At this year’s Spring Conference, we at OGS decided to set up a handful of volunteers with pen, paper, and the directive to go home after the event and write a post on each class they attended for us to share on the OGS Blog in a series we’re calling the Conference Blog!
In this series, we bring together the diverse perspectives of our audience and hear experiences from dozens of different voices–commercial farmers, backyard growers, conscientious consumers, and everything in between!
Unfortunately Miguel Castillo was a little bit late to begin this class due to a miscommunication about a change in the schedule, but he still managed to pack a lot of information into a shortened time!!
Miguel is originally from Ecuador. He began his journey north after high school and has worked with grazing animals in Mexico, Florida, and now North Carolina. He stresses understanding that grazing management is both an art and a science. It is a delicate balancing act of managing the plant needs and the animal needs. The plants in a grazing system need energy and growing points, while the animals need both quantity and quality plant material. There is a constant push-pull between the plant and animal needs and a compromise must be found where neither is deprived and undernourished or underutilized. If a grazing animal is left in an area too long, the plants are compromised and won’t regroup to be forage that actually supports the animal. You could be growing forage that has the potential of being good forage, but just because the potential is there, your management will determine whether it actually grows into good forage!
Growing good forage depends on three factors – intensity, frequency, and timing. Of these, the most critical factor is intensity. As grazing intensity increases, forage mass decreases, while forage nutritive mass increases. If you are growing forage to raise grazing animals, your top priority should be to get the grazing intensity right. It isn’t quite as simple as a basic math equation as to determining grazing intensity based n numbers per acre for an allotted time. This is determined by the season, type of forage, your climate, and the type of animals. But, with observation of your system, you can determine how to maximize both your forage production and your animal health and growth!
Jenn Cloke, originally from Atlanta, has lived in Western North Carolina for since 2006 and wears her Appalachian mantle proudly. Jenn was the Communications Coordinator for Organic Growers School from 2012 to 2014. She and her family run a small farm at the foot of Cold Mountain.