• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

High density stock grazing

 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This thread will probably be moved where it belongs, but I couldn't find the right forum by myself.

So, I keep watching videos about high density grazing, but why does no one say the ratio between number of cattle and area? I only have 8 cows...
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Because that ratio is something you will have to figure out with experience with your own land.  It's also something that will probably change over time, as your land improves from the managed grazing.  It varies considerably depending on your climate, the condition of your land, what's already growing there, the size of your animals (some breeds of cattle are quite a bit smaller than others). 

In order to figure out the answer, you'll have to start.  And you'll have to be there so you can watch the cows and the forage.  If they start eating the forage down too short (less than four inches left) you need to give them more land per day.  If they leave it too long, or just eat their favorite stuff and leave the less-favorite stuff, then give them less land the next day.  You also need to watch the condition of your animals, and, if they are milking (if you are milking them) watch how much milk they put in the pail.  By the time you've been doing intensively managed grazing for a year or two, you will have a better grasp of what you can do on your land.  And, your land will probably be in a lot better shape than when you started. 

Kathleen
 
Jonathan Byron
Posts: 225
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, there is an idea called the grazing unit - it varies from place to place depending on the condition of the pasture, the climate, and other factors. This is where local knowledge comes in handy. And it is only an estimate, based on average conditions and other assumptions. If you want to regenerate worn land, stay well below it.  Start by talking to farmers or extension agents nearby, you can adjust those numbers over time as you get to know your pasture.

When someone assesses a pasture, they might say that the 40 acres is equivalent to 20 grazing units (20 head of cattle), or that each acre is 1/2 of a grazing unit. Cows are the reference unit, the space that will support 1 cow will usually support 5 to 7 sheep, there are conversions for other animals.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_grazing_comparison
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, with 2 acres per cow I can already see we have a problem, since we are vegetarians and love our cows (it's a hindu monastery/farm), so no question of ever selling them to people who see them as food. Right now we have roughly 10 acres of pasture (could be more, I don't know, I usually just cook, process the milk and take care of the deities, but as much as the other monks all talk of self-sufficiency, they all seem to think with a modern, Western mind, like: "We want to have our cows happy, what's the best grass in Costa Rica? Fine, we'll plant it everywhere. The best, the highest, the only, the largest, aaaahhh!!!" kind of thing. Meanwhile I found out about permaculture and related practices, and I want to sound very convincing and authoritative if I want to help out). Ten acres and nine cows sounds already tight. What we really want to do is start a herd of miniature jersey/zebus. We have the miniature jerzebu bull, and two jerseys. The other 6 are full size cows, of whom one is milking. There is talk of parking them in the neighbor's pastures for a monthly fee.
Anyway, right now our pastures are all claimed from forest, there are still so many stumps that keep shooting up, so many weeds, and just one kind of grass, that we planted at least. The cows may be munching on other minor stuff, too.
Personally I think the pastures should be terraced to begin with, to retain water and have greener grass longer. I would go full force with edible living fences, legume trees that would shade, provide nitrogen for the grass and food to the cows with their fruits, tens of varieties of grasses and legumes, etc. and make a cow supermarket where they can eat whatever they want (including medicinal herbs).
Until then, since I don't think we have a budget for the back hoe, I wanted to at least talk the rest of us into this type of grazing. Right now when the grass is over there is nothing else to eat, and we move them to another pasture for two months (I think), until the other grass barely recuperates, but I understand the grass has to be able to produce seed heads, etc.
Maybe tomorrow I'll ask the peones who work here how they are running stuff, but they have lost a lot of the local knowledge and they are actually pushing for us to use herbicide, fertilizer as if there was absolutely no way around it. On top of that they see us as clueless gringos from cities (which is kind of the case often), and they think that the Costarican way is the only and the best, so it can be tough sometimes...
The videos I've seen so far are of people who converted their perfectly flat land with one grass into a perfectly flat land with many types of grasses that grow all year around, and they changed the grazing pattern, but here I am trying to figure out how to get rid, if not of the steepness of the soil, at least of all these stumps of bushes that keep coming up, plus other weeds. So anyway, I thought I would divide each pasture into section with electric wire every day, but given 1-2 acres per pasture it sounds like I can't do much. Right now we have one cow, the ox and a heifer in the neighbor's pasture. We have two yearlings in one pasture and the two jerseys in another pasture. The milker is alone in the electic pasture from 8 to 2pm, then she comes into the barn, and the bull is penned up until the yearlings come back and he sleeps in the pasture. So we're packed, yet I don't see the benefits of high density grazing, just stress. I wish I could have living feedback. What if I posted pictures of all the cows and pastures?
 
