Published Dec 2, 2011

Stockpile Grazing in Northeast Iowa

By Kevin Dietzel

Ryan and Gene Herman welcomed 24 people to their farm in Allamakee County, Iowa on November 15th. The Hermans utilize Holistic Management principles to set goals for their farm and monitor their progress in achieving those goals.

Our first stop before heading out to pasture was the pen where the Hermans had three bulls they had just bought from Pharo Cattle Company. Unfortunately, it seems I did not get any photos of the bulls. The Hermans want to select bulls that will work well in their low-input system and will produce calves that finish easily on grass. This has meant small frame sizes, but Ryan brought up that some of the grass-fed beef companies are suggesting larger bulls recently. He also is concerned that with small cows, he may have to continue selecting smaller and smaller frame bulls to not have calving problems, because the small cows cannot handle a large calf. As with many producers, animal selection and genetics is a continuous learning process for the Hermans.

In the above photo, we can see the Hermans’ cow-calf herd in their current paddock, and the green stockpiled grass in the next paddock over. The Hermans have all perennial pastures on their farm, some of which were transitioned to pasture from cropland. Ryan says his preferred method of transitioning cropland to pasture is to have it in hay for a few years, and as the alfalfa is thinning out in the stand and grasses are filling in, he will start grazing it. The Hermans have almost no fescue on their farm (the grass that is most-often talked about as being good for stockpiled pasture), which is a definite advantage during most of the year when fescue toxicosis can be an issue.

The grass in the pasture we saw was mostly orchard grass.

Ryan uses a piece of PVC pipe stuck on a step-in post, with a notch in the top for the wire, to form a gate wherever he needs.

The Hermans’ cows have learned to go right under the fence when it is propped up in this fashion. This makes for very quick and easy paddock moves, which really helps if you are trying to do several moves a day, as the Hermans do.

The Hermans feed minerals free-choice using this moveable feeder with 19 different compartments for individual  types of minerals. They have noticed that the cattle change the minerals they eat depending on which pasture they are in. Ryan assumes this has to do with  deficiencies in the soil that are then also deficient in the forage. Using this system, the cows can balance their own nutritional needs.

There was so much more information talked about in the discussion at this great pasture walk. If you want to get in on the discussion next time, we will be having another pasture walk in Polk County at Bruce Carney’s this Saturday, December 3rd from 1 pm to 4 pm.