25th Annual Pasture Walk

Big Spring Farm

683 Blankenship rd, Adolphus KY 42101

10 am – 3 pm Central time

RSVP: Greg Brann

An interactive field discussion to assist folks in managing the water cycle, nutrient cycle, energy flow, and biological interactions.

Our Management Goals:

Managing pastures for optimum quality and quantity

Managing water with proper placement and access

Managing livestock for easy keeping and higher profitability

Managing soil moisture, carbon, and other nutrients (no commercial fertilizer in 15 years)


Discussion Topics: Led by Greg Brann


Grass, clover, and forb mixes

Application of regenerative ag.

Water points

Addressing Resource Concerns

Multi-paddock and multi-species grazing (cow-calf to finish, hair sheep to finish, goats for weed management, farrow to finish hogs, 100% grass-fed dairy, and wool sheep for fiber and meat)

Weed management: high-density grazing, goats, and clipping

Sacrifice paddock management

Fly control

Hay feeding


$40 for the event, lunch provided with on-farm meats, and Brayden will cater again this year.

July Timely Tips

July Timely Tips

Preparing your pastures for winter

In South Central Kentucky, we are getting plentiful rain, and the grass is growing wonderfully, but the weeds/forbs are growing too. The following are some things covered in this note to consider this time of year.

·       Mowing to prepare for stockpiling grass and to reset pastures for fall growth

·        Fly numbers are increasing, and internal parasites thrive in warm moist weather.  

·        Water for livestock

·        Shift focus from seeding warm-season forages to cool-season forages.

·       Timing your introduction of rams and bullies

·    Livestock selection criteria

·    Upcoming grazing events


Now through September 15th is the most important time to clip pastures. This is an important time to return forage to a vegetative state before stockpiling grass for winter. Only mow fields that need a reset; don’t mow down good grass, it may not rain, and any standing grass is better than none. Graze more mature grass first while allowing more vegetative grass to grow. Short-duration high-density grazing reduces mowing, but sometimes there are old stools of grass with brown leaves shading green leaves or plants, shading desirable grass that needs light to grow and last longer for stockpiling grass. Broadleaf plants like wingstem and ironweed shade desirable grass and can reduce grass production. Clipping pastures to a 5” height may also help reduce pink eye.


Peak fly season is now through September, be diligent in controlling flies. In addition to the measures I mentioned in the last timely tips (garlic powder in mineral, mineral oil, fly paper) mop type back rubbers filled with mineral oil works well. A mop tank is superior to sock-type back rubbers because they tend to slick over and not release the oil. Cedar oil added to the mineral oil can enhance fly control. Sometimes I cut a cedar tree for cattle to rub on.


Additional water sources can improve cattle performance. When using a surface pipeline, let some vegetation grow over the pipe to keep the water cooler. Supplemental water also can improve pasture utilization and water intake, increasing animal performance.

Drain and clean water troughs at least every three months and sniff the water for any off smells. Dirty water can harbor some diseases like leptospirosis, e. coli, and others. Livestock sometimes sniff the water, and I’ve heard they take advantage of Oxygen from the water; they should normally take about 20 gulps at the tank.  

Maintaining gravel around the tank is important. Avoid large stones mixed with small ones since this can cause hoof problems, especially when stones are carried in mud onto concrete. A lime pile between the concrete and mud can reduce this issue.

 When my garlic powder clumps up when it’s been exposed to moist air, I place those in the water trough.


The very best time to seed cool-season grass pastures is fall ( one and a half months before the first killing frost). Pasture fields to consider for reseeding will have less than a 50% of desirable grass or be warm-season grass pastures. I prefer to seed into warm-season forages at the end of September (about 15 days before a killing frost). When seeding a perennial stand of grass like tall fescue, seed only perennials since annuals grow faster, they can reduce the stand of perennials. If seeding annuals, consider a mix of small grains like triticale, barley, oats, wheat, or rye with annual ryegrass. A mix of about 150 pounds of small grain with 20 pounds of annual ryegrass gives full cool season production. If seeded early, you may get early winter grazing; if seeded later, you will likely get early spring grazing through June.


Now’s the time to step up your grazing management. This is the most important time to grow and conserve grass for winter.

Rotating pastures and maintaining good residual height will allow you to stockpile every field for winter. If you rotate off fields, maintaining 4” to 6” height cattle won’t be as likely to graze into the more mature forage next grazing so that you can save it for use later in the winter. In the meantime, you will be rewarded with more pasture growth, better soil, and healthier livestock.


If you don’t have shelter for sheep and goats, birthing time is the most important consideration since goats are very prone to hypothermia, and lambs are not as tolerant of cold as calves. Late March and April are good times for lambing or kidding. If they are born in June, internal parasites are a real concern.

My current management is to pull the rams and bucks when I don’t want births. The months I don’t want them to birth small ruminants are January, February, June, July, August, or September. The gestation period is five months, so calculate it back five months from the listed dates to pull rams and bucks. I’m pulling my Rams and Bucks in late July. The problem with exposing ewes and nannies multiple times a year is that it’s much harder to keep good records of who birthed and raised them. Another issue is dealing with lambs and higher nutritional requirements over a longer period.

Now’s the time for the highest availability of goats and sheep. 


When selecting livestock, whether it’s cattle, sheep, goats, or pigs, I use the same selection criteria. I want the animal’s height to be 2/3 body (e.g., a 3’ tall animal would have 2’ of body and 1’ of leg), wide (barrel-shaped), have a flat top, good feet, and a wide muzzle. A healthy goat will have its tail up, and a healthy pig’s tail will be curly. With goats and sheep, check FAMACHA. FAMACHA is a technique to check for anemia, most likely due to barber pole worms. Pull back the bottom eyelid, and it should be pink.  Cherry red is best. If the eyelid isn’t at least pink, don’t buy them, they need deworming. Goats’ eyelids aren’t as red as sheep.


Even though we’re living through mid-summer, our thoughts need to be on the coming winter.  Strive for each grazing to be better!


October 19, Big Spring Farm Pasture Walk, Adolphus, KY; Preregister events@gregbrann.com

October 31, Kentucky Grazing Conference, Low-Stress Livestock Handling, Elizabethtown, KY, UKForageExtension@uky.edu

November 1, Kentucky Grazing Conference, Low-Stress Livestock Handling, Lexington, KY, UKForageExtension@uky.edu

February 16, Grazing for Profit, Harriman, TN (865) 248-3159,

Thank you for reading Greg Brann’s Timely Tips. This post is public, so feel free to share it.

September 2022 Timely Tips

September 2022 Timely Tips


As a consultant, I am often asked, “Do I need to reseed.” Many times, the pasture is fine; they just need to manage what they have. My recommendation is always to evaluate your management before you reseed. Consider whether your nutrients are balanced, have you managed your minimum grazing heights, and do you have good ground cover present. 