Paula Edwards
Posts: 411
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
You cannot produce milk without selling or butchering lifestock. Or you must buy a hectare each year for all these extra bulls. I never had cows, but in order that our sheep gives us mild she must see the buck each year. Say half of the lambs are male then after 10 year we would have to feed 5 extra animals. That is not sustainable.
 
Jonathan Byron
Posts: 225
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's a paper that suggests that around 0.9 to 1 cow per hectare (2.5 acres) is the norm in Costa Rica, they suggest it might be bumped up to 1.3 cows per hectare if management is right.

http://ftp.sunet.se/wmirror/www.cipav.org.co/lrrd/lrrd11/3/hol113.htm


A single species of grass will not make a good ecosystem - need multiple species of grass, some legumes, dynamic accumulators, the occasional tree to pump up nutrients from deep soil layers and provide some shade. If the land is sloped, smaller animals are better.
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We do a lot by the moon here, and so far it seems accurate; if the cow is impregnated with the moon in a female sign chances are the offspring will be female, etc. We've had two unwanted pregnancies, and the moon was in Scorpio both times, and we had two girls.

Still, I understand your point. We don't have a commercial operation. Our cow gave milk for about a year and a half last time. We are willing to go vegan for a couple of months I guess. Plus, keep in mind the next calves will be miniature jerseys. Also, are you saying all this from the point of view of High Density Stock Grazing, or generic cow husbandry?
 
                      
Posts: 70
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We practice high stock density grazing on a daily basis, running around 500 cattle through various pastures (high quality and low quality). I was just speaking to a guru of high stock density grazing last week, and he has achieved 1.8 acres/animal unit.

I could sit here writing all night about the benefits of high stock density grazing, it is awesome. We graze by the rule of thumb "take half, leave half". Your grass should look rough, like someone tied a rake to an ATV and rode randomly through the pasture. There is no measurement that can you can go by. If you take your 3' long grass to 6'' or less, your "solar panel" just got destroyed and your grass will take forever to regrow (plus you just overstressed your rootstock and stressed your cattle by forcing them to consume low quality forage). The highest nutrient and energy value is in the tips of the plant. the faster the movement, the faster the regrowth.

Try to think like the buffalo. they grazed an area, then rest for a long time, then grazed again for a short period. Maybe there was a fire while it was resting, then a heavy graze again. Grass requires management, as un-managed grass will result in monoculture. The more species of grass, the better your year round grazing will be (and your mineral cycle for the cattle) as when your warm season grass is slow to start, the cool season stuff will be lush. Try to shoot for 30% legumes in your pasture, any more and bloat can be a concern. 30% returns a wonderful amount of N to the soil. High organic matter incorporation, manure microbes, and earthworms can handle the rest.

If your cattle get used to moving, they will tell you when to move them. they will eat all of the good stuff, and when you show up, they will want to move. We move anywhere from 1-3 times per day. We have 3 herds that are running on anything from irrigated pasture to native grasslands, to overgrown fields. I just moved a herd of about 100 cows, almost all with large calves on them, twice today. They had two 1 1/2-2 acre paddocks. Your earthworms will thank you for the organic matter, your grass will thank you for the proper management, and your grand children will thank you for improving the land.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic