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Chop and drop vs turning soil over

 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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Hi all. In my quest to better some pasture I wonder what the best way to approach it is.  I like the ease of C&D ( and have been doing this through brush hogging for years ) but wonder if I'm better off to turn things under ?  For whatever reason Im guessing if I divided a field in half and compared methods , the side that the cover crops were turned under the soil would turn out better.
Whether it's Volatilization loss or other reasons I just feel that way. 
   Has anybody done any side by side comparisons ? 
 
Dan Grubbs
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I haven't done side-by-side comparisons, but I have taken a different approach.

I currently have about 20 acres in pasture that previously was being hayed twice a year before I bought it.  I let everything grow and die off naturally now at the advice of a really smart and experienced NRCS agent who has really helped me.  I was originally going to roll-crimp the grasses down to create a nice thick mat of biomass.  As we were walking over the pasture, the NRCS agent and I were discussing the approach. He said it would be even better if I just let the things grow and die off naturally. I took his advice and am happy I did.

The land holds more water and allows it to infiltrate more slowly. The die off in the winter puts it all onto the soil and it begins decomposing quickly. The earthworm population has exploded ... and I have to assume the microbial live has too.  Repeated mowing and haying reduces the species of grasses and forbs in a pasture. By letting the grasses and forbs die off naturally, I have a more extensive root network for longer than if I rolled, mowed or hayed. Key principles to take away: 1) disturb the soil as little as possible, 2) keep living roots in the soil as long as possible, 3) encourage biodiversity, 4) keep cover on the soil as long as possible.

I would never turn my pasture over. That exposes the soil food web (microbial life) to harsh conditions that kill much of it. It also vaporizes valuable soil moisture. Most of all, it breaks down the soil structure reducing its ability to infiltrate water and you end up with compaction and erosion problems.

Let it grow and die off naturally until you're ready to manage it with managed/mob grazing.  You can even inter-plant a row crop into cover crop with a seed drill. Your animals could graze the top third and trample the rest onto the surface of the soil if you move them frequently enough. But, I would never turn my pasture over.  That leads to compaction, erosion, and destruction of soil food web and soil structure. 

Those are my two cents.

 
R Scott
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Turning it over does do better SHORT TERM.  But it will destroy soil structure and increase compaction if done incorrectly or repeatedly.

If you want a completely different pasture mix, you can plow shallow so it is just turning over sod and not inverting deep soil and then plant new mix.

Key line subsoiling will break up compaction and speed up root growth with minimal impact to microbiology or existing plant mix, but repeated use will limit the fungal network.

And as Dan said, letting it go to maturity and degrade naturally also feeds the soil differently. As does running livestock.

So what do you want for the pasture?
 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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Dan Grubbs wrote:I haven't done side-by-side comparisons, but I have taken a different approach.

I currently have about 20 acres in pasture that previously was being hayed twice a year before I bought it.  I let everything grow and die off naturally now at the advice of a really smart and experienced NRCS agent who has really helped me.  I was originally going to roll-crimp the grasses down to create a nice thick mat of biomass.  As we were walking over the pasture, the NRCS agent and I were discussing the approach. He said it would be even better if I just let the things grow and die off naturally. I took his advice and am happy I did.

The land holds more water and allows it to infiltrate more slowly. The die off in the winter puts it all onto the soil and it begins decomposing quickly. The earthworm population has exploded ... and I have to assume the microbial live has too.  Repeated mowing and haying reduces the species of grasses and forbs in a pasture. By letting the grasses and forbs die off naturally, I have a more extensive root network for longer than if I rolled, mowed or hayed. Key principles to take away: 1) disturb the soil as little as possible, 2) keep living roots in the soil as long as possible, 3) encourage biodiversity, 4) keep cover on the soil as long as possible.

I would never turn my pasture over. That exposes the soil food web (microbial life) to harsh conditions that kill much of it. It also vaporizes valuable soil moisture. Most of all, it breaks down the soil structure reducing its ability to infiltrate water and you end up with compaction and erosion problems.

Let it grow and die off naturally until you're ready to manage it with managed/mob grazing.  You can even inter-plant a row crop into cover crop with a seed drill. Your animals could graze the top third and trample the rest onto the surface of the soil if you move them frequently enough. But, I would never turn my pasture over.  That leads to compaction, erosion, and destruction of soil food web and soil structure. 

