Thursday, September 23, 2010

Follow Up: How Hard to Mob Graze A Paddock

I just thought I would revisit the mob grazing/oak sprouts issue for those that may be new to this blog. You can go back and look at pictures from last year that clearly show the issues that we have with oak sprouts. There are even more pictures here that give you an idea of just how bad these sprouts are. As mentioned, grazing only 25-40% of the forage just won't get the job done as far as controlling these sprouts thru mob grazing. We simply have to put more pressure on than most graziers might to try to get some utilization and control of these sprouts. As previously stated, if you don't have brush and weed issues, you may want to lighten up on the pressure, 25-40% may work just great for you. We just simply don't have that luxury. A word of caution: if you are only taking 25-40%, you better make sure that the remaining 75-60% is tromped down onto the ground. Otherwise you are really defeating the entire purpose of mob grazing. If you look out into your paddocks and see standing forage, you simply don't have enough pressure: increase your densities or graze longer/harder.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

You'll Never Have to Read Beef or Drovers Again

Here you go:

1. Crossbreed
2. Precondition your calves
3. Preg Check
4. Cull
5. Worm
6. Source and Age Verify
7. Fenceline Wean
8. Use a set calving season
9. Rotationally graze
10. Don't buy a lot of stuff / It's generally cheaper to buy hay than to make it yourself

There you go. Pretty much every issue discusses the exact same thing, and yet few actually do any of it. For more of the same articles go to beef magazine.

If you aren't already doing these very simple things, forget about mob grazing. Start with the low hanging fruit.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How hard to mob graze a paddock

One thing that I'm still not sure about is how hard to mob graze each paddock. I read a piece in the SGF that mentioned mob grazing 25% and tromping 75%. The old saying is "take half leave half". I've seen Greg Judy quoted as saying he grazed 40% and tromped 60%...I've also seen the reverse. Part of the reason (there are many) that we are mob grazing is to get better utilization out of the grass that we do grow. I don't think 25-40% is very good utilization. I think it is important to find a happy medium between utilization and trompage. I'm not sure what that number is, but we are trying to figure it out. One thing that ties our hands a bit on this ranch is the tree sprouts and brush. We can't get the sprouts and brush eaten unless we are hitting the paddocks pretty hard. Eating those sprouts is just critical for us because we are trying to control their growth as well as utilize them as forage. When we eat less than 50% of the standing forage, the cattle do very little damage to the sprouts and brush. I think we need to be up around 70-80% utilization to get proper brush control. I can tell you that sometimes I just cringe when I look at a paddock that we have grazed too just looks like a wasteland. The first few times this happened, I really beat myself up thinking I had made a huge mistake and worrying that the grass would never come back. In every instance, within a few months the paddock is green and vibrant and I can never tell which paddock was grazed significantly harder than another. Obviously the key is grazing for only a day (or less) and giving the paddock ample time to our case, that's a little more than 4 months. This sounds a little weird, but I would rather overgraze a paddock than undergraze it. If we didn't have the brush, I would likely feel differently about that, but if you are trying to utilize weeds and brush, you almost have to graze the paddocks with more intensity than if you aren't.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Expanding on the Greg Judy article in SGF

The Greg Judy article in the Stockman Grass Farmer this month is a very good article...I would like to expand on it. It's always very difficult to determine when to turn out on Spring growth. If you are like me, by the time Spring rolls around, you're looking for a pasture with something to eat....ANYTHING to eat. As much as I would like to turn out onto fully grown, mature pasture, it's just not very realistic. In order to do that here in SW Missouri, I would need to wait to turn out until at least mid May. Grass stops growing here in late October. So do the math, I have to get from mid October to mid May on stockpiled forage...that's 210 days. Simply put, I need 210 one day paddocks of stockpiled forage. If I'm mob grazing year round with the same number of animals, I need a seven month rotation to make it through winter. Do you have that? If you don't have at least 210 one day paddocks, you don't. We are currently running around 160-180 one day paddocks. We won't make it thru winter on our stockpile.

