Hay has become a very expensive habit for many farmer, that winter grazing can change. Not only is purchasing hay costly, but making hay keeps farmers on tractors in the fields all summer. We strive to graze our cattle for 12 months out of the year, and Kick The Hay Habit. Winter grazing on stock pile grass, is a reality for many farms throughout the world in many different climates. When well planned, and implemented everything benefits.
Using the great migrating herds in Africa as our teachers, we can learn how the most fertile Savannah was created. The herds continually move across the lush grass, while grazing. Never staying in one area for long.
Friday morning we moved a group of 20 brood cows to a fresh paddock with stock pile grass, this group has been rotated all winter to new paddocks, only spending 1 week in the barnyard. We have fed them hay as well, however more than 50% of their nutrition is coming from stockpiled grass. Another group of 60 cattle, have also been rotating through stock pile grass for 30-60% of their diet.
We feel confident that we can reach 12 months of grazing this year, enough hay will be produced for 4-6 months of feed. However, we will be able to sell this for additional income as we go through the winter season.
Creating a Stockpile of Grass
Through planned grazing we can create a stockpile of grass. Grass and other plants maintain palatability until they are stressed which is when they through up a seed head. Clipping the plants tells restarts their growth. By planning our grazing so that our cattle are grazing just before the grass is stressed, and only allowing them to consume the top third or so of the plants, we train the plants to grow taller, while pushing their roots further into the soil.
Each rotation across the farm, through the growing season, our stock pile increases. There are many other variables that we take into consideration as we plan and carry our our grazing season.
Grazing density, how many pounds of animal per acres are we grazing. We’ve used grazing densities of 50,000 pounds per acres up to 1,000,000 pounds per acre. Our herd last year started the season around 50,000 pounds. By changing the size of our paddocks we adjusted our density. For portions of the season our cattle were in 1/10th of an acre paddocks and moved 2-5 times per day.
Time, in a paddock is another very important variable especially at higher densities. One million pounds of cattle per acre is a pretty tight group, left in a paddock for to long they can turn it to dirt in a very short time. Moved quickly at this density, they can make an amazing impact. The amount of nitrogen (fertilizer) released into the soil is 10x higher than if left in a paddock 10x as large for 10x as long (the same total time less moves, and 10x smaller density).
Rest time, grass, plants and soil need time to rest, recuperate and grow. When cattle are grazing at a high density, more of the farm is resting and growing.
Benefits of Rotational Grazing including Winter Grazing
The cattle benefit from continuously moving to new paddocks of grass, in lieu of being stuck in a barn yard. More rest, and longer residual plant, length. The soil temperature will stay cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, allowing grass to grow longer into the fall/winter, and start growing earlier in the spring. Top soil is built as the cattle trample plants into the soil, and leave manure and urine which feed microbial life.
When moving the cattle to fresh lush paddocks each day they are consisting more energy, which helps them to remain healthy, and grow at excellent rates. Beef cattle marble better, and have better flavor. If they need more protein in their diet they can simply take a bite lower on the plant.
Winter Grazing, can eliminate soil compaction near feeding areas is relieved as the cattle are feeding themselves for most of the year.
Farmers can spend more time watching their cattle and less time on a tractor spreading manure, making hay, and feeding hay.
New Farm Store Hours
Our farm store will be open only Saturdays from 9-1 for the next several weeks.