Mike Taylor was very young the last time his family raised cattle on its operation in Phillips County in eastern Arkansas.
"The last time we had cattle on this farm, I was in diapers," says Taylor, who was interviewed following a presentation he and his son, Mike Taylor Jr., made at Southern Agricultural Cover Crops, Soil Health and Water Management Conference in Jonesboro, Ark., earlier this fall.
The Taylors, like many farmers in the Delta, have been working hard to improve the health of their soils by planting cover crops and reducing the amount of tillage they're doing, as the elder Taylor explained in his presentation and at another speech he gave at the Nutrient Management and Edge of Field Monitoring Conference in Memphis, Tenn., in early December.
A trip to Ohio and conversations with other farmers led Mike and Mike Jr., to try a completely different approach to double-cropping on their farm in 2015. They planted wheat on several fields last fall, as they've done in the past.
"But, instead of planting soybeans behind the wheat, we planted a 13-way mix of summer grazing covers on some of the fields and an 85-day corn on the other," says Mike Taylor. "Rather than planting wheat, which can be sold for less than the cost of production, and soybeans, which will make less than the cost of production, we decided to do something different."
The different was an intensive grazing program that involved putting about 100 head of cattle on the summer grazing fields and moving them from one one-acre paddy to another on a daily basis.
The Taylors had to make some concessions to the heat that moved into the Delta region in August and September of 2015. They took cotton trailers and placed shade cloths over them and moved the trailers along with a 1,000-gallon water trailer from paddy to paddy each day.
Moving the cows was not a problem, according to the Taylors. It took them about three minutes to move the fence each day, and the cows would follow them to the next un-grazed paddy.
"It was like a stampede," said Taylor. "The cows would be waiting on you to let them into the next block of grazing."
For more information on the Nutrient Management Conference, visit www.swcs.org/nutrientmanagement.