March 2016
Howle's Hints

It’s Time to Spring Into Action

"It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." ~ Ronald Reagan

Well, it’s an election year and things can get nasty. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to turn off the news and turn on an episode of "Andy Griffith" while spin masters are busy creating political narratives often devoid of all those pesky facts.

Ronald Reagan, whether you agreed with his politics or not, was possibly one of the last, great American statesmen. Regardless of what the issue was, you still felt like he had a deep love for America and an optimism that could get us through any difficulty. One of his quotes sums up why he was so optimistic about America: "We are never defeated unless we give up on God."

Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, kicked off the Decision America Tour in January with plans to visit all 50 states for prayer rallies challenging Christians to pray for the country and take a stand for their faith. At each stop, Graham holds a prayer rally calling on Americans to boldly live out their faith and help turn the country back to God.

Graham will ask Christians to pray for the country, vote for people who hold biblical values and run for office at every level.

"Can you imagine the changes we would see if Christians started getting elected to every school board in the nation?" Graham said. "God hears the prayers of his people, so I’m calling on people of faith in every state to pray fervently for America and our leaders."

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Avoid overgrazing early in the season when plants are growing from root reserves instead of photosynthesis.  

First Rate Forage

This time of year we begin to see the pasture forage come out of winter hibernation and take off – especially if you have drilled or planted ryegrass. Avoid the temptation to turn the cows out on this fresh, lush forage as soon as it appears. For one, this grass is still growing on its root reserves more than photosynthesis for energy, and the more mature plant leaves haven’t grown enough to support long-term growth into the season.

Also, if you have feed reserves such as hay, feed this as long as possible to give the spring grazing a head start. A grazing stick can help determine when it’s time to graze. You basically want height of at least six inches of forage growth with species such as ryegrass or oats before turning cows out to graze. If you have enough feed reserves, you might want to consider flash grazing in the new growth areas until the plants are well-established. Avoid overgrazing the early spring growth.

For perennial grasses such as fescue, clover is a great companion crop. This reduces your fertilizer bill because the nodules on the clover roots fix their own nitrogen. This nitrogen is available in an organic form that is readily available to the companion plants as well. A good mixture of clover in pastures is considered as having 30 percent of the stand in clover.

The Sweet Smell of Spring

Chicken litter may not smell sweet, but, when applied on pastures, sweet success can be seen in spring forage growth when the plants are rapidly absorbing any nutrients available to them. Nitrogen, the nutrient allowing grass to grow green and grow fast, averages a little over 60 pounds per ton in chicken litter from broiler operations. The big three nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, as well as trace minerals such as calcium and magnesium are found in each load.

The only way to know for sure how many nutrients are in chicken litter you are receiving is through a manure nutrient analysis. It is also important to get a soil sample analysis completed every three years to know exactly what your pastures need. Incorporating applications of chicken litter in addition to your regular commercial fertilizer applications can give your spring forage a head start and keep the plants growing through the season.

  I shot this mature gobbler with a Nikon camera on a high ridge on our property. Gobblers most often travel uphill to your calling.

Spring Gobblers

I can’t let March pass by without mentioning one of my favorite thrills of farm life – turkey hunting. Speaking of manure in the pasture, a great way to locate a male bird or gobbler on your property is by his droppings. A gobbler will produce J-shaped droppings, which are easily identified. Look for these in areas where the birds have been scratching around for acorns left behind or roosting sites.

Pastures joining wooded areas are ideal locations for finding flocks of turkeys on your property. Cleared mountaintops are great areas to set up for calling toms. Get on the highest elevation of your property to locate and call gobblers into range.

This spring, take plenty of time to offer up prayers for our country, and, if you are a Christian concerned about the direction of the country, don’t just vote, consider running for local offices and school boards. Finally, attend a prayer rally in your area. Prayer will always trump politics any day.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.