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Pacific North West winter mob grazing  RSS feed

 
Vickie Hinkley
Posts: 53
Location: Toledo, WA
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Chris and All - I've been very inspired by the principals of MOB grazing, in particular Winter MOB grazing. I've been working on it for several years now - on and off. IE - I've become discouraged and fallen off the wagon, so-to-speak. Right now I'm looking at another gorgeous 11 acres of forage, already grazed once, and currently almost as tall and thick as all the neighboring hay that's just been baled. I'm trying to decide if I should stock-pile it now, try to MOB graze it Super FAST and then stockpile, utilizing September/October growth. Actually, I don't have enough animals to graze it fast enough, I suppose I could buy or borrow some... But to the question:

I've gleaned as much how-to knowledge as I can - books, videos, DVDs, classes - but still struggle with the application in the Pacific N.W. I actually went so far as spending the bucks to attend Greg Judy's May 2013 pasture class. That was a HUGE deal for me, never having spent anything like that kind of money {except buying hay, paying for pasture, buying animals, fencing, etc., the hard money we assume we must spend on farming}.

I enjoyed most of the class terrifically. Still, when I asked "What about 'nutrient washing in the NW?" Greg responded, to the affect, "Haven't the deer and elk been surviving for thousands of years?" the answer is of course but those are also browsing animals and free ranging animals. I understand with mob grazing we are trying to mimic natures' great herds...

The alleged issue in the P.N.W. is nutrient washing. I've been to more than one WSU Extension class where they state emphatically that Winter Grazing DOES NOT WORK HERE. I understand they are generally coming from a conventional farming point of view - but is their science valid? That you'd have a better chance on the plains under 6" of snow than in the P.N.W rain. That somehow all the nutrients of the stockpiled forage have been washed away. I know up here they talk specifically about selenium. Assuming for a second that's true for selenium, what about the rest of the nutritional value?

When I brought this up at a WA Small Farm Extension class, they again said, can't do it. And gave the snow vs rain example. I said, but I'm doing it (my first "successful" year). He asked, How do your animals look? THAT simple and obvious question caught me off guard. I had to admit, my beef were OK, my Jerseys or JerseyXs were skinny. He said, of course, they are less efficient at feed conversion....

Anyway, so here I sit with all this great information but stumble in my confidence and implementation. Will WINTER mob grazing work in the P.N.W.?

I'd be very interested in Chris' comments and others trying to Winter mob graze in the P.N.W. specifically, or Winter Mob grazing generally.

+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+

Here area couple pasture slideshows - doesn't everyone have pasture slideshows!?

FEB - status after resting from late 2012 grazing -


MAY - status just before and then after {last photos} first grazing -

 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
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Location: Longbranch, WA
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I observed the same problem while feeding the neighbors beef while they were gone in December. The grass is there in the winter but it dose not groww fast enough to keep up with the grazing. There was standing grass in one field but the fencing was not finished. When they returned and finished the fence the herd was satisfied for quite a time. They also finished fencing another field where irrigation was installed There was standing grass between the ditching which they ate with relish because the grass has slowed do to heat and drought. [normal here in July] They will be able to start the grass growing early with the irrigation and perhaps have standing grass there this winter.

For the dairy cows I would recommend Red Clover. It grows tall and stands up well in the rain. This worked well for our dairy goats, being browsers they do not like to eat close to the ground but would brows contentedly on the red clover. As a side benefit the seeds pas through and reseed the field. When we had to hay the dairy goats we used red clover hay which resulted in even more area reseeded.

I hope that helps
 
Vickie Hinkley
Posts: 53
Location: Toledo, WA
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Hmmm - thanks for that. I have planted annual Crimson Clover in smaller paddocks but never the big rented pasture... I continue to be confounded by the cattle preferring the grasses to the perennial clovers... But maybe just because of abundance during growing seasons, and I'd just not noticed during the Winter grazing... I did not know that the clover(s) did well during the slow months. Thanks again.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2137
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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I am looking for information about how rotational or managed grazing is done in the wet part of the Pacific Northwest.  We've purchased a farm south of Portland that's a bit more wet than Portland thanks to greater proximity to Mt. Hood.  It's a lovely 40 acres with maybe 18 acres of pasture ringed by hazelnut trees, also a 2 acre orchard, 2 houses and a barn.

