State of the Farm

Grass, in all of its many varieties and seasons, is the crop that makes Jolie Vue Farms perform. Our cattle and pigs harvest the grass and are our second crop. Nothing happens - at least nothing that is sustainable - without that first crop. Grass.

So what does that crop look like in our first non-drought year? Beautiful is not an exaggeration. A sight for sore eyes. Lush. Amazing. Having survived the burnt grasses and parched soil of the years 2011, 12 and 13, there is a renewed appreciation of just how welcoming happy pastures can be. We have seen only one month of parched grasses but even that was normal. It was August after all. Then the temperatures started moderating and the rain fell in September and we were back to growing green stuff again.

Grass: it’s what we do.

As I write, we are in the middle of planting the winter pasture and when this reaches your door, the process should be substantially finished and results will be showing. The new no-till seed drill is working as promised, distributing 5 different seeds simultaneously without having to plow the soil, make several passes with the different seeds, or cover the seed after distributing it. So far so good on that investment. The proof of the pudding will be in the tasting. The creatures of JVF await that proof with great anticipation. But in the meantime, our fall grasses are resplendent. That will do for now; thank you, Mother Nature.

Depending on temperature and rain levels, germination and early growth of the winter grasses can be a 2 to 4 week process. Mature, grazeable growth will be longer. Our hope and expectation is that the mother herd and our calves will be grazing oats, rye, clover, collards and turnip greens by November 15th, possibly earlier. If we happen to have a very harsh winter, and the Almanac is predicting that possibility, some of these greens could be stopped in their tracks. If our winter is more typically mild, which feels more like what we will have, growth could continue well into the new year and a pre-spring burst.

So what is the goal with all of this work and investment? Primarily, to provide fresh green grazing matter in a period of the year when the animals are normally eating stored grasses (hay). Stored grasses are not as rich as fresh growing grasses. Our creatures know the difference and are happier when they have green stuff in front of them. Happy creatures are thriving creatures. Thriving creatures reach their market weight more quickly and provide more weight when they get there. Finally, we estimate that the cost of seed and all of the tangential costs that go with planting and nurturing the winter grasses is more than offset by the savings we realize in avoiding hay costs and gaining growth.

So that’s the theoretical benefit of what we do in the fall. Mother Nature will decide whether the goals come to fruition. Despite what some politicians claim, she is the real “decider” in our little world, but she has been good to us this year so we’re hoping for more.