Sep 22, 2014
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January 2014 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

Skip the last step

Jan 14, 2014


Swath Grazing in 2014?

Basically, swath or "windrow grazing" is like making hay, but skipping the last step.  This might not work for everyone, but it has worked for some.  You mow and rake your hay like you normally would, but you get to skip the baling and putting away step of the process.  You might not remember just a few months ago when it was 95* with 90% humidity and no one was around to help you throw square bales into the mow, but when those temperatures and humidity levels return, the information I’m about to share with you might seem more advantageous.

Forages that can be used

Both perennial and annual forages can be used for "windrow" grazing.  Hay fields can be grazed in the spring, allowed to grow all season and than mowed and raked or "swathed" in the early fall.  Grazing pastures early in the spring will delay forage maturity but will allow for higher quality forage to be harvested when swathed in late summer or fall. Warm-season annual forages such as sorghum-sudangrass or just plain sudangrass, and cool-season annuals such as oats have also been used for windrow grazing. When annual forages are used, time planting so forages reach the "boot" stage of maturity just prior to the average date of first frost.  In Northeast PA that could be as early as Labor day.

Fall and Winter Grazing

Mow forages into narrow/high swaths in early fall when nights are cool to prevent mold growth. If windrows are to be grazed through the winter, make windrows high and dense to reduce weathering loss. It may be helpful to rake two windrows together if forage yields are less than 1 ½ tons per acre.  Rake windrows immediately after mowing so they "rope" together.  Your standard "old Fashion" wheel rake does this quite nicely.  Tight, heavy, dense windrows will seal down and be less susceptible to being picked up and scattered by the wind. When possible, swath the forages so windrows lay parallel to prevailing winds.  Raising your mowers cutter bar to cut forage at higher stubble heights also will reduce losses from hay rotting in the windrows, as stubble will hold the windrows up and keep hay from lying directly on the ground. This is also a good method for mowing when making dry hay, so that the air can get under your mowed hay to aid in drying and there is still some growth left to your forages so they will grow back quicker after you bale your hay.

Control Grazing with Temporary Fence

Using temporary electric fence will help to easily utilize your windrowed forages, minimize waste and make it easier for your wife to move the cattle when your not around.  She will thank you.  Allow your cattle up to one week’s worth of forages to reduce waste due to trampling and cattle bedding on the windrows.  Make adjustments depending on body condition of your cattle and weather conditions.  A single-strand electric fence is often adequate to separate cattle from grazed and ungrazed windrows.  A double-strand electric fence with one ground and one hot wire may be needed when the soil is dry or snow cover is present.  Especially if you have young stock and run all your animals together in one herd.  There are alot of different types of temporary electric fence posts, wire, tools, and equipment available to simplify the task of building and moving temporary electric fence.  I can tell you from experience that you DO NOT want to use "tape" style fence with a plug-in style fencer.  It will fry the small strands of wire that run through the tape.  If your using a plug-in style fencer use 12ga. high tensile fence.   If you are far and away from the availability of an electric outlet a solar style fencer will work, and you can use tape fence with a solar charger, but you will need to be more vigilant about weeds on your wires with a solar charger.  And plan on replacing the solar charger every year if you use it year-round.  It’s almost the same price to replace the whole charger as it is to find and replace just the battery.

Expect some Waste

The amount of forage that your cattle will waste when grazing windrows will vary, depending on the weather, quality of forage available, and how frequently and tightly restricted the forages/windrows are rationed out. The amount of forage wasted with windrow grazing can range from less than 5 percent to more than 30 percent. This compares to dry matter hay loss estimates ranging from 15 percent to more than 40 percent, with baling and feeding dependent upon storage and feeding methods.  When feeding dry hay it’s always best to keep it up off the ground, whether in a headgate feeder of a round bale feeder.  If utilizing a round bale feeder without a bottom/floor, simply place two pallets in the feeder before placing the bale in it.  The amount of acceptable waste with windrow grazing must be balanced with the labor required to move fence and the performance goals for the animals grazing. Mature cows or cattle with lower nutrient requirements can be used to "clean up" windrows when excessive forage waste is left behind by grazing calves or stocker cattle.

