Last weekend’s storm sprinkled, dumped and poured a good two inches of rain on the already-lush fields. The cover crop is calf-high, and this last rain, combined with warming temperatures, should help it shoot up to thigh height over the next six weeks or so.
Pastureland constitutes the majority of our acreage, and there too the grass is thick and bright green. In some places it is knee-high already. There are twenty Angus cows and a few calves here, ready to pounce on the green grass. (can you imagine a cow pouncing? Me neither.) Twenty more cows, replacement heifers for a dairy operation, will arrive this week too. Together they will begin a speedy rotation around the ranch so they can eat the grass down, but not so far that its growth is compromised. We hope to get a second and even a third rotation this season before the dry season really kicks in and the cows must go back to eating hay. So far, we don’t own any livestock besides a few chickens. But this plan represents an important mutual benefit for us and the cattle owners. They need grass and space. We need management for our pasture: not only is keeping the grass down important for fire prevention, but the presence of grazers on the land (moving densely in large packs, just like natural herds) actually improves the pasture, ecologically and functionally. You can see the difference since the first cattle arrived at our place last June. The grass appears more green and lush, partly because of their manure, and partly because there is no thatch (standing dead grass) covering this season’s growth.
Although vegetables are my first agricultural love, this land obviously lends itself to other uses. Grazing is the most obvious. Our long-term plan involves incorporating grazing animals, pastured laying hens, and perennial and tree crops. The challenge will be creating these systems in a way that does not put us on the frantic treadmill of constantly trying to do too much.