Tag Archives: paddock

Total Grazing – Day 1

Have you ever read Scripture yet it didn’t make an impact? Then maybe 20 years later, you read the same passage and suddenly the light goes on in your heart and head?! And maybe you don’t ever remember having read it, but that’s unlikely. Or maybe you remember reading it often, but suddenly, the scales are removed and the culmination of our understanding and experiences make a particular passage, parable, or concept crystal clear.

Perhaps learning about grazing livestock doesn’t have the same moral impact on our lives, but, the above paragraph, applies in a similar way for me.

Using O’Brien reels and Powerflex polybraid, I set up the first break which was too large and they wasted some forage by walking on it and manuring.

Jaime Elizondo, Real Wealth Ranching, is an experienced grazier and teacher – i’ve even sat in on one of his presentations at a conference with other grazing teachers. I can honestly say that i absolutely do not remember him teaching about total grazing. I do remember he spent time discussing silvopasture.

For whatever reason, a few weeks ago, i decided to sign up for Pillar 1 – Total Grazing Course of his online grazing course, the Q and A live session just ended a few minutes ago. The course takes about 10 hours to complete and the format is easy to follow and comprehensive. The community discussion is excellent with all class participants able to post questions and Jaime answers for all to see. Not the same networking as sitting at a round table in the same room, but for whatever this year is, it’s a good substitute.

On November 19th, i sold half my cows/calves because without fall rains – again – there is little stockpile and as i’ve stated before, no matter how sharp my pencil or how badly i want it to financially work – feeding hay as a substitute forage for beef cows is a fast way to spend a lot of money with no return and a whole lot of work – in the winter – when it’s cold, miserable – and nasty.

Since taking the course, i’ve spent considerable time on Google Earth Pro drawing lines, paths, and polygons in an effort to optimise fence building. My current fences are 2 strand hi-tensile (2 strand because i had sheep before). There are a couple I am going to move. It’s a big job, but not a hard job, so i’ll keep pecking away at it if winter allows. The reason for moving them is to keep the Total Grazing scheme simple in design.

More on the whole deal as time progresses – Here’s today.

The 58 cows, 30 calves, and 15 yearling heifers were on a small 10 acre paddock cleaning it up the previous day. I had already set up the first stretch of polybraid, so all i did today was use another reel and polybraid to section off about 12,000 square feet. My goal was to feed all the cows in that break for 2 hours (Jaime says 1 1/2 hours – i’m still learning). My stockpile is super light in many places and this first break was certainly no exception.

If i eyeball estimate that there was 2000 lbs of forage per acre available to graze and in 1/4 of an acre there would be about 500 lbs and the animals could consume 2100 lbs per day (8 hours), then in 2 hours it is reasonable to assume they may eat 525 lbs.

Chowing down on yummy cow food.
This is after about 1 1/2 hours – Some of the forage is grubbed out well (mostly legumes like red clover) and then some selected against. The point of Total Grazing is to promote non selective grazing. So, the cows and I have some learning to do. I need to estimate better the amount of forage available so that i give them only that which can be entirely consumed in 1 1/2 hours and the cows need to learn to clean their plate.

Incredibly, the scenario played out very close to that. There is some trampled and soiled forage because I forgot to allow them to stand in the previous paddock and deposit their manure and urine before moving into this fresh break. Also, the cows ran all the way to the fence before stopping. This is new to them, so that is not unexpected, but they settled immediately to grazing. Good girls.

I left them alone once they were settled, but they were restless being in such close proximity to one another. I have observed this every time i graze the roadbanks. About an hour is all they can stand to be around one another before they want back into their large paddock for social distancing.

In about an hour, they did the same here by walking back into the closely grazed paddock and just standing around. When i saw this, i went back to them and encouraged them to return to the lush paddock, at which time i also moved the poly braid forward about 12 feet for a quick fresh break. That only took them a few minutes to consume.

Fresh break of only 12 feet

It was getting late in the afternoon and i won’t be returning for 2 days, so i gave them a break large enough to accommodate that.

Final break for the day and enough to last them until i return in a couple days. The animals are more relaxed at this separation. This isn’t ideal in terms of forage and soil improvement or even keeping cow condition on an even keel, but balancing all aspects of management, including time, is the challenge all of us face in some fashion.

Hope to have more stories to share!!

Grazing Management Primer – Part 1

Alan Newport, writer for Beef Producer magazine outlines basic managed grazing terms and techniques.  A perfect foundation from which to begin an in depth study on how to improve soil quality, animal health, wildlife habitat, and human quality of life.

Alan Newport

Properly managed, adaptive grazing should create profit in its own right, but it also sets up other profitable management options.

Here is primer for managed grazing, Part I

When it comes to managed grazing, there’s a lot in a name.

