WillowSedge Farm

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The Cows

We have a small herd of that includes black Angus, Angus x Hereford, and Red Poll crosses. Generally I run about 10 to 12 cow/calf pairs plus yearlings and a bull, for a total herd size of about 30 animals. I use an adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) managed grazing system. During the May through October grazing season, the cows are usually moved to a fresh paddock every day. This system keeps good forage in front of the cows at all times, returns their manure to the soil, and lets us raise some really excellent quality beef on grass.

Managed grazing is good for the soil. The cows eat what they need and trample the rest, which creates a mulch layer on the soil surface that captures rainwater, conserves moisture, prevents soil erosion or runoff of nutrients, and helps the new re-growth of grass and clover get a fast start. The trampled forage also breaks down and returns nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil, which feeds the life in the soil: bacteria, fungi, beetles, worms, and other tiny creatures that are essential to a health soil.

The cow herd remains out on pasture all winter. Hay bales are set out on the fields for winter feeding, a practice known as "outwintering." The hay that the cows trample breaks down and returns nutrients to the soil -- there is no waste in Nature! The cows deposit their manure in the area where they feed. This is a way to keep the fields productive. I rotate the feeding area to a different spot each year, and the previous year's feeding area becomes the area of the most lush growth of grass in the following year.

COVID-19 and drought in 2021 have caused industry-wide disruptions that have spilled over to my cattle operation. Calving schedules and butcher schedules are evolving. I'm working on different ideas around winter feeding options and extending the grazing season.

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