Those are my two cents.




Wow interesting. My neighbor has been doing this for a long time and he has the most hemp dogbane, iron weed , golden rod, patch around . ( It's like weed central) If cows or sheep would eat it I wouldn't mind but he just seems to get more of it every year. I'm guessing all that stuff going to seed every year doesnt help matters.
       We have C&D a 5 acre piece with no grazing for the last 15 years and I am just really not impressed with the results. 





 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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R Scott wrote:Turning it over does do better SHORT TERM.  But it will destroy soil structure and increase compaction if done incorrectly or repeatedly.

If you want a completely different pasture mix, you can plow shallow so it is just turning over sod and not inverting deep soil and then plant new mix.

Key line subsoiling will break up compaction and speed up root growth with minimal impact to microbiology or existing plant mix, but repeated use will limit the fungal network.

And as Dan said, letting it go to maturity and degrade naturally also feeds the soil differently. As does running livestock.

So what do you want for the pasture?


I am mob grazing sheep and they seem to do better when the overall height of forage is in the 12-24 inch range. After  they go through a area I usually clip the field and let the process start all over again.
In addition to that I overseed with whatever I feel that section is lacking in and was really wondering what else I could do to improve the ground.
    I know of a piece of ground that the owner is a "cover crop freak " and his dad and him have been turning Cover Crops under for 70 +years and he has the thickest dark topsoil of any place around. I know that method works , and sure has me leaning in that direction as our C&D practice hasn't yielded near the results
 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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Dan Grubbs wrote:I haven't done side-by-side comparisons, but I have taken a different approach.

I let everything grow and die off naturally now at the advice of a really smart and experienced NRCS agent who has really helped me.  I was originally going to roll-crimp the grasses down to create a nice thick mat of biomass.  As we were walking over the pasture, the NRCS agent and I were discussing the approach. He said it would be even better if I just let the things grow and die off naturally. I took his advice and am happy I did.

The land holds more water and allows it to infiltrate more slowly. The die off in the winter puts it all onto the soil and it begins decomposing quickly. The earthworm population has exploded ... and I have to assume the microbial live has too.  Repeated mowing and haying reduces the species of grasses and forbs in a pasture. By letting the grasses and forbs die off naturally, I have a more extensive root network for longer than if I rolled, mowed or hayed.

Those are my two cents.



I'm on board with ya , I'm just wondering how you keep it from turning back into brush and then woods?
 
Casie Becker
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I don't see him posting here, but it came up another topic that Joseph Lofthouse tills his fields every year, just as his grandfather did. It sounds like his experience is that the soil survives tillage just fine as long as you don't export fertility. Hopefully he'll see this topic and confirm or correct my understanding.

I like chop and drop because I want to shade the soil from the sun. My main concern is conserving moisture. I'm fairly sure that I lose a lot of nutrients as the materials dry out on the surface, but in my conditions preserving soil moisture is more important.
 
chip sanft
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Stewy Stuadenwalt wrote:
Dan Grubbs wrote:I haven't done side-by-side comparisons, but I have taken a different approach.

I let everything grow and die off naturally now at the advice of a really smart and experienced NRCS agent who has really helped me.  I was originally going to roll-crimp the grasses down to create a nice thick mat of biomass.  As we were walking over the pasture, the NRCS agent and I were discussing the approach. He said it would be even better if I just let the things grow and die off naturally. I took his advice and am happy I did.

The land holds more water and allows it to infiltrate more slowly. The die off in the winter puts it all onto the soil and it begins decomposing quickly. The earthworm population has exploded ... and I have to assume the microbial live has too.  Repeated mowing and haying reduces the species of grasses and forbs in a pasture. By letting the grasses and forbs die off naturally, I have a more extensive root network for longer than if I rolled, mowed or hayed.

Those are my two cents.



I'm on board with ya , I'm just wondering how you keep it from turning back into brush and then woods?


This is my question too. Part of our acreage in Minnesota is former farmfield and the sumac, especially, but also willow want to cover it with brush.
 
eric koperek
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TO:     Stewy Stuadenwalt
FROM:     Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:     Pasture Management
DATE:     PM 4:48 Friday 5 August 2016
TEXT:

(1)     The worst possible thing you can do is plow a pasture (unless this is part of a long cycle crop rotation).  Plowing really sets the soil back and so should only be done rarely = when absolutely essential (like for growing or harvesting commercial crops of potatoes).

