Taylor Stewart

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since Feb 15, 2012
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Recent posts by Taylor Stewart

Without knowing what kind of load the wires will be under is difficult. I suppose it depends on the wire gauge and tension applied. If you can pull them tight like a high tensile fence, you will have less sag. I guess it depends on how many plants. You could always add posts as needed if you see sag...but that could be tough. Why not just put in 8 posts, one every 10 feet....or you could go one every 8 feet and set 10. I tend to over do this type of thing.

You can set wood posts without digging a hole, sharpen one end to a point and use a loader tractor or whatever you have to press it in. Works great, compacts the soil as it is driven. I like the look of wood over metal. Setting wood posts in gravel is almost better than concrete, if you tamp in the gravel as you go.

You could cast concrete forms that can hold the posts, but the foliage may overload the weight of the concrete in a heavy wind. I think they would have to be crazy heavy. It may be less work to set posts.
6 years ago
If we kept the wires over 4000v and well grounded, it wasn't bad. However we had to move them a bit faster, if they ran out of food they would move themselves. Move when you think you have a day of grazing left.
Walter is right, you can't graze in all situations. I would argue that wherever large herds of ruminants traditionally roamed, this can be practiced to some extent. Ideally we would have forages about 20-24'' tall, so that even if the cows didn't want to dig they could graze.

Here are some photos. The big steer is named Buddy, and is around 10 years old. Last time he weighed in around 2500+lbs, and has never had anything but grass. I put in some photos of the sheep as well, and our intentionally low tech feeding system. We could hook up a bale processor, but you can't really observe the animals from a tractor. Makes a big difference in catching health issues. Plus tractors stink like fuel and are loud. Feeding like this conditions the animals to your presence and makes it much easier to work with them.
I'll try and get a video or pics of the cattle grazing in the snow tomorrow.

6 years ago
Got busy today, I'll try and put up some photos tho. Shoot a video tomorrow.

60 kg of dry matter is 132lbs, unless my math is off. That would equate to 11% of the body weight of a 1200lb cow? 3-4% of body weight on a dry matter basis is considered standard for beef animals....depending upon environment, size and efficiency of the animal, and relative feed value.
6 years ago
Panels for pigs are a good idea in the right situation, however hogs can be contained very easily with electric fencing as well.

The benefits of electric fencing are many when it comes to goats: much easier to move, no climbing issues, and it can be much cheaper.
I like poly reels, step in plastic posts and t-posts for corners. I use 2 wires to hold goats and sheep. One about 10 inches and one about 24. I started with 3 wires to train them first tho. I've used electronets, and they are more work than they are worth. You can start cheaply with low tensile wire, re-bar posts and slide on insulators from the farm store.

I would strongly advise against dry lotting the animals year round. Some time in the winter is OK, because the parasite eggs are dormant. In my experience all animals, and goats especially, are much healthier when allowed to graze. Mites, lice, foot issues and intestinal parasites are all made worse in dry lots.

Plus its way more work and is not sustainable in the long run. First you cut and haul the food, feed it, and then you have to haul the manure. You lose the value of the urine as well...and dry lots can stink. I much prefer installing temporary fencing to shoveling manure.
I lack dairy experience as well, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt...I have worked with fairly large numbers of goats and sheep before.

I would start with a good boundary fence. I like high tensile, 5 wire has worked well for goats, but 6 is better. Sometimes it works best to alternate hot and ground with the lower wires (especially if you're in a low moisture area). This can function as a good predator barrier for dogs and coyotes as well.

I would suggest waiting on permanent cross fencing. Buy some temporary fencing equipment and experiment with different layouts. If you do decide to install permanent fences you will know what works....the temp equipment is still very usable to subdivide.

Goats will follow you if they are trained too. When I have to take them somewhere, I put a few cups of grain in a bucket....I shake it and call them. They will follow me anywhere. If you have good boundary fencing, don't worry about lanes. I have lead goats over a mile before with a bucket. Much easier than driving them. I've used oats, corn, even high quality alfalfa hay. I think any treat would work. I would rather use pure alfalfa cubes than corn, but they are hard to find without DDG's.
So we're running about 85 head on stockpiled forage right now in central Nebraska. We had about 10" of snow recently, and I just moved the cattle this morning. We're back grazing through a long quarter (160 acres, 1 mile long), that's divided into 3 lanes. We had a severe drought this year, so we didn't get as much growth as we wanted but we have plenty.

We grazed 100 large commercial cow calf pairs last spring, about 1300-1500lbs each plus 200lb calves (monsters, way too big...but not our herd). We also cut some hay and then the grass shut down from the severe drought and heat until the fall (its a cool season 6 species mix and 3 legumes).

Now we're running the grass finishing herd on the early growth stage grass....this can be important. If it's too mature and rank it won't be as palatable and may have extremely low feed value...yes seed heads are energy, but the sugars in young grass act as a preservative...its a debatable topic.

The cows grazing weigh about 1100-1200lbs and we have some steers out there as well, mostly Galloway but some hereford crosses. We're selling grass FAT animals on Wednesday. I would estimate we have at least another 8 weeks of standing feed. We usually mob the animals, but since the snow we pulled the back fence and are allowing them to go south into areas they have already grazed (back/strip grazing). They go for the orchard grass first, then the bromes. Obviously the dicots lose all leaves in the winter, so there is little feed provided by the legumes in the winter.