Alan Newport | Dec 06, 2017

Mob grazing, planned grazing, cell grazing, Savory grazing, MIG grazing, AMP grazing – All these terms and more have been coined to describe managed grazing. When we say managed grazing, it means cattle are being moved to fresh pasture often enough that the manager has some control over consumption level of the cattle, as well as the graze and recovery times for plants. It also implies the manager has a plan (planned grazing) for grazing that meets certain goals of both the soil-plant complex and the livestock.

MIG is management intensive grazing. AMP is adaptive multi-paddock grazing. Savory grazing was a colloquialism based on consultant Allan Savory’s early advocacy for multi-paddock grazing in the U.S.

Cell grazing refers to the once-common label of a grazing unit as a “cell,” with a grazing unit being the area where one herd is managed. This is less common terminology today. Mob grazing refers to very-high-stock-density grazing and has either Australian or South African origins.

Paddock — is the term defining an enclosure where cattle are contained for a brief grazing period. This might be a week, or more, or less. It might be a few hours. It could be made with permanent, semi-permanent, or temporary fencing.

Stocking rate – Typically refers to the number of cattle that can be run on a ranch, or more specifically the total pounds of a livestock type and class that can be run year-around. It is typically based on the number of animals that can be grazed on one-half of one-half (or 25%) of the total forage grown in a year. Arguably, this carrying capacity would not include additional animals dependent on purchase of hay and other supplemental feeds. It can be a way to measure ranch productivity, but improvements in consumption, regrowth and soil health under well-managed grazing should improve stocking rate immediately and long-term.

Why does stock density matter?

Stock density is inversely related to grazing time. The higher the stock density, the fewer pounds of forage will be available for each animal and therefore the shorter must be the grazing time. The longer you graze livestock in a paddock under any circumstances, the less residual forage you leave in the paddock and the more forage animals will consume. High stock density also increases trampling. Managing stock density also helps determine the evenness of grazing and of urine and feces distribution, and whether less-desirous plants will be grazed or left behind.

Further, high stock density is directly correlated to length of recovery time and to number of paddocks needed. Put another way, higher stock density requires more paddocks and increases length of forage recovery. In turn, that allows greater forage production and the chance to leave more forage behind, preferably much of it trampled onto the soil surface to make more available for consumption by soil life while still protecting the soil.

Like what you are reading? There’s more! Read Part 2 and Part 3.

Winter Is On Its Way!

Got a late start this morning, but headed up to roll up a polybraid, then take it to the paddock where the cows were and set it up.  I had put off rolling this polybraid up all summer and because of that, there was some damage to the wire (it wasn’t energised all this time) from deer, calves, sheep chewing on it and breaking the tiny wires braided inside the poly.

Thinking the cows would be starving (they act like that a lot), I provided them far too large a stockpiled paddock.  They just ran around trampling their food and kicking up their heels!  Despite standing knee deep in fresh grass, after about an hour, some of them had wandered back into the old paddock to nibble on short clovers.

This is the first strip of winter stockpile I’ve turned them onto this season.   The paddock size is 17.9 acres, but they’ve been alloted about 7, which as i said was far too much.  It’s grown pretty good although this is growth since May, not August- September, so the quality will not be as good and I’ll need to watch the condition of the cows as winter becomes more severe and they need more energy.   I estimated there are about 7 inches of forage at about 350 lbs per inch giving 2450# per acre.  Given the number of cows and calves in this mob, they eat about 6000# per day, so this 7 acre allotment should yield about 17,150 lbs or 3 days of grazing.  It will be interesting to see how close i get to the estimation.

Forecasting snow flurries by morning.

Shabbat Shalom!

tauna

tannachton farm 003tannachton farm 004

tannachton farm 001
Photo Bomb!!

 

Warming Up!

Wow, it is amazing how warm weather can energise a person into working and really enjoying it!

Monday morning started off a bit rough though since it had been quite cold the night before and my early morning check of the lambing situation found 5 dead (cold) but 7 thriving.  At this point, I’m beginning to think there is a vast difference in mothering ability of these ewes.   However, all get a pass until the weather stays warm.  With warmer weather this afternoon, the ground is thawing on top, so it’s very slick to have a pickup out in the pasture, so after nearly getting stuck in an area I had pulled into to load some gates, I decided to drop them off at their new location just inside the gate and later I would drag them down to the water tank with my Gator.  Additionally, in the afternoon, Dallas and I moved the cows and calves a half mile to fresh pasture.  A little bit of green showing, but mostly they are picking at old stockpile which will serve them fine as long as the weather is not stressful.

Apparently, through the excitement of moving the cows, the guard dogs flattened the electrified netting that held in the sheep and unfortunately, once we returned, all but 5 nursing ewes had escaped.  That’s the way it goes, of course, since I was planning to move them down the road the next day up to the corral.  However, too late for that, so we spent the next two hours  pushing the ewes more than quarter mile through two paddocks and across a ditch with deep running water.  I was so proud of them actually ploughing through that water!  Sheep can really be stubborn about getting their feet wet.  I was calling the sheep to follow and Dallas was pushing and so the little lambs that couldn’t cross, he grabbed and threw them across to their mums.

