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Paddock shift "No good for beef cattle"

 
Phil Hawkins
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So my stock agent just came past to look at some cows. He saw my portable electric fence, and went on to explain that beef cows are "no good on strip grazing". His position seemed to be that because the grass never matured to the point where it had seed, the cows would never put on weight. He seemed to be basing this on the story of someone that had ten acre paddocks, and would move the cattle on and then slash the grass to the ground. Apparently he (the farmer) had been told to do this by a consultant. The agent said to me that the only way to make more grass was to ring the fertilizer company.

Guidance please?
 
John Polk
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Check out Greg Judy here:
 
Marc Troyka
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Amazing, it's 2012 and not only don't we have flying cars, but your average farming tzar still doesn't know at what point grass has its highest nutritional value.

Speaking of rotational grazing though, about how big is your paddock and how often do you rotate? I'm trying to figure out about how much land per cow is needed for rotational grazing, as I have yet to find any reliable figures on it.

Young and just-heading grass is best. Cows are very sensitive to mineral deficiencies in the soil, so it is important to know what's in your soil and add it via rock minerals if necessary. That would only be necessary once every 10-20 years though. Inoculating your forage is also a great way to increase both the growth and the nutrition, and would probably be my first choice even before fertilizing.

Cows will produce more meat and milk on a legume diet rather than grass, but then you run into bloating problems. Sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil are both bloat free and can prevent bloat from other legumes if that's an issue.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Wow, that video was amazing. Thanks so much from bringing it to my attention. The thing that gives me confidence is that nothing Greg Judy says contradicts anything my stock agent said about what makes good cows, it's just clear to me now that the "other" farmer the stock agent was talking about was getting his pasture management wrong (slash and burn approach, rather than leaving it "messy" after the cows have moved on).

At the moment I have about 25 acres being grazed (using strip grazing, but not effectively) by a dozen cows with 9 calves, and 9 more steers/heifers from last year. I have them as two herds at the moment, but am thinking I should combine them along the lines of Greg's presentation.
 
Marc Troyka
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I think combining the herds would be a good idea. I disagree with a few things Greg mentions though.

1: His small fence system (I assume it's typical for mob grazing) reminds me a whole lot of a chicken tractor. Forcing cows to eat things they don't want to eat is never a good idea. As he says, cows are quite smart.

2: How early you graze in the spring has little bearing on how deep the plants' roots will grow. Assuming you've even planted deep rooted species, it takes a full year just for them to grow a root crown and perennialize, and another full year (maybe more) to grow their roots to depth. Any grazing or cutting on new plantings before they've had at least 2 years to establish will kill or stunt the plants.

3: Plants become "stemmy" when they grow to full maturity, and even more so when they go to seed. The more "stemmy" the plants are, the more undigestible fiber they contain and the less digestible stuff they contain. Mature plants are bigger but not better.

4: He forces his cows to eat poisonous plants sometimes. At one point he shows how he locked them into a pen with nothing but 7ft tall sweet clover, which is not only very stemmy but also toxic. Sweet clover is popular as a fodder plant, but it's not a good choice.

5: If you graze the same areas every year you'll quickly kill off all the annual plants and deplete the soil seed bank of them. It would be better to split your grazing area into two parts, and only graze half of it each year. That gives the annuals a rest every other year so they can go to full flower and replenish their seeds.

One other thing, some of the most popular grasses for pasture are also short rooted and low in nutrition. Timothy grass is most common at least here in the US, and timothy is about the most worthless thing you can feed to cows. In the AU it doesn't make any sense to plant shallow rooted species given the dry climate. Inoculant is also a major aide to keeping plants growing in dry conditions. If possible you will probably do better either with native deep-rooted grasses (although I don't know about feed values for AU grasses) or else US prairie grasses. Legumes are also the highest feed value plants for cows, but you have to take measures to manage bloat.
 
Phil Hawkins
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I just shifted the cattle to a new "paddock". I am probably exposing another 40' of pasture every few days. I think I left this one too long, because you can see the previous grass is pretty chewed down.

