Put information to work in your grazing plan

Are you using all the tools in your toolbox? As this is my first time writing an article for All About Grazing.

I wasn’t sure what to write about.

I looked back over all the articles that everyone else had written and realized that about every topic I considered writing about had already been covered. Back to square one. Taking a break from working on the farm in the evening after I had left the Extension office, I decided to clean out my home office.

I started boxing up more than 10 years of Angus Journals, countlessProgressive Farmermagazines, and numerous other farm related publications that I probably looked at when I got them out of the mailbox but then I laid them on the shelf.

Take action. There was probably some useful information in each one of them that I figured I would use later. That’s when I realized that we can have all the information and books on grazing right in our own homes but that isn’t doing us any good if we don’t put the information to work.

I like to look at everything I have heard, read, and learned as tools in my grazing toolbox. I like many of you have been to more pasture walks, field days and grazing schools that I can count.

At each event I was told how I could increase production and improve efficiency with rotational grazing. It never fails that someone walking out of these educational events will make the comment that “this stuff is all good if you have nothing else to do but move cows.”

Grazing as art

In saying all of this I want you to look at grazing as an art. In art each artist has his own unique style. Just like those artists each of us has our own system of grazing. Although there are some very key points that we need to keep in mind to be successful, I want you to understand that just because you may have an off farm job or be extremely busy with other farm activities each of us can incorporate some of these practices into our grazing systems.

I personally know that trying to work a full time job and keep up with everything on the farm can be stressful and time consuming. However rotational grazing doesn’t make more work for me on the farm it saves me time and labor.

Think about it

I spent a few hours a week putting up a single strand of polywire on fiberglass step in posts and moving cows every few days. Sounds like this is more work than I would have if I practiced continuous stocking with the cows being able to go where ever they choose on the farm but its not.

In practicing rotational grazing I have found that when I run home after work to check on the cows I don’t spend hours trying to find what tree they are under or if they are by the creek on the back corner of the farm, they are right where I expect them to be in the field that they have been rotated into.

This is especially helpful during calving season I don’t have to look everywhere for a cow that I have been waiting on to drop her calf she is right there.

You may say that you don’t have time to move cows every few days. Let me tell you when the cows get used to being moved you don’t have to drive them anywhere they are right there when you call them, if they haven’t already met you at the gate when they hear you drive in.

Another added bonus of rotational grazing for me is the ability to stockpile forage for fall and winter months. I am not really big on spending my whole summer in a hayfield trying to get every straw of hay mowed, tedded, raked and bailed to be able to haul in to the barn and then back out to the cows in the dead of winter when it’s cold.

Instead I choose to graze or clip several pastures in late July or early August and allow these pastures to grow untilI need them in the fall.

I guess being from Gallia County I took heed when Bob Evans was promoting year-round grazing. I remember the first time I made the cows stay on pasture till after the first of the year.

My grandfather was sure that I was starving those cows. I had to explain to him that the grass they were eating was just as high or higher quality than the hay bales sitting in the barn, that he would have normally started feeding right after Thanksgiving.

I wonder what he would think now if he knew that I didn’t start feeding hay last year till the end of March.

Were the cows ever starving? No! I firmly believe that if we want our cattle to produce and be profitable then we must make sure that their nutritional need is met. Remember, grazing is as much an art as a science.

We can have all the scientific data to show us that we are indeed meeting the nutritional requirements of our cattle but it’s an art in that we have to be able to observe the animals and see if we need to be supplementing them with either bailed hay or grain of some sort. It is also an art in knowing when to move cows to the next field (this knowledge will likely come as a result of trial and error in the beginning).

Waste forage

Move the cows too soon and we waste forage. Move them to late and it will take longer for the pasture to be ready to be grazed again. I guess I have rambled on and jumped all over the place in writing this but I do hope that you will take all the information that you have read and heard over the years and figure out how you can incorporate some of it into your operation.

You don’t have to follow every guideline you have read or been told but try some of them and develop your own grazing system and I bet you will start seeing some rewards that will make you want to further develop your grazing system.

Our farm isn’t a showplace and it’s not anything special; it’s just a common, everyday farm in South Eastern Ohio that my family has chosen to make the most of.

Most of the pastures haven’t been reseeded in years but it just goes to show you that you don’t have to have the best setup or prime farmland to practice rotational grazing or year-round grazing for that matter. You just have to dig around in your tool box of information that you have accumulated and be willing to look at how you can improve your grazing operation.

Start out slow

Try running a strand of poly wire to divide your pasture into a couple fields. Then try cross fencing them again. I bet you will find that it isn’t as much work as you thought it would be or near as time consuming.

(Jeff Moore is an Ohio State University Extension, Agriculture and Natural Resources educator in Gallia County.)

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