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Author Topic: cows in the woods  (Read 4939 times)

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Offline L. Wakefield

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cows in the woods
« on: October 06, 2000, 06:18:25 AM »
   Hi again- I was just perusing the main board, and jumped over to the section on managing woodlands for wildlife. Well, I have thrown a left hook into that equation in a portion of my woods (about 14 acres); in that my small herd of cattle graze thru there at free will. They actually are fascinating in terms of being biological bulldozers. They go where my tractor can't, and clean back the brush quite nicely (so I can see the skidder ruts from where they cut this place before I bought it). I am watching the acreage with cows, and comparing it to the acreage without cows. Both areas have ledge, swamp, and middle ground. I am TRYING TO see what the effect is on the acreage itself (the big and small trees, the understory, the level of moisture), as well as the impact on the wildlife. We've been at this for 4 years.
  So far, I believe I note that the wild ungulates tend to stay away from the cow area, tho they pass thru at will (especially the moose- they cruise thru the fence like it isn't there- and then, of course, it isn't, til I fix it again..)- but it's hard to tell, because the deer/moose are continuing to stay in the areas they preferred before the cows were there- I just didn't fence that part. The grass seems to benefit if it isn't overgrazed. The ruts are not worsened, but cowpaths in wet ares are somewhat erosive.
  I can't tell what it does to the snowshoe hare pop. The wild turkeys and ruffled grouse seem to like it fine.
  As far as the manure goes, I can't quite tell if it is a net gain, net loss, or break-even. I think the wild apples are benefitting, cuz the cows hang out there for shade and apples both.
  I really like the effect where I drag hay bales in to the woods, break them up. and have the cows eat outside over winter. If there is enough light, I definitely see an improvement in the graze.
  What do you-all think of this? I would like to get an idea of what this will do over the longer term.              L. Wakefield
L. Wakefield, owner and operator of the beastly truck Heretik, that refuses to stay between the lines when parking

Jeff

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2000, 04:09:17 PM »
I'll let one of the foresters reply to your post above, my question is: what do you do for a living?? Your signature suggests Truck Driver, But your posts suggest maybe something else.

Just curious,

I am working on re-programing the profile part(Place scream here) of this board so we can include more personal info if we desire. Makes it a little nicer to know a little more about who your talking to.

Jeff...

Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2000, 04:33:55 PM »
A lot will depend on how many cows you put into the woods.  A large population will cream everything.

There is a farmer up the road who put steers into a pasture with only a few trees.  It hadn't been pastured for several years.  The attempt was to get rid of the brush.  

The net result was that the large ash trees were killed.  This is where the steers congregated for shade.  Eventually there was too much soil compaction on the roots, and the trees died.

The cows had little effect on the brush, since there was ample grass available.  Goats would have killed the brush.

In the West, they graze cattle in their woodlots.  However, most of these stands are Ponderosa pine, and have grass in the understory.  They also graze large areas, so the cattle don't stay in one area for long periods of time.

Carrying capacity for pasture in my area is about 1 head/acre.  Your area would probably be less, due to the shorter growing season.  I would expect that your woodlot would be even less.

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2000, 05:53:49 PM »
From what I have seen where cows were ranged on larger areas, is they can be hard on plantations by stepping or lying on the seedlings. Also in the younger stands, they can do damage just by being large and awkward.

Where I have seen the most damage are the banks of small streams. They will use the same areas to get into the streams for water, and generally make quite a bit of mess (mud). This can be fixed a bit with drift fences and salt block placement.


Offline L. Wakefield

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2000, 04:17:30 PM »
Hi Jeff and all- in answer to your question, Jeff- I wasn't sure how much biog. data you might want, and I don't generally sign on a discussion gp by striking up a theme of who-I-am- I just say hi and ask questions etc- but since you asked..
  I'm 49 (female) and currently living on the land in Maine I grew up on. I bought it after my mom passed away. It's been in and out of tree growth since I was a kid. I missed the fire of 47 by a few years, and judging by the look of things, it narrowly missed this piece of woods- not so in areas as little as 5 miles away. It's amazing what a difference scorched earth can make even 53 years later.
  This place was selectively cut when I was 18, and then was savaged in 95 just before I bought it (looked like an atomic blast had hit it). So the pine seedlings are 5 years old, plus there are scattered older trees. The forestor cringed and said a few choice words when he saw what had been done- then he drew me up a plan. I am seeking more perspectives on management thru a variety of modes. (As an aside, I also have 70 acres of unruly woodland in WV- where my style for 12 years of residence and now continuing is 'non-management'. This may change..)
  The way I presently support my habit of having land, learning, and trying different things is- I am a registered nurse. At least that's how I pay the health insurance and etc.
  So where I'm at with the forestry- I want to make the land produce. I like to do it with the cattle, and I'm more familiar with that. (Kept cows in WV) But Maine woods means trees. I'm so-so with a chainsaw- can't manage my husband's huge Jonsered (can't start it anyway, but I love the fact that if he hands it to me running, I can practically cut something on the ground without even bending over), but I love my little Husqvarna 51. I'm still in the learning process about how you don't cut rocks or soil if you want the blade to stay sharp..What I really want right now is an earth mover to smooth out the skidder ruts. And the crack I'm caught in- I'm not over the commercial hump, so any investment has to be small. I keep meaning to join SWOAM (small woodland's owners alliance of maine). Things will get better after the land is paid off- maybe then I can quit the nursing and spend more time on the land.
  Thank you all for the responses on the cattle question. I will chew on the answers for awhile. The carrying capacity here is a little difficult to figure, as the acreage is mixed, and I keep rotating pasture/woodland access. It seems I have to hay the cows from about November to May; and they just don't like the browse in the woods as much as in the pasture- I think it is more acid soil there. (soil tests suggested that, and so does the moss.) One of the questions I'll kick around is- if and as I plant species (I did find a supplier of the balsam poplar)- will it be beneficial, detrimental, or no difference to apply lime in selected areas? The forestor had recommended plantations of about an acre in order to avoid losing the seedlings. I can see that for evergreens, but I think I'll go smaller with basswood, sweet birch, etc, where I am indulging curiosity and research questions rather than with bd ft  output in mind.
  One WAY COOL thing that I have done is to check out what they do up north- formerly Bowater was up here, and as you go from county to county you can literally get lessons by observation in woodland management on a VERY large scale. We again have a question on the ballot this year with a lot of politics about how it will impact small woodland owners' harvesting practices.
  A lot of random thoughts here. If I knew what I was doing I'd be dangerous.   LW
L. Wakefield, owner and operator of the beastly truck Heretik, that refuses to stay between the lines when parking

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2000, 07:40:00 PM »
Cows full time in the woodland don't mix if your objective is to grow quality timber, especially quality hardwoods. A lot of damage is done to the timber by stomping, rubbing, chewing etc for loss of tree quality. Much better to have designed pastures with established carrying capacity (cows/acre), rotated shade areas etc.
~Ron

Offline L. Wakefield

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2000, 06:59:15 PM »
   I hear you on that. But let me tell you, at this point in my learning curve, I can barely look at a mature hardwood tree and say- that is a good one. I learned a bit in WV about single trees vs 2 growing from a common base- they said the double ones were more apt to be rotten. And I know enough to look at if it's straight or not. But to predict what type of soil or local neighboring flora will influence good tree growth; or whether or not you prepare planting ground in a formal sense- dunno.
  I've planted apple trees. I've gotten the forester's ditty on how to plant pine seedlings in large quantity. I'm just starting to look around for good spots for basswood, black birch, and the elusive poplar. And I will keep the cows away from those.
  The acreage the cows are currently sharing with woodland is only a bit above swamp level, seems to have a lot of fungi, and some pretty twisty trees. I just don't think it's an area that would produce quality HARDWOOD timber, tho pine kinda likes it. I can't get a handle on why- seems too dark, too wet, too low, and too fungus-ridden. If I thin the trees (that's on the schedule sometime in the next 10 years) some of these parameters will change.
L. Wakefield, owner and operator of the beastly truck Heretik, that refuses to stay between the lines when parking

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2000, 09:05:02 PM »
You should get a soils test and capability analysis from local Extension Service or Conservation District there. Do you have a Landowner's Forest Stewardship Plan completed for your property? This would be most worth while as it seems that you are quite interested in forest land & resource management.
~Ron

Offline L. Wakefield

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2000, 09:29:57 PM »
yes, and yes. I actually did soils testing before I bought the property.. but mostly in the vegetable/orchard area. I actually haven't looked at the woodland itself. But I did get a forestry stewardship plan. It goes by area- Everett distinguished about 7 sep't areas with distinctive management needs; as well as generic options. As I said, if I would get off my duff (off the computer, eh?) and join SWOAM, I might get somewhere with this. Alas, at this point talk is as far as I'm getting. I find if I buy trees, I am forced to plant them, or lose my investment. Worked great with the apple trees.. in the case of the woodland planning, we hadn't got to specific species' strategy. As I say, the swampy parts are pretty twisty looking, so if I am going to invest in seedlings (as opposed to taking what comes naturally) I feel I need to look closer at what is making the present trees look like they do. My first approximation (as with the orchard) is- if wild fruit trees grow there, it's the spot for an orchard. But in introducing a species not previously there, I want to give it the optimum. As you suggest, I'll get back around to bothering Everett (he did the forestry plan).   LW
L. Wakefield, owner and operator of the beastly truck Heretik, that refuses to stay between the lines when parking

Offline Tom

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2002, 06:54:30 PM »
I found this link while surfing around on one of my "try to entertain myself" days and thought I remembered this thread.

It's a little late LW but it's an enteresting write-up

http://ohioline.osu.edu/for-fact/0015.html  :P
extinct

Offline woodmills1

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2002, 09:17:50 PM »
just a thought lw but maybe don't plant crop trees where the cows go.  if there is some room where they don't, then think about the good NE croppers like cherry, walnut, or oak.  or maybe continue with the fruit tree idea.  i have so much of a different piece.  mine is well overstocked i must think about what to save and not cut.  planting is not even in my future.  but if i were to think of planting it would be walnut hardy for my area.  or maybe cherry since it is such fine wood.  don't forget to tap your local county forester for her input on your property. :P
James Mills,Lovely wife,collect old tools,vacuuming fool,36 bdft/hr,oak paper cutter,ebonic yooper rapper nauga seller, Blue Ox? its not fast, 2 cat family, LT70,edger, 375 bd ft/hr, we like Bob,free heat,no oil 12 years,big splitter, baked stuffed lobster, still cuttin the logs dere IAM

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2002, 02:20:22 PM »
Note my previous comments. Cows in the wood lot and growing timber don't mix, especially if you want to grow quality timber.

The value of a future quality hardwood stand can be lost forever from ongoing livestock damage.  
~Ron

Offline Frank_Pender

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2002, 05:36:11 PM »
Cow or horses it makes little difference out here in the West.  When i married my wife she had the tree farm. ;)  Anyway, she had been running about 12 head of "rideing" horses on a 5 acre parcel, the majority of which was rather open land.  What few Douglas Fir trees that were growing were in excess of 24" DBH.  Anyway, I convinced her to dispose of all but two critters. 8)  Moved them up closer to the barn area which was not part of the original 5 acres.  It took me almost four years to get a stand of timber growing on that ground.  the firs year I plowed the ground 8" deep to get to good soil.  the horses had compacted it that much.  I planted a a high nitrogen form of clover and other lugems, let it set a years with no critters and plowed, disced, and harrowed.  I planted that next winter and had a 95% loss.  Planted again and had a better success rate, only 75% loss.  I was making progress.  All the while I am picking foresters, extension agents, lay timber growers and the Oregon State foresttry Dept..  Final conclusion was the critters had all but destroyed the ground for trees to grow.  My solution was from my old nursery growing days:  I bought a smaller auger for the post hole digger and began place a hole every 5' apart.   I then cleaned out a friends horse arena and placed the material, mixed with soil in the holes along with the trees.   We are now at the fall of year 4.  With the coming of Spring I had a success rate of 95+%.  All of this due to the soils having been compacted to a point of virtually no return without whole bunches of help.  8) 8) 8)  

     The wife has since acquired to mini critters (horse and donkey).   :-/     They are now denuding the bark on trees that are 2o+"dbh and smaller and the Oak is going by the wayside also.  The only thing I can hope for is they die off, which is not likely, or the trees fall on them, which is almost as unlikely, because I will have to remove the trees so that will not happen :-X.  Moral: for me is do not let the critters go where the trees are located.
     In the original 5 acres I have removed, in the last three years, about $1,500 worth of fence posts and have 4 times that to go, and still  have a nice forest of trees growing after 15 to 17 years.  the average dbh is 7" right now and I am not pouring the fertilizer until all of the lesser quality trees are removed.

Frank Pender

Offline Bud Man

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2002, 05:41:31 AM »
LW== Cows need a little shade in the summer heat and a wind break in the cold ===but aside from that they cause erosion,compaction of soil around trees,eliminate understory & prevent flow of forest evolving to areas natural climax, remove cover for a multitude of woodland creatures,etc.,etc. this is  from a woodlands standpoint --from a cows standpoint , there ain't much to eat
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Offline John_Boisselier

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2002, 08:18:43 PM »
Every woods that I have ever worked in that was used as any kind of access for cattle in any significant quantity was very poor in terms of timber quality.  Both direct contact (rubbing) and incidental contact (soil compaction) by livestock eventually kills or severely hinders tree growth.  At the very least, the timber has ingrown bark, mineral stain and pith pockets from soil compaction and rubbing injuries, but most often the trees have what we call butt rot.  This is basically a rotten spot, supposedly caused by high nitrates and soil compaction, that can go as far as several feet up the center of the best log on a tree effectively ruining 90% of the value of a typical tree.  This is not to say that cattle can never go through a woods or that you can't let them in to clean up the fallen apples, but on an ongoing basis, cattle will not in any way from a timber perspective improve a woods.  For a healthy woodstand, you want a healthy understory in the woods.  You can pick and choose what you want in that understory for your wood's future, but if you are looking for a park, when all the trees eventually mature and are harvested, all you have left is pasture or more lawn to mow anyway.  If you want shade for the cattle, plant some fast growing trees of some kind on the other side of a south fence, or saw some of your timber if the atom bomb crew left you any and build them a shade house with removable sides for winter wind protection.  Have fun and keep the cattle from ruining all that veneer timber you're going to plant.
The Woodsman

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2002, 06:04:32 AM »
Well said. If shade is needed, designate a shade area with a structure if needed. Don't use the entire timber stand for roaming livestock pasture.

One timber sale that was the most difficult for me to work and sell would have had quality sugar maple on it, but the livestock use of the woodland over the years ruined the timber quality to the point that the large sawlog trees were now of very low value. It was difficult to get bids on the timber. It was later sold by negotiated sale to a sawmill.
~Ron

Offline L. Wakefield

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Re: cows in the woods
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2002, 04:55:08 PM »
   Of the entire acreage, about 10% is out of tree growth and into pasture. There is one spot, interestingly enough, where they ate all the popple whips but have left the pine babies strictly alone. I will watch for the compaction and deterioration that you mention.   Bear in mind, though, that I'm not running them in high population density. They do have trees in the pasture, and loafing space.

  What I did like is where their grazing exposed the horrible skidder ruts. This will make my restoration work easier. We were talking about ankle breakers- you'd suddenly go down about 3ft. The first time I was chasing a -uh- cow thru there I went on my face a bunch of times- come up sputtering- it was a wet summer..the cow wasn't exactly laughing out loud but I think she might have been grinning a little.. :D :D   lw
L. Wakefield, owner and operator of the beastly truck Heretik, that refuses to stay between the lines when parking


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