Skip to content

August is Reckoning Month

August 24, 2014

“Most ranchers love their cattle, and hate their grass – it should be the opposite.”  Bud Williams

No truer words were ever spoken.  Been there, done that.  We used to be scrambling for pasture in August.  “What’s the matter with that grass?”   “It won’t grow!”  “The cows are eating me out of house and home, ’cause of that darn grass.”

It’s expected you know, to run out of grass in August in Western Oregon.  Why?  Because we enjoy our Mediterranean-like climate.  Long, dry summers are wonderful, except for pasture.  Whose got time to manage pasture, we’re busy.  Gardening, farming (you know the real kind of farming not grass farming) vacationing, and any other summertime activities you can think of keep us from managing our grass for the expected summertime slump.

August 14, 2014

August 14, 2014

Reckoning month?  August or even late July is the time to really assess your pasture and your stocking rate.  Do you have any grass right now?  Any stockpiled forage for fall to allow you to shepherd your fall green-up if it materializes?  Basically, can I keep the stock I have right now on what is growing on my land?  Do I have to feed hay?   August is really a good month to jump in with both feet and buy some cows…if you have grass.  Usually though we all operate with our hearts instead of our heads (see quote above) and buy cows when we want them, or in the spring when the tall grass is a bother.  Or we keep cows when we can’t “afford” to keep them, putting the cows before the grass.  Bud Williams had it so right.  If you pay attention to your grass, and I mean really take care it, the cows will ultimately benefit.  But the grass has to come first.  He didn’t really mean to hate your cows, but I think you get his drift, Bud loved cattle.  Stockmanship guru he was.

Everybody has a different bottom line to adhere to.  Mine is keeping only the number of cows I can support here on this farm, without inputs except minerals, fuel and twine for hay making, and a little bit of grain for the house cow.  Yours may be different.  We vary our stocking rate to match the grass, by harvesting meat animals before the grass starts to wane.  In my neck of the woods July is when you really see the faucet shut off and the grass growth slows considerably.  I start pulling off meat animals in June, the grass is mature and sweet, unlike early spring or fall lush which is too washy and high protein and lends a gnarly taste to the meat.  This year I’ve done another round of culling and got rid of some cattle that didn’t fit, and turned them into cash to help out the cows and calves that do fit.  Why?  It’s a dry year despite the newspaper saying Portland isn’t’ in a drought.  When you receive the rain is as important as how much rain you receive.  My rule of thumb is when it’s dry enough that I can work my garden soil early, I can expect the grass to be suffering.  I did get out on the garden early, and the grass has suffered.

August 21, 2014

August 21, 2014

However, with a sound grazing plan in motion, I am seeing green ahead of the cows and behind, with grass greening up two days behind the cows.  I’ve taken pictures of the August rotation each week, and I’m putting together a crude map or two to better explain my strategy, but the garden and two little calves are beckoning.  More in a couple of days how I am loving my grass so I can properly love my cows.




17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2014 12:38 pm

    My dear, how clever and sound you speak and explain your decisions. Thank you. I wonder what would be your comment on The Guardian discussion on George Monbiot article on Alan Savory. Please follow the link:
    Best regards. Sandra

    • August 24, 2014 3:26 pm

      Sandra, I can’t fault Savory since we have seen a huge difference on our land since adopting some of his ideas. As for Monbiot, he believes it all to be hogwash, and you’d never convince him otherwise. And so it goes, a fella called me the other day and asked me for some help with some of his livestock…the conversation fell to grass, and he ended up telling me that our good pasture was none of my doing, it just was. Okay…sorry that’s not so, but convincing him otherwise would take time away from me that I want to use thinking about growing more grass. I’m uncomfortable with in-your-face activism, I prefer people who actually are doing something to make a change rather than just bitch about ______ . Will correct grazing correct world problems? No. Can it help? Yes.

      • August 25, 2014 12:51 pm

        Thank you for you comment on the article. I agree that making every little step in the right direction makes things better, at least doesn’t make them worse. But your work and the resulting grass on pastures as PamR. pictures (a few comments down) speak louder than newspaper debates. Keep up the good work!! Too bad I’m too far from you (in Croatia, Europe), so I cannot buy any meat from your farm.

    • CassieOz permalink
      August 24, 2014 4:16 pm

      George Monbiot is a dogmatist. The push towards ‘vegetarians will save the world’ and ‘kill all the capitalist industrial b*st*rds’ has been the creed for a long time and one on which his notoriety is based. How could you expect that anything challenging the view on which he has based his career would not be tossed aside and ridiculed?