Ideally you would want to reduce your numbers thru the Winter period (to stretch your stockpile) and increase your numbers in the Spring (to take advantage of the Spring flush). This isn't always easy with a cow/calf operation, but it's almost a necessity. Here's what we are going to do. We are working all cows and calves the end of September. We will be culling off any cow without a calf and early weaning a portion of our calves (calves off the heifers). We are also pulling off our Beefmaster cross heifers and moving them to a different location. All in all, we hope to cull down from 600 head of cow/calf pairs to 450 head of cows and 300 head of calves. So that gets our numbers down for this winter and hopefully allows us to stretch our stockpile to 210 days.

Now for the restocking in the Spring part: This year we are going to try the wean-guard nose clips at weaning time and leave the calves with the cows, hopefully until August or September. It seems like it might be a good way to take advantage of the early Spring flush and abundant forage available in the 3 or so months of Spring. So in a nutshell, I think ideally we want a 120 day rotation May thru September and a 210 day rotation thru the Winter. The only way to do that is to vary your cattle numbers. Keeping our stockers is how we are hoping to do that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


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I'm not sure about you, but here in SW MO it's been a great year for ragweed. This South Center pasture was last grazed in late March. It grew back great with tons of forage, mostly fescue and warm season grasses. But as we got later into the summer, the ragweed started coming on and we ended up with a bumper a pasture that we didn't even graze during the growing season! I hate ragweed and was concerned about how the mob would react to a pasture full of it. Well, you can find the answer in the pictures. They ate it like they eat everything else. You can clearly see the difference between one side of the fence and the other where they were just turned in. I'm really disappointed with the amount of weeds we have on the ranch this year, I was hoping that we would greatly reduce the number of weeds with our mob grazing and it just doesn't look like we have. But at least we are able to utilize the weeds that are growing by getting the cows to consume them.

Mob Grazing the South Center Pasture

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I'm happy to report that the mob grazing we have done in the South Center pasture really looks great. I have attached some photos to show the results. As most of you that follow this blog are aware, oak sprouts are our primary problem on this ranch. When we do a good job mob grazing a paddock, the sprouts become twigs and the cattle consume all of the vegetation from the sprouts...and believe me the oak leaves constitute a LOT of forage. You can see in the pictures the sticks that are left after grazing. I posted a couple of other pictures where you should be able to see where the temp fence was. We did a good job of grazing one side, but across the fence you can clearly see the sprouts still have all of their leaves and the grass/forage isn't trampled down nearly as much. This is always very interesting to me. This is truly an art...a little too much time and the cattle and grass suffer, not quite enough time and the paddock is underutilized. Overall, Hal has done a terrific job of moving through this 200 acre pasture.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A cure for water quality issues?

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This summer is no different from last. Periods of dryness create water issues as the ponds get a little low and the cows get a lot hot. As you've seen in past posts, we've had some issues with water quality and fish kill. I have attached pics of Hal's attempt to remedy this situation. I love the idea of keeping the cattle out of the ponds, the problem is in the "how". This has some promise and Hal says the pvc one has worked well for the past 3 days. I'm concerned with it's durability but it's a good start. I was also a little concerned with the area...I'm curious of whether it's enough room for 600 head of pairs. Hal says they've established a pecking order and everything seems to be getting to water. We'll see.

There is lots of info out there about watering systems for mob grazing and quite frankly, I don't think they're realistic for large groups of cattle. Fencing cattle out of ponds and setting up gravity flow concrete waterers sounds cool until you start to put a pencil to it. We'd need several hundred of these setups with multiple waterers per's just not practical. We do need to do a better job of limiting cattle access to the ponds we have, though, and this might be a good start. Water is the most limiting factor in most mob grazing systems, get it figured out before you do anything else.