Jim and Deanna Malooley
Warren County, Tennessee
Jim Malooley, an engineer by trade, and his wife Deanna moved from Washington state almost three years ago. They bought their first 25 sheep upon arrival and worked with NRCS to develop a grazing plan. Their farm in Warren County covers just over 200 acres, with 160 acres in pasture and 41 acres in forest. The soils are predominantly Waynesboro and Guthrie silt loam and the land is predominantly flat with a few fields ranging up to 12 percent slope.
The Malooley’s operation focuses on freezer grass-fed beef and lamb. They also use traditional markets selling some select rams. Their operation currently consists of 60 brood cows, 40 calves, and 300 Katahdin ewes (who they breed to Texel rams). Jim and Deanna lamb in the spring between mid-March and mid-May, carry them for a year, and sell wethers at 110 pounds and use their ewe lambs for replacements. They also keep two to three goats for weed control and five to six dogs for flock protection. They calve their Red and Black Angus in the fall, between September and November, and have three bulls: Red Angus, Sim Angus, and South Poll. Jim uses minerals and sea salt custom blend along with their prescribed grazing for nutrition.
Soil tests taken in 2012 showed the soil’s organic matter content ranging between 2.8 to 3.5 percent. Phosphorus (P) was low to medium on most fields and the pH ranged from 6.0 to 6.9. Their lime recommendation was 0-1500 pounds per acre. By 2013, the soil’s organic matter content had risen to 3.3 to 3.9 percent, their pH dropped to 6.4 to 6.6, and no lime was needed. Phosphorus was medium in all fields and potassium was higher in the low category but still lower than optimal. In 2015, Jim took a Haney Soil Health test which considers biological natural processes and gives credit to organic matter derived nitrogen (N) and phosphorus. Two fields showed $196 worth of nitrogen and $148 worth of phosphorus available as a result of increasing the organic matter content – saving him between $150 and $200 per acre in nutrients. When carbon is available and increasing, soil health scores of 7 and above are encouraging and scores of 14 or above are very good. The two fields measured 27 and 18.
When the Malooley’s first bought the farm, there were permanent fields ranging in size from 13.9 acres to 21.1 acres. Now all the fields have pipeline with quick connect couplers (installed with assistance from the Tennessee Agriculture Department and EQIP) and there’s a new well and pumping plant to provide water to the pipelines. (They have also fenced off land by Collins River to improve water quality through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife program and have signed up for enhancements through the Conservation Stewardship Program.) Portable 50 gallon tanks provide water for livestock in all the paddocks and polywire is used (two strands) to divide smaller temporary paddocks. The paddocks are adjusted by season and size of herd (but are usually about three acres in size) and livestock are moved daily or within three days. In winter about 30,000 pounds are grazing at one time whereas in the winter, there’s 90,000 pounds of livestock grazing.
Jim and Deanna have divided the original Kentucky-31 fescue pastures into 100 acres of fescue, 40 acres in rotation with annuals seeded in existing fescue, and 20 acres in Eastern Gamagrass. With livestock moved on a daily basis, Jim can utilize fescue for stockpiling, as well as seeding annuals for increased production. Also through prescribed grazing, Jim and Deanna can promote summer growth of existing Dallisgrass, seeded crabgrass, and existing bermudagrass in Kentucky-31 pastures. Jim and Deanna annually seed a third of the farm by frost-seeding 4 pounds of red clover and 2 pounds of white clover per acre. They graze fescue fairly closely and then over seed clover in mid to late February.
Generally all pastures are rested 30-45 days between grazing. They turn livestock into pastures at approximately 12 inches in height and remove livestock at 4 inches, and graze closer to 2 inches in winter. The large amount of sheep per paddock and large amount of cattle in another paddock are moved in and off in a day promote uniform manure distribution. With very active soil biology, manure patties are decomposed quickly. Nutrients are well distributed as shown in Haney Soil Health soil test. Additional nutrients are added by fertilizer applied by soil test results.
If Jim fed hay only, instead of grazed, he estimated he would need 400 800-pound bales a year. Hay is fed September 15 to Thanksgiving in a sacrifice paddock, and from mid-February to March 1. They use approximately 200 bales annually, saving them about $8,000 a year. Land that would have been cut for hay is grazed. In 2015, 45 acres were seeded with 14 species of annuals (four more species than in 2014) in grazed fescue. There were: 30 pounds of Cereal Rye, 20 pounds of triticale, 2 pounds annual rye grass, 2 pounds of red clover, 2 pounds of crimson clover, 4 pounds of Austrian winter peas, 4 pound of hairy vetch, one pound of forage radish, 1 pound of rape, 0.5 pound chicory, and 5.5 pounds of perennial rye grass.
The annuals, and especially the brassicas, provide immediate growth and forage in fall. The grasses and legumes provide early spring growth. The diversity of plants, brassicas, legumes, and grasses all benefit soil biology and soil aggregation. Brassicas break up surface compaction and shallow compaction. Legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen through symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. One must inoculate annually specific inoculation for legumes. Grass provides fibrous roots adding carbon to soil and scavenges nitrogen in fall to cycle when the annual dies.