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winter grazing instead of hay (going hayless)

 
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@CJ Verde: cattle are herd animals. My suggestion would be to raise your steer collaboratively with a neighbor's animals. But to your question. A couple of acres of good pasture per beast if you can buy hay for the winter.
 
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Well it won't work for dairy cows, but it's good to see more beef farmers doing this.

Problem is, the majority of these videos shows beef farmers that farm in the Midwest, or places of the Southeast, in Virginia such as the Shanadoa Valley (Joel Salatin).



Unless he's changed his way of doing things since he wrote "Salad Bar Beef", Salatin feeds hay at a haybarn during the wettest part of the winter to prevent pugging.

 
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Lynn Sue wrote:@CJ Verde: cattle are herd animals. My suggestion would be to raise your steer collaboratively with a neighbor's animals. But to your question. A couple of acres of good pasture per beast if you can buy hay for the winter.



I think this response is directed to someone else but I'm not sure who. I have 5 mini cows...
 
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@CJ: Sorry, it was Jerry's comment about raising one beef animal that I was responding to. Anyway, now I see it was a very old post and by now he probably has a whole herd
 
Cj Sloane
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Lynn Sue wrote:Anyway, now I see it was a very old post and by now he probably has a whole herd



Ha!
 
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Lynn Sue wrote:@CJ: Sorry, it was Jerry's comment about raising one beef animal that I was responding to. Anyway, now I see it was a very old post and by now he probably has a whole herd



I wish. I only have 10 acres so raising more than one is going to be a challenge.
 
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Jamie Duncan wrote: .One day a city-dweller stopped while I was out in the field and asked why I had cows outside in January......I asked him why all the other farmers have their cows inside in the middle of March and April. He just looked at me like deer in headlights......



I love it! Same thing happens in the Dallas, TX area for horses - first couple of cold days and everyone is up in arms. Those horses would MUCH rather be outside than in the barn - they fly out the barn door in the morning on cold crisp days. Katie bar the door!

This was a great video - I'm VERY new to livestock, other than a few pleasure horses who have run of about 8 acres - not managed at all. I'm adding 2 sheep, mostly for amusement, to an area I rotate the horses on and off of (not really very scheduled, just when the grass gets long or someone forgets to shut the gate...). I am wondering if anyone has seen the TED talk by Allen Savory about crowding for pasture restoration from desertification? Wondering how cramped you would need to make it for just 4 animals to do the job?



 
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Need to consider Herb and Di
Herbage mass and Digestability!
 
Jerry Ward
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I love reading Allen Savory's stuff and the video was great. However everything he does (at least what I could find) deals with hundreds of animals on large tracts of land. I'm having trouble scaling it down to a few animals on my 10 acres. Of course I'm in S.E. MI and my land is not degraded and has no chance of desertification happening.

Marie Lane wrote: I am wondering if anyone has seen the TED talk by Allen Savory about crowding for pasture restoration from desertification? Wondering how cramped you would need to make it for just 4 animals to do the job?



 
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The principal is still the same Stocking density vs stocking rate
Herb and Di
Feel free to add some honey locust ,oaks tagasaste etc and you'l have vastly superior beef to the rest of your countrymen!
THis forum is great for bringing people like Savory, to farmers who otherwise might not be able to afford the 3000$ to do a course
 
Marie Lane
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Stocking density for 4 animals would seem to need to be pretty darn close, no? Are there formulas on line somewhere - you're correct, I don't have the 3k to take the classes. LOL
 
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Considering the fact that in most places with snow cover, the available winter forage will either be what dried standing and got flattened or stayed standing, depending on the nature of the feed, wouldn't they need to eat more of the dead and dried stuff than they would if it were fresh?

Also, would it be possible for someone who understands Savory's reasoning, or the method by which such high stocking rates result in avoidance of desertification, and how this applies to winter grazing? Or does this belong in another thread?

Lastly for me, I was wondering what opinions on miniature cattle are, both meat and dairy. I ask because, firstly, one of the hardier (so I understand) heritage breeds, the Dexter, unless I am much mistaken, was bred originally to be less leggy and smaller for the purpose of being able to feed itself without any human intervention. Also, some of the more recent North American programs producing lowline cattle, with the same aims, claim to be able to keep twice the number of lowline cattle as normal sized cattle on the same grazing. So if your land was productive enough for one head per acre normally (so 10 acres=10 head), you'd be able to keep 2 lowline per acre (10 acres=20 head). The breeders claim that, for dairy and meat production both, per pound yield is actually increased, which, again, might be plausible if you consider that an animal husbandry program could easily select for a more squat animal with less leg, and perhaps more barrel to the body, or a wider frame.

