Note: Linda recently posted a three-part series on getting into grass farming. Her articles prompted the following letter from Jeff Price of Lancing, Tennessee. Here’s his letter and Linda’s response.
Dear Linda,


I have a question in regards to how you applied minerals to your fields. Did you buy 50- lb bags of boron and mix it with the copper and spread it with a broadcaster or dilute it and apply it as a foliar spray? And did you see the results immediately or did it take several applications?

It sounds from your writing that your journey has been similar to ours. I recently joined NADA and purchased some Devon. We have been talking about buying some Milking Devon as well.

Our pastures have improved through our MIG management but we have not been able to get it over the hump to being quality pasture yet. So I am very interested in how you applied your minerals and the results that you saw. We also do not use chemical fertilizer and do not want to. I appreciate if you would take some of your time to answer these questions, though you do not know me.

Thank you,

Jeff Price
Lancing, Tennessee

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for asking – what we did was take many core samples of the fields (as outlined on Neal Kinsey’s web site, www.kinseyag.com. We sent identical samples to his lab and to Agri Analysis, Inc. (www.agrianalysis.com).

We wanted to do a comparison and see the difference between wet analysis and dry analysis. They came out remarkably close (and Agri Analysis is much faster and cheaper than Kinsey).

Based on those results, it was determined that we needed “X” tons per acre of a particular mineral. We did have one paddock that had been hayed for years and it took as much to restore that single 2 acre field as our other 18 acres. Scary!

Once we knew how much per acre, we treated the 2 acre former hay field separately from the other 18 acres. We rented a large hopper from a local Sunbelt Rental store and mixed the 50 lb bags in the correct proportion to what it amounted to in tons/acre. It really wasn’t all that much. What was expensive was the copper sulfate! The amounts we applied were meant to restore the land, not just maintain what we had. So that meant we added a bit more initially. I think all told, we had two pallets of minerals for the 20 acres.

I hesitate to tell someone specifically what we did and what it cost, as our fields and soil conditions could be radically different from yours. If you are truly interested, I can dig up that info so you can get an idea of what we spent and what the ratios were based on our soil tests.

We only did the one application. Subsequent soil tests have not revealed the need for anything further at this time. Can’t say what next year’s soil test will indicate.

It was absolutely amazing the difference in our cattle and horses once we re-mineralized the fields. No one went to the minerals box. Three years later, the only thing they really seek is plain salt and Thorvin sea kelp. One of the other things that really helped us out was judicious mowing of the fields throughout the year and rotationally grazing.
Frankly, we usually forget to drag the fields with a chain harrow to spread manure. I have yet to see a consensus on when you should really do that and if it truly works. I think it depends a lot on your soil and forage type. We’ve dragged our fields 3 times in 4 years. But, through mowing and rotational grazing (of which I was initially skeptical), we’ve increased the organic content/humus in our soil from around 2-3% to almost 10% in 3 years.

We’ve also oversown red/crimson/white clovers, Red River crabgrass, and orchard grass. The crabgrass will easily self-sow once established. Clover needs to be done every 3-5 years, depending upon field conditions. We elected NOT to use commercial nitrogen – instead using the clover and vetch to restore nitrogen in the soil. It has worked beautifully. (And nitrogen is almost as expensive now as copper).

In summary, congratulations on joining NADA. If you like Milking Devon, Join and talk to the AMDA folks – they are a tremendous resource. We also raise a few Milking Devon and are in the process of breeding our two cows and will take on cheese and butter some time next year. The last thing we did this year was to purchase 30 guinea hens as keets to clean up the insects in the field. We’ve had a few consecutive droughts the last 3 years and the insect cycle has been really something. We have had tremendous success with the guineas although they can be a pain. Not the brightest bulbs on the tree. But they really do a tremendous job on bugs.

We also use fly traps from www.monsterflytrap.com and have seen our fly population drop to only a handful. I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. We are surrounded by tons of Angus crosses that are tagged, drenched, and vaccinated to death and the fields are “sludged” (biosolid application). It creates very sick fields that are loaded with bad weeds and bugs.

I really appreciate your interest in sustainable ag – nice to talk to someone else who “gets it”!! I’m sure you’ll find lots of folks out there willing to talk to you. You will need to separate the wheat from the chaff as not everyone researches everything. Just use your good judgment and you’ll do great. Sounds like you are already making great strides in recovering your land!

All the best, Linda Maurer