Once More Time…….with feeling!

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This is the 3rd time this year we have pulled the plastic and tires off of the silage pit!  Thankfully, it will be the last until we start feeding in the winter.

We put in 70 loads of alfalfa/grass into the pit at the end of June, then 140 loads of Oats/Peas/ Barley/Triticale in the end of July/beginning of August, and now another 100 loads of corn.  As explained in a previous blog about silage in ‘Whef!! We made it’ and ‘Silaging’; to ensile, the feed needs to be without oxygen.  So the feed cannot be left for more than a couple days without either adding more feed on top, or covering the feed and starting the ensiling process.  So, because each of these times we put up feed was farther apart than a couple weeks, we had to cover it to keep from molding and loosing quality.  Thus why I say, “One more time with feeling!”  because when we make new feed, we have to roll back the cover and pull off all the tires again!!  It is a lot of work, and we are looking forward to not doing it again this year!!!

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You may wonder why ranchers utilize many different crop and field options.  Variety is the spice of life, and there are many pro’s and con’s to the different crops.

Alfalfa/Grass:

-Only needs to be reseeded every 5 to 10 years.

-Alfalfa fixes (makes) nitrogen in the soil, so does not need as much fertilizer.

-Depending on area, grows 2 to 4 crops per season.

-Really loves heat and water.

-An awesome season in our area would yield you appx. 7 tons of dry matter per acre, 1st cut – 4 tons, 2nd – 2 tons, 3rd – 1.  But this takes a lot of water and requires you to run over the field 3 times with equipment.

-A Disadvantage is that it can ‘winter kill’ if you feed cattle on it in the winter, and you need to keep it watered well through the growing season and into the fall.  On our ranch, many of our creeks are seasonal and we do not have ample irrigation water into the fall.

Oats/Barley/Peas/Triticale:

-Grows a high volume in one cut.

-Short season, 60-90 days from seeding to harvest.

-Grows well on heavily manured land, like calving grounds.

-Is an annual crop which we plant every spring so we do not have to worry about it dying in the winter.

-Peas also fix nitrogen.

-An awesome crop will yield you appx. 6 tons of dry matter per acre, and requires only one pass with equipment.

-Disadvantages are that you have to plant it every year and it does not provide as much fall grazing.

Corn:

-Grows an even higher volume in one cut.  A large feed volume can be produced on small acreage.

-Annual crop, have to plant every spring, with a slightly longer growing season of 180 days.

-Needs regular water all season long.  We have grown corn and watered it with a big gun, but now would not grow it without our center pivot irrigation system. (too much work/labour)

-An awesome crop will yield you appx. 9 tons of dry matter per acre, and requires only one pass with equipment, although it is strictly a silage crop, or grazing.

-Corn is a high nitrogen user, needs a lot of manure or chemical fertilizer.

-Corn is planted in rows which are spaced 30 inches, this means until the crop grows tall enough to compete, the weeds have to be kept down with chemical.

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All these different types of feed, layered on top of each other will make a very nice feed ration for our cattle.  Each having its own highlight in protein, carbs, etc.  Just like people, our cows seem to enjoy a variety in their diet!

I found the root system of corn very interesting!  Here is a picture of one, the very top of the little tentacle-roots are seen out of the ground.

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The 1st picture below is what our Oats/Barley/Peas/Triticale silage looks like (green), the next 2 pictures is what the corn silage looks like (almost like sawdust!), although even they would be the same moisture levels.

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~Erika Fossen~

 

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9 thoughts on “Once More Time…….with feeling!

  1. Will says:

    Great Post Erica. You have a knack for explaining stuff for the non-Ag aware Reader. We did the Bunker Silo gig back in the 50’s/50’s, I liked the lay-up, vs throwing bales around, but hated ‘my’ delegated job in the mid-Winter – having to shave/crumble the frozen face of the wall so animals could eat it, lol. When I go to a smorgasborg, (sp?), I pig out on what I like – with your layering compilation, how do you address the issue of a cow taking too much rich protein over filler and potential bloat? Like the logging truck headache rack on the truck and the tridem trailer, you Guys sure have a lot of dinero tied up in equipment. 🙂 Will.