I haven't heard from any cattle people on this subject, and I'd like to, as such a development would mean that people who previously might not be able to, say, keep a cow for milk now might. I'd also think that these cattle might be easier to keep, requiring less total feed in the event of emergency during particularly hard winters.

-CK
 
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I've have mini Belted Galloways which are dual purpose but I wouldn't attempt to milk mine without a headlock.

You can fit 3 minis where you could only graze 1 full sized cow. This is purely a function of math because those are the weight equivalents. A 2 yr old steer would weigh 2000# were a 2 yr mini is 750#. Belties are very hardy for cold and heat too and are adapted to grazing poor land anyway.

I get back 250#s of meat from a 2 yr old bull (I don't bother steering - it doesn't effect the taste of the meat at all) and that's a reasonable amount for a family of 4.
 
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Thanks CJ. Your contributions are always pertinent. On a side note, I don't agree with dual-purpose animals in all cases. I think it is only appropriate where those purposes aren't wildly different. I'd rather have a dairy breed and a separate meat breed, as they would, by necessity, occupy different zones in a permaculture plan, dairy requiring daily or better attention, meat requiring in the best cases only a yearly culling. I think my ideal would be a very productive mini dairy breed (I think I've seen mini Jerseys, that'd be amazing) that I'd breed for better human interaction and foraging ability, and a meat breed that would also be selected for foraging, but with less need to select for human compatability, I'd select for weather hardiness. I was thinking if possible, I'd get some bison DNA in there.

-CK
 
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Chris Kott wrote:Considering the fact that in most places with snow cover, the available winter forage will either be what dried standing and got flattened or stayed standing, depending on the nature of the feed, wouldn't they need to eat more of the dead and dried stuff than they would if it were fresh?

Also, would it be possible for someone who understands Savory's reasoning, or the method by which such high stocking rates result in avoidance of desertification, and how this applies to winter grazing? Or does this belong in another thread? They;; Savory and co talk about fodder budgeting/ simple maths where a cow needs beetween 8 and 25 kg of green dry matter per day so it is the owners job to provide it ,im out of my depth with snow but im assuming the grass under it is still greenish and maintains a reasonable food value so you are probabley going to NOT graze a large amount of feed in the fall so you have a winter reserve
Eg ! cow eats 15kg times120 days= 1800 kg of hay or if the grass is 80% water she has to eat lots more im sure your USDA would have an explanation of this
I occasionally get a miniture calf in my herd,the last one i sold to a hobby farmer who sucessfully mated it to a normal bull
,
Lastly for me, I was wondering what opinions on miniature cattle are, both meat and dairy. I ask because, firstly, one of the hardier (so I understand) heritage breeds, the Dexter, unless I am much mistaken, was bred originally to be less leggy and smaller for the purpose of being able to feed itself without any human intervention. Also, some of the more recent North American programs producing lowline cattle, with the same aims, claim to be able to keep twice the number of lowline cattle as normal sized cattle on the same grazing. So if your land was productive enough for one head per acre normally (so 10 acres=10 head), you'd be able to keep 2 lowline per acre (10 acres=20 head). The breeders claim that, for dairy and meat production both, per pound yield is actually increased, which, again, might be plausible if you consider that an animal husbandry program could easily select for a more squat animal with less leg, and perhaps more barrel to the body, or a wider frame.

I haven't heard from any cattle people on this subject, and I'd like to, as such a development would mean that people who previously might not be able to, say, keep a cow for milk now might. I'd also think that these cattle might be easier to keep, requiring less total feed in the event of emergency during particularly hard winters.

-CK

 
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:I did a quick research and I found an article about a research project in Northern Ontario where there is a lot of snow. They were able to keep the cows on pasture until Dec 18th when snow was at 25 cm. They pulled the cows in when they started to lose weight. A while ago, I read in Grass-fed Cattles by Julius Ruechel that even if cow's condition deteriorates a bit through winter, they will bounce back quickly on Spring's grass.



Not only do they bounce back very quickly after a late winter fast (in my experience w/ unbred goats) when they get onto spring forage, but the meat is tender because it is all new, so even an older animal will be tender in autumn when it's time to butcher.
 
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Ross Gigee wrote:

Adrien Lapointe wrote:I did a quick research and I found an article about a research project in Northern Ontario where there is a lot of snow. They were able to keep the cows on pasture until Dec 18th when snow was at 25 cm. They pulled the cows in when they started to lose weight. A while ago, I read in Grass-fed Cattles by Julius Ruechel that even if cow's condition deteriorates a bit through winter, they will bounce back quickly on Spring's grass.



Not only do they bounce back very quickly after a late winter fast (in my experience w/ unbred goats) when they get onto spring forage, but the meat is tender because it is all new, so even an older animal will be tender in autumn when it's time to butcher.



Well, that is kind of how they are designed to work. That is how they survived from way back when until we came along and thought we knew better...
 
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Kevin MacBearach wrote:Well it won't work for dairy cows, but it's good to see more beef farmers doing this.

Problem is, the majority of these videos shows beef farmers that farm in the Midwest, or places of the Southeast, in Virginia such as the Shanadoa Valley (Joel Salatin). These are areas that have had grasslands growing on them for thousands of years, with root structures that go way down. But where I live in Western Oregon, where the trees have been very recently cut to make "pasture land," I very much doubt that the same quality of grass can be grown.




NOT TRUE!

I did it last year with my jerseys. Fed strait hay for less than 2 months. They were dry though. If you wanted to milk cows on winter stockpile, you might be able to do it with Triticale and Austrian Winter Peas.
 
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I run a small acreage, management intensive dairy operation raising big Brown Swiss cattle. Last year was my most efficient hay feeding yet, the whole herd on 100% pasture until Dec 15. Then three months alfalfa hay in the loafing yard (14 one ton bales of alfalfa for 7 bovines). Then back to 100% pasture on March 15. I have generally 7 animal units (cows, heiffers, bulls) on 7 acres of excellent diverse pasture. Our milking season runs May-November, in perfect harmony with the grazing season. The energy needs of lactating cows vs dry cows is enormously different. Each year, I am trying to feed less hay, because that is a major part of my profit margin, considering the cost of quality hay.

One thing about feeding hay that is good for my herd, is the nurtitional value of good alfalfa hay versus stockpiled grass. My animals benefit from the high nutrient content of the alfalfa as a means to stockpile nutrients within their bodies as they grow their babies. My compost pile also benefits, as I am able to collect a large amount of their alfalfa-fed manure. Their loafing yard/shed is covered in woodchips. The following spring I use a loader to gather the manure and woodchip mess, and I compost it over the summer. When the cows are taken off the pasture in December, this compost is spread over my pastures just before the first lasting snows of the winter. So part of the cost of the manure is defrayed through its fertilizer value when turned into quality biodynamic compost.

For me, to go without any hay would be problematic for several reasons. The pasture sod would suffer a lot of damage during the deep snow months. The cows would really suffer nutritionally pawing through the snow to eat dried grass while growing babies. I also would have to defer grazing on large amounts of my pasture for winter grazing, thus vastly reducing the amount of pasture available to me during the summer and fall. Holistic management guides my hay feeding decision in this case.

Just wanted to share my experience with this, as most of my neighbors feed hay for 5+ months each year. I am happy with the system I have developed, and hope it helps you to find that holistic balance in your farms as well.
 
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Adam Klaus wrote:I run a small acreage, management intensive dairy operation raising big Brown Swiss cattle. Last year was my most efficient hay feeding yet, the whole herd on 100% pasture until Dec 15. Then three months alfalfa hay in the loafing yard (14 one ton bales of alfalfa for 7 bovines). Then back to 100% pasture on March 15. I have generally 7 animal units (cows, heiffers, bulls) on 7 acres of excellent diverse pasture. Our milking season runs May-November, in perfect harmony with the grazing season. The energy needs of lactating cows vs dry cows is enormously different. Each year, I am trying to feed less hay, because that is a major part of my profit margin, considering the cost of quality hay.