In the winter, the grass grows back slowly because it's cold.  In the summer, the grass grows back slowly because it's dry.  And yet, this whole area seems very lush and green, so I feel like grazing animals should do well overall.  There are some elevation changes on our farm so this should help by providing different conditions.  We don't have any cattle yet - our tenant farmers have a small herd of goats that are working on blackberry control in the orchard, and a few pigs who are also in the orchard.  We had the pastures hayed in June, so we've got some hay in the barn.  We're still researching cattle breeds (I'm interested in the Red Poll, a heritage breed that is supposed to do well on pasture and taste terrific.)

I'm just hoping to hear from somebody in a similar climate, to describe what they are doing.
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 98
Location: Colton Or
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I don't have the full answer yet, but am leaning towards two things, one is diversity. Especially Forbes mixed within the grasses, but also different grass varieties that may do better. And two is adding browse to the pastures, this will help both summer time and winter time grazing.
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 2137
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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You have a lovely website!  I went to Colton to see the eclipse with my daughter, we shared the Lutheran church's parking lot and lawn with maybe a hundred other people who had the same idea (to get into the area of totality while avoiding traffic).  It's less than a 20 minute drive from our farm.

So, you have sheep, and cows (and rabbits and maybe goats?) on your land and leased land: do you have a feel for how many acres are needed per cow?  Do you graze year round? To increase the diversity of species, would this be from overseeding or full-on tilling and reseeding?  Sorry, lots of questions.  I'm in an information gathering phase...
 
Vickie Hinkley
Posts: 53
Location: Toledo, WA
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Julia -  I posted the link with your question on a couple of my FB groups. This from Douglas - "Vickie, I'm down just south of Eugene, not nearly as wet as you are. I don't believe you can avoid hay feeding for at least 10 weeks in the winter without 1) having your livestock condition suffer and 2) delaying the spring boom in your pastures. However, if you winter-feed then I believe you can probably max up your livestock numbers. By way of example, if you have 100 acres and won't winter feed the herd, then maybe you can only have 30 head (and that may be pushing it). However, if you are willing to take the animals off the pastures for 3 months, then you might be able to graze 70 head. The way I look at it is I probably need about a ton of hay per head (I have slightly smaller cattle) from December 1 to February 28 while I rest all the paddocks. Then I start "sprint-grazing" them through the paddocks in March and April, usually no more than 1 or 2 days on any piece of ground--so each paddock is grazed only 1 or 2 days and rested 25 days. By May I can graze twice as long, and rest for 50+ days. My aim is always to have each paddock rest as long as possible between grazings." 

I've since retired from farming - but can't let go - so living vicariously and as an advocate
The farm FB pages I frequent the most are: Lewis County Permaculture Society, Small Acreage Sustainability & Homestead Living, Western States Pigs, and newest FarmBuilder Entrepreneurs. Douglas responded on FarmBuilder Entrepreneurs.
 
Julia Winter
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Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Thanks so much Vickie!  I'm not very active on facebook, but I'll try to take a look sometime.  I wonder how many paddocks Douglas has. . .
 
Nicholas Mason
Posts: 98
Location: Colton Or
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So, you have sheep, and cows (and rabbits and maybe goats?) on your land and leased land: do you have a feel for how many acres are needed per cow?  Do you graze year round? To increase the diversity of species, would this be from overseeding or full-on tilling and reseeding?  Sorry, lots of questions.  I'm in an information gathering phase...
Yeah, we have all those things, and goats, ducks and dogs. The amount is acres per cow depends on cow size and quality of browse. So smaller cows like a Dexter can put more animals per acre. I would start at a cow per acre, then see how that works, paying close attention to body condition. If it starts to drop it's time to feed. If you are new to raising stock I would spend the first couple years feeding there are so many skills related to livestock increasing your chance of success is more important then doing it perfectly.

So far the latest we have browsed is into December. It is hard to have a perfect system on leased land, but as the herd increases the infrastructure we have will increase, this will make it easier to improve the pastures we use.
To increase pasture diversity I would just over seed. Try different mixes, and Forbes. There is alot of variety available, just gets expensive so typically not able to be done all at once.
Feel free to ask lots of questions, here or on our Facebook page, or I also offer consulting. My wife also dis a cool interview recently on the survival podcast about our failures, I would suggest listening to it.
 
Willie Smits increased rainfall 25% in three years by planting trees. Tiny ad:
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