Apropos the many variations of ‘right’ when it comes to intensive grazing, our attendance at the April pasture walk hosted by that gem of local farm institutions, the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council, which reminded us that farming decisions are as fluid as farming conditions, and just as experience alters our methods, alterations in pasture and weather add to our experience.
Two years ago, the phrase we took away from the April pasture walk (phrases are easier to remember than formulas for ‘dry matter conversion’ and things like that) was ‘no hard lines’, meaning that in the first spring pass over the farm, paddocks should be so large that there is no distinct line between grazed and ungrazed areas. Implementing this gave good results last year, when our first quick pass left plenty of leaf matter to continue the work of photosynthesis and to keep the soil shaded and cool, conserving moisture and postponing dormancy of pasture plants. Consequently our second pass found us in good shape going into the summer grazing.
This year we’ve applied the same principles under altered circumstances of weather and winter impact, again with good results (so far); but Thursday night we heard from some of our variously-experienced local grass farmers that they are using the cool, wet conditions prevailing in this prematurely early spring to hit their pastures fairly hard, even on the first pass, grazing to even as close as two inches. The idea is to get all they can out of the pasture early, depending on generous regrowth to keep plants vegetative into June or beyond. As we have observed before, methods alter pastures, and altered pastures result in new methods.
You’re not done learning until you’re dead.