I'm guessing that if you're doing this right, what you leave behind should be "messy" - there will be some tussocks left standing, grass flattened on the ground, etc?
PaddockShift.jpg
[Thumbnail for PaddockShift.jpg]
 
Marc Troyka
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Whew, that grass definitely got brutalized. How many cows did you have on that 1600sqft, and for how long? It'd probably be a lot less work if you combined the herds and figured out how much space is needed so you only need to move it once a week.

Also, that pasture looks really boring :X. I barely see any weeds, let alone anything interesting for them to eat. They probably won't leave much "mess" (except poo) unless there's lots of stuff for them to trample. Grass is pretty much trample-proof, so you need some taller and less trample resistant stuff to get that effect. Dynamic accumulators would be ideal I think.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Sorry, it's about 40' long, but 300' wide (so more like 12,000 square feet). There are 11 cows, 9 calves (~2-4 weeks old), and I think they were on the previous strip for about 4 days.

Here's a bit of a wider angle shot
PaddockShift.jpg
[Thumbnail for PaddockShift.jpg]
 
Marc Troyka
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Ah, well that's a whole lot more. Are the calves eating any grass? I would figure at 2-4 weeks they certainly wouldn't be weaned yet.

At 12,000sqft and 11 adult cattle, that's about ~1000sqft per cow that got worn bare in 4 days. I would guess based on those figures that 2000-3000sqft per cow would work for a week. Assuming an 8 week rotation, that would be 16,000-24,000sqft per cow total, and 32,000-48,000sqft/cow total if you were working a bi-yearly rotation overall. That's roughly half an acre per cow for a single rotation, or an acre per cow for a bi-yearly rotation.

With 25 acres and ~25 cows I'd say you've got about the right amount of land for a bi-yearly rotation, or easily enough to put half of your land to fallow for a few years to let new plantings establish themselves. I'd say that's a good position to be in. I think adding legumes should be a high priority since that will boost both milk and meat production from the same amount of cows and land, and they're good for your soil.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Nah, calves are still only on milk (well, they might chew a bit of grass but I think that's just imitation at this point). The general guidance around here for a "lazy farmer" is about 1 cow and calf per hectare (2.4 acres), which you can maintain through droughts and things. It's been a wetter year, so we can probably exceed that for now. I have noticed the cow pats are much more solid (less "squirts") since paddock shifting, so that is a good sign.

I posted another thread about some "innovation" I have done on reducing the time taken moving fences too, which may be of interest.
 
Marc Troyka
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I'd guess that how much you need in a drought would depend a lot on what you have planted and what water conservation techniques you're using. A hectare per cow is more than what you've got, though.

Your fence shift idea is interesting, although I don't quite see how it works for a 4 sided paddock o.0. I've been thinking of using living fences, but I'm not so sure what would work that the cows wouldn't kill, and/or that wouldn't poison the cows.
 
Phil Hawkins
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I combined my two herds today (cows and calves, and the steers and heifers from last year).
HappyCows.jpg
[Thumbnail for HappyCows.jpg]
Density up, workload reduced!
 
Michael Radelut
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I can only imagine what someone like Greg Judy would say if he looked at that photo:

Your grasses have already developed seedheads, which means they've gone past their blaze of growth into reproductive (st)age,
in the process depriving the legumes beneath them of light and causing those brown spots on the ground.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Michael Radelut wrote:I can only imagine what someone like Greg Judy would say if he looked at that photo

Care to share what you can imagine him saying? Based on his video, I imagine it would start with "You need to ... ".

I only know what I know about this stuff (not much, I am happy to admit) from listening to Paul's podcasts and watching videos such as the one featuring Greg Judy above.

Michael Radelut wrote:Your grasses have already developed seedheads, which means they've gone past their blaze of growth into reproductive (st)age, in the process depriving the legumes beneath them of light and causing those brown spots on the ground.