Fall Seeding

As the price of seed continues to increase, it’s important to your bottom line to first determine your objective for seeding. Do you need more forage, is weed suppression needed, is soil health diminishing?

Forage production and weed suppression

If you have areas with over 50% undesirable plants, now’s the time to seed. Annual ryegrass is excellent for competing and smothering undesirable vegetation, but hairy vetch, Austrian winter peas, barley, triticale, rape, and cereal rye also work well for weed suppression.

Soil health

I like planting different species in rotation or as a mix. Plant both grasses and legumes, but first, evaluate your mix by determining whether the soil lacks carbon (ground cover). Legumes typically should make up 30 to 50% of the biomass. Grasses add carbon to the soil, and legumes contribute nitrogen.


     Fall Hay Feeding

Hay feeding in the fall is counter-intuitive to most farmers, but the benefits can be very rewarding. Fall growth can reduce cattle cost the most since total hay feeding is reduced. Feeding hay when moisture is available, and temperatures are 60 to 75 degrees F will promote the most growth. While feeding hay, don’t graze over 20% of the total pasture acreage. This allows stockpiling fall growth on the remaining 80% of your pastures. This time of year, pastures grow 20-40 pounds per acre per day, so we can grow up to twice as much as we feed during this same period.

In January, we can’t grow grass, so fall hay feeding extends the growing season, and less hay is fed when we can’t grow grass. Feed the hay on lower fertility pastures or weedy fields.



Currently, warm season grasses and weeds are still growing, but we are on the cusp of transitioning into the cool season growth period. Cool season growth is ideal between 60 and 75 degrees F. The saying is “rotate fast when growth is fast and slow when growth is slow.” Growth in my area is fast right now, so rotate fast to control warm season growth and expose cool season forages to light. To keep light to your desirable forages, if you cannot graze, you may need to mow. We need to grow grass now to carry us through fall and winter. Cool season growth will slow or stop in early December. So ideally, at that point, we will have 120 days of grazing stockpiled for winter.


An acre inch of good grass weighs about 300 pounds. Twenty head of 1,000-pound cows will eat 26 pounds of forage per day (20 x 26 = 520 pounds of forage per day with 50% utilization), so you need 1040 pounds of forage presented to the cattle. 1040 pounds of grass needed, divided by 300 pounds per acre inch = 3.5” per acre. So, if the grass is 8” tall, paddock off half acre allotments for the 20 cows. That’s an animal density of 40,000 pounds per acre, a good stock density for excellent pasture management.

An open discussion about symptoms and root causes

My annual pasture walk is Thursday, October 20, from 10 am ct till about 3 pm. This year, I’m finishing cattle, sheep, and hogs. I’ve seeded winter annuals in several fields for forage production and weed control and overseeded some orchard grass fields with tall fescue. Fields were grazed first and then seeded.

I’ve made cross-fencing across steep drainage ways much more manageable by installing what I call “master links.” We’ll evaluate fields deciding what went right and what went wrong. Fall hay feeding will be discussed to help make sense of all the figures, and we’ll examine the cost-effectiveness of best management practices.


In summary, grow grass when you can grow grass. Stockpile grass for drought and winter. Ration grass to conserve your stockpile and extend the grazing season. Come join the conversation on October 20. Bring your questions and unidentified plants, and we’ll talk soil, plant, and animal management. We’ll have a hardy lunch from the farm, cooked up by Brayden Apple with River Cottage Farm.

July Timely Tips

June Timely Tips

Summer Mowing, Controling Flies, and Pasture Condition Scoring


Weather conditions vary a good bit across the region, but rain is always welcome in summer, and luckily, we’ve had just enough every time it’s been needed. Although moisture is needed to grow grass, the result will be a green-up without growth unless grazing height, plant residue, and recovery time are respected. Over 90% of grass growth occurs by managing residual height, air, sunshine, and rainfall. 


The common question is, “Should I mow, and if so, how high?” Of course, it depends; mowing costs around $25/ac, so we need to be sure the cost can be recouped. Grazing at high densities of around 40,000 pounds or higher of livestock per acre lays down a lot of the grass, greatly reducing or eliminating the need for mowing. Laying down residual grass also benefits soil health, creating more ground cover and feed for underground livestock. A rule of thumb is to keep light to desirable plants and shade out undesirable plants. Another commonly agreed practice is to control vegetation when weeds occupy 20% or more of a pasture. If I am going to mow, I prefer to mow after grazing and not mow over 20% of the total pasture acreage at one time. Mowing low has more impact on weeds, but remember another principle, manage for what you want, not what you don’t want. Another rule of thumb is to mow 2” into the leaf of grass. Typically, I mow to a 5” height. If the pasture is mostly weeds with little desirable grass, you’ll want to mow low but don’t mow lower than 3” on tall fescue-dominated pastures.


I use several different methods of fly control. The economic threshold for flies is 200 per cow. My favorite fly control is one or more pounds of garlic powder mixed with 50 pounds of mineral. I get my garlic from webrestaurantstore.com. Keep the garlic sealed till you use it, or it will harden and ball up.

As pictured, I also use 12” fly paper wrapped around an old protein tub. After I caught several birds on the paper, I added chicken wire. The birds were likely eating more flies than I was catching. I am thrilled to see birds pick flies off the paper without getting stuck, which is a win-win. I place these around facilities like water and mineral sites. Sometimes I mop vegetable or mineral oil on cattle to reduce flies for about a week. I also have a walk-through fly trap that works best in a lane. We use it for our dairy. Plans for the walk-through fly trap are available online.


Water is the most important nutrient. Livestock consumes up to twice as much water if they don’t have shade. Production of meat and milk is higher with higher water consumption. Additional water points can improve consumption, availability, grazing, and nutrient distribution. Mobile water can be used in addition to a permanent water source. I like the Jobe Mega Flow valve plumbed into a 40 to 50-gallon trough. Place a hot wire across the trough to prevent cattle from stepping on the valve. If you are not getting water to a high point on the landscape, you will most likely need more pressure. Pressure switches cost about $100, so it is an easy fix. The pressure needed is one psi for every 2.31’ of elevation. For example, a 100’ elevation difference needs 44 psi or more. There is some pressure loss for distance, but most loss is due to elevation. Watch float settings and connections. Leaky water troughs cost water loss and make a puggy mess.


