Thursday, May 9, 2013

Week 22 (February 11, 2013)

These are some no-till drills (on display at Pheasant Fest) that work well for planting native grasses when restoring
conservation lands as well as conservation tillage for planting ag. crops and cover crops.
I am trying to find one to rent, that I can pull behind a 4-wheeler.

This week started with a midterm exam in the Grass Based Livestock Class on Thursday.  The test included everything up through last weeks ruminant anatomy lecture.  The week actually started with a study session on Wednesday night at one of our classmates apartment.

After the midterm and our usual potluck lunch the topic was "Grazing Warm Season Natives".  The advantage to having some pasture with warm season natives is that they thrive in the warm hot, dog days of summer.  This gives you an option to deal with the summer slump.  During the summer slump cool season grasses stop growing because of the heat.  One way of encouraging warm season grasses in a pasture is to manage your grazing to suppress cool season grasses and promote warm season grasses.  This is done by grazing the pasture in the spring when the cool season grasses are getting started.  Then pulling stock from the pasture when the warm season grasses begin to emerge.  Then once the warm season grasses reach about 12 to 14 inches tall (for big bluesteam, indian grass and switch grass) you can graze them to a residual height of 6 to 8 inches.  Terminate warm season grass grazing by about August 4 (in the Fergus Falls area) to allow root reserves for replenish.  This time period coincides with summer slump.  Warm season grass grazing can start again after the first killing frost.

We also discussed the concept of using a "Sacrificial Paddock".  This is a designated paddock to have high animal impact for a specific period in order to protect the remaining pasture acreage.  One might use a sacrificial paddock when it is very wet on most other pastures, or during a drought when nothing is growing.  you need the ability to feed stored forages on the sacrificial pasture.  A good area to select is one that needs improvement anyways, and would benefit from increased fertilizer (manure).

The next item covered was a comparison of MIG (Management Intensive Grazing) to High Density (HD) or MOB Grazing.  Although these methods appear similar they have different desired outcomes.  In MIG grazing the goal is to keep forage int he vegetative growth state.  Providing high quality high protein forage for high performance stock like young stock.  The focus of HD grazing is building soil health and thereby improving sward health and diversity.  In general with HD grazing you end up trampling more forage than is eaten.  This trampled forage then adds organic matter to the soil, feeding soil microbes, increasing organics, tilth and moisture holding capacity of the soil which ultimately results in better forage.

The final portion of class was spent watching a video about a guys failed organic dairy farm and the lessons he learned from the experienced.  Those lessons are summarized below.
Lesson #1:  Match business goals to available resources.  (His goal of an organic dairy farm was not really supported by the resources available).
Lesson #2:  Match enterprises to who you are.  (In the end he found out he really was not a cow guy).
Lesson #3:  Do not under estimate workload nor over estimate income (production).
Lesson #4:  Farming is a business.  You need to make a profit most of the time.  (stress that you need to make a profit first then move toward your goals, say of having an organic dairy).

In Sociology of Food and Agriculture Class we started with a quiz on seed identification, as we do every week.  With a new seed added each week. These are the seeds on this weeks list along with my tells that helped me keep them straight.

  1. Corn (No. 2 Dent).
  2. Wheat (no husk)
  3. Rye (no husk)
  4. Oats (has husk, bigger, longer and thinner than barley)
  5. Barley (smaller, plumper than oats)
  6. Wild Rice (you should know this if you are from Minnesota)
  7. Alfalfa (small roundish seed, colorful)
  8. Flax (flat, small seed, slippery, gold or brown color).
Once the seed quiz was completed the lecture/discussion was on this weeks reading assignment "Chapter 4 - Malnutrition; from Carolan "The Sociology of Food and Agriculture".  The key topics identified for the chapter are:
  • Famines are really a reflection of a distribution problem, rather than the result of there being insufficient food int he world.
  • Global food insecurity cannot be eradicated simply with more technology, higher yielding varieties and greater use of inputs.  Food insecurity and malnutrition is fundamentally a product of bad policy.  (Here is something to think about, sort of a law of unintended consequences.  When the US and other developed nations send actual food as aid, the sudden flood of cheap / free food can have the result of depressing the price that local farmers can get for their products.  (In developing nations 80% of the population makes their living from agriculture related enterprises)  This ends up putting them out of business.  They then cannot pay taxes, which in-turn pays for government services, and transportation infrastructure for food and business.  This lack of infrastructure reduces the attractiveness of the country for foreign investment, which results in fewer jobs etc...).
  • The final key topic talked about the so-called global obesity epidemic being the product of an array of social, environmental and political variables.  (This was also very eye-opening, but you will need to read the book to find out more).
Finally in Farm Marketing and Management Class we got into whole farm planning: "Enterprise Budgets, identifying Industry Trends and Changing Marketing Conditions.  An enterprise budget is an estimate of the costs and returns to produce a product and only those costs and returns specific to that product.  You use the enterprise budget to help evaluate if the enterprise (new business product) makes sense to pursue.  You can also use the budget to track the success of that enterprise, seeing if it is as profitable as estimated, to help you determine if you should continue producing and selling it.  We also covered Image Promotion (branding) and product promotion, how to tailor your message to your customer.  We finished up with work on "Marketing Materials" and what makes for good marketing materials:
  • The marketing materials should match your image and customer expectations;
  • Marketing materials need to have your contact information on them.  (You need to make sure you respond promptly to any and all inquiries);
  • Marketing materials should have a call to action.  (i.e. buy this product now by calling....);
  • Marketing materials should be more visual than wordy;
  • Marketing materials should be consistent from one promotion to the next.
Finally I finished the week out on Saturday by going to the Pheasants Forever "Pheasant Fest" at the Minneapolis Convention Center with my Son.  There we attended seminars on planting food plots (which cover crops work really well for) and also had an opportunity to look at a lot of different dog breeds.  We are currently in the market for a good hunting dog since our dog Roxy passed away last spring.  Feel free to send me your recommendations.  We like to pheasant hunt, grouse hunt and duck hunt.

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