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Free range or strip grazing

 
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Afternoon! So we purchased our first Dexter heifer the other day. She is 7 months old and is currently on pasture with a mini donkey. We are getting a second heifer in October once she is weaned. Currently we have fenced in 3 acres of pasture. The front half is decently established but the other half is slower to come up and more weeds. My question is should I strip graze them, moving them every couple of days or let them have free access to the whole pasture since it is a large area for just the two of them. Thanks!
 
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Hi Richard,
It is easiest to just give them the whole pasture, but you will get better pasture growth over time if you only give them a small area and move them frequently. Small scale rotational grazing. Good for the animals and good for the pasture.
 
Richard Cropper
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I don't have a problem moving them every day or couple of days, that is what I have been doing for the last week. I was just curious if I was making more work for myself or if it was the right idea. I need to work on the pastures overall health because it was a previous mono-crop land and very sandy. So I need to work on getting the top soil layer built back up and organic material on.
 
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Do you know what kind of internal parasites (worms) are common with cattle in your area? It might be useful to also check these when planning the rotation time of your pasture.
 
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Definitely strip grazing.  Its a tradeoff of work moving the fencing vs restoring the pasture.

The ideal is "mob grazing" but you are no where close to the mass required!  Its something like 100k lbs of cattle per acre to induce them to "mob" and basically eat everything in sight before another animal does.  So the best you can do is confine them to the smallest area you can manage and move them along.

I have tenants with a very small (~600 lbs) Jersey milking cow.  They graze her in a portable horse corral which is maybe 14' square.  They move her as much as 5 times in a day ... but she eats what's in front of her, the movement evenly spreads her compaction action and her manure.  In a few weeks they can start the cycle again (something which is harder to do in an open pasture ... the grass doesn't get a chance to fully develop).
 
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Congrats on getting started with cattle!

I am about a year ahead of you. I just got two Dexter heifers a little over a year ago. The pasture has already taken a dramatic turn for the better with a few practices. They say that you will see 60% of the benefits of rotational grazing by making 3 rotations. The more the better though. Just have to find what works best for you in your situation.

Started in 2021 (when we bought the new home) with a horribly destroyed pasture that was mostly mud/buttercups/and some small patches of white clover/bermudagrass/whatever could survive 3 horses grassing on it constant.

It is now a few years later/one year since we got animals spreading manure/urine into the mix. It is taking off really well for me!

I spent last year moving them rapidly in small strips back and forth. I then pulled them to a sacrafice lot in early Fall to let the grasses get big and build stockpile for the Winter. Let them constantly graze/rotate all winter. Putting hay down on the patches that had no cover on the soil. Then pulled them off again for several weeks in the Spring so it could get ahead of them and get strong/big again.

I am now so buried in grass that having my pastures divided into 5 semi-permanent plots with step-in posts/electric poly is really so incredibly easy. I just leave it there and open the next section every week or so. Which costs me about 15mins a week for work most weeks.

I would not have been able to do that last year with the grasses so young and vulnerable. I just either put a halter on them to bring them back to the beginning... or setup a skinny path of poly and they follow me.

Here is my thread I have been putting together.
https://permies.com/t/204982/Dexter-Cattle-small-homestead-AC

Here is what the pasture looked like this time of year in 2021 vs 2024. Of course, most of that is annual ryegrass I am letting go to seed so it comes back this Fall. It greatly extended my grazing season. We will still have to wait to see what the summer slump looks like.
Filename: thumb-IMG_0532.jpeg
File size: 95 Kbytes
Filename: thumb-IMG_4651.jpeg
File size: 114 Kbytes
 
Matt McSpadden
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Hi Marty,
That is an awesome before and after picture. A testimony to good grazing methods.
 
Marty Mitchell
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Marty,
That is an awesome before and after picture. A testimony to good grazing methods.



Thank you, Matt!

I really don't know what I am doing... but have been nerding out on YouTube and Podcasts on the subject. Had been for a long while before enacting everything.
 
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