Generally, it is best to manage the grass you have, but bare ground is terrible. It’s getting a little late to seed warm-season forage, but it can work with moisture. Now is the best time to sow if you are seeding into cool season forage like thin, tall fescue because cool seasons go dormant in warm, dry conditions. Crabgrass is a reseeding annual, so I prefer it to other options like sudangrass or millets. There are several improved types of crabgrass: red river, quick and Big, mojo, and others; they are all good. Crabgrass sets you up nicely to seed tall fescue or orchardgrass in September. Annual Lespedeza is a good companion with crabgrass and reseeds well. Bermudagrass is a good option if you feed in the same area yearly.

These two photos show the pasture before turning in, and after grazing.

Here’s that same pasture after using short-duration high-density grazing with ~50,000 pounds of livestock per acre. This can reduce the need for mowing.


If you haven’t tried top-third grazing, I encourage you to try it. An example of top-third grazing is to turn in when the grass is 9” tall and grazing down to 6” or turning in at 6” tall and out at 4”. Regrowth is much faster, and the stock is consuming the best forage but not overgrazing the best plants. It works best with high-density, short-duration grazing. Some folks think stomped-down forage is wasted, but it has many benefits. First off, it is energy (carbon) stored for the future. Other benefits are moisture conservation, weed control, and feed for the below-ground herd, which will, in turn, make water-stable soil aggregates which improves poor space and water infiltration, among other benefits.

The featured photo at the top of this post was a degraded pasture, brought back to life.  I unrolled plenty of hay, applied some needed lime, and utilized top third grazing.  


The best time to evaluate pastures is just before grazing. Look straight down at the pasture evaluating the following indicators.

Pasture Condition Scoring (PCS) involves rating 10 Indicators: Percent of Desirable Plants, Percent of Legume, Live Plant Cover (includes dormant), Plant Diversity, Plant Residue (Litter) as Soil Cover, Grazing Utilization and Severity, Livestock Concentration Areas, Soil Compaction and Soil Regenerative Factors, Plant Vigor, Erosion (Sheet and Rill, Streambank, Shoreline, Gullies.) All these factors are important; determining the weak link in your operation is key to your success. Once you determine the weak link on a pasture, you can focus on it for the biggest return on investment of time and money. Another similar assessment, Determining Indicators of Pastureland Health (DIPH), involves 22 indicators.


Sheep are grazers, and goats are browsers. The common question is, what ratio of small ruminants to cattle do you prefer? As usual, it depends primarily on the vegetation you have. Goats have a very different diet than cattle, so you can stock up to two goats for every cow and not affect cattle grazing. You may even improve it because the thorny species are out of the way. On the other hand, sheep eat a very similar diet to cattle, so one sheep for every couple of cows is probably best. You can push that up a little bit if you keep your forage vegetative. Lambs don’t do well in tall grass. Animal unit equivalents to a 1000-pound cattle are five sheep or six goats. Training small ruminants to respect electric fences will make your life easier.


Manage what you have by keeping more leaf on your grass and strive to keep it vegetative. Maintain quality water, rotate stock when the pasture is soiled, and mow if you need to reset mature grass and make it more vegetative or if weeds are greater than 20% of the pasture. And lastly, control flies. Over 200 flies per animal diminish your bottom line by causing weight loss and spreading disease.

Remember that if you want to “turn on your pastures,” you must feed the livestock below ground.

Strive for each grazing to be better!


Greg Brann

Synergistic Grazing Management


October 19, Big Spring Farm Pasture Walk, Adolphus, KY

October 31, Kentucky Grazing Conference, Low-Stress Livestock Handling, Elizabethtown, KY.

November 1, Kentucky Grazing Conference, Low-Stress Livestock Handling, Lexington, KY.

February 15, Grazing for Profit, Harriman, TN (865) 248-3159,

Timely Tips – September 2021

Timely Tips – September 2021

Fall Hay Feeding



Why in the world would you feed hay in the fall when you could be grazing? Fall hay feeding may be counter-intuitive, but the benefits can be advantageous, especially if your pastures are already grazed to a minimum grazing height (3” for tall fescue and 4” for orchard grass). Maintaining minimum grazing height is always a benefit, but it can pay the most in the fall.  Fall growth can significantly reduce cattle costs by reduced hay feeding. By feeding hay in September and October and not grazing over 20% of our pastures, we can stockpile fall growth on the remaining 80% of our pastures.  This time of year, pastures can grow 20-40 pounds of forage per acre per day, so it’s possible to grow up to twice as much forage as the hay we would feed in the same period.   In January, we can’t grow grass, so fall hay feeding extends the growing season, and less hay is fed during times we can’t grow grass.  Feed the hay on lower fertility pastures or weedy fields.


Top third grazing is my preferred grazing method, but with higher stocking, I somehow slip into “take half leave half.” To get the full benefits of third top grazing, you needed to start this method sometime in June or July. That way, you could graze instead of fall feeding.



If you want to see a miracle performance of your pastures in spring, don’t graze below 4 inches throughout the winter. Begin grazing after the grass is 6-8” tall with dense growth. Forage growth will be 2- 4 weeks later when pastures are grazed lower.  I don’t like any pastures to be grazed below 2” in the winter.

You can experiment by removing stock from some of your pastures while the grass is still 4” tall. The most significant benefits come when the soil has organic matter of 3% or higher, pH of 6.2 to 7.2, P and K in the medium-high range.



It is easy to fall into the trap of needing more hay.  Hay is an extractive process, removing nutrients from the soil and transporting those nutrients to the ground where the hay is fed.  The ruminant animal returns 85% of nutrients to the land, which hit the field with good management.  Otherwise, they are a potential environmental issue and don’t aid in sustaining or improving soil fertility.  Without adding nutrients back to the hay fields, yields drop, and the need for more hay land increases and pastureland decreases. Before you know it, more and more land goes into hay production, and you have less pasture, thus continuing the downward spiral.

A general balanced spread of land is 2/3rds pasture and 1/3 hay.  Although it is admirable to produce all of your needs from your own land, I recommend buying your hay. The available nutrients (N,P,K) in hay are typically worth about 2/3rds of the cost of the hay. Buying hay allows you to graze all of your land and bring in nutrients from another farm. One downfall to this idea is that you’re also possibly bringing in weed seeds.  Oh well, you can use them as an excuse and blame those weeds on someone else. Or are they forbs?


Everyone agrees the biggest issue with most electric fencing is the grounding, assuming you start with a charger with enough joules.


Ideally, buy a charger that has one joule per mile of fence wire.  The next rule of thumb is to have one ground rod per joule. That works fine for chargers less than 10 joules, but my charger is a 36 joule, and I don’t want to put in 36 ground rods.  Another method of checking to see if you have enough ground rods is to ground out the fence about 300’ from the charger with something like a steel post, then test the ground rod, and it shouldn’t have over 500 volts on the ground rod.  Some of my electric fencing is now more than 40 years old, so some maintenance was in order.  We added several ground rods and, with a bit of clean-up, we increased the charge by 4,000 volts.


