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!!

On the Verge of Ragweed Allergy Season

Paddock 18a is located near my corral and therefore is overused.  It seldom has opportunity to get any rest and mercy it sure shows.  This year, i was determined to give it a rest and let something grow.  Typically the succession plant to damaged soil are tough weeds and my experience is no different.  Before the ragweed is pollinating, i thought i’d go have a look.  There is very little palatable undergrowth – these tall weeds – mostly ragweed and cockleburr can out compete nearly anything.

So my plan is to mob graze this 4.5 acres paddock with all my cows (about 150 adult animals and 60 calves) keeping an eye to the volume of tasty forage they need to leave behind, then come in and brush hog the remaining tall stuff before it goes to seed.

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the cows will eat the tops now – not really strip it like they will giant ragweed (which i call horse weed), but the stalk is pretty stiff so it doesn’t knock down very well. hoping to set back enough to let sunlight down into the canopy and let more desirable species get a chance. Next spring, i’ll plan to broadcast oats and try to compete with the ragweed and continue to rest the paddock as appropriate. this paddock has been abused the past 2-3 years and i let it rest for a long time this year – the result of abuse is clearly evident as natural sequence of healing occurs.

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I drove into this paddock to see what is growing. From a distance this didn’t look so tall. I’m think of letting the cows in to mob it as much as they will on a 4.5 acre paddock. I cannot even walk through this. The photo is taken from the relative safety of my a/c Gator. on 14 August 20.

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Check out this short video my friend Greg Judy puts together to help graziers manage their stock and soil.  Greg is an excellent teacher – you might enjoy subscribing to his YouTube channel.

 

 

Late Evening Repair

I completely forgot to check and repair a water gap along Cotton Road which was in a paddock in which i had a young cow get out last time the mob was in this paddock.  She was the only one to get out, thankfully.  Anyway,  despite having driven the 35 minutes and shifting the cows that morning, i had to go back in the evening to check the gap.  Especially since it is adjacent to a cemetery.  I thought i’d just run up in my pickup since it’s faster, but she was out and had taken a friend with her!  Cotton Road is not passable by pick up, so i had to drive back home and get my Gator and some more tools.

The two escapees had drifted into the cemetery instead of continuing west down Cotton Road which made it MUCH easier and quicker to walk them back into the paddock.  Very thankful they were not yet near the tombstones.  I’ve had to pay for repairs in the past and i sure didn’t want another round of that!

Made it back up there before dark and drove a steel t-post and dropped this heavy section of an old hay feeder.  About a week ago, i had cut down these hedge tree sprouts and they were laying nearby, so i dragged them to lay in there as well just to discourage any lounging.  Hedge trees are covered with tiny thorns.

Next day, i needed to check to be certain my repairs had stopped the escapees and thankfully, they had.

 

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First Stab at Mob Grazing (UHDG)

About a week ago, despite our poor pasture growing situation due to dry and hot weather, i tried what others have done and that is UHDG or ultra high stock density grazing.  There are some who have successfully managed shifting cows 5,7,9 times a day and obtaining up to 1 million pounds of livestock per acre!  That can result in a phenomenal improvement in soil quality due to deep rooted plants and evenly distributed manure.

My experience was far different and after a couple of hours quickly realised my misgivings as to mob grazing’s effectiveness in our area.

  1. Cool season grasses often don’t have deep roots, by and large, unless allowed to grow quite tall (and mature) which results in unpalatable grazing.
  2. Mature grasses are unpalatable and very low ‘octane’ (nutrition)
  3. Laying down cool season, fine stem grasses by trampling is virtually impossible.
  4. Toxic endophyte fescue is poisonous at all stages; recent research shows the bottom 2 inches is as toxic as the seed heads.  Forcing cattle to consume it is detrimental to their health.
  5. Hot, humid weather causes some animals to suffer and they need shade – not all small paddocks can have shade.
  6. I quickly realized that i was exhausting myself setting up polybraid and posts to shift the cattle.  To the point that, instead of accomplishing other tasks whilst at the farm, i felt like napping instead!!
  7. A problem perhaps unique to my situation is the distance from the stock.   My farm is 35 minutes’ drive (via JD Gator) from our home.  Though  my solution was to shift cattle often on the days i could go up there, then give them a large break to last up to 3 days, but i found point 6 overwhelmed even that idea.

 

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This photo shows my mob at an estimated 50,000 lbs per acre.  Not even close to what is needed to see positive effects of mob grazing.  Nevertheless, i have discovered an optimal balance of dividing my 20 acre paddocks (paddock sizes vary) in half results in acceptable utilization plus gives an extra day and a half of grazing over giving access to the entire paddock.  This is very important; instead of 3 days grazing, there are 4.5 days, which over the course of 24 paddocks results in an additional 36 days rest period!

Putting dollars to that extra growth:  In normal and decent growing conditions (not over 90F and normal rainfall), cool season grasses and legumes could potential produce 8-12 inches of growth in 36 days.  An average pasture with little to no bare ground (spaces between plants) might yield 300 lbs to the inch per acre.  So, if the entire farm received that additional 36 day rest, then 400 acres x 300 lbs per inch x 8 inches growth  = 960,000 additional lbs produced.  Reduce that by 20% to get a hay equivalency and price it at 5 cents per pound, then 768,000 lbs x .05 = $38,400 worth of hay that is not needed to purchase and maintain or grow the herd.  OR, consider that as my wages for setting up and taking down posts and polybraid during the summer.  Of course, nothing is perfect or normal, so even these conservative figures may fall way short in the face of a drought or hot temperatures.  Nevertheless, there is gain to be considered IF the labor does not become cumbersome and cost more than the value of forage.

Well, this was all written on Monday the 21st of May – a week later – still no rain and temps continue well into the 90s with heat indices above 100 for several hours each day and little to no wind.  It’s muggy and hot; cool season pastures are no longer growing, so the planned grazing is relaxed already since the cows need shade and i’ve set up a paddock with a big timber patch.  Guess where most of the manure (nutrients) will end up?  Yeah, not where planned.  As usual, theories, plans, scenarios all go out the window in the face of nature.  Like any other year, we just do the best we can with the conditions we are given.

Cheers!

tauna

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.

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Photo by Alan Newport

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

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Photo Bomb!!

 

Refuge Ministries

Quick trip to my farm to shift the cows across the road.

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Even though we are inside the Gator, still got my hunter orange so as to be more visible.

Yes, i was just there yesterday, but discovered that I had grossly overestimated the amount of forage the cows would have, so they had to be moved today.

Took Dallas with me just in case my temporary netting decided to take flight in our 33 mph gusting winds.  But all went well;  he wouldn’t have needed to go, but sure gave me extra peace of mind.  Taking out mineral,

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Always keep out mineral for cattle unless it’s just raining everyday.  We use Redmon Natural mineralised salt.  You may know the company as Real Salt.

shutting gates, and draining a water tank took us 55 minutes.  Driving up there and back takes 1 hour 15 minutes.  Obviously, I usually plan to spend more time up there to justify the trip.

Frying lumpia this afternoon in preparation for my monthly trip to Refuge Ministries in Mexico, MO.  

 

Cheers!

tauna