Expert grazing tidbits and tips

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CAMBRIDGE, Ohio – The amount of information and recommendations about rotational grazing is practically endless, however, experts at the recent Eastern Ohio Grassland Conference in Guernsey County were able to sift through the details and offer the following hints:

* Water is the most important nutrient to give livestock, according to Bob Hendershot, grassland specialist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

If the water isn’t good, the animals will not drink as much as they would like or need. With bad water, they will only drink enough to survive.

The consumption of water can make a big difference in production and growth. This means that calves need more water than cows and it needs to be higher quality so they will drink more of it.

* The highest quality water, Hendershot said, is groundwater. This includes wells and springs.

The lowest quality water is stream and pond water. The surfaces of these water sources are subject to air and sun, which make algae grow.

* Cows will drink more water and more often from a tank rather than a spring, Hendershot said. This is because domesticated animals are prey, and they feel safer at tanks. In a natural setting, predators wait near water sources for their prey.

In addition, drinking from a spring, or pond, is uncomfortable due to soft, wet ground and having to bend to reach the water. When the animals are uncomfortable, they won’t drink as much as they should.

* Producers Chuck Rodenfels of Noble County, and Carol Wheeler of Guernsey County, both recommend having a dog to help with the animals.

Rodenfels has three dogs that he keeps in the paddocks with his sheep. They guard the animals against coyotes.

He stressed that these are not house dogs; they do not even come to the house to eat. Their job is to guard the sheep, and he describes them as his “most valuable tool.”

Wheeler’s dog helps roundup the cattle and herd them into new paddocks.

* One of the most important precautionary steps to guard against animals’ health problems is a close relationship with a veterinarian, said producer Earl McKarns of Carroll County.

Many farmers call their vets when there’s an emergency, when they should instead be closely working with the vet. This would prevent many of the emergency calls.

Producers need to be able to lean on their vets for advice and prevention, he said.

* Producer Andy Fadorsen and extension agent Clif Little both said farmers are not going to have adequate grazing without the proper pH levels in the soil and they won’t have gains without good forage.

The proper pH, good forage and gains go hand-in-hand. The pH level of the soil should be above 6. If it is too low, there won’t be enough nutrition for the plants to grow.

– Kristy Alger

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