Grass is growing, calves are being born, it must be Spring on the farm. With this warm weather and rain the grass is exploding from the ground and it’s time to get those cows and steers to work; harvesting grass. If you have a lawn you know the demands of mowing. For humans lawn mowing is a chore, for cattle, it’s a job they love to do. Grass is an abundant resource that humans spend hours trying to control while cows do it naturally.
We like to think of our cattle as “lawn mooers.” During the summer cattle grow fat on grass that is abundant and prolific and, except during last year’s drought, is abundant. In New England, we rarely have to water our lawns or pastures since nature usually provides adequate rain. Cattle can “harvest” grass on hillsides and around rocks that gardeners spend hours trimming with expensive weed whackers. An added benefit is that while harvesting the grass, cattle provide natural fertilizer; manure.
At Miles Smith Farm we have about 50 head of cattle and while we have lots of grass on our 36 acres that’s not enough for all our cattle. To provide grazing we lease fields from landowners in our area. For example, rather than mowing an abandoned apple orchard in Barnstead, the owners let us pasture our cattle there. Two years ago when apples were abundant not only did the cattle get lush grass they helped harvest dropped apples. Another land owner let us pasture our cattle in a 20-acre hay field. Others have “back yard” fields they don’t want to pay to have mowed with tractors.
Starting in mid-May we load our cattle in the “Cattle Taxi” and drive them to these fenced remote pastures. The older cattle know what’s up and jump into the trailer. The younger animals learn quickly that “going to pasture” is a good thing. After two or three weeks on a pasture, they jump back into the “Cow Taxi” to go to a new field. Moving them around gives the pastures time to recover and grow more grass for grazing later in the summer and fall. Using this method the cattle can often graze until December. Longer than that is hard because in December their drinking water tends to freeze.
I have a habit, as I drive, to look at the grass in highway medians and think, “Pasture.” With a little bit of fencing and some water, cattle could “Keep America Beautiful.” Not only would they mow, they’d fertilize at the same time. Those grass strips would make neat remote pastures, don’t you think?
Cattle get fat on a food source, grass, that humans would starve eating. Cattle harvest grass better than the most expensive equipment. So when you get sick of lawn mowing think, “lawn mooers.” There’s a lot of grass out there and cattle are hungry for work.