When Is It Safe To Graze Alfalfa Fields?

Grazing alfalfa in the late fall can be a great economical feed source. However, with these warmer fall temperatures (or lack of hard frosts) and high cattle and lamb prices can create a situation where bloat could be very costly. There are no “for sure” rules to determine when alfalfa is “safe” to graze, however below are some things produces should consider when turning out on alfalfa fields: 

1. Use caution when alfalfa plants are just beginning to show frost damage, this is when alfalfa grazing can be the most dangerous for bloats. Hard frost/freeze ruptures alfalfa cell wells, resulting in more soluble protein being immediately available for consumption by the animal. The increase in the soluble protein increases the rate of rumen fermentation, thus increasing the risk of bloat. Alfalfa generally becomes “safer” to graze after several consecutive frost in the 20’s that cause visible plant damage and drydown. 

2. Fill calves or lambs up with good quality hay prior to moving onto alfalfa fields. Not only will this help reduce animals from gorging themselves, but is also important to allow the ruminal microbial population to adapt to higher quality feeds. This is especially important if animals are coming off low quality forage (corn stalks, dry grass/range pastures). Animals should be turned out in the late morning or early afternoon, rather than early morning.  

3. Provide bloat blocks or bloat preventing additives in the water for several days before and after the start of grazing alfalfa fields. Monitor cattle several times per day when animals are turned into a new pasture.

Submitted by Sarah M. Smith

Mindful Living on the Farm

I bought John Seymour’s “Self Sufficient Life and how to live it”. I have been wanting it for years and finally bought it for our Farm Library. I have only gotten to page 23 and already have learned much. Seymour states “There should be no need for a garbage man on the self-sufficient farm.” I have for years fed or composted everything I could but this simple statement made me evaluate what else I could recycle to benefit my farm (without becoming a Hoarder of Junk). We only make “dump runs” once every eight weeks but I think fully 20% of that load would easily be burnable in my stove in the garage or compostable as well. I have lamented that I never have enough ash for the garden….yet I have been happily paying to let the county burn it. Do you ever have those “Duh” moments? Living simply really means Living Mindfully. Sometimes I just go into auto pilot until something triggers the ‘change your perspective’ button.

Dreaming of Farming?

How much land do you need? How many and what kind of animals? Start where you are and take small steps toward your goals…you will get there. The important thing is to start.

For years we talked of farming, being self-sufficient and someday; then one day we realized that was what we had been doing all along. You don’t need a large homestead to farm – hundreds of acres and just as many animals. All you need is to make the most of what you do have. If you are a good steward of what you have it will grow and before you know it you will be asking yourself if you want to take on more or be content with what you are busy doing now.

March Madness

March is the month when January planning and February preparing begins to pay off. The lambs and kids have begun to arrive by now as have the piglets. The seeds I ordered, after pouring over the seed catalogs, have also arrived and will soon all be nestled in the soil germinating. The chickens have begun to lay, so now the routine of checking on and turning eggs in the incubator has been added to the day.

     The renewing of life as spring fast approaches is a delightful time and a hectic time. The first fleeces are off the sheep. I always try to shear before the ewes lamb for two reasons. First, it makes it easier to watch over their progress toward lambing and secondly, it makes for a premium, clean fleece to work with. Now the dilemma is over which fleeces to sell raw, which to make into batts or roving and which go into my private treasury.

     March is also the month for marketing to be kicked into high gear. The annual farm letter goes out to alert our loyal customers that they need to place their orders for meat animals for this year. Web and print advertising go full scale as we are weekly adding Breeding Stock available for sale and soon the spring’s first crops of fleece and seedlings as well. It is wonderful to have the explosion of production and now is the time to share this with our customers.

      Amidst all this activity there is the list of preparations for spring planting as well as fence repairs on all the paddocks. I swear there are gremlins riding the deer who delight in breaking wires and pushing posts over in the spring thaw.

     This is the time of year when I often allow the excitement of renewal to turn into worry over all that needs to get done and finding the time to do it. This is when the planning and preparing of January and February becomes the ever growing “to do” list of spring. Having a Check List on the fridge helps me track my progress, keeping me feeling like I am gaining on the tasks at hand.

     I often remind myself that Christ said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Keeping my focus on the tasks of today leads to enjoying the delights of spring from the first returning robin to the first tomato sprouts. This is the way to relish a farmer’s life in the midst of all the activity that spring brings.

Welcome to Solace Farm

I am blessed to be a farmer and a shepherdess who shares my life with three generations here in the Pacific Northwest.  My days are filled with caring for my family, land and animals. Over the years I have been mentored by many knowledgeable and creative individuals and feel it is only right that I share the wisdom and skills that my life has grown around. 

My goal is to pass along my experiences in the hopes of brightening your day, encouraging your creativity, and possibly saving the lost arts of living a self-sufficient life in harmony with our world. 

I will cover many topics including Farming, Cooking, Gardening and the Fiber Arts to name a just a few. 

The products of our farm will be listed in our Farm Store and I hope to eventually to be able to put together some tutorials. 

Thank you for stopping by and spending a moment or two with me.

Feedstuffs Slide Show

Ever wander what type of hay to feed and what other feedstuffs you can use to supplement the forage you have?

This Slide Show by Jeff Semler of University of Maryland small ruminant program gives a general over view of commonly available feedstuffs for your sheep, goats and cattle. Click on the Link below to access the slide presentation.

                                                            Feedstuffs

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