Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tiny-Scale MiG Part 1

In honor of Saint Patrick's Day, here's an article about that green stuff that our horses love so much!

Mira and I are located on the West Coast, where it only rains at certain times of the year. :-( So we only see green grass for part of the year. If you live somewhere where it rains more often, enjoy it for me!!!

This year the rains started late and we haven't caught up to our normal amount yet, so there is not as much grass as usual, but there is still quite a lot. As I write we are at the height of the "spring flush." The grasses and legumes are all going to seed and need to be harvested like now it I want to get any nutrition out of them!!! (It can be interesting adjusting to the pace/rhythm of life in the country - so many things have to be done at a certain time, if they'll get done at all.)

The challenge the last few weeks is for me to figure out how to harvest and feed as much grass as possible to Mira in as little possible time. We don't have fencing in all areas, and a lot of the fencing we do have is not complete or else not appropriate for containing a horse. In some places it might be possible to tie her out to graze on a long line; however, we are in foothills with a lot of trees - TOO much stuff in the way everywhere.

I love reading, and so I have tried doing my reading outside while I hold Mira's lead rope and let her graze. That works well and she likes it, but of course there is only so long that I can do that before I need to go do chores or whatever!

We also have this clipper with long handles which I have used to clip grass out of odd areas that are too steep for a horse or too crowded for her to get into. It only takes a couple minutes to gather a good armful to toss in for her to eat. She enjoys it so much that I would probably be doing all this work even if I didn't know all the other benefits that horses get from eating fresh green grass!

Below I am going to show you some pictures of how I've arranged temporary fencing, how much I actually cut the grass, and more. But first, some info and basic prinicples on MiG, or management-intensive grazing.

I am the kind of person who really likes doing research, and I've always loved having some subject come to my attention, going and doing a ton of research, and after a week or so of reading up on it, feeling like I have a good grasp of the topic as a whole. Umm, that did NOT happen with MiG. Growing grass seems like such a simple and boring topic, right? (laughs sardonically) I have been seriously reading up on grass farming for over a year now, ever since I subscribed to The Stockman Grass Farmer. This magazine has a lot of very good stuff in it, but boy is it taking me a while to get a handle on this diverse and confusing "field of research." (Get it? Tee hee) Just so you know I am far from an expert, and also don't feel like you're the only one who's confused by how to manage grassland the best way! But the more I learn the more I want to learn... So, I hope you enjoy my story of starting to learn how to manage grass!!!

1. Apparently, most grass is at its peak in nutritional quality of every kind either right before or right as it starts to set seed. Most legumes (clovers) are at their best at the beginning of flowering. Go here to see some great pictures of what different plants look like at this stage. We are getting to the point here where most of the grass is at that point or past already. It happened very fast this year due to all the sun and not much rain the last 2 weeks!

2. When harvested (eaten/clipped) before setting seed, grass will try to grow back, if not all of the leaf is taken... It needs as much recovery time as possible though, meaning, if an animal keeps coming back and taking a bite every few days, the grass will be so stressed it will give up for that year, and it will take longer to grow the next year. In other words, take about half the stem and then wait for it to grow out at least another couple inches before cutting/biting the same stem again.

This is about as much as I have been cutting:

Grasses store a lot of sugars (carbohydrates) in their roots. This is their "base of operations," literally. When sending up new growth, they use some of that sugar and send it to the tip. Eventually the sunlight helps the plant produce more sugar which then gets stored in the roots. When stressed by constant grazing, the plant keeps trying to restart the growth process by sending up more sugar, which can cause laminitis problems in susceptible horses, as well as causing the plant to use up its reserves. When the next spring comes, it will be a weaker plant. MiG strengthens grass instead, which is the reason why MiG can so dramatically increase production of grass and total health of land and animals.

3. This triangular area is right next to our pond. (Pond is on the left) The area tends to be somewhat wet and almost marshy, and our 3 ducks hang out there a lot, so we call it the "Quackmire." :-D I am putting a very temporary, one-strand electric tape fence up here so Mira can spend a couple days grazing. It is a shady spot so the grass is not as far along the "going to seed" path as the rest around here.
Mira respects electric tape quite well, and she'll only be in here as long as the grass is occupying her attention, thus only the one strand.

Part 2: Quickly putting up a temporary electric fence, how to figure out organic fertilization needs, and Thorvin! "Thorvin what?" Wait and see! :-)



Rising Rainbow said...

Cool, that explains some things to me. I need help with my pasture but think I got some, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Good picture, L. I should have known that you would right (tee-hee, grammar airer)an article about grass! You've got a excellent blog.

L said...

Wow, a comment from Brother #3! Thanks, and nice pun there. :-D