My dad always said, “the best fence is good grass,” but we don’t want to be limited by our fence.  Another of my dad’s sayings was, “you don’t want your fences to be too good; otherwise, they can’t get back in.”

In summary, inventory and manage what you have; consider planting something that fills a void in your forage chain, natural or planted.

Respect minimum grazing heights and graze at a stock density of 10,000 lb or higher per acre with an average grazing period of 1-3 days and an average recovery period of 45 days. Maintain fertility in the medium range with a pH of 6.2 to 7.2.

Fall Seeding


Where I have a mediocre stand of perennial grass and lots of legumes. I plan to seed the following mix in early September.

Species         Pounds per ac

Cereal rye                   40

Barley                          40

Wheat                          20

Ryegrass                     8

Chicory                       1

Forage turnip             1

Buckwheat                 1

Sunflower                  1


Perennial pasture is the cheapest source of pasture; however, if you have excessive legumes, it’s hard to establish perennials since perennial grasses are slower to establish than annuals.  Forage annuals cost about the same, per pound, as hay, but annuals are about 2x the quality. It’s essential to do good grazing management with multi-paddock grazing so you can ration and control access of livestock to the annuals.

This phenomenon is why most land grant universities advise only establishing perennial grass in the fall and then following up with legumes seeded in late winter or early spring.  They also don’t recommend seeding annuals with perennials since the annuals also outcompete the perennial grass.

During the grass-clover cycle, drill in other perennials when legumes begin to wane.


June 2021 Timely Tips – Adaptive Grazing Management

June 2021 Timely Tips – Adaptive Grazing Management

Any quick search on Google or YouTube with the mention of grazing is enough to send you down an rabbit hole that can easily cause confusion and frustration as you try to plan your grazing management for summer pastures.  Here are some of the different types of grazing systems you’ll find in the rotational grazing articles and a brief description of each.

I find that most of my farm responds best to the Top Third Grazing method but I use many of these options when they’re required for soil, pasture, and livestock health.

·       Prescribed grazing: a designed method to accomplish a goal. It may include multiple strategies

·       Rotational grazing; typically 3 to 14 days of grazing followed by 28 or more days of recovery

·       Flash grazing; short periods of grazing from hours to 2 days less than 4 times per year

·       Creep grazing; allowing young stock to graze ahead of their mothers

·       Forward grazing; high nutritional need stock graze first followed by animals with lower nutritional needs

·       Strip grazing; providing a new strip of grazing hourly or every few days

·       Time limit grazing; grazing an area for a short period

·       High density/short-duration grazing; 4,000 pounds per acre to 70,000 pounds per acre.  Stocking rates over 70,000 pounds per acre will usually need the stock to be rotated two or more times per day.

·       Ultra-high density grazing (mob grazing); 70,000 pounds plus per acre.

·       Total grazing (boom or bust) (landscaping); making stock graze everything followed by a long recovery.  In high rainfall areas, recovery periods of 90 days or more will be needed.

·       Seasonal grazing; grazing when grass is in abundance. I employed this technique on a field allowing a taller residual height over winter and the grass rewarded me with magical production.


·       Put and Take grazing; adjusting the number of livestock as pasture production changes (e.g. early-season double stocking)

·       Continuous grazing; any benefits of managed grazing decrease substantially when fields are grazed longer than 14 days

·       Spot grazing (selective grazing); a sign that livestock preferentially grazed certain plants/areas.  This is typically due to stocking density not being high enough.

·       Over-grazing; grazing below where most carbohydrates are stored. This results in high utilization but production can be reduced by as much as 2/3rds.




No matter which management style you choose for your particular situation here are some things to remember for success with your grazing management. 

  • Rotate livestock before your most limiting resource is stressed and negatively impacted. 

  • Wait to rotate until the next paddock is at the proper height to graze based on the present plant community

    +     4” + cool-season grasses
    +     3” bermudagrass, crabgrass, white clover
    +     6” johnsongrass
    +     8” native grass

  • Don’t limit yourself or your operation by locking into one form of management

  • No matter which technique you choose, Always rotate when the paddock is soiled

  • Does a field need grazing-disturbance or recovery-rest

  • Graze to keep pastures vegetative and palatable

  • Rotate fast in spring to control seed production

  • Top third grazing allows you to slow down rotation when growth slows

  • Target the pre-boot stage of the plant, when the seed head is moving up the stem

  • Keep light to desired plant community (key plants), shade out undesirable

  • Double stock pastures in spring when grass is plentiful

  • Stockpile reserve paddock 90 days for drought or winter

  • Target your soil sample results for pH 6.8 for soil function, medium range for phosphorus and potassium. A pH of 6.2 is fine for forage production

  • Seed or manage legumes for nitrogen (high protein= Nitrogen)

  • Tools to impact undesirable plants: Strategic grazing, placement of hay, mineral, mobile shade, and water source

  • Shade becomes important when temperature and humidity are above 80

  • Stockpile grass on sacrifice paddock and traps near a corral

  • Combine herds when practical

  • The number of paddocks needed is 16 permanent per herd divided into 45 or more temporary paddocks but any amount is better than one.

  • Strive to not allow back grazing longer than 4 days

  • Back fence to prevent livestock from taking a second bite of desirable plants


What type of grazing management is best for your unique situation?

I’m sure I’ve missed listing some forms of grazing but the main idea to remember is that they all have their place and application. This is where the “adaptive” part comes in. Anything can be accomplished with grazing management. You need a clear goal when choosing your grazing strategy. Different fields can benefit from different grazing techniques. Identify and learn about your plant communities and start rotating!

Wishing you the best, if you have questions, concerns, or rebuttals about anything I’ve presented, feel free to respond to me at gregbrann5@gmail.com.  You can find past Timely Tips plus many other resource materials at my website, www.gregbrann.com.

There are many ways to accomplish regenerative grazing.


June 25, 26, 2021 South Poll field day Gary and Diane Graves, Trenton, TN      southpoll.com
October 14, 2021 Big Spring Farm Pasture Walk
November 5, 2021, Tennessee Forage and Grassland Council Conference, http://utbfc.utk.edu/

The next timely tips: Transitioning to warm season grass.

Hay Feeding Strategies

Hay Feeding Strategies

Hay Feeding 101, 201, and 301

Here is where Debbie lets me nerd out about hay feeding.  In this post, you’ll find tips for hay feeding in fall, winter, and Spring and why, if the conditions are right, I prefer to feed in the fall and stockpile my grass while it’s growing.  I’ll also walk you through how to calculate your hay needs for the winter, but a warning is appropriate here, it’s not for the faint of heart!  We’ll also delve into the different types of feeding options.  So, let’s go.  


