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.