Monday, September 27, 2010

WHY ORGANIC MATTER?

If the benefits of organic matter were better known, chemical fertilizer could be a thing of the past.  Here on the Rockin H Ranch we have been successful at increasing levels of organic matter as much as 1% per year or more for the last few seasons.   My soil analysis results provide evidence that NO purchased soil amendments are necessary.  What I am saying is that by increasing my soil organic matter levels I have been able to sequester not only carbon but also the soil nutrients required for quality plant production.  All reported levels of nutrients are above average including both major and micro elements.  Before initiating my Holistic System my levels of calcium where low enough that the soil samples results that came back from the lab were suggesting applications of lime.  Now there are no suggestions of any elements.

There is little debate whether or not as grass farmers we can sequester carbon through our forage programs.  At a six inch depth of soil, a 1% increase in soil organic matter would weigh about 20,000 pounds.  If soil organic matter is 58% carbon we would have sequestered about 1160 pounds of carbon.  On my 1000 acre ranch this would be about 1,160,000 lbs of carbon taken out of the atmosphere.  Although not all carbon dioxide, but this is a healthy thing for everyone who breaths air. 

Nothing on the planet can compare to this carbon sequestering  like forage plants.  Trees are very poor at building soil organic matter because they only drop leaves and the tree itself will use up most of this.  Forage plants grow their full height sometimes several times a year and can completely give it all up back to the soil during the year.  When livestock stomp this carbon material into the ground massive root systems develop when we use tall grass grazing techniques.  When the tops of these plants are taken by the animal this root system begins its process and is now organic material.  The spaces left where these roots are begin to hold rain water much better than before. And since organic matter can hold four times as much water as soil our capacity to avoid draughts during the dry summers has all but eliminated grass shortages during the hot summer months.  We now collect this rain water that once left my ranch.  If this practice was used world wide, I contemplate how much flooding and all the deaths and costs of such sloppy farming could eliminate. 

Organic matter helps break down pesticides very proficiently.  In other words, when you increase your organic matter levels the pesticides become less effective.  Of course they also can become obsolete and unnecessary under my system.  No wonder big chemical companies don't stress the importance of organic matter.  Which would lead one to ponder that maybe this is why chemical fertilzers are promoted at the University level instead of sound methods of improving organic matter in the soil.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Winter Feed

It's business as usual around the ranch.  We are moving cattle daily, trying to promote as much growth as we can before winter.  One of our main objectives to help us reach our Holistic Goals is to have a planned grazing system in place that all but eliminates winter hay feeding.  Traditional MIG or rotational grazing systems are telling grazers that now is the time to start stockpiling for winter.  If you have done nothing all year up to this point for winter grazing, what you do now will make little difference in reducing your winter feed costs.  That is, planned grazing must go on all year long.  If you pull some of your paddocks out of your system this late in the season for stockpiling you will simply add more pressure on the rest of the farm's paddocks at a time when they all need even more rest instead of heavier grazing.

Also if you spent time this summer or fall brush hogging those paddocks for what ever reason you come up with, you spent money to reduce total forage production and minimize plant species.   I had a fellow out from the USDA today looking at our paddocks.  He identified a good stand of Eastern Gama grass out in one of our paddocks.  We have never planted any of these seeds, yet this grass and many other varieties and species did a good job of getting us through our dry weather this summer.  If you knock any of this growth down  mechanically, chances are you will prevent some forages from making seed head and will reduce next year's forage even more.  This being another reason why we can't wait until August or Sept. to start planning for winter grazing.  The planning for this winter started the Spring before last. 

I like to get help trying to identify  some of these new forage plants that seem to appear from nowhere.  We found some new Sedges, and some other plants that looked a little like Foxtail, except we already have Foxtail, maybe its just another variety that started on its own.  It's great to see these new plants every  year that no one seems to be able to identify. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

RAIN

We are finally getting some well needed rain.  By the end of this day we will probably wind up with over three inches.  This is a good time to test your farm's ability to catch moisture.  If your ponds are filling up quickly and the springs and creeks start running during or soon after a rain, much of your good rain water is leaving your farm.  Under Holistic Systems we take many steps to catch as much rain water as we can.  We like to see the ponds begin to fill two or three days after a good rain.  This is why we feel that many draughts are self inflicted.