To mow or not to mow?

Heifer 28 eating some natural grass in Triangle. Since it was full of dead standing grass, I mowed it back at the end of summer and it has grown back well in a short time.

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The question that this raises is should I mow back all the natural pastures at the end of summer? It costs, but chopping the old grass speeds up its breakdown and protects the soil. Ideally the cow herd will crush down everything but it doesn’t always happen like that even when I move them several times a day.

This is the lucerne part of Emerson, where there are still a fair few standing dead lucerne stems shading the green growth.

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The herd did a good job knocking everything down here and since this photo was taken a week or so ago there’s a whole crop of wild annual ryegrass growing up.

This is the Vila paddock, seeded this year to lucerne and orchard grass. 

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It looks good but is ungrazeable because it isn’t yet fenced. If we get another month or so of rain we’ll be pushing in the recycled vine posts and fencing it for a spring graze.

Behind the willow trees is a pond and Michael’s house.

9 thoughts on “To mow or not to mow?

  1. bc says:

    I’ll take some photos and put them up. In general it has some short lucerne and some young orchard grass.

    It is probably for the best that it wasn’t grazed this year. It is an ex-vineyard with low fertility and mowing everything down a couple of times is getting a distribution of mulch over the whole paddock. This stuff is finally breaking down so I have hopes for next year.

    I don’t pay it much attention because it is only small and at the top of the hill so the soils are thinner and more stony. Compared to the other lucerne paddocks it is still quite verdant, probably because it is south facing and a little warmer.

  2. Zephyr Hill says:

    So what’s the answer? Do you mow or not? Herb and I had this discussion, and I didn’t want him to bush-hog the places where there’s stockpiled grass, but we decided he’ll do it where the cattle have already grazed and there are weeds left.

  3. bc says:

    Commenter A.A. (and Greg Judy who doesn’t comment but does reply to email) think I need to tighten up the cows and move them more often. They’re right – if the cows were more dense they’d trample more. As the herd gets larger there’ll be more herd effect, too.

    I don’t tighten them up because I don’t see enough density of grass to allow it. I do get good trampling if I roll out a bale of hay and give them a small slice, but that only works when I need to feed hay. 🙂

    Experiments continue. We’ll see how the grass improves in its third year of this grazing management system. I’m thinking every paddock needs a mow at least once a year, more if there are major weed problems, although I could be fooling myself because it looks prettier rather than giving any more food.

    I’ll write more as I find out something worth reporting.

  4. Gordon Milligan says:

    I am sure our pasture will be good if you do or don’t mow.If it was me I would mow becuase I like the seat time on my tractor. I also think it would add green manure to the fields and would keep any weed seeds from maturing and droping to germinate and if your flail mower is kinda like mine the roller would smash down the cow pies and spread them out more. I am sure it won’t make much difference if you do or you don’t

  5. bc says:

    Gordon, driving the tractor is fun but we’re trying to minimize its usage. Diesel is expensive here, maybe more so than where you are.

    I could go and scrape with the spring harrows, which would be a lot faster and therefore cheaper. I could also roll with a cultipacker which seems to do an ok job at knocking down dead stuff. But the goal is to not use the tractor, although the higher goal is to minimize hay usage so if by using the tractor a little I can cut produce more grass and reduce hay needs I’d go for it.

  6. bc says:

    Jackie, it makes me laugh too.

    There are two irrational ideas that keep messing with my reasoning: First, the worked field looks good, whether from mowing, discing, rolling, whatever. It makes me want to clean up the field for reasons that are not economic. It impresses the neighboring farmers – they think I must be doing a good job if I’m out there working the fields.

    The other is that driving big machinery is fun. That’s the real reason there are so many small farms with old combines and large tractors around here.

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