I don't know that there are any legumes there. This is the pasture I have to work with, so I think apart from a few weeds that the cows don't eat, it's all just grass. I am going to sow some legumes in, but that will take time, so I am trying to at least manage the density/grazing processes.

In the video, Greg Judy shows cows eating grass with seed-heads (he makes the point about it not causing pink eye), and I can't see how one could rest pasture for months and not have it go to seed? Am I missing something here?
 
Michael Radelut
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My remarks were based on what the ideal strategy would be. You can of course graze tall grasses with seedheads, but that's a strategy that is employed in combination with stockpiling forage, i.e. a strategy not for max production but for droughts (or winter in my climate).

There are two slightly different approaches to the field of management intensive grazing, one represented by Allan Savory and Greg Judy, the other by André Voisin and Bill Murphy ('Greener Pastures...').
The first one generally deals with dryer landscapes (oversimplifying here), while the second one is focused on high production where water is less of a problem.

For both, however, letting grasses go to seed is simply a byproduct of setting aside areas for bad times; it is never employed "by accident".
Letting pasture go to seed because your rotation is too slow or because you haven't got enough animals is bad management (if you're using this framework).

As for the legumes, there's ample expertise available in your country; I remember Darren Doherty mentioning them in a video (can't recall which series though). If you graze correctly - and don't let the grasses smother them - those dryland legumes will probably take root for good. Reseeding is for ...
 
Marc Troyka
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Michael Radelut wrote:
For both, however, letting grasses go to seed is simply a byproduct of setting aside areas for bad times; it is never employed "by accident".
Letting pasture go to seed because your rotation is too slow or because you haven't got enough animals is bad management (if you're using this framework).


See, that's pretty much the way I understood it. Kinda like mowing a lawn. I think I'ma look more into this.
 
Michael Radelut
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Mowing is of course the other option one has for storing that surplus, but you'll have to weigh the advantages - the cut can be timed and will yield more nutrient-rich hay than the dry stockpile forage you'll otherwise get - against the disadvantages (higher costs; haymaking needs to be in different areas each time to avoid its detrimental effects).
 
John Polk
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@ Phil,
If you are considering reseeding your pastures, here is an interesting read:
http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Oct03_Forage.pdf

They use herbal leys mixed into the grasses to improve the health of both the animals and the soil.
Your savings in fertilizer would more than pay for the seeding.

 
Marc Troyka
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John Polk wrote:@ Phil,
If you are considering reseeding your pastures, here is an interesting read:
http://www.acresusa.com/toolbox/reprints/Oct03_Forage.pdf

They use herbal leys mixed into the grasses to improve the health of both the animals and the soil.
Your savings in fertilizer would more than pay for the seeding.


Now that sounds exactly like what I have in mind. Using dynamic accumulators as forage just seems like a no-duh thing to do. My list looks a bit different from his, although I've made some minor changes based on that info.

My list:
*Amaranthus Retroflexus
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
*Chickweed (Stellaria media)
*Chicory
*Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
*Garden Cress
*Corn Salad
*Dandelion
*Lamb’s Quarters
*Miner’s Lettuce
*stinging nettle
*Plantago major
*Salad Burnet
Hairy Vetch
Yarrow

* = human edible

In a drought-prone area you'd probably want to use desert plantain instead. Also, I don't like his grass mix much, Dr. Albrecht showed that Timothy is a very-low-nutrient forage, and more recent experiments I've seen show the same. Perennial ryegrass, bluegrass (texas or hybrid in drought-prone areas) for winter grasses and American prairie grasses as summer grasses are all much higher quality. A pasture like that should produce the healthiest cows you've ever seen, and probably bright orange milk, which I can't even find a picture of.

I'd also add in a mix of 20+ species of wildflowers that are proven to grow well in your area in order to attract and feed beneficial bugs, but it isn't strictly necessary .
 
John Polk
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I believe that adding the herbs/dynamic accumulators will give the cattle more minerals/trace elements that are probably lacking in most grass forages. It also gives the cattle their own medicine chest that their natural instincts will choose from when they need something. I also believe that diversity in diet would help them put on weight more quickly...it's not the 'same old bowl of stew' every day.

