Although, i’m still tracking grazing on my grazing chart, Jaime says i won’t need to under the total grazing. i bet i do, though, at least for a while.
For fun, i wanted to check the cow days per acre grazing with the total grazing situation on a tiny portion of my farm. This small section is 3.6 acres and there are 75 animal units grazing. It had last been grazed for 2 days (on a much larger scale since this small section is part of a 30 acre paddock) from 6 sep to 8 sep then allowed to grow whatever until the 18th of december when i turned the cows in on it. It didn’t grow much because it has been pretty dry since mid-August.
In 9 days it is completely consumed but not grubbed and the stock is in excellent condition despite temps dropping to single digits (F) the last 2 nights of the grazing period. This photo would reflect (imho) about a 90% utilization reflecting a surprising estimated 5500 lbs per acre yield. Had the cows been given full access to 3.6 acres at once, there would be no way of attaining 90% utilization due to fouling, manuring, and urinating. It was very thin up close, but from halfway to the far end is a natural spring area so it grows a LOT of forage since it stays kind of wet nearly all year.
plan paddock design with straight lines and 660 feet or less to strip graze. In a perfect world this could happen, in reality, there are draws, copses, deep ditches, travel situations which the livestock will simply never figure out, washouts, timbers, etc, etc, ad nauseum. But shoot for that layout as much as possible. Whether you aspire to total grazing, MiG (management-intensive grazing), adaptive grazing, mob grazing, the rectangular paddock with water source less than 800 feet (Paul Peterson was a lead in this study funded through SARE back in 1994) is about as an ideal for a scheme that requires much flexibility in fencing, grazing, and producer mindset.
But remember to balance cost and time with grazing efficiency. In other words, if the paddock is most effective with a good water source 1000 feet, then that may be the best strategy.
With paddocks designed utilizing 1.22 inch fiberglass posts about 50 feet apart (more closely spaced posts of course depending on terrain – north Missouri with undulating land, deep ditches, and timbers will frequently require closer placement than that). Using 1.22 inch posts provides a firm post for hooking onto for strip grazing at both ends.
As i prepare for the future in following guidelines for total grazing, i’m grazing this area intensively with temporary fencing for now. However, i do not plan to have to do this in the future. Far too much work and i’m allergic to work.
Total Grazing takes a pause since i gave my ladies enough grazing to last 2-3 days Wednesday afternoon. Although the high temp for the day was forecasted to be 51F, that was first thing in the morning with temps dropping rapidly throughout the afternoon and winds picking up to 20 mph and regularly gusting to 40 mph. Thursday’s high might sneak up to 23 and drop to 9 in the night. Admittedly, i am a fair weather rancher, so the girls are on their own until Saturday when it warms up for the day. But they are haired up with warm coats, plenty of fresh water, protein tub, Icelandic Thorvin kelp (i purchase from Welter Seed & Honey by the pallet load (2000 lbs), and clean (without YPS) salt harvested by Independent Salt Company, thought it’s actually purchased from and delivered by Vit-A-Zine, Butler, Missouri.
My cows are doing okay on this 20% all natural protein, but when i move them to 4 year old endophyte infected fescue leftover from theorganic soybean farming situation, the protein level may need to be boosted for them to effectively utilize the forage. I’m researching that situation since i’m not keen to offer urea which is the main way higher protein tubs get to the 30%-40% level. First, however, after the postal delivery crush of holidays, i’ll be sending off forage samples to assess the TDN and protein levels – maybe they won’t need higher protein. On an aside, i built this little sled out of scrap materials which is a necessity if i need to move the tub with the cows (by pulling with my JD Gator)- it weighs 200 lbs to start.
With Total Grazing best case scenario being a 4 x move per day (about every 2 hours), what in the world can i do to keep busy in between those scheduled moves? Like being at home, a farm always has something that needs doing. During this unusually kind weather we are enjoying this December, I’ve been primarily cutting trees that are in the wrong place and when i get tired of running the chainsaw, i haul all the bits and pieces of brush to a pile to burn, and when i get too tired to do that, i start walking around the grazed portions and snip little sprouts.