  2. August 24, 2014 3:23 pm

    This year, we added a single Jersey calf to our regular crowd of two ponies and small herd of Nubian goats(4-10 individuals, depending on time of year). I have about three and half acres of fenced pasture, divided into three sections plus a sacrifice area for winter. It was perfect for ponies and goats – adding a single cow has been almost too much. My main pasture has grass, still, but the two smaller pastures are eaten down and I won’t be able to use them again this year. When the main pasture is done, probably in another month, unless we get a really good fall green-up, I will have to start feeding hay.

    I usually make it through the winter on 50-60 bales of local grass hay (not from my own land, from a neighbor) and that’s what I have in the barn. I don’t know how much the Jersey is going to add to that. I’ve never had a cow before. I didn’t want a cow at all! I have goats for milk, but somebody gave this one to my husband and he brought her home without consulting me. She had an injury to her hind leg and she can’t be bred, so we are just growing her for meat. So it isn’t a long term problem, but I know that even a year of overgrazing can take several years to heal.

  3. CassieOz permalink
    August 24, 2014 4:17 pm

    Love those jars of ghee on your masthead!

  4. August 24, 2014 4:27 pm

    We are Grass Gardeners. Of course the fields are full of more than grass. But Grass Gardeners sounds just right. c

  5. August 24, 2014 4:32 pm

    I reckon I’m not a very good farmer, lol. But I’m learning. I finally dipped my toe into the chicken waters and am totally blown away at what they do for grass. Big ideas for next year…

  6. August 24, 2014 7:01 pm

    It’s been a great year for the garden here – LOTS of sunshine. Alas – very hard on the grass – so little rain the ground is as hardpan as it can get and full of cracks. We have been feeding hay all spring and summer…..the milk cow gets the best squares every day, the drafts get the marginal round bales and thrive on that. We also opened up about four acres of bush to the horses – gives the fields a break – and they’re happy to trim the undergrowth.
    Rain – and lots of it, would be nice.

  7. August 25, 2014 2:01 am

    We got down to 6.5 cows in late June. This is the perfect size for us. We’re in Western Mass and have had lots of rain this year, every 2 – 3 days, and it’s been cool, mostly 70’s – 80’s. The grass got ahead of the cows as they were nearly a month late arriving. But they’ve caught up, and we will have grass well into November, maybe December.

    I posted before and after photos of the 10 acre piece we leased:

    In just 3 years, no lime, no fertilizer, no seed, just cows moved properly. The clover in there was thigh high:

    It still has a long ways to go, there’s a lot of ferns and swamp grass, but the cows will see to that. It really does work, you just have to pay attention and put the time in.

  8. August 25, 2014 10:36 am

    Love reading this. I’m leasing my pasture to a fella with beef and I am very interested in watching the pasture changes. It had been overgrazed when we got it. It rested for about a year then we added the yearlings late (June). This has been a good grass year here in W. Nebraska so there has been lots for the three to eat. We are looking at adding a few more pairs as he has to move them off the other pasture he has. From the looks of the late season grasses I’m not too worried about adding them. Especially since most if not all will come off around October/November. We shall see. It is all an experiment all both ends of this deal as he is interested in having his beef be 100% grass-fed and I’m interested in maintaining my pasture. So far a good match.

  9. August 26, 2014 8:33 am

    Those were tame pictures for a post about love in the grass.

    So…you are saying you have cattle because you love grass? Not that you have cattle so you don’t have to mow? Your neighbors must think you are weird. Can’t wait for the rotation post.

    • August 26, 2014 8:55 am

      No, I think I mean I used to just have cows and the grass was an afterthought. Cows were gone all summer in the woods while we spent all summer making way too much hay for the fall and winter. We only would quit feeding hay in the spring when the grass finally could get ahead of the cows and they stopped eating hay. Stupid. That’s a lot of materials handling. Much easier to pound in a few posts, string some wire and open the gate. Pesky blog, it doesn’t know how much work I need to get done in the kitchen.

  10. August 26, 2014 11:17 am

    Not that you needed any academic endorsements of your methods, but here you are anyway 🙂

  11. September 13, 2014 8:57 am

    Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms ( describes himself as a “grass farmer” even though he raises chickens, pigs and cattle. He has a very interesting story regarding how he has built up his rundown farm into one that is lush and thriving, and he has a brilliant rotation plan for his grass fields. You might enjoy reading more about how he does it. Reading about Polyface Farms is what first started moving me from being a “city girl” towards wanting a farm of my own some day.

    Love your blog – I just came across it in the random way of wandering the internet. What REALLY happens when seed meets soil is always of interest to me!

  12. September 13, 2014 8:58 am

    Okay, now I have to giggle…I posted this comment and then saw the Joel Salatin quotes at the top of the page! Sorry…singing to the choir….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: