Reminder to self: remove the SD cards from the trail cameras before the cattle are moved to the hilltop pasture!
A mixed herd of Jersey dairy heifers and Devon beef steers cell-grazed our hayfield – five-acre plots at a time – over a three-week period this fall. The family-owned, organic grass-fed farm operation took advantage of the mild weather to stretch its winter supply of hay by turning the cattle out on pasture into the month of December.
Although we have harvested hay from those hilltop fields for many years, this is the first time in more than 30 years that we have opened it up for grazing. The benefits to the land include direct application of grass-fed manure and some break-up of the top layer of entwined roots of grasses and forbs that will allow better peculation of water from winter’s snowmelt and spring rains, both of which will stimulate more vigorous growth.
There are also numerous benefits to be gained from consuming grass-fed dairy products and eating grass-fed beef, and since the farm family that owns the herd offered to pay us in beef we readily agreed to the grazing.
Plus, it was really cool to see the cattle on the hilltop every morning and to have the Jersey heifers follow us and nuzzle our shoulders on our walks around the farm. The Devon steers were more suspicious of us and less friendly, maybe because they knew that we humans would eventually eat them.
There was one complication. Our pasture is much like the top of my head: bald in the middle with a fringe of brushy woodland around the sides. The woodlands are where I do my deer hunting, and so the pasture is ringed with ground blinds, ladder stands, and of course trail cameras.
The trailcams are motion-activated, and somehow it slipped my mind that cattle would trigger them to take photographs, just the same as a deer passing by. Or a coyote, fox, raccoon, squirrel, turkey, pheasant, and in one odd photo this autumn, a goat.
I did not check the trailcams for about three days, and when I made the rounds to remove the SD cards and look at the photos on my laptop computer I was in for a rude surprise. Cumulatively, the trailcams had taken 883 photos. Probably all of cattle, but by the time I had scanned about a hundred photos I deleted all the images from all five cards, had a third cup of morning coffee, and knew I would have to redo my deer scouting after the cows were gone.
Fortunately, I did unintentionally save several of the phots which I post here as a tribute to my foolishness, and to the enjoyment of having cattle on pasture again. We plan to have them back next fall. And I will remember to turn off the trail cameras.