Success Stories Lowell Clifford is a Prescribed Grazing Hero | Kentucky
Lowell Clifford is a Prescribed Grazing Hero
Lowell Clifford owns a 375 acre beef cattle and hay farm in the community of Connersville in Harrison County Kentucky. He grows approximately 200 acres pasture, 125 acres hay/pasture (clover/grass), 50 acres alfalfa hay, 95 brood cows and 90 calves. Most of Lowell's livestock are Angus crossbreeds.
His farm is contains Eden, Cynthiana and Faywood soils. As Lowell stated, "The best use for this land is pasture grazing."
The land is not very suitable for crops due to soil depth and slope. He manages the farm as a beef cattle/hay farm. He prefers to keep his soil covered at all times. These cover crops protect the soil from erosion.
Lowell attended a rotational grazing school where he learned the benefits of intensive grazing and how to implement rotational grazing practices on his farm.
He has been rotational grazing for over 10 years and each year he tries to improve his farm's ability to rotational graze.
Over the past several years he installed infrastructures needed to implement rotational grazing.
Lowell's mission statement is: "To raise as many cattle as possible with the land he has within the limits of management, money and ability of the land"
Basically, he wants to improve the resource base, renovate and improve pasture plants (red/white clover), install water tanks, break up larger pastures with fencing, and rotational graze cattle according to plant height and animal needs.
Lowell states, "Rotational grazing is not a free ride. It takes more time and you have to be more involved with the cattle on a day to day basis"
Mr. Clifford knows there are several important components of a rotational grazing system. One is to use electric fences for correct paddock size and another is to have a watering source for each paddock. You must also know how many cattle to run for the type of land you have. Lastly, you need money and time.
He has to manage his farm differently than the average bluegrass farm because of the types of soils he has. He says, "My soils aren't deep like most bluegrass farms and therefore not as productive".
What this means is he must pay particular attention to find the appropriate rotational grazing system for his land. However, Lowell says, I'll this is extra work but it pays off."
Lowell's pasture does not grow evenly within the same field due to soil variations. Some areas may be very shallow to rock and another area may be moderately deep or deep. When soils are shallow or moderately deep, uneven plant growth is more prevalent and noticeable.
It is more difficult to determine stocking rates on farms with these types of soils. Lowell knows the number of cattle he has requires approximately 7.5 acres of pasture per day and turns his cattle into a paddock and watches the cattle and the availability of pasture. He then rotates them when they have grazed plant height down to approximately 4 inches. This insures there is enough leaf area left on plants to conduct photosynthesis for timely plant re-growth. If plants are grazed too low, it decreases the ability of photosynthesis and re-growth. It also decreases organic matter in the soil from less roots and plant residues. The production and management of organic matter is the key to healthy soil.
Mr. Clifford consistently implements a prescribed grazing system and rotates cattle to other fields when pastures are 4 inches in height. He renovates pastures with legumes, maintaining correct field lime and fertilizer according to soil tests and sizing paddocks. He establishes and maintains good weed control. Together, all these things increase soil quality by allowing more root growth and more organic matter in and on the soil surface.
Organic matter in turn produces mycorrhizal fungi and fungal hyphae which both increase soil aggregate size and strength. This means better soil structure and lower bulk density. As soil structure improves infiltration and permeability also improve. The organic matter on top and/or in the soil surface from residue and roots also increases water holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter can hold up to 90 percent of its weight as water. With more leaf blade area on surface of soil to intercept raindrops, more roots to hold soil in place, more infiltration and better permeability, there is less erosion and therefore better water quality.
Lowell does an excellent job of implementing a rotational grazing system. As I toured his farm I could see the effects of high quality management. His pasture fields and cattle were in excellent condition.
Lowell's farm was used by the University of Kentucky as a site for their 2007 Rotational Grazing School.
Submitted by John Graham, State Soil Quality Coordinator