Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Stocker Pasture

A lot of the pictures of eaten trees came from what we term the stocker pasture. This is a 200 acre pasture that we cut into 22, 9 acre traps and mob grazed in February (stockpiled grass) and again in late May and early June (May 20-June 12). When we came out of the pastures, I couldn't have been happier with the way they looked. The cattle had mauled the brush, stomped up the pastures and left what I thought was "enough" residual (I scored them a 3 out of 10)...all in all I thought it was perfect. I have since wondered if we shouldn't have left a little more residual because I have been disappointed with the regrowth in the pastures, even after 60 days. I am now wondering if WHEN we grazed them was much more important than how much residual we left. Although the weather has been near ideal this summer (cooler than normal with lots of timely moisture), it still got hot enough to curtail the growth of the fescue and cool season forbs and grasses. I think the solution is to continue to mob graze at various times with the goal getting a greater sward diveristy with more warm season grasses. A pasture we call the south center pasture has 200 acres of the most incredible stand of warm season grasses you've ever seen....we'll be moving the cows/calves/bulls through it starting this week. Pictures to follow.

A couple of interesting pictures

I am posting 2 pictures. One shows 2 pastures, the one on the left has just been grazed (we came out July 23rd) the pasture on the right has had 45 days of rest. Just an interesting looking picture I thought I'd share. The other picture shows what happens when cattle are not allowed to graze. My landlord has fenced out multiple "riparian" areas that the gov't "rents" from him. As you can see, the weeds have completely taken over the plot and are over 6 feet tall. The grass in the rest of this pasture is so thick you can hardly walk through it.

While on the subject of weeds, I have read lots of quotes from "mob grazers" talking about how mob grazing eliminated all their weeds. I don't believe them. While I think mob grazing can certainly help control what I would term "edible" weeds (I've published lots of pictures showing how well the cattle will eat the weeds in a mob grazing system) I don't think they will ever control mature blackberry and buckbrush and I'm not convinced that even if they eat the weeds, that the weeds will not return. The sprouts and the sumac that the cattle just devoured have all greened back up...I don't think grazing them will kill them, at least not in one year. And while my cattle will eat young blackberry bushes, I can't get them to eat big mature bunches and they won't touch mature buckbrush. So while it would be nice to think that a switch to mob grazing would eliminate the need for any type of brush control, I don't think it's realistic. I will spot spray blackberries this August and buckbrush next spring in the hopes of cleaning up some of the pastures.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Results on our home raised calves

We sold our home raised calves today. We weaned 473 calves March 5. We kept 53 head of replacement heifers. We lost 1 calf to some type of intestinal disease. So we sold 419 home raised calves (actually sold 416, Joplin Regional Stockyards seems to have lost 3 head between unloading them and the sale ring). 239 steers averaged 735.5 lbs. 177 heifers averaged 704.4 lbs. 416 head total averaged 722.2 lbs. When we weighed the calves at weaning (March 5) they averaged 528 lbs. So in 144 days, our home raised steers and heifers gained 194.2 lbs for an average daily gain of 1.35 lbs. While not as good as hoped, we weighed them just before weaning, so they most likely shrunk a bit during the weaning process and had to make up some lost weight. Also don't forget that this is both steers and heifers. All in all, I'm satisfied...and now we have a nice yardstick for future comparison. As always, the calves sold fantastic with our top group of 184 steers averaging 742 lbs and bringing $109. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Temporary fencing tip

Here's a tip. Cut your insulated handles like this to make it easy to roll up fence. Tie your fence to the handle and then simply slip the handle out of the knot to roll up your fence. Slip it back in to roll the fence out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I went back through the paddocks we grazed from May 20 thru June 15 (we call it the "stocker pasture"). The earlier grazed paddocks were a residual score of 3...the later grazed pastures I scored a residual of 6's and 7's. The difference is pretty substantial. The 3's have come back well with a current stand that is probably 5-6" high (although I expected a little better growth with 50-60 days of rest)...the grass is dark green and there is still lots of clover although it just doesn't look nearly as good as the later grazed pastures that had a residual score of 6-7. One interesting observation is that where we completely stomped up the grass along the fence when it got wet has regrown almost exclusively in warm season grasses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The results are in!

We loaded out our purchased stockers this morning. Just a little background. We purchased 309 head of stockers on March 23rd with an average weight of 727 lbs. We implanted them with Ralgro G and wormed with Ivermec. For the first 2 weeks we fed them some average hay and a little ddg. After 2 weeks, we combined them with our home raised stockers (500 of them) and grazed stockpiled fescue until green up. Our first rotation was fairly short on grass and the pastures were around 20 acres in size (stock density approx 25,000 lbs per acre)...the stockers were chasing grass a bit for probably 20-30 days until the grass caught up. We then went to 10 acre pastures and smaller (stock density approx 60,000 lbs per acre). Stockers were moved once a day. It was a great clover year and most pastures had 50% or greater ladino clover and later lespedeza.

The stockers were given free choice mineral with Rumensin and consumed .07 lbs per head per day. They were also fed an average of 2.7 lbs per head per day of pelleted ddg. We had a very cool, wet spring and forage was mostly pretty good throughout the grazing season. Aside from the 20-30 days when the stockers were chasing green grass, I don't think they were ever hungry....they always had plenty to eat and left plenty of residual in the paddocks.