A quick Google search on "Wildflower seeds" will turn up dozens of companies that offer 'regionally' selected mixes for every portion of the country. They typically run about $30 per pound, which should give a nice 'meadow' look to an acre. Think of all the native pollinators you would be attracting/harboring.

The diverse polyculture would be so beneficial to the soil food web, that everything should grow to its maximum potential.

The article was based upon work that began in the 1800's, so it is nothing new. To me, it just points out how much 'we' have forgotten. Too many cattlemen have opted for monocultures of new 'wonder grasses' that have ultimately caused a decline in the health of their pastures and cattle.

 
Joseph Fields
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Pretty productive dialogue going on. I only know of 2 farms in my area doing any kind of rotation at all. The fields looks golf courses, the only texture in the field is little grass mounds left along from the last place a cow pooed.
 
Phil Hawkins
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I note that my paddocks are a sea of dandelions at the moment, unlike all of my neighbours'. I presume that's a good sign; dandelions have tap roots and draw up minerals, etc., to the more shallow rooted grasses?

The cows seem happier too, and the long grass gives the calves somewhere to shelter out of the sun and wind
HappyCowsOnNewGrass.jpg
[Thumbnail for HappyCowsOnNewGrass.jpg]
 
Marc Troyka
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Well, yes the dandelions definitely draw up nutrients, but I think the cows like eating them just as well. Dandelions accumulate silicon, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, iron and copper, and are much higher in vitamin A and vitamin K than grass. It's only after the cows eat them that they fertilize the grass. I bet your cows are much healthier for it, too.

Be sure to collect some puffballs to blow around in places where you didn't have dandelions before .
 
Melba Corbett
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After years of seeding and mineralizing the land, we finally have pretty good pastures. They are a motley mix of high nutrient weeds like plantain, dandelion, vetch, yarrow and several kinds of clovers, several grasses. The clover does best when the grass is grazed down short and the soil has adequate calcium in the top 1/4 inch. As the grass matures and grows taller, it becomes dominant and crowds out clover, so it goes back and forth, grass dominance, clover dominance. Crimson clover grows taller but isn't really cold hardy enough to grow well here in the mountains of North Carolina, but I have grown it and the animals love it. It makes a larger plant than most of the white clovers or Ladino that I normally grow. I strew seeds of a French variety of giant dandelion which is very mild and it reseeds itself and is monecocious so doesn't readily cross with other varieties.

I am doing the paddock rotation and it works well. The chicory is the favorite of everyone, including dairy goats and cows but unfortunately they will graze it down too low so I have to take them off pretty quick, usually after a day or two and keep it out of rotation 6 to 8 weeks or sometimes longer to allow it to grow back to 10 inches or so high. I do take them off long enough for it to reseed in the fall, and I'm growing a variety known as Forage Feast (roots make the beverage too, delicious). It has huge leaves and grows very tall, as high as 6 feet or more when they can't get to it. My dairy goats on chicory for one day will produce as much as 25 to 50% more milk the following day. They are very well fed, not much grain, but plenty of good forage and hay, so it isn't a matter of not getting enough to eat on other days, it's just that chicory apparently has more minerals and protein than some of the other forage crops. I also think this particular variety was bred for higher protein content.

The cows (Dexter cow and Jersey steer) are pasturing out with very little hay over winter (unless there is deep snow on the ground), and no grain at all. They do get plenty of fresh water and loose minerals at all times. The stockpiled pastures are holding up well, but the weather has been pretty mild so far, only down to 25 degrees F so far. I also plant a couple of paddocks in winter wheat this time of year.
 
Phil Hawkins
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M Troyka wrote:Be sure to collect some puffballs to blow around in places where you didn't have dandelions before .


That's my four year old daughter's favourite job around the house!

Now that I have combined my herds, I have found that if I expose three ~2000 sq. ft. "squares" each day, they leave the grass in something that looks (to me, anyway) like the 60-30-10 type guidelines that Greg Judy suggests in his presentation. 6000 square feet is 0.13 of an acre. Given I have about 25 acres of pasture, that translates to 190 days worth, so it should mean that I do about two full rotations per year.

