Spring is here, time to walk the farm

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I just looked at the calendar and it tells me that spring has arrived. I am sure that all of the spring activities must be kicking into gear on your farm.

Lambing and kidding season are well underway. Spring calves have been hitting the ground and cool season weeds are starting to grow. On one of those good weather days, I like to get out and walk the farm. It’s something that I find most farmers don’t give much thought to. It’s understandable with all of the chores that need to be done and things seem to pull you in every direction, but I would encourage you to take a little time out and intentionally walk.

I am talking about going out with a purpose.

It used to be that I would tell someone to grab a clipboard and some paper, but with cell phones and cameras there is a whole new way to take notes. I now use the notes app on the phone or snap pictures to help remind me of what I was looking at.

Whether you go old-school with the pencil and paper or are armed with your favorite technology device, it’s time to head outside.

The steps

I break my farm walk down into five steps. The first of these is getting the lay of the land. I pull out the old aerial photo of the farm and take a look at where everything is at; fences, access roads, creeks, conservation areas, buildings and water access points.

I usually have an idea of changes and improvements that I would like make for the year.

For my farm, I know that I need to put in a new access road, fence off some new grazing paddocks, and plan a proper pasture area for my pigs.

I draw this out on the map and take it with me on my walk.

The next step is to walk the boundary of the farm. I check for fences that might need repair and make note of any issues that might need to be addressed this year.

When I get to the places that I had marked on my map for improvement, I take a look around, make some notes and maybe take a picture. This can be especially helpful if you identify potential challenges to your project.

The third step in my walk is taking a look at my fields for fertility and weed problems. This time of year the weeds are still small and much easier to control. I make a note of what is coming up. Many weeds are a good indication of what type of fertility the field might have.

Since I am already out there, I usually take some soil samples that I can have tested to confirm my suspicions. I also look for any erosion problems that might need to be addressed.

The fourth step in my walk is taking a look at the water situation. I make it a point to visit all of the water sources for my livestock and make sure that everything still looks good.

I want to put in a catchment for the springs that I have on the farm and this would be a good time to identify some possible locations.

I also noticed that the small stream the cattle have been using is getting pretty torn up. I may need to fence it off and plan another water source for them.

The final step in my walk is taking a look at the buildings and facilities on the farm. This includes barns, sheds, shops and corrals.

Note any repairs that need to be made and consider plans for making things safer and more efficient.

If you are thinking about putting in a new building, take into consideration: the availability of utilities, orientation to the wind, distance from the house (my pig area needs to be a lot further from the house than it is now) and ease of access for emergency services.

Get ahead

I know that it sounds like I am taking the fun out of a good walk, but it may help get you ahead of problems instead of having to respond to an emergency situation that seems to happen at the worst possible time.

As for me, I am heading out now to locate the 43 corners of my property so that I can put in some much-needed fence.

Enjoy your spring and remember to get out and walk the farm.

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Ed Brown is the OSU Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Athens County. Send questions or comments to brown.6000@osu.edu or write in c/o Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.

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