I like to check the state of the grass after the cows have left. Here is Emerson-T just after the cows moved on. It’s an ancient lucerne paddock without much lucerne left and the grasses that are moving in aren’t all that strong yet, but they’re filling in the gaps.
Short residual grasses after a winter graze, lots of cow poop. With a closer look you can see a few things.
There’s a dandelion in flower in the foreground, which is a little unusual. There are some clovers and lots of small grass. You can see a cow hoof print.
A big issue in winter here and the first reason farmers put their cows inside is the softness of the limestone clay soils. If you leave a herd in the same place for a few days you get a mud field. Even if you move them twice a day, if it gets really wet you’ll still get a section of mud where the herd stood in the biggest rain storm.
In extreme close-up you can see the worm casings. They aren’t uniformly scattered around the field but there are a lot of them. You can’t avoid treading on them as you walk around and sometimes you kick them up and they land in your gum boots and squidge.
To see that the grasses here are not as well developed it is worth looking at a field nearby where the grasses are more mature.
This is in Emerson where the grasses are a few years older and stronger. There are more plants, they are thicker and stronger, there is more litter and the soil itself is darker, which I’m guessing reflects the amount of organic matter it contains. There’s about fifty meters between where the photos were taken.
The next photo shows the wormsign peeking out from under some clover that’s growing there.
The next photo shows the thickness of the grass sward in Emerson. Even though this was grazed hard about a week ago, there is plenty of material left. You can see new shoots coming through. It is hard to tell where the grass starts and the soil ends.
In time Emerson-T, the old lucerne paddock, will get as productive as this. All I can do is run the cows over it, let them eat and tread and poop and let the worms do the rest.
The worms are important to the system we use here. The whole idea is to get the soils and grasses growing better by using the cow herd to set up the right conditions for growth. Lots of rest, lots of soil activity, fertilizing by the cows, treading in dead material – it all helps get the soils and grasses growing better. The worms do the job of recycling the dead grasses and creating new soil. If the conditions are right then the worms move in and get to work. Now pretty much the whole farm is well stocked with worms.
The title of this post, “Worm crazy” comes from this video by Hot Chocolate. I used to think that it was so bad that it was good, but now I’ve seen it so many times I have lost all objectivity. Just appreciate the courage of the band for appearing like this on video. I guess there must have been five minutes back in the 80s when guys wore leg warmers. But hey, it lets me sing “I’m worm crazy” while wandering around the paddocks.