Transitioning the Cattle to Grass

It’s been so hectic for the last month, I have had no time to work on my electric fences. Yesterday I spent several hours weedwhacking so I could begin to transition my cattle from eating hay on dry lot in the barn paddock (their winter fare) to juicy green stuff in the pastures (their feed in June, July, and August, before the grass runs out). If one doesn’t manage this process and do it slowly, ruminants can bloat and die.

I brought the cattle into the barn for the day so I could turn off the fences safely, and fed them plenty of hay to fill their bellies while I weedwhacked and repaired the fence from winter damage. My plan was to turn them into the driftway, the rough stretch of fenced land that connects the barn paddock to the north pasture. This area had been the main dumping ground in 2005 when Allen and Damon were cleaning up after the land was logged.

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Damon in the driftway in 2005

The whole stretch is half-buried boulders, stumps, and broken logs. Without many loads of fill to smooth it over, it will never be mowable. Thus the driftway has grown up in weed species between the rocks: raspberries, blackberries, poplar saplings, mullein, goldenrod. Yesterday I staggered around its edge, raking the roaring weedwhacker through the briars that smothered the fence.

By the end of the day, I was tired and coated with a thousand tiny splatters of cut green vegetation, from my baseball cap and glasses to my boots — a picture in pointilism. My hands were numb and tingling. However, the fence was clear and had a decent charge.

I turned out the cattle at evening chores. I called Moxie and showed her the open gate. She led the gang at a run. Green feed! They buried their heads in the weeds.

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There is some grass, but not much.

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It’s mostly weeds.

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My hope is that the need to forage for the palatable stuff keeps the cattle from over-eating in their first ecstasy and getting sick.

This weekend I’ll work on getting a good charge in the fence in the north pasture.

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