Kathy Lewis wrote;
For instance we are interested in shortening the hay feeding season with brassicas, small grain grazing, etc. I am curious how those of you who plant these get it done..... especially for finishing lambs. Do you own tractors, discs, harrows, seed drills, etc? Do you have a neighbor or a custom farmer you can hire to come in and do the work? How far do they have to transport their equipment? Do you live in an area where almost everyone has farming equipment? Is there any way to do this without equipment?
Hi Kathy, I have 30 - 50 yr equipment that was sitting around when the family dairy was terminated in the early 90's. 65 hp tractor, disc, harrow and cultipacker. I think all of it but the tractor was given to us by row cropping neighbors that had upgraded many years earlier. All but the tractor would be valued only as scrap if it were sold at auction today. I don't mind tinkering with old equipment. I also have access to a modern no-till drill that I occasionally lease but frankly I am not all that impressed with the results. One year when the tractor was down I got a great 10 ac turnip crop in (in one day) with a 3/4 T 2wd suburban with snow chains on, a very old pull type disc and a hand crank broadcast seeder. It rain hard that night and I was very pleased - fed the flock for several months that winter.
I have gotten good crops with little or no tillage BUT I had the field burned down with herbicide 3 weeks prior and no rain or re-germination between spraying and planting. Timing is everything when cutting corners like this but the forecast was showing 100% chance for storms that night and brassica seed is very cheap. If it had failed - I would just do it again more thoroughly at a later date.
I would love to hear more about what you have to work with, equipment, soil type, nature of rains you get, access to spraying contractors etc. as well as what you would like to plant and when. I might be able to offer some suggestions.
Also important for me is how one crop dovetails in with the overall farm management plan and subsequent annual crops . For example I have almost completely eliminated the cost of having to mow pastures to control weeds / tree sprouts since I started with the annuals. By strip grazing such a high volume of such high quality feed with the manure perfectly distributed - the soil is really improving. The whole system gets better and better each year. At this point I am getting great crops of things like clover and annual reygrass, sometimes even cereals & brassicas without any tillage, trampling it in as the strip grazing is taking out the previous crop, very little fertilizer for the best paddocks at this point.
Formally I thought of soil like a bank account with a limited $ in it, constantly being drained. Now I see it more like a continually burning bonfire where ruminant animal activity stokes the fire proportionally to how much the animals are getting out of it by increasing the nutrient cycling rate (bio-activity of the soil goes exponential) . Seems too good too be true and I did not plan it this way - just seems to be what is happening. Aside from the spraying I am getting very close to organic. The spray could be eliminated with a few thousand $ investment toward a used Howard rotovator which I hope to get at some point.
Hope this helps and I would love to offer more if needed.