The Bathtub? Really?!

Jan 09, 2014

 Polar Vortex Calving


  As I was attempting to get a giddy-up in my hitch this morning, I was thinking back to an episode of This Week in Agribusiness on RFD-TV I saw quite a few years ago.  Max & Orion were featuring a Farm Broadcaster of the week.  That week it was Mr. Ron Hayes from the Radio Oklahoma Network.  He was talking about reviving newborn calves in your bathtub!  I remember feeling a sense of relief come over me to learn that I’m not the only one who, (as my wife put’s it) "pamper my cattle".  She jokingly tells folks that if she would let me, I’d have winter born calves in our house.  I’ve never actually pressed my luck by trying to bring one in, but it’s just nice to know other farmers wives (although reluctantly), allow this practice of re-warming calves.


   I’ve also seen on Facebook a lot of fellow beef producers who have been rescuing their newborn calves from the "Polar Vortex" and throwing them into the front or back seat of their trucks and taking them back to the barn.  And the most disturbing thing that’s been frequently happening is that the momma cow’s aren’t surviving.  Which leads me to one question, why are these producers calving in January?

Think about it.  This isn’t the "natural" time of year for cattle to have calves.  Deer don’t have fawns in January.  Bears don’t have cubs in January.  So why are Beef producers putting themselves and their animals through the stress of "Polar Vortex Calving"?

This winter is proving to be colder and bringing more snow than our average. The old timers around here are saying it is more like the way winters used to be. Personally, I do not remember it ever being this cold (-36 wc)

in Pennsylvania.  In July of 2006 we moved from Kutztown, PA to our current farm near Troy, PA.

Folks in Kutztown were questioning our move farther North because of how cold and the incredible amounts of snow we would have the potential of getting in Bradford County.  For the last 7 years the folks we left "down South" have received more snow and ice than we have.  But no one has been able to escape the latest round of polar freeze.


   Getting back to calves in the bathtub.  Another feature of Max & Orion’s show was a rancher who was sharing her experiences of wrangling somewhere in the Dakota’s.  She stated "We were in the process of building a herd and had used AI (artificial insemination for city folks) to breed about 300 first calf heifers (no one in their right mind would do this). We did not want to purchase older cattle to build our herd and preferred to start with healthy, young heifers. Only problem is a heifer will run the chance of having a dystocia (difficulty calving) a lot more than a cow. Hence, they have to be watched more. We breed our heifers to calve about a month earlier than the rest of the cow herd (gives them more time to recover before trying to rebreed). That puts these heifers calving in February where the rest of the cows start the calving season in March."


   I have to admit it was nice to hear she & her husband had a game plan, but it was the timing of calving that had me perplexed.  If you have the wit’s about yourself to make a schedule for calving, why wouldn’t you aim for spring (April-June) calving?


    She went on to say…."We had 300 head and along comes a whale of a snow storm. It was bitter cold and over the course of the day and night we got over 14 inches of snow.  Since this is extremely unusual in our area, we do not have indoor calving facilities. As we checked the heifers through the night it became increasingly difficult to do so and finally had to resort to using nothing but the tractor as it was the only thing that would go through that much new snow. We had moved all our "girls" into the front pasture so they would be easier to check".


   I don’t know about you but that one experience would be enough for me to re-think a winter calving schedule!  But wait folks!  She goes on to say…."As luck had it, this particular night was a birthing bonanza. We had 8 or 10 calves born that night. We would typically observe that the calf was born . . . yet wanting to give the mother time to clean it up on its own we would check the other heifers then come back to check to see that the calf was up and nursing.   It was cold enough that if their mama had not gotten them up right away they would already be suffering from hypothermia (low body temperature) by the time we got back. In a couple of the cases the water from the placenta had actually frozen to the ground and the calf had to be pried free.  Several calves succumbed to hypothermia and needed immediate help or they would be dead in a short time. Sometimes you can put these little fellows in the pickup truck and use the heater on high to warm them up in the floor board.  But this night we had too much snow to use the truck and by the time we got them in from the pasture they were in pretty bad shape. We needed some heroics to pull these calves through. So, we brought them in to the house and filled the bathtub up with warm water. We submerged these nearly comatose animals (weighing 60-80#) in the warm water and would leave one of our boys with them."

