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Winter MOB Grazing in Wet Climits?

 
Vickie Hinkley
Posts: 52
Location: Toledo, WA
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I'm winter mob grazing cattle in SWWA - the wet side.

I began stockpiling the pasture in early May. Put the cattle on it November 1st. Lots of tall dry grasses, but also plenty of green underneath. Approximating the 300K animal pound/acre day formula - sometimes a bit less.

3-4 months into the project I found my Jerseys, in particular are loosing significant weight. The Jersey crosses, a little less so, and the assorted beef to varying degrees. Almost two months ago I pulled the two pure Jersey cows to feed them back up on hay and grain.

Just as I'm doing this an extension agent says, mob grazing works everywhere but here. Because of the wet there isn't enough nutrition in the [dead] grasses. That grass under snow in Montana, for example, would have more nutrition that soggy WWA grass... True? 

He asked how the cattle were doing, and I said the Jerseys were slipping. He said not surprised, as they are less efficient at feed conversion. So my mistake on the Jerseys.

But of course I'd heard the "no nutrition" before but thought that was just that was the conventional knee-jerk reaction. That the mob grazing somehow was the exception.

I've added mineral/protein tubs these last two months. And we're getting some early growth now, too...

I'm hoping that the benefits of the mob grazing to the pasture will be significant, and that in the next year or two, the pasture will be providing more diversity, more protein, more nutrition.

But I don't know this from experience, nor know that it will be enough in the soggy NW.

Anyone have experience or can point me to further data?

thanks,

http://www.youtube.com/user/NewHeritageFarms#p/u/20/JRc0ZsY5dvk
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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In our wet areas the quality of what grows can be low, as well as the over all mineral content of the soil and plant life.  I have friends that found the same happened to their Jersey as did with yours.  So they started buying organic alfalfa hay from eastern Oregon (much less rain) and found it did the trick.

There is a reason why pine and fir trees, which grow on pour soil, do so well in the PNW.

Now this brings us to natural/sustainable raising of larger animals on our soggy fields:
I believe you are going to have to fortify your field soil with lots of minerals (due to rain wash) - I don't know how to make this fact sustainable unless you have access to seaweed.  In addition you will need to supplement what the animals are getting out in the field with richer food stuffs.  Maybe (herbs & root veggies) grown in a green house where you can control the rain wash and nutrient density a bit better.

Along this line of thinking - the more you can add nutrition to your fields naturally - like with the growth of nitrogen fixing deciduous trees planted here and there, the better.  Plants with deeper root systems help hold nutrients, and the falling leaves help to replenish what is above ground.  Many berries do well in the PNW - and their leaves can really offer much in the way of animal nutrition.

How to balance all this out in a movable paddock system I have no experience with, but my gut says there has to be a way.
Maybe some others will chime in with some wisdom regarding this.

I know how hard it is trying to keep animals strong and healthy over our rainy winters.

All the best ~
 
Vickie Hinkley
Posts: 52
Location: Toledo, WA
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Thanks Jami - your comments help me focus a bit. There are other assets at the leased 60 acres - which they are free to graze - such are wild rose, wild berries, snow berries, white oak groves, dog fir, and assorted deciduous shrubs I don't know. I can work on enhancing the woodlot/hedgerow value.

The amount being mob grazed is ~ 11 acres. Their mob grazing is "strictly voluntary" because their only water is the creek, thus the paddocks have to be open ended. Until the early Spring started to pop they were totally there for the daily moving of the wire. So it seemed like food to them but.... 

The mob grazing is supposed to seriously enhance the natural forage diversity of the pasture - but does it improve protein at the same time?




 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
25
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Your welcome Vickie, I wish I knew more about the types of plants and could give you detailed suggestions, but my focus always seems to be on animals.  I'm still learning about the plant side of things myself.

I have done much studding on the nutrient cycles of the PNW (places that get 30+ inches of rain) so I know more about the problems than the solutions at this point.  Nature seems to 'go with it' by having plants that can thrive on limited nutrition and acidic PH - supporting fewer large animals.  We find the Buffalo herds on the plains (average rainfall of 20" with droughts being common).
However, we know nature can be tweaked and nudged in different directions.  It's this tweaking I'm focusing on now.

I like to look to England, and other moderate, wet, damp climates for ideas.  But its a slow process when only wanting to seek sustainable solutions.

As you experiment do post back your thoughts and ideas - who knows who you'll inspire  
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Does anybody have any further information on this subject [mob grazing in the Pacific Northwest]?

Does the humus layer built up by mob grazing help capture and retain the nutrients that would have otherwise 'washed out'?

Is our best option for winter nutrition Tree Fodder? I have noticed my sheep [Icelandic Sheep in case you wanted to know the breed] seem particularly fond of [reasonably young, probably from wood with no more than 3-4 inches of diameter] conifer bark this time of year.
 
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