Here's a couple of photos showing where the fence was just before I moved it.
PaddockShift-60-30-10.jpg
[Thumbnail for PaddockShift-60-30-10.jpg]
PaddockShift-60-30-10-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for PaddockShift-60-30-10-2.jpg]
 
Cj Sloane
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This might help. It's not the amount of land of course but the amount of dry matter on the land.

Actually, that link has all sorts of good links but here's a great video:


M Troyka wrote:I'm trying to figure out about how much land per cow is needed for rotational grazing, as I have yet to find any reliable figures on it.
 
Cj Sloane
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This video shows a more accurate but more complicated way to do the calculation. Not sure if those measurement sticks are available down under.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Cj Verde wrote:Not sure if those measurement sticks are available down under

We just have to turn them upside down to get a usable reading

Thanks for the info, some more stuff to digest! (now I know how the cows feel)
 
Morgan Morrigan
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I am thinking this is about the best "fertilizer" you can add.

They pull out the calcium chloride, so it doesn't make the soil much more alkaline, or bitter.

Look up how they make sea salt, and the first evap , to 50%, takes out the Cal chloride, the next, from 50-75% , leaves you sea salt, and then from 75-200 (rewetting) gives you the toxics and heavy metals and REElements.

Could easily just drive to the coast, and get some seawater, just use a lot less of it . Prob could write off the trip, water storage, and sprayer , too.....
Lots of folks in New Zealand spraying very LIGHT apps of seawater.


http://seaagri.com/


(Not affiliated)

This is looking like a necessity in the desert, and doesn't have to be tilled in like the rock fertilizers.

Just got some for a toxic mine waste plot, loaded with clay. Will see next year.
 
Andy Reed
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I've been rotationaly grazing dairy cows in a non organic setting for the last 10 years. Using perrenial English ryegrass and white clover 30%. So my cows need mineral supplements, the most important being magnesium which is vital to a cows metabolic function.

With regard to pasture, quality is the key.

Grass grows 3 leaves then the oldest dies back and it grows a new leaf. So generally grass will have 3 leaves of good quality and an indeterminate number of dying leaves. The grass is best eaten at the 2.5 - 3 leaf stage. As a very rough guide is; grass at the 3 full leaf stage will be about 3200 Kg of dry matter per hectare, leaving 1500 kg/DM behind when the cows have finished gives you 1700 kg/DM available for your cows, a beefie needs about 12-14 kg/DM day, a dairy cow about 18. So 1 hectare of grass at the 3 leaf stage will be enough food for 141 beefies for 24 hours.

Grass starts to regrow the moment it is eaten, it's energy comes from the uneaten leaf stump, and the roots. So it is important not to graze down to the bare earth. Once grass starts to regrow it uses it store of energy, so it is important to remove the cows from the grazed pasture, onto new pasture as soon as possible, and practical. This maximises grass growth. Grazing the same grass for 3 days reduces regrowth by about 30%.

If you leave to much dead matter behind, it will still be there next time you graze the paddock. This means the cows will be eating a much lower quality pasture. So particularly for dairy it is important to graze the grass down untill it has an even look. This is impossible when you start with the standing hay in your photo. It is easy when you start with grass at the 2.5 leaf stage. Too much dead matter also shades clover and you dont get the free nitrogen unless clover is growing well.

A cow can eat more quality pasture then it can stalky seedy pasture, so to maximise production from your stock and the grass, quality is the key. Short grass at the 2.5-3 leaf stage.

Dynamic accumulators aside, there is a finite quantity of minerals in your soil. This is the account balance, every cow that leaves your property removes calcium, phosphorus, kallium, magnesium etc. So while it is claimed the rotational grazing improves pasture, it can only do so with the unlimited ingredients. Namely Carbon and Nitrogen, which are mainly in the form of organic matter.

