Freelance Writer
Boylen is a freelance writer based in northeast Iowa.

As we head into spring, here are a few simple and practical ideas to help graziers through the transition of seasons (as shared by attendees of the GrassWorks Conference held annually in Wisconsin):

  • When the ground begins to thaw, cover half of your cattle lanes with several inches of hay, straw or other unneeded bedding-type material. This will keep the frost in that half of the lane for an additional 10 to 14 days, which will hopefully be enough time for the thawed side of the lane to dry out. Most cows will choose the firmer surface to walk on, thus saving your lanes and having less mud on your cows.

  • Review your fencing plans and check your supplies. Make sure you have adequate posts and fencing wire, and make sure your electric fencer is in good working order. Start thinking now about your rotational grazing plans and calculate how much fencing you will need.

    If you need to put fence posts in before the frost is out of the ground, use a cordless drill to bore into the ground to get rods in far enough. Be sure to walk your permanent fences to check for downed trees and posts that may have rotted or loosened from ground heaving.

  • Get off your four-wheeler or UTV and really look at the ground. Check soil health by looking at worm castings and other organic life; dig down a bit to check for other insect and microbial activity. Check plants at ground level and inspect roots.

    Feel for sponginess in the soil under your feet. Feel the earth between your fingers. Decide where you will do your soil testing this spring. (That is, if you didn’t test in the fall; testing should be done at the same time each year.) Pastures can be tested every three to four years; alfalfa and corn silage fields should be sampled annually. Talk to your extension office or testing lab of choice to obtain sample bags, etc.

  • If you don’t already own a UTV or four-wheeler and are looking for a field vehicle, consider a Geo Tracker, Jeep or similar vehicle instead (with four-wheel drive if needed). Used models can often be purchased for less, provide more comfort in inclement weather, and if you need something from town, you can head there straight from your field.  PD

    PHOTO: Cows grazining in the sunshine. Photo provided by Jennifer Blazek.