Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Questions moving forward re: mob grazing

Well we've done a lot of soul searching since tallying up the sobering numbers last week. One thing I knew before this latest kick in the gut, but was certainly reinforced last week, is that mob grazing is fantastic for the soil and grass but not so great for the grazing animals. I knew our weaning weights would suffer (we've certainly seen lower weaning weights) and we would lose condition on cows that couldn't compete, but we have seen other side effects to mob grazing that have been much more costly. We aren't ready to abandon mob grazing all together, the improvements in the grass production and carrying capacity are just too great to ignore, but we need to tweak our system. One of those tweaks might be to early wean all of our calves at 120-150 days of age. We have another location that we could take them to to carry them thru the winter as we supplement them with ddg, and then maybe we could reintroduce them to the mob at green up to take advantage of the spring flush, selling them off of grass at the end of June. We early weaned the calves out of our heifers this year and are going to do a test run with them. We weighed them out and should get a pretty good idea of the types of gains we can get by running them on grass and 1#/cwt of ddg. We will weigh them again when we pull them out in Feb-Mar. Of course I will post the numbers to show our results. I've run the numbers and we would need to get around a 10% increase in conception rates to pay for the extra cost of both the feed and the time/expense to feed them. Since we had a 94% conception rate last year, in some of the better years, a 10% increase isn't even possible. I do feel, however, that there will be additional added benefits other than simply an increase in conception rates....healthier calves, healthier cows, heavier weaning weights? This will be a good year to compare our two groups. I know this has no effect on our biggest issue, scours, but we will address that issue in the future as well.

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