The place to start when trying to calculate your hay needs is with plenty of numbers, but if you plan to guess or if you know your needs based on previous years, please feel free to scroll down to the different hay feeding techniques.   

Bear with me on this because there are lots of numbers.  Each time you do a calculation, ask yourself if this sounds reasonable.  

– One animal unit (1,000-pound animal) consumes 30 pounds per day

– An acre inch of good grass weighs 300 pounds per acre inch

– Animals waste 50% of standing forage. 

– Five sheep equals one animal unit

– Six goats equals one animal unit

Inventory the number of animals or animal units to feed grass or hay.  Since I run multispecies, it’s easiest for me to convert everything to animal units.  After the calf reaches 300 pounds, count the calf’s needs in addition to the cow’s needs.  The default animal demand is 3% of their body weight.  It will vary from 2% to over 3%, but there are losses, so I usually just use 3% for easy calculations.  It’s just an estimate, anyway.   

So, let’s do an example of round numbers for easy math: 10 cows (@ 1,000 pounds) with young calves and 20 ewes (@ 120 pounds), 12 nanny goats (@ 90 pounds), one bull (@ 2,000 pounds), one ram (@ 200 pounds) and one buck (@ 200 pounds).  

Animal units

10 AU cattle, 2 AU sheep, and 2 AU goats plus 2 AU for the bull, .2 AU for a ram, and 0.2 AU for the buck.  This brings the total animal units to 16.4; now multiply this by 1,000 pounds to get 16,400 pounds times 0.03 consumed per animal unit equals 492 pounds of grass needed per day,  but let’s round up to 500 pounds just to be safe.

Inventory pastures and standing grass and estimated grazing days.  Add up all the grazable acres of standing grass you have on the farm.  An example would be inches across all fields: 4”, 6”, 8”, 10”, 5”, and 7”, equaling a total of 40”.  For purposes of example, let’s assume all the fields are the same size, 5 acres per field for a total of 30 acres.  

The average weight of dry grass per acre inch in a productive field with thick grass is 300 pounds.  So 40” forage x 300 (pounds per acre inch) x 5 acres = 60,000 pounds of dry matter standing, but only 50% of this will be consumed by livestock due to stomping, laying, defecation, and urination on forage.  So, really, we can only count on 30,000 pounds of actual dry matter consumed.  

Now, to calculate how long this will last, divide by animal demand of 500 pounds of dry matter per day.  Meaning the standing pasture will last 60 days.  If the pasture didn’t grow anymore, we would be out of the grass in two months.  This time of year, with moisture, grass will grow 20- 40 pounds per acre per day through October and will continue slower growth through early December.  So, sixty days x 30 pounds per day x 30 acres = 54,000 pounds grown x 50 % loss = 27,000 pounds predicted to grow again divided by animal demand of 500 pounds per day = 54 additional days of grazing for a total of 114 days, so we predict grazing through mid-December.  

Hay will be needed through March, so 3.5 months (let’s call it four months). So, 120 days x 500 pounds needed per day = 60,000 pounds of hay needed, but there are losses with hay, too, so let’s add 20% for losses from handling and feeding.  That brings your hay needed to purchase to 72,000 pounds.  Hay will keep in the barn with very little loss over time, so it is good insurance.


One Location feeding.

If one hay-feeding site is used, choose that site wisely. It should be 300’ or more from drainage ways and other water areas, away from sinks and ditches, and be on a slope of 5% or less. If feeding is done near sensitive areas, it’s potentially an environmental disaster and a contributor to poor water quality and disease. If animals spend their days in mud, their energy needs are increased as much as 2x.

These areas need to be sown in something like bermudagrass or tall fescue to reduce weeds and take advantage of nutrients.

The idea here is to reduce impacts on the pasture, which is understandable but not a good plan for profit. The manure value is $20/1000 lb. roll of hay and the cost of reseeding an acre is less than $50/ac, so it’s ideal to feed hay on your most infertile ground. The manure is worth 10 x more than the cost of reseeding the small area impacted by feeding hay across a pasture.

Supplemental hay feeding square bales on a fence line. Flaking them out will allow all stock to get a bite of high-quality hay.

Fenceline feeders are an improvement on one-location feeding because the tractor doesn’t have to enter the field, creating tracks and compacting it. However, it is still a method of one-site feeding, which has some downfalls.

Although this looks bad, with a recovery of 90 or more days in the growing season, it was much better grass and clover than the previous year. Sometimes, in rainy times, I don’t use a hay ring, reducing the mud.

Accumulated waste should be gathered and ideally covered by a roof until it is spread on the land. If you have a pad, concrete is the easiest to scrape.  If using a gravel pad, you should leave a couple of inches of manure on the pad to keep from scraping up gravel and spreading it on fields. Since the cost of spreading usually equals the value of the manure, it isn’t a great value at this point, and we call it waste. Since most of the nitrogen comes from the urine, you’ll lose it to leaching if the manure is left in one place.

Fall feeding:

I prefer to feed hay in the fall when I can grow grass. This allows me to feed much less hay. It is possible to grow as much as five times the grass than hay fed in the fall, but there are many variables to consider.

Decent soil fertility and properly managed grazing heights will grow more grass. Fall hay feeding can dramatically improve fields with weed problems and low fertility.  Ideally, allow sacrifice areas substantial recovery time before winter, and you’ll see quick spring green-ups.

The minimum recommended grazing height for cool-season grasses, such as tall fescue, is 4” during the growing season. I don’t like to see it taken below 2” in the winter.


Bale Grazing.   There are many different ways to do bale grazing. It’s important to place the bales in the field when the soil is dry or frozen and place the bales strategically to accomplish the desired nutrient distribution.  The cows will cycle 80 to 90 percent of the hay back onto the pasture as nutrients; therefore, if you want to increase fertility, you may want to place the rolls as close together as 30’ apart, which is equivalent to 24 tons of hay biomass/ac. If you are looking to maintain fertility, place the rolls approximately 80’ apart, which equals about 3.5 tons of hay/ac.

Ideally, stockpiled grass would be available along with hay, which would be rationed with a temporary wire fence like polywire. You would paddock off an estimated amount of hay needed for 3 days or less. Example: 30 cows weighing 1200 pounds x 0.03 (percent of body wt. consumed per day) x 3 days = 3240 pounds. So, provide them access to 3 rolls. If the available grass is substantial, reduce the quantity of hay accordingly. Good grass is typically about 300 lb/acre inch.  However, only approximately 50% is consumed. Example: 8” grass x 300 lb/ac. In. x 0.50 (grazing efficiency) = 1200 lb, so reduce hay feeding by about one roll/day for every acre of grazing when available grass is substantial.

