What makes a difference in a beef cow operation?

After they bought their first farm near Magnolia, Arkansas, in 2000, Matt Young and his wife, Lynn, became proficient builders of a permanent fence.

It was an early step to becoming proficient grass farmers. “We got so we could knock out a quarter mile in a weekend, if we didn’t have too many obstacles,” Matt says.

Like most good beef cattle operations, large or small, Triple Y Cattle is a work in progress. But, starting with a nearly blank slate, the Youngs have made substantial progress as they’ve grown to a 100-cow operation with commercial and registered herds of Angus and SimAngus.

Today, they stock their bahiagrass pastures at 2 acres per cow and take hay from the same pastures. They have no designated hayfields. They sell commercial calves, keep replacement heifers and market herd bulls.

“Three things have really made a big difference: weed spraying, rotational grazing and harder culling,” Lynn says.

“You’ve got to be a good grass farmer to be a good cattle farmer,” Matt adds.

 

WEED LESSONS LEARNED

“The only things here when we started were bahiagrass and bullnettle,” Matt continues. “Then we started using chicken litter, and we got a lot of weeds.”

The couple learned another lesson in grass farming: When you fertilize, whatever is there in the soil will grow, including long-dormant weed seed.

Matt thought he should follow norms of family and community, and mow for weed control. But Lynn’s 80-year-old uncle encouraged them to buy a sprayer instead of a bush hog. “I don’t know where he got that,” Matt says. But Matt looked into it, learned about the benefits of pasture weed spraying and bought a spray rig. He’s been spraying pastures for 15 years, usually with Grazon® P+D herbicide.

“We grow more grass with spraying because we’re not feeding the weeds,” Matt says. “We’d rather buy weed spray than fertilizer. “We’re not bush hogging, and we have more grass so we can run more cows. And we’re not baling weeds in our hay, so our quality is better.”

Last year, at the Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Lynn won a drawing for 50 acres of free weed and brush control from Corteva Agriscience, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont. Later, local Range & Pasture Specialist Blake Williams visited the Youngs, looked at pastures and suggested a tank mix to improve control of dogfennel (“Texas cedar”).

 

A TEST IN 2017

That tank mix is GrazonNext® HL herbicide at the rate of 1.5 pints per acre with PastureGard® HL herbicide at 8 ounces per acre. Matt sprayed in early June when the dogfennel was still small.

A month earlier, Matt had sprayed some other pastures with Grazon P+D herbicide at 2 pints per acre. So he had a comparison. The difference he saw between the herbicides was in the length of residual control.

Where he sprayed Grazon P+D, he saw goatweeds and smartweeds come in late in the summer. Where he used GrazonNext HL, virtually no new weeds appeared by early September.

“We had one Texas cedar in one pasture after we sprayed with GrazonNext.” Matt says. “And we had a few goatweeds come in where we fed hay. That’s it.”

The Youngs’ grazing management probably helps their weed control. They started rotational grazing five years ago, learning about it in cattlemen’s meetings. They became proficient with electric fence, too.

“We rotate everything now, and it really helps the grass,” Matt says.

They typically move cattle when pastures are grazed down to 6 inches. With that leaf area and rest, the grass rebounds quickly from grazing.

For their rotation, they run multiple herds, usually of 25 to 30 head each. Most of the herds rotate through four to six pastures. Pasture sizes range from 3 acres to 20 acres. Two wells with solar-powered pumps supply water to most of the pastures.

Without a designated hayfield, the Youngs typically cut each bahiagrass pasture for hay once each summer.

“Since we started rotating, the cows follow the hay baler, and they stay fat and slick,” Matt says.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

The next project for the Youngs is adding to the infrastructure on the farm. They’ve built an open shed on a hilltop and plan to put new cattle-working facilities under it. They need a better place to artificially inseminate cows. Matt does all their AI work.

“AI really helps tighten up the calving window,” he says. “We’ll get 95 percent to calve in 42 days.”

In the next year, they’ll AI 50 or more replacement heifers, as they continue to grow the operation. Even at 2 acres per cow for pasture and hay, the Youngs aren’t short on grass as long as it rains.

“We try to run understocked so we have too much grass. It’s drought reserve,” Matt says. “And we don’t like hungry cows.”

Label precautions apply to forage treated with GrazonNext HL and to manure from animals that have consumed treated forage within the last three days. Consult the label for full details.

 

 

™®Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners.Grazon P+D is a federally Restricted Use Pesticide. GrazonNext HL is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions.