Morning Grazing May 2013

One day.  Just one day.  This is the first paddock of second grazing of the growing season.  We raced across the farm through late March, April and early May, now we are beginning to slow down.  I’m asking the cows to work through a somewhat narrow grazing area, trampling around 60% of the standing forage, eating 30% and leaving 10% standing.

GrazedGround

They seem just as happy as can be.  They mob up, as much as 6 cows can mob up, and march across whatever fresh ground I give them then lay down to chew their cud.

Heifers

Looking forward a bit, in about two weeks we’ll be here:

CrimsonClover

The cheat that is growing there will be absolutely unpalatable by then but the crimson clover out there should help.  They’ll just trample what they don’t eat but the cheat will stick to their socks.

Sooner or later the cows will be on the South slope of the hill.  That slope is hot, fairly steep and covered in cow paths.  In short, it doesn’t grow a lot of grass.  The hill is mostly clay and is hard packed.  We’re just praying for weeds to break up the clay.

SouthSlope

I have to make sure this has recovered as much as possible before we graze it, not for the sake of the cows but for the sake of future grass here.  I need healthy grass, deep roots and more microbes.  We’ll have to manage it carefully to clean up these spots.

BareGround

Will it work?  I have the cows I have, right cows or not.  I have to put the cows I have in the right place at the right time for the right length of time while allowing time for the rest of the farm to recover.  And while managing for pasture diversity.  No pressure.

I think we’re getting there.  In case I mess up I have about 4 acres in reserve.  Gotta have a backup plan.

What’s your backup plan?  How does your pasture look?

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4 thoughts on “Morning Grazing May 2013

  1. Wow, great pictures. That’s impressive, the height of the grass at the beginning of your second grazing sweep. The balancing act of getting all the timing right looks crazy complicated in books, and only slightly easier when Matron talks about it. I know it depends on a lot of conditions, like growth rate of the grass, etc, but can you give a ballpark idea of the size of paddock your six pack are getting right now? Are you able to follow the cows with the chickens yet, or is the grass still too long?

    Back up plan? First I’ve got to get a plan A…as in first get your cow or sheep or whatever. I posted about my pasture today…but as I said in the post, I don’t know if I can call it a pasture yet.

    • Um…yeah. So. The 6 Shorthorns and 4 Jerseys get about 6-10′ feet of a strip 30′ wide around noon and again around 4. Depending on pasture, cows, rumens…whim…I may give them another section.

      Remember, I’m learning this too but I’m learning to do this by eye, not by foot. I want the pasture to look a certain way when they are finished. I want the cows to look a certain way. If they didn’t trample enough, I offer them more. If they aren’t full, I offer them more. Not enough trampling? More pressure. My current goal is to push a ton of carbon into the soil while also making sure the non-fescue species are fully recovered between grazings while also making sure my girls get fat. Those heifers switched from grain to grass but we didn’t notice weight loss. In fact, 4 of the 6 have gotten slick quickly.

      I totally agree about Matron. Her post A Sliver of Keyline Pie really helped me to understand how to use keylines in our grazing. I’m not saying I’m accomplishing it exactly but so much came into focus because of that one post. She’s a treasure.

    • The chickens aren’t in the pasture picture yet. They probably won’t be until I build a chicken house with doors. The current layer setup is easy to move short distances but hard to move long distances. If I had a school bus…

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