Now for the results: The stockers weighed out at 905.4 lbs after 113 days for an average daily gain of 1.58 lbs. Keep in mind we cut off the smallest 24 head from this group (we presold 285 of the 309 head we purchased)...but I will tell you that we had some calves that won't get to 1000 lbs ever...just very small framed calves. Overall I'm a bit disappointed but probably only because I was expecting so much. Probably not a bad result for our first time out of the box.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Photo Album

For a complete look at all of my Mob Grazing pictures follow the link (you'll have to copy it and paste it in the address box):

Click on the pictures

I just realized that if you click on the pictures they will expand and show much more clarity. You can see much more detail.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Recent Observations

The stockers are really looking good. I will be interested to see how they weigh out on July 14th. They are currently running in paddocks that are about 50% warm season grasses, 20% legumes (mature ladino and lespedeza) and 30% mature fescue. The pastures have had over 60 days of rest. There is a lot of forage and although I've limited them to a little less than 10 acres per paddock, they are leaving a ton of residual...I'd score the residual in most pastures at a 7. They are still eating nearly all the sprouts and sumac. It's still been very hot and some of the stockers are spending a good deal of time in the pond. While it's not overly dry, it's significantly drier than May or June and I think that the forage drying out is helping consumption and gain.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My observations compared to Voisin

I had to include a few more pics...some places on this ranch are solid sumac. Look what this mob did to those stands. Clearly now light can get to the ground and grass can begin to grow where it was choked out and shaded before.

Now, I have to address a few of my observations where they differ with Voisin. We are turning into pastures where the growth is sometimes 18" tall. The stockers move thru the sward grazing the tops out of everything...not taking giant bites from the bottom and having to take 30 seconds to manipulate the bite. Also, while the "morning meal" may be the largest (Voisin observed 2 hour grazing times starting at first light), I have seen our stockers graze for 2.5 and even 3 hours upon entering a new paddock, even if it's the middle of the day.

I have also heard it said that a downside to mob grazing is that the cattle have to establish a pecking order after each move. I just don't see that. I never see the cattle re-establishing dominance by fighting. You will occasionally see an animal throw his head into anothers side, but this is common in all types of grazing systems.

More before and after pictures

Before and after pictures

I continue to be amazed by the behavior of the mob. While you might think they were "forced" to eat this brush (primarily tree sprouts and sumac) they actually begin eating this brush the moment they are turned into the new pasture. They can be standing in knee deep clover and they'll be taking bites off of the brush. I am not getting the same results with our cow herd on the other side of this ranch...we rotate them every 3-5 days and they aren't touching the sprouts and sumac.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Takeaways: Grass Productivity by Voisin

Excellent book...lots of great info, some that I've obviously heard/known before, but a little refresher never hurts.

• The period of occupation on any given paddock should be a maximum of 6 days but should optimally be 3 days or less to avoid animals “re-grazing”, or as Voisin says “double shearing”, new growth grass. This “double shearing”, cutting the plant at a time when it has not yet renewed the reserves in its roots, will create great difficulty in the plant making new growth…it will take a very long time to attain proper height for re-grazing and indeed the lack of reserves may even be fatal to the young plant.
• Rest paddocks at least 18 days in the spring and most likely double that in the fall to allow grass sufficient time to re-grow. The easiest way to ensure this in a stocker operation is to stock with half as many calves in the fall as in the spring while keeping the same number of paddocks (double the occupation time from say ½ a day to a full day).
• Animal yields (either milk or weight gain) will be at their maximum if the animal stays on one paddock for one day. Yields decrease significantly after 3 days on the same paddock.
• “We must help the grass to grow and guide the cow in harvesting it.”
• Keep animals from having to stop grazing in order to chew the previous bite by keeping the grass short enough that further manipulation of the bite of grass is not required. Cattle grazing heavy, long grasses will sometimes take a bite, raise their head, and chew up a bite for up to 30 seconds while cattle grazing shorter grass will take 60-90 bites per minute, harvesting much more forage than those animals required to stop grazing to chew up a bite of forage.
• Cattle graze for 8 hours a day. Cattle will never graze for longer than 8 hours per day, regardless of their needs/requirements. They will not work overtime.
• Cattle ruminate for approx. 7 hours per day.
• Cattle lie down for around 12 hours per day…usually over the course of 9 rest periods for a minimum of 1 hour.
• Cattle generally take only one drink per day (when grazing lush pasture).
• Most grazing 60-90% takes place during the day, however, as temperatures increase a greater percentage is done at night.
• The first period of grazing is the longest and usually begins at sunrise…the big morning meal. This first period generally lasts around 2 hours.
• “Figures are only guides: in the end it is the eye of the grazier that decides. The grass commands; the eye of the grazier follows in its train, ready to receive its orders.”
• Rotations should start on different paddocks each year…considerable differences between the flora of the various paddocks will become evident after 2 years when starting rotation with the same paddock.
• It is important to vary the time of occupation (and thus the rest period) depending upon the speed of growth of the grass. Much less rest is needed in the spring while more is needed in the fall and much more rest time is needed in the summer.
• The flora makeup of a pasture is far more dependent on the conditions of management than on the mixture that is sown. “After 2 years for the same mixture sown, there can be either 80% or 1% clover according to the management employed.”
• Flora evolves rapidly and management conditions can effect change in sward makeup very quickly (both positive and negative)….tremendous change can occur even the very first year.