Feeding the Birds

It amuses me at the unlikely places that I draw subject material and topics for blogs from.   I do most of my writing from my home office or the “man cave” as I call it. My wife was quite happy for me to move all of my manly paraphernalia out here. It’s actually a pretty cozy place for me to work. I have a large window beside my computer desk that looks out into the backyard. I’ve orchestrated a rustic themed landscape within this view.

Oh, by the way, I use PasturePro posts for lots of other uses, besides as a fence post. This one above is a 1-5/8” x 72” post used as a stand for a bird feeder, which is also made of composites.

I enjoy watching the birds and have fed them steadily through the winter. I imagine that they would do quite well without my assistance, but I just like to watch them and just maybe I like the idea that they depend on me. Yesterday, April 3rd, was 80+ degrees here in the Ozarks, at 3am this morning I was awakened with thunder, lightning, rain and 68 degrees. At 5am as I walked out to the man cave it was 48 degrees and pouring down rain. At daylight, I felt sorry for the little birdies, so I donned my felt hat and a wool sweater and fed the little birdies.

What amuses me about this little story is that I know a lot of farmers and ranchers that take care of their livestock the same way. They just like to watch and be around their cattle. They like the idea that they depend on them.  I remember a friend last December that just couldn’t wait to start feeding hay. We’d had  2” of wet snow…he spent all day driving his tractor, burning fuel and putting hay out for his bovines. I asked him that evening if the cows were eating that hay that he spent all day putting out. He said, heck no, the danged cows are all spread out eating grass.  He sounded right down disgusted that they were so unappreciative of his costs and efforts.

At many of the grazing conferences I’ve attended so far this year – one of the major topics of discussion is “Reducing Feed Costs”. It totally amazes me that when asked how much producers hay & feed costs truthfully are, very few can give you a good accounting. Many livestock producers view their hay feeding costs in the same way that the bird enthusiast views birdseed.

Out of curiosity I contacted a good friend whom is a Sales Manager for one of the nation’s largest seed companies. I asked him what percentage of their overall seed sales is in birdseed. The answer was around 20%. That kind of surprised me, as these guys are one of the major players in the agricultural seed supply business. I also doubt that many people that feed birds can tell you how much they spent on birdseed this past year. I don’t myself. I consider it a recreational cost.

I have, and I also have several friends and associates that graze year-around without feeding any hay or supplements. It takes the right genetics, planning and determination but most importantly it takes the mindset that your livestock can and will provide quite well for themselves without being totally dependent upon you to bring the food to them. You can provide and let them harvest.

Year round grazing is not as regional as one might think either.  It was pointed out by one conference speaker (Jim Gerrish) that there are as many producers doing it in Minnesota as there are in Mississippi. Now, upon passing thru my ears the first time I found that a little hard to believe. You can read more about this in Jim’s new book: Kick the Hay Habit, A guide for Year-around Grazing. This book may be purchased through Stockman Grass Farmer

Hay and supplemental feeding is the #1 input cost for most cattlemen and livestock producers. And it is also the #1 thing that you can do something about to become more sustainable and more profitable. Electric fencing is also the #1 thing that you can do to manage those stockpiles of forages and grasses for winter and extended season grazing. Or, you can keep right on “feeding the birds” and grumbling about the high costs of farming……

At this writing, it was 32 degrees this morning with a light touch of frost…..yes, I fed the little birdies again this morning………..they depend on me……….


About Gary Duncan

Gary has been active in the fence business for over 15 years. He also raises Highland cattle in a management intensive grazing system and was the first person to market the PasturePro post back in 2005. He enjoys discussing all things grazing and is the main contributor to the blog.
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