Thursday, although only in mid-30s (F), the sun came out brightly and there was no wind, so i braved the temps and went to my farm. I was concerned about the deep cycle 12V battery running my solar energiser getting low on charge. With temps below freezing each night, a battery outside, if flat, can easily be ruint. (my solar panel is currently under renovation)
My last entry described my plan to strip graze south of the timber, so here is an outline. There is a great deal of difference in the amount of forage just south of the timber vs heading on down the hill to the south, so my paddock sizes need to be adjusted to allow for 1 1/2 hours of grazing. Cows really won’t graze longer than that before relaxing and chewing their cud.
In this case, they still have plenty of grazing in the timber, so they were not hungry at all. I will be leaving them for several days here so they will clean up.
How do i make any determination as to how much area to give my cows? Basically, it’s a math problem. The art is training your eye. When i pulled out the polybraid (white lines), i took large steps to estimate the distance, then multiplied that number times 3 feet. In this case, it was right at 300 feet. I step off the bit on ‘y’ axis (purple line), using the second strip for an example because it is straight across to make for simpler explanation. Anyway, it is about 70 feet. So 70 feet times 300 feet equals 21000 square feet. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre, so the area in question is 48%. Obviously, for ease of figuring in my head, i’ll use 1/2 acre. Now, the art part. I estimate in this paddock there to be only 1000 lbs of forage per acre available to total graze, so total is 500 lbs. Using a 70 animal unit figure and knowing they will eat about 30 lbs per day per head. My herd will consume about 2100 lbs total forage per day. If i was on target for giving them 1 1/2 worth of grazing (4 moves per day) or 1/4 of their time grazing, they would need 525 lbs of forage to graze for that time period. Amazingly, or perhaps not so amazingly since i’ve been estimating forage per acres for decades now – you can see that estimates come out extremely close. That’s just pretty cool.
My explanation is probably clear as mud, but it’s not difficult in real practice.
Paddocks will be smaller as i move down the hill since the forage is much heavier – some will be up around 3000 lbs per acre and i will adjust the grazing strip size as needed to accomplish my goals of total grazing.
My cows have learnt to come to the reel end so they will walk behind me as i reel up the polybraid to gain access to their new forage break. This reel, polybraid, and posts will be used to leapfrog ahead to form the next paddock.
That cold weather hit on monday – knew it was coming, so i did have a plan and that was turn them loose on the remainder of the paddock which is predominantly timber with not a lot of forage anyway. I plan to return in about 3 days when it warms up. The cows are perfectly capable of thriving without me looking at them everyday. Total Grazing on holiday as well.
Here’s a screenshot of the portion i’ve started with my new Real Wealth Ranching Total Grazing plan. Hopefully, i can explain it here so it makes some kind of sense. The paddock outlined in the thin red line is ground zero – particularly to the right of the purple line running through the middle along the pond. It was at that point i started with stripping off enough to move the cows 2-3 times per day. During these past 12 days, i’ve managed in this manner until the thin red line shown along the timber. At that point, after one time of trying to strip off through the timber, wrestling multiflora rose bushes, and crossing 2 deep ditches, i was not having fun and it was to turn very cold the next three days. Monday evening, i reeled up all the polybraid i had out, picked up the step in posts, and gave the girls the remaining grassy patches and the entire timber (south to the yellow line). I don’t do cold weather, so the plan had to give way. Friday, when it is somewhat warmer, my plan is to start stripping off to the south (towards the bottom of the picture). I will set up a polybraid from the gate to my south permanent fence, then start leap frogging 2 polybraid fences from that temporary fence to the highway (to the right). This will take 3 reels, polybraids, and multiple step in posts.
What will they do for water? the paddock has a water tank below the big pond all the way to the left of the screen shot. Even when grazing to the south of the timber, they could go back to it for water. However, that is unlikely because there is plenty of water in the timber ditches. Putting in a back fence is not necessary for winter grazing since the forage is not growing.
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.
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.
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.
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.