(2)     Your best management option is intensive rotational grazing.  You need to run at least 200 to 300 animal units per acre and move them every 1 or 2 days.  1 Animal Unit = 1,000 pounds live weight regardless of species.  Pastures are best maintained by grazing.

(3)     If you can't graze, mow pastures to keep out brush = trees and brambles. 

(4)     Do not mow or graze always at the same time or some plants may not be able to flower and reproduce.  Robotic (by the calendar) mowing or grazing reduces species diversity and leads to pasture decline.

(5)     For best results, mow or graze when pasture plants are seeding or flowering.  Plants in their reproductive phase of growth are best for beef cattle.  For dairy cows, graze tender young plants that are not flowering or seeding.  Pastures for beef and dairy are managed entirely differently.

(6)     Improve your pastures by broadcasting dolomite (magnesium) lime, and other fertilizers as needful.

(7)     Broadcast a mixture of legumes adapted to your climate and soil.  You can include other plants at your discretion.  The best time to seed pastures is autumn (when you would sow winter wheat) or frost seed early in spring.  Legumes are necessary to encourage large earthworm populations in pastures.  Earthworm populations double when fields are planted to legumes rather than grass.  Note:  For best results, use PELLETED seed when sowing into standing vegetation.  Pelleted seeds deter ants, rodents, and birds from eating seeds.  Predation rates on surface sown, unprotected = naked seeds can exceed 90%.  You can buy commercially pelleted seed or purchase equipment to encapsulate your own seed.  Broadcast seed into standing pasture then mow immediately to cover and protect seed.  Alternatively, sow then immediately mob graze pasture.  Animals will stomp seed into the ground and fertilize pasture at the same time.

(     If you have a "tired" field or "sick" pasture fence off affected area and concentrate your animals there.  Spread field with wildflower hay or seed with pasture species.  Feed animals in their enclosure = bring fodder to them.  Spread fodder around = do not feed in the same place every day.  Animals should be "well crowded" = have just enough room to turn around = 8 or 9 feet x 8 or 9 feet for a beef or dairy cow.  Keep animals concentrated until land is well dunged = 1/2 to 1 pound of manure per square foot = 11 to 22 tons per acre.  When manure concentration reaches desired levels move animals to another unhealthy field or return them to their regular pasture rotation.  Cattle Penning = Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is an ancient land management practice dating back to Roman times.

(9)     Well managed pastures should have at least 2 million earthworms per acre = 46 earthworms per cubic foot of topsoil.  Intensively grazed pastures should have 3 to 4 million earthworms per acre in temperate climates.  (Earthworm populations can reach 7 or 8 million per acre in places like New Zealand where pastures are very intensively managed).  Large earthworm populations are essential to keep pastures healthy.

(10)     Dung beetle populations are good indicators of pasture health.  Time how long it takes for a cow manure pat to disappear.  On really healthy summer pastures cow pats should disappear in 1 or 2 DAYS.  If it takes a week or longer for a cow pie to disappear then your pasture is seriously sick.  Call your extension entomologist and arrange to have your pastures "seeded" with a mixture of dung beetle species.

(11)     My father's relatives have been farming the same land for over 8 centuries now.  We learned all about pasture management hundreds of years ago.  Intensive rotational grazing and "mob grazing" are NOT new concepts.  Both were practiced in Roman times.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment



















 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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A  big Thank You to all who have replied and tried to help out!
 
Tyler Ludens
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eric koperek wrote:You need to run at least 200 to 300 animal units per acre


Three HUNDRED cows per acre?

Eighteen HUNDRED sheep per acre?

60,000 chickens per acre?

Or is my math somehow way off?
 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
eric koperek wrote:You need to run at least 200 to 300 animal units per acre


Three HUNDRED cows per acre?

Eighteen HUNDRED sheep per acre?

60,000 chickens per acre?

Or is my math somehow way off?


I thought the same thing , but he said a 9ft x 8ft area per cow and there is 43560 sq.ft per acre....... So I think that is correct
 
Tyler Ludens
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It seems like the grass would get trampled and pooped on before it could be grazed, under those densities. 
 
chip sanft
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Tyler Ludens wrote:It seems like the grass would get trampled and pooped on before it could be grazed, under those densities. 


