Baxter Black: Lawn Clippings
The first week of August I was haulin’ a load of cows to the sale. We hadn’t had rain for five weeks and my pasture was pretty sorry. I’d been feedin’ hay for two weeks. Along the highway I could see houses on either side. Most had green lawns. It occurred to me ‘Somethin’ is wrong with this picture!’
Not that I’m against people havin’ lawns, or even soakin’ them with precious water. But then they mow it. They pick up the clippings. Then they stuff these clippings in a plastic bag and try and hide it somewhere. I could quadruple my cow herd if I could just rent pasture from one residential block and graze their yards. But I know that is not realistic.
Residential yard workers do not think of their lawns as forage. They grow it, mow it, harvest its bounty and add it to a landfill. They think of it more like hair than wheat. But you talk about work! Maybe there are people who look forward to mowin’ the lawn; barbers, for instance, or manicurists. And it’s not just the weekly horse whippin’ of a following a Briggs and Stratton around for half a day, some enthusiastic yarders edge, weed, fertilize, shape, prune, rake, haul and water in never-ending tail chase to create compost!
So, I been thinkin’ why not capitalize on all this hand labor. What is grass good for? Cow feed, of course. But it is unlikely that livestock producers could rent 2 AUM’s (Animal Units per backyard) or some such. Which means we have to be able to use the grass after it is harvested. Now, any cowman who’s tried to dump lawn clippings over the fence knows most cows ignore it unless they’re starvin’. But the way cows love silage, maybe we could treat it like a fermented product.
We’d spread the word that fresh clippings would be picked up Saturday and Sunday evenings. Participating Eco-sensitive residential yarders would set their plastic bags out. We’d pick it up, haul it to the dairy or feedlot, add silage preservative and put it in a pit. If it was put up fresh it might hold a worthwhile protein level. Of course, all participating yarders would have to guarantee that their lawn was organic; herbicide and pesticide-free.
And it would help our image. It would have tremendously politically correct implications. Urban residents would become more sympathetic to livestock operations in their area. They’d be recycling and saving precious water. It would give meaning to an otherwise strictly cosmetic use of natural resources. Sort of like using a Picasso painting to cover a water stain on the wallpaper.
And if it works we can get a grant to research recycling old hair and toenails. After all, look at marshmallows. I think they’re made of horse’s hooves.