  "The boys kept the calf's head out of the water so he could breathe as they poured cups of water over the newborn. It is the neatest and most miraculous experience. As these cold and near dead animals began to revive . . . they would start to suck on your finger.  In a short time, they would be struggling to get out of the tub. We had spread out quilts and these newborns who had never yet stood up would wobble to their feet and another boy would begin to dry him with a hair dryer.  By the end of the night, we had repeated this procedure 4 times and by daylight the bathroom was becoming a bit cramped so we also blocked off an area in the kitchen to hold them. At daylight we walked the mama heifer/cows into a stall in the barn and took their babies back to them.  All accepted their calves and they received a full warm belly of mama's milk. It had been a long tiring night for the entire family, but good tired when it ended with the saving of 4 newborn calves who would have otherwise been dead by morning.  It was a memorable evening for our family. One that we often laugh about now and yet not one I would want to repeat. On cold winter nights, I can still see those gangly calves in the bathtub."


  And ya wanna know the worst part about this woman’s background in raising cattle?  She’s a Veterinarian!!

  If you find yourself in a predicament like severe weather calving, the following info. Should be helpful.


Re-warming Methods for Severely Cold-stressed Newborn Calves

   Canadian animal scientists compared methods of reviving hypothermic or cold stressed baby calves. Heat production and rectal temperature were measured in 19 newborn calves during hypothermia (cold stress) and recovery when four different means of assistance were provided. Hypothermia of 86 degrees F. rectal temperature was induced by immersion in cold water. Calves were re-warmed in a 68 to 77 degrees F. air environment where thermal assistance was provided by added thermal insulation or by supplemental heat from infrared lamps. Other calves were re-warmed by immersion in warm water (100 degrees F.), with or without a 40cc drench of 20% ethanol in water. Normal rectal temperatures before cold stress were 103 degrees F. 

   The time required to regain normal body temperature from a rectal temperature of 86 degrees F. was longer for calves with added insulation and those exposed to heat lamps than for the calves in the warm water and warm water plus ethanol treatments (90 and 92 vs 59 and 63, respectively). During recovery, the calves re-warmed with the added insulation and heat lamps produced more heat metabolically than the calves re-warmed in warm water. This represents energy that is lost from the calf’s body that cannot be utilized for other important biological processes. Total heat production (energy lost) during recovery was nearly twice as great for the calves with added insulation, exposed to the heat lamps than for calves in warm water and in warm water plus an oral drench of ethanol, respectively. By immersion of hypothermic calves in warm (100 degrees F) water, normal body temperature was regained most rapidly and with minimal metabolic effort. No advantage was evident from oral administration of ethanol. (Source: Robinson and Young. Univ. of Alberta. J. Anim. Sci., 1988.) 

   When immersing these baby calves, do not forget to support the head above the water to avoid drowning the calf that you are trying to save. Also it is important to dry the hair coat before the calf is returned to cold winter air. If the calf does not nurse the cow within the first few hours of life (6 or less), then tube feeding of a colostrum replacer will be necessary to allow the calf to achieve passive immunity by consuming the immunoglobulin’s in the colostrum replacer.

   Obviously not every calf born in cold weather needs the warm water bath. However, this is apparently a method that can save a few severely stressed calves that would not survive if more conventional re-warming methods are used.


Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Specialist.



