Sunday, 30 June 2013

Day 12 of Nuffield - Oklahoma

Day 12 of my Nuffield adventure continued where I left off at the Samuel Noble Foundation, this time meeting James Rogers a grassland/grazing specialist.  We talked about the three main livestock systems in Oklahoma, all based around cattle.  Firstly the grazing of the wheat crops to provide winter forage for the cows. These crops are planted in August to produce high biomass for feeding.  Growing cattle will put on about 3lb/day liveweight on this grazing system.  Then we talked about Cow and calf (Suckler Cow production) on Bermuda grass and finally the native grass grazing systems.  This certainly got me thinking more about sheep interaction with the arable, potentially grazing forward wheat, reducing disease and potentially fungicides.  The trick is to get the stock off in good time, before the plant moved into the reproductive stage,
After leaving the foundation, I headed West to the Stuart ranch but not before I got into trouble with the local Ardmore police!  I got pulled over for taking photographs of the local petroleum plant, which I have to say was interesting especially as the policeman (nice chap) was well tooled up!  I didm't look like a threat to National Security so was allowed to carry on Phew!
When I arrived at the ranch, Jim Johnson who I had had meetings with the previous day was well into the session with local farmers.  Originally it was meant to be a couple of farmers looking at cover crops but then a few more joined and so on.  Eventually there were nearly 25 people present.  This was new territory for a lot of people present but it was very interesting for me to hear about the different cover crops grown in the area.  There's some concern about cover crops taking out vital moisture through the summer.  They would be planted in late June, after wheat, and would only grow with a rain event.
Here are some of the cover crops being planted, from left to right we have Grazing Corn, Pearl Millet, Brown Top Millet, Brassica's , Cow Peas and Sunflowers.  This way of thinking is very new in Oklahoma as it is in the UK but there were plenty of similarities.  All aimed at improving soil health, reducing erosion, (which is quite a problem here on tilled land), potential grazing and creating a better tilth for zero till.
On the way to my next stop I travelled was right through the rural heart, and heat of Oklahoma.  This area is part of the Native American Territories; areas of land that were given over to the Native Americans as there were re-homed by settlers and government well over 100 years ago.  There were cattle grazing along the roadside fields, some taking a wallow in the pools as the temperature reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit. 
My next destination was Kinder Farms to stay with Jimmy, Margret-Ann and their daughter, Whitney.  Jimmy is a pioneer in the county and well known; not only in the state but also at Washington for work on the current farm bill.  Jimmy was one of the very first adopters of zero till in the area which has proved to be a brilliant decision.

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