Hay can be placed behind a high hot wire, providing calves or other stock the ability to forward-graze to more or better hay.

The biggest advantage to bale grazing is labor savings over unrolling hay.


Unrolling hay. I like this method best, but to do it right, it’s labor-intensive. It really should be done once or twice a day, unrolling half of the animals’ needs in the morning and the other half in the afternoon to simulate grazing. They need to clean up most of the hay before feeding again. All hay isn’t equal, so don’t make them clean up junk hay.

One big advantage to unrolling hay is that all animals are on a more equal playing field, with everyone having more access to hay. Hay rings can limit access, and animals at the bottom of the pecking order, like young calves and sheep, won’t have equal access to the hay in a ring. Unrolling hay has great strategic manure placement.

Feeding in rings versus not using rings.  This may be controversial, but there’s no doubt that although rings will conserve hay, the mud-out is much worse with a ring than without it.  My experience is if you have enough stock to clean up the hay in a day or less,  the hay waste is minimal, but if the hay is there for multiple days, a ring is going to be your best bet.

Remember, grazing is half the cost of hay. If you feed 3- 1000 lb rolls a day, and hay cost is $40/roll, every day you graze instead of feeding hay will save you $120 since the nutrients (N-P-K) in those three rolls are worth about $60.

Spring Hay Feeding – Don’t stop too early!

I want to encourage everyone to feed hay a little longer in the spring to let the grass get a good start. Spring grass is washy with high water content and some hay fed along with it helps to slow the rate of passage, improving digestibility. Also, allowing the grass to get a good start gives you a buffer of extra grass through the year. Typically, I will feed hay into early April.

Wishing you the best, if you have questions, concerns, or rebuttals about anything I have presented respond to me at gregbrann5@gmail.com.  There are many ways to accomplish regenerative grazing.

Frost Seeding Legumes

Frost Seeding Legumes

When it comes to frost seeding, all you need is a good honeycomb freeze (a shown in the above photo) and an electric seeder on a 4-wheeler. This cold snap we’re experiencing is a perfect time for frost seeding.  A layer of snow will help you to see your tracks and seed distribution. 

There are times when frost seeding might not be necessary.  If you maintained thick residual (intact plants 2” or taller) and residue (detached cover, mulch) all the pasture usually needs is recovery time. Also, if you are a top third grazer it’s going to be hard to maintain legumes due to shading them out, so why seed them? 

What fields should be seeded? Fields that have some exposed soil are the best candidates for frost seeding.  If you plan on feeding hay in those pastures this winter, just wait until March to reduce excess trampling. Unrolling hay can be beneficial after seeding as long as it doesn’t cause serious mud outs.

Frost seeding round seeds like legumes and brassicas works well with this treatment. Their shape and weight pull them into the ground for good contact and better germination.  I typically add 5 pounds of grass seed with the legumes and brassicas in order to thicken the stand.

What should you frost seed? Consider your existing fertility when deciding which species to seed.  The standard recommendation is “2,4,8 let’s renovate” coined by the late Dr. Joe Burns, University of TN Forage Specialist. That translates to 2 pounds of white clover, 4 pounds of red clover, and 8 pounds of annual lespedeza.  Ideally, your soil should have a pH of 6.2 or higher at seeding and have a moderate to high level of Phosphorus and Potassium.

Matching seeds with conditions will save time and money so it’s important to understand what each type of plant needs in order to thrive.

All white clovers, with the exception of the lower growing shouldn’t be sown unless fertility is high. 

When it comes to deciding what varieties to plant, I like to look at variety trials and compare them to see what will work best in each situation.  Typically, you won’t find big differences between varieties but how you manage your grazing heights and recovery times have the greatest influence on production and longevity.


White Clover: The larger leaf and upright habit of the Ladino white clovers make them good forage types.  Although Dutch types tend towards a more prostrate plant, these long-lived varieties tend to produce a lower yield. They are also better adapted to lower fertility then other white clovers.  Intermediate types like Patriot, Durana, and Resolute fall somewhere in between Dutch and Ladino types and are more aggressive.

A bermudagrass/legume mix makes a good stand when seeded into the bermudagrass in the fall, about 20 days prior to the predicted killing frost.

Red clover, a biennial typically lasting two winters can produce an extra year of production when sown in February or drilled in March.  Certified Red Clover seed can last three winters and allowing some seed set in the summer will increase the longevity of the stand by reseeding. Some varieties I seed are: Certified Kenland, Cinnamon, or 401RC.



Annual lespedeza is very well adapted to low fertility, low producing, and shady fields. If given ample recovery time in early September, this annual will reseed. Kobe is preferred for pastures and Korean for hay but the two are typically found in a mix.  Marion is one well known variety that tends to reseed better than other varieties.  The price of lespedeza varies widely from year to year so I’ll usually seed less per acre or won’t seed it at all if it’s higher than $1.50 per pound. 

Brassicas are annuals and good indicator plants.  They perform best where organic matter and soil fertility is good. Yellowing and poor performance are telltale signs of poor soil fertility.  Brassicas are often sown in the fall but a spring seeding can work very well with good survival through next spring.

Forage radishes are best known for their long tap root and for reducing the effects of compaction. Both tap and fibrous roots help to reduce compaction which usually occurs at  three to five inches. Longer recovery periods increase roots and decrease compaction. Tillage exacerbates compaction issues.

Forage radishes and turnips are best seeded at less than 2 lbs/ac.  I typically seed one pound per acre

Spring pugging (hoof imprints in the field) benefits from a seeding of a grass/legume mixture.  KY 31 contains endophytes and reduces animal performance but it’s a tough grass that holds up better to traffic and short grazing.

For years, I have seeded improved grasses along with legumes and brassicas on my hay feeding areas but I have concluded that especially where hay rolls have been set across the fields, KY 31 is the best choice. I have found that no matter what grass is seeded, the livestock graze the tender new seedlings more than well-established grasses and KY 31 can hold up better.

Orchardgrass and Persister bromegrass are tolerant of shading and do well in mixes. A good stand of annual ryegrass is almost guaranteed but can be very competitive with legumes and perennial grasses.  I don’t recommend adding more than 1 lb per acre. I usually recommend adding spring oats at a rate of less than 20 lb/ac with the legumes.

If seeding in March, it’s best to use a no-till drill or light tillage to get seed soil contact.  A cultipacker behind the seeding is ideal. Another option is to wait till May and seed a warm season annual like Sudangrass on feeding areas.

All that said, if cost is an issue, seed lower rates, half rates work well if you have good seeding conditions.  I do not like to spend more than $35/acre on seed.

Cost effectiveness: The clover should produce fifty or more pounds of Nitrogen/ac. At $0.40/lb of N an annual return of $20 is typical and if your stand lasts three years, that’s $60/ac.

