The Other “Worm Casting”
There is an old saying, “grease is cheaper than parts.” I’m going to add mine to that, and say that leveling out molehills is easier with a drag or harrow than with a haybine. Kind of a stitch in time, saves nine sort of adage. There is no method of farming alive that doesn’t keep some of the old ways, and blend them with the new ideas, or the latest way of thinking. Currently, the rage is ruminants can save the world, thanks to the internet making folks like Allan Savory available by video to the general public. I happen to agree that grazing ruminants (in my case cattle) makes the land better. But there is no redemption or repair without disturbance, and depending on how you view disturbance it may be by high density, short duration bursts of grazing which we do, or it may be by iron plow if you’re into market gardening. Here it is a blend of old and new methods, one size fits all just doesn’t work once you get step away from the worksheet. As much as I would like to, there is no getting out of making hay on our farm. I prefer not to buy hay, so we raise our own. I see making hay as a way to vary our stocking rate without selling cattle off to match the grass growth. We do vary our stocking rate by harvesting our meat animals during the early summer when the grass is at it’s best, and the meat the most nutritious. But, I’m not in the cattle selling and buying business, I’m in the “make my farm land better” business. It would be easy to not get attached to my cattle and just buy and sell as the grass waxes and wanes, and save myself a lot of work, but I’ll leave that to other folks. So to that end, we have to manage our pastures and hay ground for what they are. We do mix it up a bit, but for the most part, our flattest (read easiest to make hay on) fields always end up getting some hay cut each year. It varies from year to year, but basically we drop certain paddocks out of the grazing rotation and make hay on them.
As long as I can remember, dragging the fields during spring vacation has been my job. Part of that came from me being out of school for a week, and that’s a job a kid can do, and the other part is that timed out about right for winter feeding being about over, and manure and molehills needing spread out before grass growth began in earnest. Two things to remember: 1) I’m old enough that spring vacation meant a week out of school, not taking a vacation somewhere exotic. 2) We fed our cows outside in the pasture and there was some accumulation of spoiled hay and manure, not to mention rough ground that could use some leveling off.
Since our pastures are not lawns, and we are looking for diversity, we see the molehills as a boon and boost for fertility. The moles are a sign that we have a lot of worms present, and the moles are doing their thing. In the process of finding worms and grubs to eat, they are mining out and bringing to the surface some might mineral rich dirt. Killing moles is about like killing slugs, you either have to live with them or die trying to eradicate them. I’ve seen folks pretty successful with 16-16-16 fertilizer, burns the worms, sets back the clover, and makes the moles clear out due to lack of food. But I would rather have the moles than the monocrop pasture or the fertilizer bill.
I no longer drag all the fields, and we feed inside mostly during the winters these days, so on the fields marked for hay, I’ll drag down the molehills so they don’t get sodded over and make a rough field. In the pastures that will only be grazed, I don’t worry about the molehills, the cows have been more than happy to use them to rub on, and if they don’t rub them level, they surely tromp them flat in the mob stocked paddocks throughout the summer.