Land Management: Episode 1

August 24, 2019

This may look like a stream of hay bales (and it is), but to us it looks like winter security and money in the bank (or maybe out, depending on how you want to look at it) .

When it comes to sustainable farming, managing livestock is only one part of the picture. And probably the easy part. Managing the land is really where the work, planning, and knowledge comes in.

Though we’d like to feed fresh grass all year, in northern Illinois that’s not necessarily possible (but, we are trying!). Most livestock farmers feed hay throughout the year - even in spring, summer, and fall. Why?

Because it takes work, and well land, to manage land. After a certain height of munching, grass and forage do not grow back as steadily, and you end up with what Isaiah calls carpet - grass that resembles a regular 1 inch mowed suburban yard or worse, even shorter, a “carpet.” That simply is not enough for “grassfed” livestock to eat, let alone eat throughout the year.

A method that concerned sustainable farmers employ is called rotational grazing. That means allowing the animals to graze a smaller, intensified area of forage for just a short time, then moving them to the next area. This ensures that the area does not become overgrazed or too trampled before it’s given months or a year to rest between grazing. That means moving the livestock often, usually once a day, and fencing off “paddock” areas.

Planning is really how this can happen successfully. Livestock should ideally eat forage at its peak while staying away from already eaten and shorter forage. This means moving the livestock only where the forage is ready to graze.

Though we’d rather not feed any “hay",” which is dried forage, during the winter, we know it is smart to keep the pastures at peak grazed amount preparing them for next spring.

Danielle Olson Jones

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