Why Should you invest in Frost Seeding?

Animal gains per acre should increase easily by 0.2 lb/day or $45/ cow/calf per year. Milk production, body condition. and conception rates should also improve.  So, a conservative return is $65 per acre/yr plus increased conception rates and improved soil health.

Management of legume seeding

It’s best to not fertilize with nitrogen the same season that legumes are seeded as it stimulates grass growth, thereby shading out the legumes. If phosphorus is low, it’s best to use something like a low N 11-52-0 (MAP).  Keeping light to the newly seeded legumes will be important for survival rates.  Managed grazing and/or clipping will endure a good stand.

Wishing you the best, if you have questions, concerns or rebuttals about anything I have presented, feel free to respond to me at gregbrann5@gmail.com.  There are many ways to accomplish regenerative grazing.


October 14, 2021 Big Spring Farm Pasture Walk

May 6-8, 2021 Greg Judy Grazing School – SOLD OUT

November 5, 2021, TNFG Conference, http://utbfc.utk.edu/


The Evolution of a Multi-Species Grazing Operation

The Evolution of a Multi-Species Grazing Operation

The Goal of Big Spring Farm:

 “An easily managed, low input grazing operation that improves production and the environment while being consistently profitable” Greg Brann.


Brief History of Big Spring Farm 2005:  The Big Spring Farm is named for a boiling cold spring that is estimated to have an output of 30,000 gallons per minute.  The farm was purchased by my dad in 1964 for cow-calf and trout production, unfortunately, the trout enterprise never materialized.  The farm increased in size due to land purchases and land rentals to 1200+ acres of pasture and hay.  Over the years, tobacco, Christmas trees, corn, and soybeans have all been produced but it has always been predominantly a cow-calf operation.  The largest number of cattle was 300+ cows and 270 backgrounding stocker calves.  Dads’ famous sayings were “good pasture is the best fence” and “don’t fix it too good they can’t get back in” and while he did pretty well at maintaining some single wire electric cross fence, the perimeter fence steadily rusted away.  At 88,  my brother and I are slowly taking over the running of the operation.  Currently, my brother and I have divided up the operation and entered some land in CREP, a state form of CRP, leaving my operation with 210 acres of pasture.


Fencing: My brother and I decided we had to have a good perimeter fence above all so that became a priority.  With all the blackberry briars, buckbrush, and assorted browse, goats seemed to be a choice species for us.  Since we always preferred high tensile fence, what is the big deal about adding an extra wire or two to run goats too?  We didn’t know much about goats but I knew it was accepted knowledge that a producer can run 1-2 goats for every cow and not impact the cows grazing.  Later we found it actually improved grazing for the cattle.  After about one year my brother decided he had had enough of goats dying (Listeria and various other adaptation disorders) and wrestling to de-worm them and trim feet, so I bought him out and continued the goat enterprise.  Thankfully, he didn’t charge me any rent since he knew that running them on the correct pastures would control weeds.  Later we divided up the land and now he and his sons run stocker cattle and I run a multi-species grazing operation. 

With any new enterprise, you go through an adaptation trough phase for 3 to 5 years before you reach a new plateau for the enterprise.  Initially, we just fenced the perimeter of one area and used electro-net fencing to control graze about an acre at a time with a stock density of 7,000 lb/ac.  This worked pretty well.  We would set up two paddocks at a time and when they moved into the second paddock we would move three sides of the first paddock and set up a third paddock hopscotching across the field.  Other areas we fenced were the boundary of fields allowing the goats access to the whole field while cattle were control-grazed.

The ideal fence and water layout are parallel fences about 435’ apart with water hookups located 435’ apart in every other fence line.  This allows maximum flexibility.  I like 435’ because a 100’ length equals one acre.  Three rolls of electro-net 164’ each will more than span this width and if you are using single polywire with a post spacing of 40’ you can easily carry 8 to 10 posts.  When I run a high single polywire for cattle (48” high) I space post up to 100’ apart.  In the end, when terrain, woods, soil type, and vegetation are all considered spacing between parallel fences may need to vary considerably. Any distance you are willing to walk and install temporary fence is just fine.  Initially, you may want to install every other fence with the ultimate goal of installing others later.  Not every fence needs to be worthy of controlling all species.  When wire is closer to the ground try to target 7” with post spacing needs to be closer usually 40’ works even in rolling terrain.  In one year, counting all of the temporary fences built, we have over 50 paddocks.

Creep grazing: Now we run one herd consisting of cows, calves, sheep, lambs, does, kids, a donkey, and five guardian dogs.  It’s rather entertaining to watch the herd dynamics. I have eleven permanent paddocks to control all animals and we run a high single polywire holding the cows back and allowing the calves, sheep, and goats to creep graze, and in winter creep hay.  This allows creeped animal’s access to more choice thereby increasing nutrition.  At other times, I run another low polywire which restricts calves and allowing sheep and goat to graze.  This is only necessary when sheep and goats need higher nutrition, such as at breeding or birthing time.  It’s also used to keep cows and calves out of sericea hay or high dollar sheep mineral.

Goats to Sheep:  Compared to cattle, goats are quite inexpensive, and improving genetics is more difficult when the initial cost of the animal is higher and the gestation period is longer.

Once you are fenced for goats you can run pretty much any species.  I monitor forage and pressure continuously for recovery needed to improve forage management.  So, I constantly adjust the number of cattle, sheep, and goats relative to what is best for the pasture and animals.    Goat numbers at Big Spring Farm fluctuated from 70 to 300 back down to 70, up to 130, and has now settled at around  50 does (Kiko/Spanish nannies).  My reasoning for the downsizing is that, even though the goats are extremely prolific and easy to keep, I found the goats compete with the sheep (Katahdin) for forage.  

In my experience, sheep compete more with cattle for forage but they are also more productive than goats and cattle and easier to handle. The bottom line for me is that adult ewes over one-year-old rarely need deworming, Katahdin sheep can be bred at 10 months of age and have lambs unassisted after just five months of gestation.  Sheep have a higher twining percentage of 1.7 lambs per ewe, whereas the goats only average 1.4 kids per doe. I’ve found that sheep typically don’t eat much hay till all the grazing is over, which is a good thing, but, be careful, they will overgraze if not rotated often.

Cattle to sheep:  I’ve been decreasing the cow herd since I’ve found sheep to be so much more productive per female.  I don’t know of any other animal that can wean more than their weight in 10 months.  Cattle are doing well if they wean 45% of their weight but sheep will wean 100% or more of their weight.  The sheep and goats naturally wean their lambs, which creates much less stress for me and the animals.  In the past, we had the most problems during weaning lambs and kids. Most of the issues have disappeared now that we allow them to self-wean, eliminating stress for us all.  If I was lambing more frequently  I would certainly need to wean to maintain ewe condition.   If I have one ewe that doesn’t maintain condition due to longer lactation I will likely cull her since she doesn’t fit the herd management.

