Cattle grazing my best hay field, September 24, 2009.

In my post, “2009 New Hay Seeding,” I promised summer yield statistics. When the cattle finish grazing the hay field pictured, every hay field will have been harvested or grazed three times. Here are the statistics.

All the hay was baled in 1500 lb. round bales. Estimated moisture content is 15%.

1st cutting: 120.4 acres, 341 bales, 511,500 lbs., 4,248 lbs./acre.

2nd cutting: 82.1 acres, 127 bales, 190,500 lbs., 2,320 lbs./acre.

3rd cutting: 61.3 acres, 68 bales, 102,000 lbs., 1,664 lbs./acre.

Total: 88 average acres, 536 bales, 804,000 lbs., 9,136 lbs./acre.

The reason the number of acres declines from one cutting to the next is because I start grazing selected hay fields with the cattle instead of harvesting them by machine. I do this to help mitigate the summer slump in pasture growth and keep my cattle gaining well.

I graze fields which are self-contained, (no corn strips as cattle are hard to keep out of corn fields). And prefer fields which are difficult to access with manure. Without manure, fields decline in fertility. Grazing, instead of machine harvesting and feeding elsewhere, keeps more of the soil’s fertility in place.

Hay fields were grazed with the mob of 134 cows and 134 calves and 5 herd bulls. Here are the grazing statistics:

1st grazing: 38.3 acres, 10 days, 3.83 acres/day.

2nd grazing: 59.1 acres, 15 days, 3.94 acres/day.

1st grazing corresponds to 2nd cutting and 2nd grazing corresponds to 3rd cutting. So if I take the average yield for 2nd and 3rd cutting and multiply by the number of acres grazed/day, I find the equivalent amount of forage the mob was eating.

1st grazing: 3.83 acres x 2,320 lbs. = 8,885 lbs./day.

2nd grazing: 3.94 acres x 1,664 lbs. =6,556 lbs./day.

I’ll have to do more “cipherin” to figure if it’s more economical to hay or graze. I do most of my heavy thinkin’ in the winter and will have an updated post for you then. I’ll tell you one thing. I prefer to graze 2nd and 3rd cutting and oftentimes that is how farmers make decisions.

Below is a close-up picture of the field pictured above. It is 1st year hay with what I consider the ideal mix of grass to hay. My recipe was 10 lbs. alfalfa, 2lbs. Climax Timothy, and 4 lbs. Baraula Orchardgrass from Barenbrug Seeds. Baraula is the latest maturing Orchardgrass I have ever used and I will be planting more of it next year. This field yielded tremendously and makes me think about the potential for my farm. Here are the statistics:

1st cutting: 12.1 acres, 61 bales, 91,500 lbs., 7,500 lbs./acre, 77% better than the average.

2nd cutting: 12.1 acres, 29 bales, 43,500 lbs., 3,595 lbs./acre, 55% better than the average.

As shown, it is being grazed now. I was late getting the mob to this field so it will not be grazed anymore this year. Most of the other hay fields will be grazed by the cattle in October/November after a killing frost but before the snow flies.