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Continual Pasture Use

 
Claire Skerry
Posts: 28
Location: Converse, Texas
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So I'm not sure if this was hit upon somewhere else, but I was watching Farm for the Future [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJMgfKqKXwY] and somewhere in there the lady talked with a family farmer about continually having the animals on pasture, even through winter. Apparently it's tradition to pull in your cattle or sheep and keep them in a toasty barn and feed them silage. Seemed rather invasive to pull them out of their habitat for a humid barn. But in the video their farm had developed their pasture so that the root systems were dense enough to take the stomping on even through winter. Me liky this idea. Problem is they didn't go into how her dad developed the pasture. Just said he went out into the woods and looked at the kinds of grasses there and before he died he finally said that's good enough for me. But what did he look for in the grasses? What micro-climates do you study? What time of year is best for finding the right grasses? Mainly, how do I replicate what he did in a pasture that doesn't have the same climate as his? Not against going out and looking at nature for inspiration on fixing the issues, but I'd like to know what to look for. I'm sure part of it is rotating the pastures so that the grass gets a chance to come back stronger than before, but I'd like help with the seed searching in nature bit.

Thank you!

 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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So make a list of why you can pasture feed your cattle in the winter.

Temp: the animals dont mind the cold. But they do mind cold and wet so please provide structure for protection.
Frozen Drinking Water: They will get more water from pasture grass and you can install water system in their shelter.
Soil Compaction: If you grow over 2 dozen different type of plants then this should not be a problem.
Not enough plants/food: The animals will naturally lower their metabolic rate, live off their fat and stop producing milk/etc.

If you use a rotational paddock system: 4(weekly) to 30(daily) then you will give the grass time to heal.
You can also plant winter growing plants (fava beans, winterrye etc)

If all you are looking for is a starting seed mix here is one.
The main thing to remember is that you want 4 types of plants 1.N-fixers, 2.Drymass, 3.Pest control/medicine, 4.Aerating roots
I would plant 7-12 plants in each category.

mustard
burdock
alfalfa
lamb's quarter
fava bean
sweet clover
lupine
landino clover
buckwheat
hairy vetch
daikon
black-eyed peas
comfrey
sun flower
yarrow
borage
chamomile
dandelion
turnip
bee balm
lavender
mullein
pea (pisum arvitiuse)
stinging nettle
chard
maximillian sunflower
sorghum

 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 467
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Where I live we have a mud season in the early spring. Basically, when the top of the ground thaws but there is still deeper ice, the top layer of earth becomes goo. Cattle can do a lot of damage to a pasture when it is in this stage: fortunately this only lasts for maybe 2 weeks, and you might not get it at all. Out here in Kansas the cattle are often pastured in the winter. Of course the ground freezes, here.

My husbands uncle, in Tennessee, ran cattle outside year round. Most people did in that area. From what I remember, he had a coarse variety of grass, and it was never grazed down very short. He deliberately headed into winter with pretty tall grass, for the cattle to eat in the winter. I suppose that longer grass means longer roots.
 
Claire Skerry
Posts: 28
Location: Converse, Texas
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Terri: So just leaving it long is usually enough for the mud season? The reason I'm asking is I've noticed the clay soils down here make for one heck of a nasty mud. If it's a nightmare on shoes and the damage done to the turf was that bad I figured it would be just as bad with goats on grass. Thank you!

Bengi: Thank you for the list!
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Yes if you have 30 paddock and everyday you change it and then give it 29 days to heal.
Then it would never get really bad. Also if they only eat on it for 1 day then they will only eat the nutrition stuff the the dry empty stuff.
Even if you cant so the 30/daily paddock you can at least do a 4/weekly one.
I would reseed the place at least twice a year. In the fall with winter rye/wheat/favabean/etc and in the spring with the the regular stuff.
I would also imagine that if you did this for 3-5 then the root/manure/humus would buildup to the point where the mud/clay would be less of a issue
 
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