Anyway, thats a brief primer on high production rotational grazing, I wouldn't reccomend it, too much work. My cows get a new paddock every 12 hours, and when the grass is humming in the spring early summer we will be back in the same paddock every 20 days.

BTW I've seen the youtube short, about how the roots of grass dies back when grazed, I highly doubt it is anywhere near as dramatic as it is portrayed. Especially not the taproots, maybe some sideroots, but I can't imagine taproots die that easily.
 
Phil Hawkins
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Thanks for that additional info Andy, but tell me - why do you think it's too much work? Are the benefits (stated by Judy et al.) overstated in your opinion?
 
Taylor Stewart
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Every situation is different, what works for some may not work for others. The earlier comment about having a bi-yearly rotation is not applicable to a majority of operations, especially any that depend upon grazing to pay the bills. You will not deplete your seed profile if you simply change your grazing schedule. Start in different paddocks every year, so you hit them at different times. Allow adequate rest, especially prior to winter. Stockpiled grass does NOT have to be at seed. In fact, it is better if it is less mature than that.

Mineral imbalances in soils are a big issue in any grazing setting, but much less of a problem in a healthy multi-species pasture. I have dealt with mineral problems before and they are a pain. I prefer to provide open choice organic mineral and salt. Usually mixed in about 50/50. Redomnd is about as natural as it gets, its just a clay like substance from an old seabed in Utah. Their mineral salt is great too.

The animals don't absorb all of it, so some is passed and aids in mineralizing the soil. Organic matter and a mix of legumes (from 20-30% seems to work well) will maintain the remainder of your fertility.

I am a freelance livestock consultant, specializing in grass fed beef and lamb. I am a big believed in intensive grazing, but everyone has to cater it to their own enterprise.
 
Andy Reed
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It's not that I doubt Judy et al. it's just that I am lazy. To maximise production the more often you shift your cows the better, so long as your return interval allows the grass to get back to the 2.5 leaf stage. It's getting the cows off the already eaten grass that allows it regrow, so the sooner you do that the better. Then you get technical and measure the grass, so you are always grazing the longest grass first etc. Which is not the same as a fixed plan of rotation, different areas will grow at different speeds.
 
Tim Southwell
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I have enjoyed reading this thread... you are all very educated in your responses.

I have 23 acres that a friend wants to pasture 30 steers on this year for sale in the fall. I told him about Mob Grazing / Paddock shift via Salatin and would he be interested to pursue.... if so, I'll pony up another 30 head and we can move 60 on the land.

Questions I have...

Just bought this land in September. Don't have a good feel for the health of the pasture, though I am certain it has seen its share of annual fertilizer application and has been used strictly as free range cattle foraging. I have a wheel line and laterals with ample water for irrigation needs.

1). How does the Salatin method do as far as putting weight on the cattle... as this is a big deal come weigh-in day?

2). As I am uncertain about the pasture health, grass population variety, etc, would it make sense to rest the pasture this first year, introduce a Polyculture seed mix of annuals and perennials while building up organic matter, then look to graze in 2014?

Totally a novice at this, but feel the 23 acres could be of some use this year while I look to heal the land in the process.

Thanks,
 
Tim Southwell
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Location: Hamilton, MT
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Phil Hawkins wrote:
M Troyka wrote:

Now that I have combined my herds, I have found that if I expose three ~2000 sq. ft. "squares" each day, they leave the grass in something that looks (to me, anyway) like the 60-30-10 type guidelines that Greg Judy suggests in his presentation. 6000 square feet is 0.13 of an acre. Given I have about 25 acres of pasture, that translates to 190 days worth, so it should mean that I do about two full rotations per year.



Phil, how many head do you have on your 25 acres (6000 sqft per day)? The pasture looks terrific from where they just grazed to where they are headed. Any challenges along the way that you can share on this shift system? Lastly, if you didn't want to shift them each day, then could you perhaps set up your paddocks in 18,000 sqft size and shift them every three days... does it work like that?
 
