Rye & Brassicas

So after we got all finished up harvesting our barley, we decided to put the big field (17 acres) into a winter grazing/cover-crop.  Since switching over to grass-finishing this spring, we’ve been cognizant of the fact that our climate zone will provide certain challenges to us in maintaining our grass-finishing during the whole of the farmers-market season.  Namely, the grass isn’t growing that well on either end of the farmers-market season.  When the grass isn’t growing well, the grass-finishing isn’t going to go that well either.

So, to that end we ended up seeding a mix of winter rye and a grazing brassica.

The winter rye should be a good forage for our potentially cold winters, with an ability to survive -35°F, which is well below what we get in a severe winter.  From what I’ve read we should be able to graze the rye well past all of our other pastures this fall/winter and still have some very early spring grazing out of it.  Heck, it’s even possible to get a grain-crop out of the rye after grazing it in fall and spring!  The yield wouldn’t be much, and we don’t really have too much use for rye. so that’s something we’ll probably pass on.

Not wanting to put all our eggs into one proverbial basket, we added a bit of Vivant brassica[PDF] seed to the rye. The Vivant is supposed to be a turnip/rapeseed hybrid that is geared toward producing more of a top than a regular turnip or tillage radish.
It’s now been about a month since planting, and they’re looking quite leafy with a small white (diakon-like) taproot.

We used a new broadcast seeder for this planting, which explains why it’s so spotty.  The new seeder works great once you get the hang of adjusting it for the correct seeding rate.  Being new, we did not have the hang of it, and the resulting seeding rate was a bit variable.  Oh well, the cows won’t care too much.

So in a few weeks we should have 17 acres of high-quality forage available to us that will last until the end of our farmers market season (Thanksgiving) and pick up early enough for the beginning of next years market season, without having to resort to feeding tons of silage over the winter.

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