I hope this information is helpful to all producers since winter weather is not just above the Mason-Dixon line anymore!  This winter has showed us what we are in for in coming winters even in Texas and Florida.  I’m not expecting my wife to allow me to do it, but luckily so far, we haven’t had to bathe any calves.  And if I have anything to do with it, we never will!

Hassle Free feeding

Jan 02, 2014

 Bale Grazing?


   2 years ago February, my Son In-law and I attended a "Grazing Specific" conference in Albany, NY.  Although we were far away from any greening up pastures, it was a mind stimulating 2 day conference that gave us a lot to think about on our 5 hour trip home that should have only taken 3 hours!  We were so in depth in conversation that we missed our exit.  And when your between Albany & Binghamton, NY there is little to no room for error when looking for an exit.  1 missed exit added 2 hours to our homeward bound trip.  Cooperstown, NY however was beautiful that time of the year.


   Anyway, I digress.  One of the main topics of discussion at the conference and on our lengthy drive home was about "Bale Grazing".  Here’s some of what we learned and than went on to implement on our farm in 2011.


   Bale grazing cattle during winter will save you time and money.  And with proper management, reduce environmental contaminants/run-off.  Bale grazing is when you set a large number of round bales out in late fall & winter and regulate the cows’ feed intake using temporary electric fencing.  You move cows to a new set of bales in two-to-five-day rotations. To ensure all cows have equal access to the forages.


   Selecting suitable sites based on soil and topography will reduce the risk of nutrient loss to the environment from leaching and runoff.  Not to mention if you place a round bale on even a gently sloping pasture you can bet your bull will have it down the hill, through the fence and in the creek or swale by morning.  Compaction of soil caused by cattle traffic also promotes surface runoff.  Pastures with a history of spring-time flooding should be avoided due to nutrient leaching.


Why Bale Graze?

• Your cattle feed themselves

• Tractor wear and tear is reduced as tractor use is concentrated to one period in fall when bales are placed

• Operating/fuel costs are lowered

• Less manure to remove from the barn/yard means reduced diesel or gas consumption

• Less wear and tear on your barn cleaner

• Pasture fertility is improved

• Manure is more evenly spread out and immediately incorporated which increases future forage production

• Residual feed conserves soil moisture

• And most importantly chore time is reduced

   Bale grazing will only work with good planning.  If your heifers/cows historically need 38 lbs/day of average hay for the first trimester of their pregnancy, they may need 40 lbs/day of better hay in the second. Keep the best hay such as 3rd or 4th cutting and highest feeding rate for the end of winter.  For example, if 10 bales are needed to feed a group of cattle for three days, then bales are set in rows 10.  Most times bales are placed on their round side, just the same as when they are ejected from the baler.  This way, the bales stay relatively intact after the plastic twine is removed.

   Using alfalfa/grass hay bales that average 1,300 pounds (lb.), current research is suggesting a maximum density of 25 bales per acre. To obtain this density, place bales in a grid on 40-foot centers.  At this rate, an overall average rate of about 75 lb. per acre of plant-available nitrogen will accumulate in the soil profile the following spring. The nutrients will not be evenly distributed, but overall this is considered an environmentally safe and economically optimum rate for nitrogen application.

Location, Location, Location!

• Place bales with sisal twine on their sides, because it will rot.

• Place bales with plastic twine on their ends, REMOVE THE TWINE in the fall before feeding.

• Snow is a good insulator. If there is a lot of snow, a single wire will not produce an effective electrical   current to keep the animals inside the fence.

• A high output energizer and wire combination is a better choice than string or tape.

• Fiberglass rods or rebar speared into bales is an easy alternative to drilling or driving posts into the ground.

• Set bale grazing areas to prevent surface runoff into watercourses.

  A typical density is placing bales 40 feet apart on a grid, which equates to about 25 bales per acre.


Bale grazing delivers a significant amount of nutrients to the site, especially on the points where the bales are placed. This nutrient supply is released over several years from the organic layer.  Seeded perennial forage is generally the best suited vegetation for taking advantage of and utilizing this relatively high level of fertility.

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