Strip Grazing the Winter

Right now the girls (and boy) are on the alfalfa field. We graze the field in strips 20′ deep and maybe 40′ wide…but really that depends on how much forage is out there. Each day they get another 20′ added on until we run out of field. Then we start at the pond again and munch it all down. Here are the strips in the alfalfa field. The foreground shows the difference between where they have grazed and where they haven’t. I’m letting the cows crop it pretty close.

StripsThe cows were lounging and chewing cud when I arrived today but got up immediately when I moved the fence.

StripGrazing2The grazing is not their only source of nutrition. I split one square bale into two piles early each morning. Initially I was doing this because the alfalfa was still fresh in the field. I wanted the cows to have a bulk of dry matter before they could eat fresh alfalfa to prevent bloat. Now I do it just to stretch my field and put more manure down. I could put them in a feed lot and just feed them hay but I think they are better off with a bit of fresh greens daily. Besides, this way I don’t have to haul manure.


Speaking of manure, this is looking a little on the dry side:

LittleStiffBut this one is looking a little better. Note the one above looks a little crumbly and there is a depression in the one below.

JustAboutRightI don’t want it to pile. I want it to dip…but not drip. Their manure tells me if they are getting enough protein in their diet and tells me a fair amount about their overall condition. For the most part things are looking good. Anywho. That’s probably enough talk about cow manure.

Half of my farm is still standing stockpiled and waiting for the cows. Good thing too. Hopefully we’ll wrap up the alfalfa field by mid-December and begin on the real stockpile on the hill they haven’t grazed since July. That will clear disemmemberment hill for sledding later in the winter.

9 thoughts on “Strip Grazing the Winter

  1. I remember Joel saying on our Lunatic Tour that the poo should look like a pumpkin pie with a curl of whipped topping on top. You can thank me later for the visual on Thanksgiving day 😉

  2. Sorry for the rookie question, but I see a lot of mention of winter, but no snow :-). What do you do when snow is on the ground? Do you still graze your reserve? How hard is it to move fencing when the snow gets deep?

    • Patrick,
      I think that’s a great question. Where we live we have enough snow to go sledding a couple of times spread out between December and April but enough cold to go ice skating for about a month. Sometimes more sometimes less. Snow would be a huge blessing as it would preserve forages that are otherwise damaged by ice and wind. I’m sprinting to get across the alfalfa field now before it is all stems (and stems provide a home for alfalfa weevil but aren’t tasty…apparently).

      Cows do a great job of plowing through the snow to get to the forage but cows, like us, are lazy. If they know I’m going to keep the feeder full they’ll happily just stand there and eat. If they are in a pattern of grazing for a portion of their needs they’ll find it in the snow.

      I have read a number of accounts of farmers who live in the real North. They watch the cow noses. If the noses are getting bloody and raw from pushing through the ice and snow they pull out the hay bales.

      Again, the snow rarely gets deeper than 12″ here so fencing is not an issue. I am more concerned about an ice storm coating and weighing my fence down and causing shorts. A thick layer of ice pellets would also be hard to graze through. We do the best we can, deal with what comes our way and keep enough hay around for insurance (30-60 days).

        • No problem. Let’s talk about water lines. I had a guy out to bid some work for me Saturday. $1.75 per linear foot installed adds up quickly. And 1″ line is insufficient capacity when you move from dozens of cows to hundreds of cows so…what? I’ll put these 1″ lines in for 10 years then replace them with 2″? That seems like a mistake.

          The problem is, all of my water lines are 40+ years old. We find new leaks every year. To this point, we have just been shutting off the leaky line and moving on. Now, however, we’re at the point where I need the lines that are breaking down.

          Now, to answer your question, cows don’t need a lot of water in the winter. They really don’t. When they do they walk to the barn for a drink. I have read some farmers who let their cows walk more than a mile in the winter for a drink. The cows come up every third day or so. The exercise does them good.

          Right now they have access to a small portion of the pond bank. I took a water tank out there this weekend just to see. They drank 50 gallons through the day but there wasn’t any excitement about it. I am just trying to keep them fenced with a natural water source. Saves me labor and time and $1.75/foot.

    • My wife and I are purging our home of clutter right now. The room I am in has 10 big bookshelves, most shelves are stacked two books deep. That’s what she calls clutter. I don’t know if I know anything or not but I can read…and that’s a start.

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