    • 2erikas says:

      That is awesome that you too had a ‘not so great delegated job’!!! Awesome questions about the feed! When we are appx. half way through the winter feeding and we are well into our pit, we pull off about a foot (depth) of the wall of the pit a day. At this time, the middle point our pit would be about 18 feet high, the bottom 6 feet being alfalfa/grass, the middle 6 feet: grain and the top 6 feet: corn. With the tractor and front-end loader we load a foot of the front face of silage into our feed wagon. Then the feed wagon mixes it up as it feeds it out, thus giving an even feed combination. The alfalfa, grain and corn silage all gets mixed together and put into a pile (about the size of a big dog house) on the snow/ground. We also will mix in rolled barley when the cows start milking their calves.
      And now onto the tridem trailer, thankfully we do not have dinero tied up in that! We hired our neighbour to help us haul our corn home as it is a longer haul. This keeps the silage chopper from having to wait, because my truck can fit in 1 load and the hired rig can fit in 2. (He is also a logger, as you can see by his truck!) Great chatting with you Will! I will blog about the ‘face’ of the silage pit in the winter and post pictures about what I am trying to explain above 🙂

      • Will says:

        Hey Erika – with a ‘K’, lol, (I have a Cousin Erica, with. ‘C’, sorry) – just so you know I know, I hope you are getting the recognition you deserve for doing this blogging enterprise. Given your Ranch Mom has to ‘mother’ 3 girls, multiple dogs and cats, Husband, assorted pets, school and 4-H projects, grocery shop, prepare meals, pack lunches, delegate and organize lawn and veggy garden maintenance, solve teenage angst issues, and then, cowgirl-up and move cattle, switch to Trucker mode and gear-jam a tandem truck across gopher-hole corrugated crop fields, and at the end of the day, remember you’re a Wife, and, oh yeah, there’s that Blog…and oh, I’m so bagged, and now there’re all those comments I have to acknowledge. So hat off to you Lady, I thank you for your effort, and your time. I am not worthy, but very grateful. Will

  2. Lavinia Ross says:

    I enjoy these educational posts!

  3. Will says:

    Hey Erika, at the risk of making a pest of myself – you did say in one post you like getting questions 🙂 – two things I keep forgetting to ask. Are you two Grullos related, or did you intentionally go looking for another? I see Erika Strande also rides a Dun…is there a story behind the scenes going on there? And, in an old post about crossbreeding for hybrid offspring, etc., you mentioned the intention of introducing Simmentals. Were you planning to buy a bunch of Simmental cows, or just use a Simmental Bull? I mention this because there were a lot of calving issues back in the ’70s/’80s with Hereford cows having difficulty berthing the bigger Simmental calves. I’m sure you Pros know about that so what was your strategy gonna be on that front?
    Thanks for taking the time to answer all these pesky queries. To use a word a certain Erika seems to use a lot, I think that’s “awesome”!! 🙂 Will

    • 2erikas says:

      Yes, our 2 Grullas are 3/4 brothers: same sire and their dams are full sisters.
      Erika Stande usually rides a red bay roan on her ranch. When she comes for a visit, cuz we live far away, she rides one of our horses. So the pictures where she was on a red dun and a grulla, are our horses.
      We are considering buying a Simmental Bull, or Simmy Cross. Yes, we would carefully select the correct bull for frame size and birth weight. Not really that Hereford cows have difficulty w/ Simmy bulls just because we would pick something that would be moderate and fit our program. Simmental have changed from the 70’s of big, framey, boney, hard calvers. Our main concern right now is wether our cow herd is consistent enough to add that 3rd breed yet. And then wether we find the right bull breeder.
      🙂 Erika

  4. Nina says:

    Oh man! I’m looking to get out of the city and really want to homestead/farm. I understand it’s a lot of work but I’m worn out just reading everything you’ve accomplished and actually had a chance to blog about. You don’t find hard work and dedication like this just anywhere these days!!

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