Its important to have animals that still have good grazing instincts. Buy animals that fit your system, or select towards your ideal system. If you go buy Holstein calves from the sale barn, they may have no grazing instinct left and none taught. This can lead to a disaster. Animals need shelter in a storm, not a building....a dry creek or gulley works great. A good hill or windbreak is perfect.

The animals do have to work harder to graze with snow on the ground, but if its not crusted too hard and is under 12", they will still graze. If you are running dry cows, then good stockpiled grass is sufficient even in a good snow. However if you have calves on the cows, or are trying to keep gain on a finishing animal (we expect our cows to take the calves through to march, and are still selling finished animals)...some additional hay goes a long way when there's snow. We feed a bale of alfalfa every other day, rolled out across the pasture so they all can eat (prbly 1500lb bale, mid quality alfalfa) There is almost no waste, and the protein boost helps with the stockpiled forage. If we didn't have any snow, we would not feed any hay (as we have been doing for most of the year). Rolling it out, or forking from a wagon, spreads the nutrition as well.

Pugging- yes plugging can be of concern. However, only when the snow melts. If you start to get pugging, move them faster in smaller areas. They will spoil less forage and create less damage. If the snow melts slowly, and freezes at night pugging is of no concern. One of the reasons we pulled the back temporary fence was to help prevent pugging. It gives us more time to move the animals if pugging becomes a concern.

We have been running about 275 head hair sheep and 30 goats on stockpiled forage as well. However, with small ruminants they can go downhill fast. We feed them every other day when there is no snow (1 bale of cool season mixed grass/legume hay prbly 1600lbs forked into piles from a moving wagon). We feed them 1/2 a bale everyday when there is snow. With sheep, you can finish the lambs in the fall, so you're only taking breeding animals thru the winter. Thus a slightly higher hay expense can be justified. Additionally, we feed the hay on a 12 acre field that is not in permanent pasture....so we are fertilizing the field by feeding all over the place. We will grow specialty organic corn this spring and harvest many times the value of the hay in that crop....cutting out a lot of very fuel intensive steps commonly used in farming.

Carrying capacity depends on region and productivity. We have extremely productive ground due to over a decade of mob grazing. The neighbor has a field that can't grow anything without anhydrous ammonia. Lean on the side of caution, or expect to buy hay if you underestimate. Feeding some hay can be beneficial if you are building your fertility and organic matter, but it is expensive and fuel intensive (plus lots of work). Planned grazing is of great benefit, if nothing else it will allow you to estimate carrying capacity as you go. There is no equation that will give you anything more than an estimate of carrying capacity, experience and observation is the best way to calculate carrying capacity.

I'll try and shoot a video this afternoon of our grazing system.
6 years ago
Every situation is different, what works for some may not work for others. The earlier comment about having a bi-yearly rotation is not applicable to a majority of operations, especially any that depend upon grazing to pay the bills. You will not deplete your seed profile if you simply change your grazing schedule. Start in different paddocks every year, so you hit them at different times. Allow adequate rest, especially prior to winter. Stockpiled grass does NOT have to be at seed. In fact, it is better if it is less mature than that.

Mineral imbalances in soils are a big issue in any grazing setting, but much less of a problem in a healthy multi-species pasture. I have dealt with mineral problems before and they are a pain. I prefer to provide open choice organic mineral and salt. Usually mixed in about 50/50. Redomnd is about as natural as it gets, its just a clay like substance from an old seabed in Utah. Their mineral salt is great too.

The animals don't absorb all of it, so some is passed and aids in mineralizing the soil. Organic matter and a mix of legumes (from 20-30% seems to work well) will maintain the remainder of your fertility.

I am a freelance livestock consultant, specializing in grass fed beef and lamb. I am a big believed in intensive grazing, but everyone has to cater it to their own enterprise.
6 years ago
A cover crop, as mentioned earlier, is probably a solid place to start. Making the transition from conventional can take a bit of time, and growing a grass/brassica/legume mix can be a good way to ease into the transition. Any organic matter that can be applied will help, apply and then plant.

Grazing your cover crop, and whatever weeds sprout, is an excellent way to help the transition process (as long as the nitrate levels in the soil are acceptable). Grazing will additionally add a nice manure/urine spread. Cattle are essentially fermentation tanks on 4 legs, and can be utilized as a wonderful tool to achieve your goals (sheep and goats will too...I prefer working with sheep in small areas and cattle on larger ground, but goats are awesome as well). A ruminant passes 85% of the nutrition through it's gut, photosynthesis can make up the rest along with healthy soil life. If you really want to get into it....run poultry too, as they help to balance the nutrient content. Geese are good grazers too, and can be used in small areas if you don't want to mess with larger stock.

If you have livestock, put them into a paddock (size depends on your land and desired stocking rate) and feed them hay while they graze. It will provide the livestock extra nutrition, and any waste will not be wasted but rather turned into fertility and water holding capacity. This is a great way to avoid hauling manure/compost as well.
6 years ago
What do your pastures look like, other than the pine? What's your pastures history? Has it ever been cropped? I've dealt with mineral issues before, and they can be tough. If you aren't providing salt and mineral, I would suggest you start. I like redmond, it's really good stuff (especially their salt). Your extension office can help determine if you're in a selenium deficient area, if so consider redmond selenium salt 30.


Do you rotate pastures often, or set stock graze?

If heat is an issue, maybe move from highland to galloway. Very similar animal, plenty of high quality genetics available, moderate frame, and more heat tolerant than the highland.
6 years ago