Spring Grazing…Ugh.

…not yet. …not yet.  Just a little longer…..

Ugh. I can’t wait a little longer. I’m out of stockpile! There is still hay in the barn but we don’t want to feed it all. And the cows clearly prefer grazing over waiting for me to bring them feed. So here we are. Grazing field edges that haven’t been grazed in …possibly decades. The cows eat grass, alfalfa and thistle. Why is there thistle? Because they sprayed the groudn with roundup for years to keep the fence clear. The earth doesn’t want to be naked…something has to grow. So thistle grows. The cows stomp and manure ground that hasn’t been directly manured and they only get a couple of hours to do it. We bunch them tightly and move them quickly. This kind of treatment will knock back the thistle better than anything else I can do. (BTW, see Mrs. White with her head up looking at the camera? Her head is not in the game.)

AlfalfaEdge1The field edge lasted two days. The first day we fed hay in the morning, gave them a grassy area to graze then sped them along the field edge. Toward the end of the day we asked them to camp out at the other end of the field where mature, stale grass rules.


They munch through the brown grass to find green grass beneath. They trample it all in, knock down brambles and manure everywhere. They even found a really nice antler in the tall grass I would never have found. Then, the next day, we let them have the other half of the field edge they missed the day before. Again, they went onto it full, we kept them bunched tightly and we moved quickly. Alfalfa in the spring can be risky…actually, the transition to green forage is a little tricky but bloat is the biggest concern.

But now what? I have enough of this wooded patch to last until Wednesday evening. Then I have to do something else with my moos. The pasture isn’t ready to be grazed. Well, some portions are but in general, not so much.

EastPastureMost of the grass is just inches tall. We are in a warm rainy cycle. It shouldn’t take long for the grass to really come on and right now a week really makes a big difference. I just need to delay grazing for a little while and when we go to pasture we will be offering big grazing areas and moving the cows quickly. I mean, we’ll offer the 10 cows an acre/day (and probably break that into 4 sections) so they can pick and choose the best grazing and I’ll probably continue to offer them a little hay while we continue the transition and wait for the grass to catch up. We are planning to race across the farm in about a month as shown below (numbers of days per segment, segments will be subdivided), after that we’ll slow down and use smaller and smaller grazing areas, dropping some out for stockpiling. Matron talks about this in a post on her blog.


There are, apparently, several important things for me to do right now. First, I don’t want to eat tomorrow’s grass today. If I remove too much of the leafy area I weaken the emerging grass right now when it is fragile. That can potentially set the plant back, limiting its growth for the entire season.

Second, I need to get my cows fat. They are coming out of winter a little on the thin side. They aren’t skinny but they aren’t in the condition I want for calving. I have 30 days before calving starts. Again, I really don’t know anything about cows (sorry if that’s a shock) but as I read in any number of grazing books (Walt Davis comes to mind first), the most important thing I can do to help my cows breed back is to make sure they have a good layer of fat (stored energy) on them at calving time. The good news is their metabolism is set for winter maintenance, not spring gain…so we’ll get compensatory gain from them if we give them access to enough forage and variety until their bodies adjust. Same thing happens when you diet, btw. You go “off feed” for a while, your body adjusts, then you “reward” yourself at a family gathering and suddenly your skinny jeans just don’t fit anymore. You taught your body to become more efficient at storing energy. Well, that’s what we’re doing with the cows. They have been on a diet all winter and they have worked hard and behaved themselves. Soon they get a treat. All the grass they can eat!

I just need to delay a little while longer. There are areas on the map above that are not accounted for. I need to take advantage of those areas. I can get a day in the yard at the yellow house with the help of a little hay. I can get a day in the barnlot. That gets me to Friday night…two extra days of 60 degree plus weather. Will it work? I dunno. I do my best. I read everything I can. I make a plan. I go out and try. I tell you all about it…good or bad. Wish me luck!

(In this post I linked heavily to Matron of Husbandry’s blog. Whatever books and blogs I have read or seminars I have attended, Matron has done the most to remove the fog (for instance, this post). A few postings, a few illustrations and everything became clear. She’s a great teacher…and I bet she’s rolling her eyes right now.)

4 thoughts on “Spring Grazing…Ugh.

  1. @ Mrs White – get your head down – Ralph Moody’s uncle is coming to HFS’s “Fields of Home” to swing his broomstick! lol

    @ HFS – Thanks for posting the aerial photo! This helps me to visualize your operation as I follow along with your blog. Is your yard the one on the left and the middle yard site is the Yellow House yard or Caretakers or ?

    • Yeah. Our house is on the left. Mom and dad live further north. The yellow house was torn up by the last renters. It smells strongly of cat and the roof was damaged when a large tree fell on the house. We are working on cleaning it enough to use it for a wood shop.

  2. I’m not having/making/finding time for the grazing books so this stuff is beneficial. Count yourself in the camp: cloud clearer, fog reducer, beneficial illustrator… THANKS

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s