Since resigning from my town job of 30 years last September, things have picked up on the farm. We now have an internship program on our farm where we teach Holistic Planned Grazing to young adults. Must be 18 years old, have a driver’s license, be willing to work and have an open mind to new ideas. Our present intern Tyler is from Utah and is a super hard worker and good person to go along with it. Tyler has been offered a full year internship with the one and only Ian Mitchell Innes from South Africa. Ian is the Holistic manager that got us switched over to Holistic planned grazing. Wow what an opportunity for Tyler, 23 years old and getting the chance of a lifetime to intern with the best Holistic grazier in the world!
Our last intern Dana, we helped her find a full time grazing manager job in Katy, Texas. She will be managing a Holistic grazing operation on a private school that is one of the best in the world. They have their own store and 5-star restaurant to market their grass-finished meat through. Dana is excited to say the least about her new life adventure. She will also be grazing livestock on a large private ranch in the same area in her spare time. Dana will do well! She has what it takes to be a very successful holistic grazier. We are happy for her and very proud of her.
Jan and I have taken some neat trips this fall. We went to the Acres conference in Minnesota, what a great conference, I would highly recommend it if you ever get the chance to go. Next, I spoke at Reno at the National Grazing Lands Coalition. I was on the same panel with Terry Gompert and Doug Peterson, both Holistic graziers.
Then, Jan and I took off to Chihuahua, Mexico for a week of touring Mexican ranches. That was one of the most enjoyable trips we have ever taken. We flew to three different Holistic ranches by private plane, very secluded ranches that had private landing strips. It was a real eye opening experience to see how they ranch down there. I have the most admiration for the challenges they have and how they have figured out solutions around them. We saw some beautiful cattle performing in some very harsh conditions. We were treated like royalty by all the ranchers. The food was the best we have ever had. I think I gained 10 pounds while I was down there! Jan and I are definitely going back for another visit.
Next, we went to San Francisco to see my sisters and their families. I scheduled a farm tour with Joe Morris while we were there. That was the highlight of the trip. Joe is a Holistic rancher that has a beautiful ranch 3 miles from the coast. It looked like Ireland! Everything was a sea of green. We saw some beautiful grass and cattle. Joe is doing a tremendous job on his ranch. Next, I went to Virginia to give four talks in four different towns across the state. I started on the North and worked my way South. At every conference, there were graziers that were trying to figure a way to lower their costs on their farms. I showed them what we were doing and the results that we were having. Inputs are skyrocketing while the prices we receive at the marketplace are not keeping up with input costs. If you want to continue to raise livestock you have to figure out how to eliminate these inputs. It is the only thing that we have control over and we can eliminate inputs. It does take management and the rewards are definitely worth it. Virginia is a very beautiful state, lots of mountains, grassland and timber. I have never been in a state that has more painted white board fences. I went out a couple days early and got to spend the weekend with my younger sister and her family. That was a nice treat.
Before leaving on my trips, I help Tyler lay out all the paddocks that will be used while I am gone. Tyler has learned a lot this winter on strip grazing, judging pasture residual, cow condition, handling, grazing through snow, grazing in wet conditions, bitter freezing temperatures, etc. We are still grazing stockpiled grass and have not fed any hay. It looks like we will make it through the winter without feeding any hay. Hay is the biggest cost of keeping a cow on your farm, so we smile when we can graze all winter. Our cows had to graze through 14 inches of snow and minus 40 below temperatures. One thing that you have to be aware of when the temperatures drop is the animals increased forage intake. We give them twice the forage area when the temperatures get below 10 degrees. We also move them twice a day to make sure they get enough energy from the plants. Energy intake is crucial to animal performance in bitter weather.
Our body condition score on our cows is the best this winter that we have ever seen on Judy Farms. This is our fourth year of Holistic High Density Planned Grazing and the quality of our grass just keeps getting better. Our soils are now 100% covered with earthworm castings and the litter bank on the soil surface is the key. If you give your worms plenty of food, you will grow more grass as a direct result. Tyler and I fenced in another 100 acres this past weekend that lay’s next to one of our farms. It is mostly brush, but with some good management we can turn the open areas into some good pasture. The 100 acres just sold and I contacted the landowner and he gave it to us to graze! He wants it to hunt on.
Jan and I are busy getting ready for our spring grazing school that will be held at Judy Farms. It runs from April 15th -17th. Ian Mitchell Innes is coming back this spring to help us with the school. It is filling up fast. Tyler and I are going to Kentucky the end of February to install a high density grazing operation. There is nothing there but open fields. We are putting in all the paddocks and running water points. This will be some very valuable experience for Tyler to use in his grazing future. Jan is busy with the website. She really does a great job. She has now opened a Facebook page for us. Jan is working to increase the meat sales so that she can be home full time someday. Jan and I walked through the mob yesterday, measuring cow condition and admiring the cattle. They truly are remarkable, how they can take forage and turn it into a premium healthy product. We actually saw green clover nestled down in the stockpiled grass, what a treat that must be to have bite of green clover in the middle of winter.