My thought, too. Based on what I've read, 100 head / acre is recommended feedlot density (Kansas State U) -- not the usual model for permaculture. Is that what real mobbing takes?
 
Stewy Stuadenwalt
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chip sanft wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:It seems like the grass would get trampled and pooped on before it could be grazed, under those densities. 


My thought, too. Is that what real mobbing takes?


I think you can do it with less animal units, but remember they might be moving to next paddock in 12 to 72 hours depending on the intensity of the rotation. I also think that is how the grazing term "Mob" came about.
 
Tyler Ludens
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With that density (300 per acre), are they given supplementary feed once they've trampled and pooped on everything in about 15 minutes?

 
Travis Johnson
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The problem here is people are talking oranges and apples.

Yes there are many ways to improve soil, but great soil also grows weeds really well too. The key is to get a soil sample taken and get the results back. Its well worth the $20 or less to find out. That is because it will tell you what you have, as well as what you don't have. When you get too high of this or that as far as minerals go, you get certain types of weeds. For instance, low PH levels cause us to get Smooth Bedstraw here, where as low nitrogen levels give us Queen Anne's lace. But honestly "its just a guess, unless you test". I say that because I had a poor performing pasture and figured it needed lime, but how much? The last soil sample taken off it said 8800 pounds per acre! YIKES! I wrote in the comments that I thought the field was low on lime and the guy doing the test wrote back a personal note and said it was at 6.2 PH and fine for pasture, I needed NITROGEN. That was a shock, and I would have tossed good money after bad spreading lime. Sometimes its what a soil test tells you that you don't need that is even more important then what you need.

What you need for soil amendments determines how to apply it. Nitrogen: just apply before it is predicted to rain, otherwise it is so volatile you lose most of what you apply. Lime; it is so slow acting and depending on the application rate, you might have to incorporate it.

But weeds are easy to do battle with. Weeds flower and go to seed after the grasses  do, so by clipping a pasture that has sprouted into weeds, you stunt their growth (bushogging). I clip mine a few times a year just because I don't have enough sheep for my acreage. Then by getting my fields at the proper PH, giving it the right minerals, and healthy doses of nitrogen; I am encourage what I want to grow (grass). because we spread a lot of manure here, my fields are at the optimum level for organic matter, and yes there is an upper threshold. It is a constant battle I grant you, BUT well worth it. You can be the judge...

 
Travis Johnson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:With that density (300 per acre), are they given supplementary feed once they've trampled and pooped on everything in about 15 minutes?



You are absolutely right. A sheep (or other animal) has only one mouth, but for every bite they take, they are destroying 4 bites with their hooves. And every so often they poo as well and won't graze there again until that is broken down. Mob grazing works...with the right numbers, but a bushog does the same thing just with less work and in a quicker amount of time. The trade off is it consumes energy (diesel).
 
eric koperek
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TO:  Tyler Ludens
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Intensive Rotational Grazing & Mob Grazing
DATE:  PM 5:46 Monday 15 August 2016
TEXT:

(1)  [censored]

(2)  the answer to your question is:  Yes, your arithmetic is correct.  1 Animal Unit = 1,000 pounds live weight per acre, regardless of species.  Stocking 200 to 300 beef or dairy cattle per acre is considered a relatively low density compared to modern practice, especially "mob grazing" where animal concentrations can reach as high as 1 to 1.5 million pounds (1,000 to 1,500 Animal Units) per acre.

(3)  It seems counter-intuitive but the more animals you graze per acre the more your pasture improves.

(4)  The trick to intensive rotational grazing and it's close cousin "mob grazing" is TIMING, specifically, how long to rest a pasture before grazing it again.  Most intensive rotational grazing systems for dairy cows use a 1 month = 30 or 31 day rotation cycle in temperate climates with plentiful rainfall or irrigation.  In semi-arid regions pastures might be rested 1 full year = 365 days before being grazed again. 

(5)  When to move your cattle, sheep, goats, or other animals is a matter of experience and common sense = decisions require both art and science.  You can clip an area of meadow and weigh the forage.  Thereafter, you can "eyeball" a field (or measure grass height with a yardstick) and make accurate estimates of its productivity in tons of forage per acre or grazing days per animal per acre.  For example, if you have 800 grazing days per acre then you can put 400 animals on that pasture for 2 days.  Note:  A "grazing day" is a variable measure = the amount of forage a particular species of animal will eat in 1 day.  For a Holstein dairy cow that could be 150 pounds of fresh grass per day = 1 dairy cow grazing day (or 5 sheep grazing days).

(6)  The theory of intensive rotational grazing is that YOUNG grass is most nutritious = has the highest protein and sugar content.  The idea is to feed your dairy cattle ONLY fresh, young grass.  That means moving your cows to fresh pasture frequently = every 1 or 2 days.  Beef cattle don't need lush grass (for finishing).  Graze beef cattle on fields where the plants are seeding = in their reproductive stage. 

(7)  In mild climates or where winter snows are not deep, intensively rotated mixed species pastures can support large herds year-round without any supplemental foods (hay, soybeans, corn) other than trace mineral salt.  If you have good windbreaks no barns are needed.  A bison x beef cow cross will be finished in 17 or 18 months.  A standard beef cow will finish in 14 to 16 months on nothing but "grass".  Average weight gain is 2.5 to 3.25 pounds per day for beef cattle on intensively rotated mixed species pasture.  Average milk production for a Jersey cow is 13,000 to 16,000 pounds per year on 100% pasture (no supplemental feeds of any kind).

(  In the Austrian Alps fencing is prohibited so we move our cows with dogs and shepherds (usually boys).  In the valleys, intensive rotational grazing means miles of walls or permanent fences and dozens of gates.  Most American farmers use cheap, movable electric fences to manage rotational pastures.  Moving cows is easy:  Feed dominant cows by hand.  Place bells around their necks.  The herd will follow the dominant cows wherever you want to lead them.  No dogs, cowboys, all-terrain-vehicles, or cattle prods needed.  Alternatively, ring a bell every time you move fence or open a gate.  It takes the most stupid cow about 2 or 3 days to make the connection.  Thereafter, the whole herd (even 1,000 animals) will be "bell trained".  Cows have a good sense of time and will usually be waiting for you turn them into fresh pasture.

(9)  Most dairy herds are rotated to fresh pasture every 1 or 2 days.  This is not a rule, just common practice.  Faster rotations are possible.  Some ranchers move their cattle 2 to 4 times daily.  I have seen some herds moved every 2 hours.  Remember:  Rotation speed is based on pasture growth rates.  The faster grass grows the sooner herds must move.  At first this is not always easy to judge and you might have to mow a meadow that gets too far ahead of you.  Alternatively, you can "stockpile" pasture for the winter or dry season.

(10)  Rule-of-Thumb:  If your cows get anxious, aggressive, or climb all over each other every time you open a gate then you need to move the herd more frequently.

(11)  Rule-of-Thumb:  The herd will eat 1/3, stomp 1/3 and leave 1/3 of total available forage.  This is real "permaculture" = you can keep up this cycle for hundreds of years and your pastures will continue to improve.

(12)  "Mob Grazing" is just an extreme form of intensive rotational grazing.  Its almost like modern turf management.  The cattle do what groundskeepers use machinery to accomplish.  Put a large number of cows on a small area of land and everything will be well stomped.  This is the equivalent of tillage and thatching.  Vast quantities of manure and urine replace chemical fertilizers.  Seeds in manure replace pasture mix bought at your local farm store.  "Cow pies" and stomped vegetation replace wood fiber mulch for your new "lawn".  No tractors or machinery are needed; the cows do all of the work.

(13)  Think of "mob grazing" as an equivalent form of "buffalo herding".  Vast numbers of animals graze briefly then move to fresh grass.  By the end of a week, the herd is beyond the range of any flies that might hatch out of their manure.

(14)  Carefully track earthworm and dung beetle populations on your pastures.  These critters are "keystone species" = monitors of ecosystem health.  Cow manure "pats" should disappear in 1 or 2 days on healthy meadows.  Rapid nutrient cycling is essential for maximum growth of forage and animals.

(15)  I learned intensive rotational grazing from my Great Grandfather who learned it from his Great Grandfather.  This is not rocket science, just common sense agronomy that goes back to when knights went clanking around in armor.  You have to learn to work with the land, not against it.