Due to the stress involved, I am trying to not wean calves either but since cattle lactate longer it makes it much harder. We are selecting for natural weaning cows but still wanting to see the calf weigh at least 45% or more of the cow’s weight when it is ten months of age.

One group versus separate groups: Although I  have run the goats and sheep together without incident, I’ve resisted combining the sheep with the cattle due to the inconclusive information regarding the tolerance of Katahdin sheep to copper.  After visiting with several sheep producers who have fed beef mineral to Katahdin sheep for 5 years or more I decided to take the chance.  It is important to note that wool sheep seem to be more sensitive to copper toxicity than hair sheep.

One huge advantage of running separate groups is you can target graze certain plants.  However, the benefits of running one group far outweigh the advantage of target grazing.  Target grazing can still be done but you must consider the impact on other animals in the herd. Some call it a flerd; part flock, part herd. 

Longer rest periods for pasture (which reduces internal parasite load), being able to feed guardian dogs at one location, hay feeding in one location, more power on less fence,  less fence to check, higher stock density for shorter periods of time are all benefits of the flerd system.

Separate herds: In the past, I always maintained a “sell lot” for anything that was not performing up to the standard of the herd.  Since we don’t want any births occurring in mid-December through mid-February the rams and bucks are pulled July 24 through September 24. Bulls are just left in with the herd and I  pregnancy test in November or December and sell all cows not bred or bred out of sync with the group.  The target is a 60 day calving period.   Calves are kept till 24 months old and sold as grass-finished cattle. Heifers that don’t breed are still worth a premium as finished cattle.  

Watering Facilities: Water is the most important nutrient and is a major draw for the location of cattle.  Sheep and goats don’t tend to hang around water the same as cattle do.  The tendency is for the pasture around the water point to be overgrazed, partially due to allowing back grazing for more than 4 days. 

 I am a big believer in a pressurized water system so that you can place the water point where you want it and not be dependent on a good pond site, gravity flow,  spring flow, or limitations of ram pump, solar pump, etc.  The ideal spot for a water trough is based on rotation, forages, and lay of the land.  In general, I want the watering point to be located on a slight slope of 3% grade near the ridge top but mainly you want your to have water throughout the property so that no water point is overgrazed 

I have ball waters, ( Richie and Mirofount), tire troughs, open goat troughs, rubber maid portable troughs, and old protein tubes plumbed.  I prefer the Gallagher brass valve for open troughs.  I like the Mirofount more than the Richie for cattle due to the visibility of balls and the option to take off covers with plumbing still covered. However, the balls are harder to push down on the Miirafount.  Balls in either trough can be taken out.  Goats and sheep don’t have the power to push balls down like cattle.  The ball troughs are lower maintenance than other troughs but more expensive.  I mainly have tire troughs throughout the farm.  They’re great for big herds but I have lost several goat kids and lambs in the open troughs due to not having the water level high enough.  The water must be within 2” of the top.  You’ll need to place blocks in water deeper than 12”. 

Forage: In general I believe in managing the forage you have and not completely reseeding the entire pasture.  A good start is taking a soil test to know the status of soil fertility.  If fertilizer dollars are limited, apply lime and fertilizer to low testing soils first.  Also, consider the most potential is productions on the best soil types. Get a soil map from the USDA/NRCS office or www.websoilsurvey.com.  

When it comes to seeding mixtures, there are so many choices; cool and warm season, annuals and perennials, grasses, legumes, brassicas, and other forbs and browse.  Ultimately its good to have about 30% of the acreage in warm-season forage.  First evaluate if your stand of grass is adequate, for cools season grass you need a plant every 6” with 3 strong tillers.  If you don’t have this you will need to seed grass as well with a no-till drill or some tillage.  The easiest and cheapest way to upgrade the pasture is by adding legumes through frost seeding.  There are many advantages to having legumes: higher quality forage, provide nitrogen, lengthening of the growing season.  The negative aspects of legumes of over 35% are that it can create voids in a drought.  Although white clover is the cheapest, only costing 7-$10/ac to seed at 2 lb/ac  I would recommend seeding 4 to 7 lb of red clover/ac. On the most droughty land seed annual lespedeza 8 or more lbs per ac. Lespedeza has concentrated tannins in them and are natural dewormers.   Annual crabgrass is an annual that can fill these voids, providing warm-season forage. Crabgrass is a reseeding annual that is a savior but the negative side is it needs disturbance from tillage or high animal traffic at least once a year to maintain vibrancy.   Native grasses have great potential but they are slow to establish (approximately 2 years) and do not tolerate close grazing.  Bermudagrass is not preferred forage of goats but is excellent around heavy use areas such as corrals or water points.  Common bermudagrass spreads by seed, rhizomes, and stolons so it spreads more than hybrid types that very few viable seeds, making the hybrid types vegetatively preferable.   Another thing to consider in the evaluation of fields is certain plants that increase due to avoidance by livestock so they are left to reach their full expression and make seed while other plants decrease due to overgrazing and excessive use.  Putting pressure on plants you want to decrease especially when emerging and when they make seed are major tools to use to improve pastures while resting or allowing full recovery of plants you want to increase can bring change your pastures quickly.

Hay: Buying hay is always a good deal since the cost of making hay is so high.  The average cost of making hay is $80/ton.  Also when you bring hay onto your farm you are bringing in nutrients.  Each ton of hay, on average, contains 45 lb N, 12 lb P2O5, and 45 lb K2O or $50/ton in nutrients.  The key is getting those nutrients deposited by the livestock well distributed over the field.  When manure is deposited in the barn, rather than directly on the pastures, the expense of equipment, time, and fuel to load and spread the manure change the economics drastically.  Also, remember that when nutrients end up near water they can cause water quality issues.

Summary:  Every time I enter a field I evaluate the impacts and improvements of management and determine what is needed to improve the economics, environment, and community dynamics of the operation.  Mostly, working with nature is rewarding and humbling.

Monthly Browse Management For Goats

Monthly Browse Management For Goats

This is a timeless, indispensable resource that I put together a few years back for  NRCS and Gallahger Fence.

This calendar helps you to prioritize your  grazing and forage management tasks for goats.  With so many components within the wholistic management schedule, having all of this information in one place will help to ensure that your  key management tasks don’t take you by surprise or, even worst, get missed for another season.

Information on how to manage grazing within transition periods, stretch forage supplies, apply different seeding mixes to different situations, determine the best hay feeding strategy for your operation, and more can be found in this calendar.