Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Still messing around with all this Internet stuff and geeky scene...

Up late, weird dreams and a failed server upgrade.

Seemingly too much stuff going on.

While I was trying to upgrade my Ubuntu server last night, I also figured out how to move my beef over to a beefalo blend, which could be sold at premium prices. And as well, how to shift to a fall-only "row" crop system.

Means I can spend less time in the fields - eliminate spraying altogether, minimize fertilizer (don't have to spend on Nitrogen for corn) and utilize my cows to both harvest and fertilize the crops.

So I spend less output and with Beefalo and no spraying, I can move over to Organic (more premium prices.) However, Organic is not always best for the land or the animals. Now that it's government run and controlled (thanks, guys) it has to be just so and has no leeway.

The trick is to get costs down and income up. Sticking to commodity anything ensures you only stay at subsistence levels. The smaller farmers need to get into profitable niches. (And since most of the food in this country is produced by smaller farmers selling to commodity purchasers - you have to wonder what would happen if we all did that... Market change, I guess.

Anyway, I've got cattle and I've got field crops. Use the cattle to graze my covercrops ahead of planting. Use covercrops to promote fertility. This is, of course, for growing corn and soybeans which have spring planting routines.

If/when I shift to fall-planted crops, they are both covercrop and also main harvest. Wheat, Rye, Barley would go that route.

Two points to this - most of these harvest in June, but plant in September (could plant in July, but might kill out in August as they are cold, not heat-hardy.) So I have a fallow zone or then plant another short-term variety (sunflowers, cowpeas, buckwheat would all do) just for that time. Means I have to run a tractor over the land - means more expense and more compaction for the soil.

Idea would be to run over the ground as little as possible, so I don't have a packed soil which roots don't permeate. With our clay soil, this has to be taken into consideration.

Now, add to this the idea of feeding cattle as little hay as possible. So raise milo late so it is still basically headed out, but green by the killing frost (Oct-Nov). Then cattle can feed on this through the ice and snow we get - and I don't have to feed them hay. Set up to try this this year.

All this came into play with thoughts last night (while reloading server operating system - which I'm still working on this am before going out to chores.)

General concepts:
Rye after wheat (it tends to volunteer - the reason for a third crop)
Milo after rye (July planting - it's drought tolerant).
Oats/clover frost-seeded over Milo, followed by wheat in fall.
Wheat raised with clover, taken off as grain and also then as hay mid-summer (or grazed).

Four crops in three years. Cows harvest Milo and can graze down rye/wheat once. Oats is taken off as hay or forage. (Use bin-run and for all seed, not pay for expensive certified stuff - plus grow and save back wheat and rye. Milo, oats, and clover only real expense.)

Advantage to all of these crops is that they can be broadcast-seeded - and essentially smother out other weeds. So I can get by with only disking once and seeding with the fertilizer. Rough ground takes seed better (different than corn and soybeans which need a smooth ground with set seed depth.) Corn takes five trips over the field (Two for preps, once for fertilizing, once for planting, once for spraying.)

Hay off rye (what you don't save for next crop) as this seed has to be dried and sold individually - isn't a commodity.

Essentially - all crops give hay. And I move over to producing grass and hay instead of conventional row crops - feeding corn to cattle for feeding (this never worked on our farm).

Probably sell the extra hay, as long as it pays for the fertilizer it needs to grow.

Meanwhile, I move over to cattle which sell better at a premium and are completely grass fed. I'm working up a beltie-beefalo mix, both of which eat a wider variety of forage and so will keep my pastures in better shape. Moving to smaller animals is also more efficient beef production.

Bottom line: Less fuel, less fertilizer, virtually no spraying, cattle have more feed - so I can run more cattle on that land.

And cattle on grass have very little input and high profit margin.

Upcoming: I can run sheep and goats on the same land with the existing numbers of cattle (a flock + herd = flerd). Land gets better use - and some studies show that this means number of cattle can be increased as land is more productive.

OK - thanks for listening. Time for chores. Meanwhile server has reloaded it's operating system (again.)
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