One thing about feeding hay that is good for my herd, is the nurtitional value of good alfalfa hay versus stockpiled grass. My animals benefit from the high nutrient content of the alfalfa as a means to stockpile nutrients within their bodies as they grow their babies. My compost pile also benefits, as I am able to collect a large amount of their alfalfa-fed manure. Their loafing yard/shed is covered in woodchips. The following spring I use a loader to gather the manure and woodchip mess, and I compost it over the summer. When the cows are taken off the pasture in December, this compost is spread over my pastures just before the first lasting snows of the winter. So part of the cost of the manure is defrayed through its fertilizer value when turned into quality biodynamic compost.

For me, to go without any hay would be problematic for several reasons. The pasture sod would suffer a lot of damage during the deep snow months. The cows would really suffer nutritionally pawing through the snow to eat dried grass while growing babies. I also would have to defer grazing on large amounts of my pasture for winter grazing, thus vastly reducing the amount of pasture available to me during the summer and fall. Holistic management guides my hay feeding decision in this case.

Just wanted to share my experience with this, as most of my neighbors feed hay for 5+ months each year. I am happy with the system I have developed, and hope it helps you to find that holistic balance in your farms as well.



Alfalfa can cause nutritional problems, especially in dry cows. I don't see sod damage as a negative, in fertile well established soils, I have seen fields chipped into mud rebound stronger than fields left ungrazed. In unfertile land needing higher diversity it is a chance to introduce new seeds.

I wouldn't be so worried about condition as you. My neighbors holsteins looked like they had less condition than my jerseys and they are grain fed, well mineralized and really well taken care of. My jerseys were eating stockpiled endophyte infected fescue! It is natural for them to eat less nutritious forages over the winter and dry. I think that they may make more gains in the spring when fed less nutritious forage through the winter.

But 3 months isn't bad at all. Different strokes for different folks. I'm going to stick to green 1st cutting grass mix for winter feed though, when they can't reach the grass or when I run out.

7 acres is the biggest part of what makes your decision the best one for you in my opinion. I do more like 1 jersey to 2 acres and graze tons of goats which must be winter fed, which frees up a lot of pasture room for stockpiling for me in my operation. Getting into icelandics here soon and am going to try to not feed them!
 
Adam Klaus
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Emil- a few misunderstandings I think-

Alfalfa is a very regionally specific feed for cattle. Alfalfa is an arid land plant, and is not nearly as appropriate for use in a humid climate. Alfalfa is a touchy crop, it must be grown on soils not too high in potassium, with ample soil calcium, and it must be cured perfectly. Experiments carried out in the 1930's through the Utah Experimenal Station, demonstrated is that alfalfa is perfectly suited to year round cattle feeding. It is a wonder food for cattle, in its proper environment.

Hay from alfalfa IS less nutritious than diverse red clover pasture. So the cows do eat a diet lower in energy and protein when dry in the wintertime, which is the correct way to feed cattle. I am not focused on body condition at all, but animal health.

It is the mineral content of alfalfa that I value, not its relative feed value. The high mineral content, which is vastly superior to any other hay, ensures a well-mineralized animal. Cattle eating alfalfa hay eat much less kelp than cattle on grass hay. This demonstrates the value of the minerals to the animal. Well-mineralized animals are healthier in every way. And the excess minerals are excreted by the animal, resulting in a more mineralized manure fertilizer for my fields. Win-win.

Sod damage is not a good thing in a fertile heavy clay, mountainous environment. We have excellent diverse pastures, and chipping them to mud results in a loss of soil humus, soil compaction, and a huge reduction in productivity the following year. Erosion is an issue, as is slow establishment of new plants in a cool mountain environment. I understand the value of animal impact for regenerating ailing pastures, but this is not my situation. In areas where sod damage has occured through poor management in the past, we see a reduction in productivity for two grazing seasons, and absolutely no long term benefits.

Geography has as much to do with good farming practices as anything.
Just a point to remind readers that including your location with your name really helps the community to 'understand where you are coming from', literally.

Raise a glass of milk to good grazing and less hay expenses!
 
Emil Spoerri
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Huh. Well, I'm in North East Michigan and Alfalfa is "growing wild" or volunteering in my pastures. We range 25-45 inches of rainfall a year here.

I was talking about clay soil being chipped into mud. Athens Ohio brick clay about the stickiest of the icky, grazed in rotation for the past 30 years. It was a lowland field in a hilly, infertile area, but the soil had become fertile through management.