Once over the ditch and through the gate, the key was to give them access to the hay pile so they would be occupied while iIset up seven nettings quickly before they escaped the area. Meanwhile, Dallas went back around to shut the gates behind the cattle (two had come back because they forgot to take their calves with them!!!  aaargh!), so all were together, then he continued on through to Cord Road to drive all the way around the square mile by gravel road.  I then sent him down to gather the 5 ewes plus lambs into the corner by Morris Chapel cemetery and install a netting around behind them.  That way they would be safe until we could move them next morning to be with the rest of the flock.  It was pretty much dark by this time.

We had noticed hours earlier a ewe having difficulty with giving birth, so when Dallas came back, we walked through the flock with the torch and found her.  I walked her over to the hay bales, grabbed her hind leg while she was distracted by eating and flipped her over.  The first lamb was fairly easy to pull out, so it was a mystery why she was having trouble.  So, i reached inside her and way, deep inside was another lamb.  It came out easily, too, so not sure why she was having trouble.  Nevertheless, I laid them around to her head, but she would have nothing to do with them; not a good sign.  I let her up and she just walked away, lambs baaing and wet.  Stupid ewe.  Dallas and I tried to push her back towards the lambs, but she would have nothing of it, so we caught her and walked/dragged her to the corral.  I packed the two lambs up to her and we tried for half an hour to get those lambs to nurse, but the ewe didn’t want them and they didn’t want her.

Both Dallas and I were tired and hungry by now (about 9:30pm), so we headed home and 35 minutes later we were back and fixing a light supper.  While it was warming, I went out and fed my five bottle lambs, back in for supper, then, taking a big box, I drove back up to see if a miraculous love fest was happening.  Nope, not at all.  I left her shut in the corral, grabbed the lambs and brought them home for feeding.  At midnight I finally got a shower and headed to bed.

They were very unhappy lambs and cried nearly all night in the basement.  But by morning after multiple feedings, they were strong.

Preparing for a Cold Snap!

Cold temperatures have descended on north Missouri today and forecasted to hang around for at least the next 10 days! With the ground already frozen, these continued below freezing temps made

it tough to set up the sheep electric netting fence.  Thankfully, I put up netting around several large bales of hay and running water for the sheep to stay put until the weather breaks, though I may have to chop ice if we don’t get any snow.  Sheep really don’t need water if there is snow available.

No longer am I trying to graze the road banks with the sheep.  Moving them down the bank is like pushing water now and with the ground frozen, it’s far too difficult to install the Kencove sheep netting fence.  At this point, grazing the banks in the spring after green grass starts coming on will be the next time they are pushed out.  Sheep grazing the banks eliminates the need for me to mow the banks with the brush hog, but it is extra work.

Cattle are a different story in the water department.  If there is plenty of heavy, wet snow, they won’t drink much, but if that’s what we have, it destroys the stockpiled winter forage for them to graze much faster than just being frozen or a light snow.  However, with a light snow, they will need fresh flowing water available.  Therefore, in anticipation of freezing weather, I filled the water tank and opened the leak valve so that the water will fill the tank and then continue running over the top of the overflow pipe.  Flowing water will not freeze easily – especially if the cattle are drinking from it.  The drawback to overflow is that the water is draining the pond from which it originates, though in Missouri, this is usually refilled easily when spring rains come.

Winter grazing with the lack of grass regrowth allows us to strip graze whatever size breaks we want to give the cattle or sheep.  If I know I’ll be back up to the farm the next day, I’ll give the cows a very small break of forage so that they won’t walk all over it and ruin it before grazing.  However, if it will be several days or if it’s going to be extra cold, I’ll set up a bit larger break.  The breaks are fenced with one strand of Powerflex Fence electrified polybraid fence and step-in posts for easy set up and tear down.  I use two lines and leap frog them across the paddocks  – allowing enough quality forage to maintain a healthy condition on the animals.  Strip grazing versus free access will vastly increase utilisation resulting in, on average, about 60% more grazing days!  Additionally, manure is more evenly distributed across the paddock.  (my paddocks average about 20 acres each).  My cows and calves require about 6500 lbs of dry matter per day, so accurately estimating the amount of forage per acre is crucial, then I open up enough acres for the cows to graze however many number of days I want.

Happy Grazing!

tauna

Sheep bale grazing near a small patch of timber.
Sheep bale grazing near a small patch of timber.

9  grazing under the snow - Copy
Going for the green!

Cattle grazing through snow  - strip grazing stockpiles forage
Cattle grazing through snow – strip grazing stockpiles forage