(16)  My Grandfather taught me to "hammer the land to sweeten it".  Translation:  Run lots of cows but move them quickly.  You need a critical mass of animals in order to maintain a healthy range land environment.  This is the "Herd Effect" or "Mob Effect" that is the basis of "mob grazing".  Again, think Buffalo or Wildebeest = vast numbers moving quickly.  Learn by imitating Nature.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment


( 
 
Tyler Ludens
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eric koperek wrote: Stocking 200 to 300 beef or dairy cattle per acre is considered a relatively low density compared to modern practice, especially "mob grazing" where animal concentrations can reach as high as 1 to 1.5 million pounds (1,000 to 1,500 Animal Units) per acre.


I have trouble seeing how 1500 animal units per acre can function in a grazing system.  That would be 300,000 chickens per acre, unless my math is faulty.

 
eric koperek
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TO:  Tyler Ludens
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Animal Units versus Stocking Rates
DATE:  PM 5:37 Wednesday 17 August 2016
TEXT:

(1)  An Animal Unit (AU) is a constant value.  1 AU = 1,000 pounds live weight regardless of species.  This value does not change whether you are talking about elephants, donkeys, guinea pigs, or any other grazing species.

(2)  Stocking Rates or Stocking Densities are variable numbers that are SPECIES DEPENDENT = the number of animals per acre or hectare varies according to species.  Stocking rates for elephants are different than stocking rates for chickens.

(3)  The examples I provided in previous messages are for DAIRY or BEEF cattle.  Read my letters again and you will find the words "dairy cows" and "beef cattle" throughout the text.

(4)  Most commercial beef cattle in the United States are harvested when they reach approximately 1,000 pounds live weight.  Other grazing animals have different average weights.  A Jersey milk cow weighs about 800 pounds (bulls around 900 pounds).  Holsteins can reach 1,300 pounds (cows) to 1,400 pounds (bulls).  Thus, 1 Animal Unit (1,000 pounds live weight) can mean different numbers of animals.

(5)  200 to 300 Animal Units per acre (or approximately 200 to 300 average beef cattle per acre) is considered to be a MINIMAL stocking rate by herdsmen practicing "Mob Grazing".  Typical stocking rates for mob grazed pastures can reach 1,000 to 1,500 beef cattle per acre = about 6.5 x 6.5 feet to 5.3 x 5.3 feet of pasture per animal.  These extreme stocking densities cannot be maintained for long periods = the cattle have to be moved frequently, usually at least every 4 hours (6 times daily).  Some ranchers move their herds every 2 hours although this is considered unusual by most practitioners of mob grazing in the United States.  In Africa and Australia (where anything less than 1,000 square miles is considered to be a hobby farm) moving cattle every 2 hours is quite common.

(6)  Pasturing chickens is "a different ball game".  In the United States regulations vary from 10 to 30 square feet for "pasture raised" chickens = 4,356 to 1,452 chickens per acre.  Here in Europe, regulations allow not more than 400 chickens per acre for "pasture raised" birds = 108.9 square feet or about 10.4 x 10.4 feet of pasture per chicken.  Obviously, chickens at this density require supplemental feed, so practical stocking densities are determined by how much or little you are willing to spend on chicken food.  If you have a lot of land then you can pasture 4,000 chickens per acre (but you will have to move them frequently unless you are willing to feed them grain).

(7)  Take a safari to East Africa.  See the thousands and thousands of wildebeests grazing the savanna.  They stomp everything, defecate and urinate in vast quantities, yet the herd is healthy and the grassland thrives.  How does this work?  Large numbers of animals on a small area of land grazing swiftly.  As previously noted, the key is TIMING.  The herds move themselves every few hours, sometimes every hour.  Man imitates Nature, hence "intensive rotational grazing" and "mob grazing".

(  Admittedly, intensive grazing systems are difficult for most American farmers to comprehend.  Traditional American practice is to strictly limit stocking densities according to the "carrying capacity" of the land.  Thus, "bad" pastures may have only a few or no animals while "good" pastures have tightly controlled numbers that wander wherever they want.  To an American rancher, the solution to poor grazing lands is to withdraw animals.  To an Austrian farmer, the solution is to ADD vast numbers of animals.  Diametrically opposite solutions to the same problem.  Most conventional range land "experts" have a hard time wrapping their minds around this concept:  Hammer the land to sweeten it = run lots of animals but move them quickly.  This works (even if by your logic you think it impossible).  Mother Nature does not care how humans think.

(9)  Oh, Ye of little faith.  You don't have to trust me (even though I have practiced rotational grazing long before you were born), but you SHOULD trust Mother Nature.  She knows what she is doing.

(10)  I trust this explanation will alleviate your confusion.  If not, write to me and I will try again.  This is not super secret information.  In the past 10 years rotational grazing has received a lot of attention from the American agricultural press.  There are many videos now available on the Internet.  Some are even worth watching.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment


  
 
chip sanft
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eric koperek wrote:
(1)  An Animal Unit (AU) is a constant value.  1 AU = 1,000 pounds live weight regardless of species.  This value does not change whether you are talking about elephants, donkeys, guinea pigs, or any other grazing species.



In the stuff I've read, an AU is 1000 lbs of beef cow, while other stock is measured in relation to that, as some animals take more out of the land than others per pound.
See for example here: <USDA Animal Unit equivalents TX>.

Thus, a sheep assumed at 130 lbs is worth .18 AU (and not .13, as it would be if calculated on the basis of weight at 1000 lbs / 1 unit). In that chart a SpanishxBoer cross goat is .19 AU (a bit more than a sheep) even though assumed to weigh 125 lbs (5 less than the sheep figure). Similarly, a horse assumed to weigh 1100 lbs is 1.27 AU (and not 1.1).
 
eric koperek
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TO:  Chip Sanft
FROM:  Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
SUBJECT:  Animal Units versus Grazing Days
DATE:  PM 5:01 Thursday 18 August 2016
TEXT:

(1)  "Good catch"!

(2)  American practice differs from International practice, just like Americans use feet & pounds while the rest of the world uses meters & kilograms.

(3)  The whole purpose behind the Animal Unit is to make it easy to compare or manage range lands stocked with different species.  Having a constant, common measure makes calculations and comparisons easier (like the metric system where everything is in units of 10).

(4)  Unlike Animal Units (which are constant), Grazing Days are species dependent.  Each different animal eats a unique weight of forage daily.  Complicating management, forage intake varies throughout the year depending on pasture quality, animal age, and reproductive status.  Matching animals to "grass" requires constant monitoring of pastures and animals -- work that most American farmers and ranchers are reluctant to do.  This is why "rotational grazing" and "mob grazing" are called "management intensive grazing" in the United States = you have to get off your tractor long enough to "watch the grass grow".  Most Americans are unwilling to invest the time required to do this.

(5)  American practice uses a hybrid Animal Unit that combines animal weight and forage consumption.  The result is a species dependent value that works well if you are only raising sheep.  If you ranch another species, you have to recalculate Animal Unit values (which defeats the purpose of using Animal Units in the first place).  So you have a choice:  Calculate a Sheep Animal Unit  -- or -- use standard Animal Units (1 AU = 1,000 pounds live weight) and Sheep Grazing Days.  6 of one, a half-dozen of the other.  I am a "Geezer" and naturally conservative.  I prefer tried-and-true methods.  Sometimes, old ways are the best.

(6)  "Recalculating . . . . recalculating . . . . sounds like a geo-satellite navigation system.  Both Animal Unit systems work, but International practice is easier, especially if you are trying to manage large plantations or ranches covering thousands of square miles where multiple species are grazing.

(7)  Never forget that the whole purpose behind rotational grazing systems is to produce more forage per unit area for as long as the growing season allows.  It is all about the "grass".  For example:  My intensively managed dairy pastures (in Austria) yield almost 6 times (571% exactly) more forage per acre than a conventionally managed dairy pasture in upper New York (in the United States).  New York has a more favorable agricultural climate.  The difference is mostly due to management:  Many cows in a small space rotated frequently versus few cows wandering around in a big space. 

(  In the United States, land is as cheap as stinking mackerel.  In Austria, 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of farmland costs at least $150,000.  This is considered "a steal".  Where population pressure is high and farmland costly, you have to manage fields intensively.  Thus, Austrian farmers have practiced rotational grazing since the Middle Ages.  This is leading edge agronomy for you.  For us, it's old hat.

ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

end comment

   
 
Travis Johnson
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Could we see some pictures?
 
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