Family applies latest technologies into farmers and grazing operation


Scott and Sherry David and daughters are recipients of the Grassland Award for ?always searching for ways to apply the latest technologies into their farming and grazing operation.?

Scott and Sherry David, along with daughters Meghan, Emma and Sara, are recipients of the 2008 Grassland Award from the Marion County Soil Conserva?tion District for a paddock grazing program that improves grass while producing more pounds of beef.

Scott David, 37, credits much of the improvements he has made to his father and partner, Fred, 72.

?He is good at working with new innovations,? he said. ?He started using crop no-till back when it was a new thing.?

The award credits both Scott and Fred for ?always searching for ways to apply the latest technologies into their farming and grazing operation.?

Scott David is supporting a herd of 275 Angus-Charolais crossed cows on roughly 1,000 acres of native grass and 130 acres of smooth brome and tall fescue plus crop residues and planted forages.

He got into rotational grazing four years ago on land that has been in his family for four generations and 100 years.

With the high price of machinery for farming, David and his family have looked increasingly toward using cover crops for grazing, using cows for harvest instead of combines, although higher grain prices could change things.

A favorite has been sorghum-type forages such as sudan grass.

?In winter, turnips have worked really well,? he said. ?(The cows not only eat the tops, but the roots, too.) We?re looking at using some barley, and at cow-peas, all in paddock-size lots. We?re always looking for new cover crops.?

The paddock system for grazing native grass is achieved by developing watering sites, installing electric fences, rotational grazing plus practices like prescribed pasture burns.

David said a native grass grazing paddock may include 20 to 40 acres on native grass with its own water source. The Davids have built many ponds, but Scott said the water source may be a hydrant bringing well water, rural water district water, or pond water to the site.

The electric fencing may be permanently installed, or installed on reels for quick construction of temporary fence on site, he said.

On native grass, David said the stocking rate may be figured at about 7,000 pounds of cattle per acre with perhaps only two or three days grazing on a paddock.

To put this in perspective with older cow-calf programs, where a cow-calf pair weighing 1,400 to 1,500 pounds might have spent an entire grazing season on 6.5 to 7 acres, Scott said that would have been a grazing rate of 230 pounds an acre.

On lush stands of sudan grass, he said the grazing rate can go clear to 80,000 pounds.

On the native grass, David said it averages 30 to 45 days of growth before recovering sufficiently to graze again. This depends on the season of the year, moisture for growth, and the condition of the grass.

David believes in the adage of a cow-calf man being first a grass farmer using the animals to harvest the grass. He leaves half the grass to provide sufficient leaf for photosynthesis for growth that the plants remain strong and productive.

A side benefit to all of this is that the David?s cattle become very tame from all of the handling.

?You?re training the cattle to change paddocks,? he said. ?They?re used to you being their leader taking them to new grass.

?The old way of grazing, you might have checked them once a week, but only rounded them up a couple of times a year. It was more traumatic for them.?

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