Most rules are really generalities. Nature loves variation.
When we turn the dry cows (for convenience this includes steers and heifers) into their next 24-hour paddock, they surge forward and start getting theirs, but they don’t all go for the same stuff. Some head straight for the orchard grass seed heads, plucking them off like apostles on a sabbath; others hurry to be the first to browse black locust seedlings. The older, more mature cattle, who may know a little something, make straight for the hemp dogbane (about which, more in a later post), and they’ll be there as long as there are any leaves left to browse.
The lactating cows are on the front pastures, where there is more clover, and where they are more convenient to the shed for milking. These paddocks tend to be much more weed-free than those out back. Interesting: as they are brought up for milking, which may mean crossing Little Church Road, or taking the long lane up from the tire tank, they pass over compacted soil (sorry, can’t help it, these are much-traveled) where broad-leaf plantain abounds. In the verge of the lane, where the grass is mowed often for appearances’ sake, wild carrot, which will be called Queen Anne’s lace in its second year when it flowers, grows thick and lacy. The cows are mad for both of these. Although they have just spent ten to twelve hours on lush pasture, they snatch mouthfuls as fast as they can, and if they are allowed to do so, they will just settle down and graze, forgetting the barn and the bucket until they have gotten all there is to get. If they are lucky enough to find some hemp dogbane, it’s a goner. All this on top of twelve hours of grass and clover.
We don’t have the perfect, weed-free pasture of legumes mixed with cool and warm season grasses, but the cows seem to get along fine, and maybe even finer than they would on that perfect pasture.