July/August Grazing Plan

Oh, how plans change.  If you look at this post, you’ll see the July grazing plan.  It worked well to shade the cows on days well into the 90’s with heat index above 100.  Right on schedule, on the 25th, we were grazing #25.  Happy days.

Now what?  As I started working on my next plan, things cooled off.  The pastures held more feed than I estimated.  We slowed things down.  I had been expecting to do this (Note this is turned 90 degrees so North is to the Left.):

IntoAugust

But the cows are on 1 and it’s the 14th.    I gained two weeks.  Where did it come from?  Some of it was grazing the slope East and South of 3 and 4.  3 days were gained from grazing the unlabeled areas to the right.  A big gain was grazing the edge of the pond.  So, I’m doing fairly well.  I gained 2 weeks because of the cool weather and the use of reserve ground.

But is this all there is to planning your grazing?  Just vague lines on a map?  Well, not really.  If we have to feed hay, where should it go?  Where are the cows going to calve?  What portion of the farm is set aside for drought?  Planning to cut anything for hay?  Will you allow a field to totally rest for a year?  How is that specific area doing?  Are we seeing increasing or decreasing plant diversity?  Good carbon litter?  Where will the cows find shade in hot weather?  Do you have a plan B in case something unplanned happens…like prolonged rain and flooding or prolonged drought?  How will you fence in the Spring, Summer and Fall and how will that change?  How will you winter graze the stockpile?  Where should stockpile remain to start the spring rotation again?

But the questions don’t stop there.  When was that family vacation?  When is that friend getting married?  When do chicks arrive?  When do we usually plant the garden?  When will we have to put up strawberries, blueberries, peaches, green beans, tomatoes or apple sauce?  How are we going to build fence so we can conveniently work around social events, family plans and other farm work?

I want fat cows and healthy pastures.  This won’t happen on its own.  I have to plan my way.  Right now I try to plan a month at a time but in the near future I’ll be better at estimating and can shoot further out.  One of the early chapters of For the Love of Land: Global Case Studies of Grazing in Nature’s Image reminded me of the pressing need to transition to year-round planning instead of just winging it month to month.

Let’s complicate things further.  How many pigs will we pasture this year?  Where will we run them?  How can we coordinate their grazing with that of the cows?  How about turkeys?  Or broilers?  Where do they fit into the rotation?  It’s nice to add all that disturbance and manure but we have to allow recovery.

One step at a time.

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