Grazing and Haying

Digging in deeper on the issues of grazing and haying – points 5 and 6 of profitability tips.

These two points go hand in hand since managing the grazing during the growing season, allows one to stockpile for winter grazing and therefore, ‘kick the hay habit.’ There are several protocols to follow, but the crux is to allow grasses to grow deep roots and allow grazing only when the forages have fully recovered. This doesn’t necessarily mean to full maturity, but more at the point that protein and energy needs available to livestock are in balance. That point is different for each plant species. Nonselective grazing as promoted in Real Wealth Ranching, allows desirable species to proliferate, but can be challenging in the delicate balance of seeing to livestock needs to stay fat. Stock must be adapted to grazing and your environment.

A more relaxed approach to grazing can allow livestock to stay fat, but plant species will be less diverse and manure distribution may not improve soil fertility as quickly. However, consider the labor cost of multiple moves per day vs buying inputs and the labor to apply them. Decide what your goals are.

In any case, Jim Gerrish gives good counsel by advising to stock your pasture as to your winter grazing needs to employ the ‘kick the hay habit‘ plan. Unless your stock brings a huge premium, feeding hay very seldom results in profitability. When evaluating your standing forage for winter use, be very careful to allow for deterioration, trampling, and snow cover.

In some cases, the environment will dictate whether or not the class or kind of livestock model you’ve chosen will work. Maybe the decision needs to be made to only have stock in the growing season. Mud, ice, and snow can sure suck the fun out of cows and calves kept year-round. In fact, this past year has been muddy nearly every day and now we are well into a second year of it with no end in sight with rain nearly every day.

This will flow into the point of unadapted livestock for the environment, but i will address that in an upcoming blog.

Always, always, always put a sharp pencil to the finances of any endeavor, especially high capitalization projects – include ‘free’ labor. Livestock is not always the best use of your resources and skills.



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