Phil Hawkins
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Hi Tim,

I'm certainly no expert, so place caveat everything I say with that. While I was away from the farm for the month over Christmas (well, not continuously away) I left the cattle in a 8 acre paddock, and they didn't graze it to the ground. This is obviously contrary to the paddock shift "purist" approach, but I think all things need to be in balance. By having a rest from it when my time was really busy (family, holidays, etc), it stopped it from becoming a chore that I resented.

I have 29 cows and calves at the moment - that's more than my land can carry sustainably, but prices were poor over summer so I took a gamble and kept them on, figuring I have hay in reserve if it got dire.

EDIT: Before you go thinking I have wonderful pasture and soil, attached is a photo I just took looking out from the backyard. We've had a run of days over 35ºC (95ºF) lately.
PhilarlyFarmInSummer.jpg
[Thumbnail for PhilarlyFarmInSummer.jpg]
 
Phil Hawkins
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And just because Paul once said that beautiful pictures of land are always welcome on Permies, I submit this (taken last night)
PhilarlySunset.jpg
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Cj Sloane
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Tim Southwell wrote:
I have 23 acres that a friend wants to pasture 30 steers on this year for sale in the fall. I told him about Mob Grazing / Paddock shift via Salatin and would he be interested to pursue.... if so, I'll pony up another 30 head and we can move 60 on the land.


60 head on 23 acres seems way too high. 30 head on 23 acres also seems too high - especially for the first attempt at MIG. The real issue is how fast the paddocks can recover before you cycle back.

Tim Southwell wrote:As I am uncertain about the pasture health, grass population variety, etc, would it make sense to rest the pasture this first year, introduce a Polyculture seed mix of annuals and perennials while building up organic matter, then look to graze in 2014?


Some livestock would improve the paddock more than rest it would. Check out the thread on Allan Savory. There's a video in which he talks about using livestock to heal the land.
 
Andy Reed
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Any more then 1 cow per acre is pushing it. You'll need irrigation, fertile soils, good pastures, active management, and most likely some fertilisers. Even then you may need to buy in extra feed from off farm. Extra feed from off farm can replace all of the above, and is a way of importing fertiliser without the application costs. If they are young stock, <2yrs old you may get away with 30, so long as you don't plan on carrying them over the winter. I'm assuming you have average land without irrigation, and no fertiliser history.

You get more bang for buck by doing a few cows well, then doing a lot of cows poorly. A lot of costs are fixed per cow, ie transport, vet costs etc. You need to feed a cow maintanence feed before she can gain weight ie 10kgdm is maintainence the extra 2-4kgdm is for weight gain, so you could keep 30 cows alive or fatten 23 for a profit. A bit like you could feed 50 billion people if all everyone ate was 1500 calories per day and all you ate was potatoes, or you could have a few much smaller number living a much more abundant life, but I digress.

I wouldn't completely rest land. Maybe understock it for a year may help. Far better IMO to understock it, and carry out a systematic program of regrassing, doing maybe a third of the farm at a time, and as one area comes into production starting on the next area, so you get the whole farm regrassed in one year. Probably the most important species to establish will be the clover, about 30% by area is ideal.

Clover works by drawing most of it's nitorgen needs from the soil, the cow eats the clover and turns the clover into urea (after taking out some protien etc). You get free urea.

Average land in my experience will grow around 10-12 ton of dm per heactare in a year. Most of it in spring early summer, then steady until early autumn when it slows down over the winter. Depending on rainfall of course. A cow needs 12-14kg/dm per day. So you can get a rough idea of what your land can carry. Where I am farming we grow 16 ton per year, and the top farms will grow 18-20. That is very good soils, efficient irrigation and plenty of fertiliser, and good management of course.
 
Jeremey Weeks
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Location: Eastern Washington, 8 acres, h. zone 5b
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I listened to a presentation done by an angus rancher using the holistic method. I had to do some creative math, but it sounds like he was running 4 acres a head, including calves. Of course, you don't worry about stuff like that doing the holistic method. On the other hand, I don't have 800 acres to play with either.
 
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