My First Formal Agricultural Training

Last week, an odd turn of events and a last minute decision had me driving 2.5 hours away from home to attend “How to Get Started in Grazing.” I had really hoped that Scott would be able to attend with me, but when it came down to it, I had to go solo. It ended up being one of the best decisions I have made lately.

The focus of the course was on managed rotational grazing. Basically, dividing your pastures into small paddocks and rotating the animals through them which allow areas of the pastures to grow back while the animals are feeding off another area. The timings of moving the animals are based on the growth stage of the plants/grasses in the paddocks to allow for maximum production from them. There are also all kinds of amazing benefits that go along with this method: less erosion, better soil health, more even distribution of “natural fertilizer”, and more stable pastures during poor conditions – like a drought. I quickly became sold on the fact that this is exactly what we need to do on our farm. Scott and I had talked about it multiple times, but this was the push we needed to get there.

I learned how to calculate how many animals a pasture can support. I know how to take samples of a paddock to figure out about how many days the animals can be on it before we need to rotate them. I can assess the health and varieties of plants and grasses on a pasture. I also learned how to build fence and put in a watering system. My fencing skills have already been put to use this week as we fenced in a portion of the neighbor’s yard so the sheep can mow it for her.

I also was able to hear from multiple graziers and learn from their various experiences with dairy, beef, goats, and sheep. I also met two beginning farmers that are in our area. One is going to be raising a large herd of beef and the other is raising meat goats. It was worth the drive, just to meet them. I’m looking forward to seeing them again at upcoming events and keeping in touch as our journeys continue.

So, Scott is listening to me a bit more as we talk about planning pastures. He was very interested to hear about some of the fencing tools I was able to show him at Fleet Farm. With his degree, he already knew how to do the pasture evaluations, but now that I know how too, we can actually get it done.

It was such an amazing opportunity and motivator for us. Maybe someday, it will be me speaking to a group of beginner graziers about how we do things at our farm. I’d love to host a pasture walk sometime too, once we have our pastures nice and healthy!

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