Nutritional problems in that legumes are goiter causing, iodine depleting. I guess kelp probably covers that up. Also something to do with the calcium/phosphorous ratio being out of whack for dry cows. In the worst cases this means aborted heifers and only bulls survive.

Also what is important to prevent erosion and extreme chipping and pugging is a heavy buildup or plant matter. Just cause there is forage remaining doesn't mean it's good enough to graze. In Southeast Ohio you ought to stop grazing stockpiled fields in August. What I leave behind is mostly covered in a heavy mat of dead grass flat on the ground that I believe stops erosion.
 
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I was just thinking about storing winter feed in the field so the cattle stay out there all winter in a paddock shift style. There's no reason why small haystacks won't work and you move the cattle from stack to stack is there?

Hay stacks like this:



In addition, there must be other crops that stand tall and cows like to eat. I'm thinking of corn, sunflowers, and long stem rye. They also like sunchokes and cattails.

Here the ground freezes solid from Mid November to April, and snow depth isn't a huge problem (we get maybe 4 feet of packed snow but the odd thaw typically reduces that a bit).

The issues come in the spring thaw when the animals will damage the pasture. That has me thinking of the pigaeration Joel Salatin uses. Maybe an adaptation of the concept would work...

If cows mob graze wintered over corn and sunflowers in the spring time, then some of the seeds will be trampled into the mud and ferment. When he cows have gone, pigs could decompact the soil a few weeks later, searching for the fermented corn.
Once the frosts have gone, there is a well prepared and fertilised area waiting to be planted. Totally crazy??
 
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Nick Kitchener wrote:I was just thinking about storing winter feed in the field so the cattle stay out there all winter in a paddock shift style. There's no reason why small haystacks won't work and you move the cattle from stack to stack is there?



It would work, so long as the climate is apropriate. I had a very skilled farmer friend do this on the high plains of Eastern Colorado. Basically the same environment as anywhere on the great plains. It worked because he didnt receive large amounts of snowfall, the air is low in humidity, and most importantly, it is a cold and windy climate in winter that kept the hay well preserved and the ground hard. Minimal native deer/elk pressure is critical, in my situation the deer would just love this idea!

The drawback is that the feed quality is quite low, with the large amount of surface area oxidizing into very low grade hay. Lots of precipitation would make the situation worse in terms of feed value. Larger haystacks are better, as they have less surface area and more volume.

He built these large haystacks (huge, like 15 by 15, and 10 feet tall) with a buckrake in the fall, placed throughout his pastures wherever the pasture was lowest quality. The hay crop was swathed, windrowed, and pushed into place with a buckrake. To keep the cattle from trashing and trampling the haystacks, he used a single strand electric fence wire, placed on the side of the haystack so the animals could reach under and eat from the edge of the haystack. As the cattle ate more, he moved the wire in, so the haystack got slowly grazed from the outside edge. It worked remarkably well. The worst areas of the pasture got fertilized heavily, and showed improved growth the next year. Haymaking and handling was reduced enormously. Cows stayed outside where they are healthiest.

Hope this helps, you are definitely thinking along good lines. As always, the devil is in the details, but there is certainly a good plan in your mind.
 
Cj Sloane
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I just went to a mob grazing workshop with the Ian that Greg Judy mentions. He said to leave the forage standing - nobody made hay or haystacks for the bison. There's more to it than that but you let them harvest it themselves. They can paw through most snow to get to eat. Plus, the snow insulates it and it can be warm enough to grow a bit even during winter.
 
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It may seem strange, but I paid close attention to the grass this winter in an empty lot near my house.

I noticed that the snow doesn't compact around tall grass, and doesn't totally bury / flatten it until the heavy / slushy snow falls in spring. I'm talking grass 2 to 3 ft high. It behaves very differently to the same snow falling on lawns nearby.

Cows could totally get in there. I noticed the snow that builds up doesn't form an ice layer either. It goes that granular texture.
 
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Glad to see the 'old ways' coming back around again. Thanks for posting the vid.
 
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Where I am at you see a few of people sickle bar mower (cut it high) over there stock pile pasture early fall and let the grass grow through unbailed feed. The cut grass will sit on top of the of the grass and the grass will grow through and keep keep it off the ground.

We have been doing this for years. We do set out bails when it snows more than a few inches.
 
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