franklin County Extension Office hosted a farm tour of Dr. Charles Sydnor’s farm in Snow Camp, NC. The main interest of the tour was the concept of mob grazing, and how Dr. Sydnor had fared with the mob grazing technique.
According to Hay & Forage Grower magazine, which featured a cover story on mob grazing entitled “Mob Grazing As A Tool” in its August 2013 edition, “…Pastures divided into paddocks and subdivided with temporary fencing can concentrate livestock and provide for high stock densities from 30,000 to 60,000 pounds of animal live weight per acre…”. For my simple math, this translates to about 30 to 60 cows per acre moved on a daily basis.
Dr. Sydnor was gracious and very forthcoming with what he is not only doing but also what his goals are. He sells his own beef with the philosophy “I want to set the price, not be told the price” and successfully sells out his herd of roughly 400, mostly Red Devons. His preference is to sell the whole animal, which he does to retail butchers such as Rose Meats in Durham, and several restaurants, but he does have an on-site store that he will sell from---this store is shared with his neighbor, who sells pork and goat meat.
Dr. Sydnor has ties to Montana and Wyoming, and has incorporated a lot of that thinking in his approach. He sold all of his haying equipment about 10 years ago, so that he could not fall back on his hay, taking a sort of “do or die” stance. He has not fertilized in eight years and has not limed in six years but does take annual soil samples --his samples consistently run 6.0 or above. Dr. Sydnor does move the herds every day (moms and young beef prospects) using polywire to section off the day’s grazing. He did admit to some manipulations in order to have both shade and water in each paddock.
The basic premise is that the “perfect” grazing environment is like the old Great Plains-herds of buffalo come in, eat an area, then move on, not to return for an extended period of time--giving the grass time to regenerate. Dr. Sydnor likes his pastures at least 18” high, so that the cows can eat 2-3” of grass and leave this long “solar panel” to collect solar energy, photosynthesize, and feed the roots as well as the rest of the plant. He likes that the cows trample grass when it is this long because this becomes the green fertilizer which replaces commercial fertilizers in his scheme. He does not disturb the soil, no dragging, no drilling, no mowing (though he is doing some bushhogging this year for gum trees). He does not believe in special types of grass, saying the natural diversity of seed banked in the soil is what nature intended, and Dr. Sydnor definitely believes in nature knowing more than we do.
He also believes that cows know more of what is best for them, so his mineral cart is a smorgasbord of 16 individual minerals, moved paddock to paddock daily, with the cows eating just the minerals they want that day.
I’m in contact with Dr. Sydnor on several questions I’ve conjured up since the outing and will keep you posted.
Do you have a special interest that fellow GCCA members may find informative or useful? Have you been on a tour or a meeting that you’d like to share in the MoosNews? The newsletter is a good spot to share tips, suggestions and experiences with others. Let us hear from you!
5 County Beef Tour
Granville County will host the 5-County Beef Tour will be held on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. I've attached a description of the tour and the tentative schedule. Please preregister so we know how much food to have available at lunch.
This is a "drive yourself" tour, but please car-pool when possible. I can get a 15-passenger van, so I can take a few folks along. Let me know if you want to ride along.
Here’s the schedule for the day:
8:30 a.m. Assemble at the Butner Beef Unit, Butner, NC
9:00 a.m. Dean Askew will give highlights of the bull testing program/Q&A
10:00 a.m. Leave for Jim Smith farm, Stem, NC
10:15 a.m. Arrive at Jim’s farm. Mr. Smith will share his thoughts on storing hay
11:00 a.m. Leave for Granville County Livestock Arena, Oxford, NC
11:20 a.m. Arrive livestock arena; GCCA representatives will discuss how the special-use permit that the arena operates under was changed to allow for more events to be held at the facility
12 noon Leave for SGS Angus Farm, Oxford, NC
12:20 p.m. Overview of SGS Angus and ways to reduce farm costs. Lunch served at this stop
2:00 p.m. Leave for little Grassy Creek Farm, Stovall, NC
2:20 p.m. Arrive at little Grassy Creek Farm. Presentation/Q&A on forage management
3:15 p.m. Tour concludes
– Paul Westfall
Officers and Board Members
President, Kay Stark Directors:Past President, Joy Morgan Marshall 2013: Kent Currin, Steve Walker
Vice President, Sherby Slaughter 2014: Linda Currin, Wendy Lane
Treasurer, Sandy Gabel 2015: James Gooch, Eddie Denny
Secretary, Jean Y. Gill
Newsletter, Laura S. Gabel