Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Letter from a reader

When I started this blog I really didn't think anyone would read it and I really didn't care...it was a way for me to keep track of things we'd done at the ranch and a nice visual and written history of our successes and failures along the way. I wanted to look back on it to learn what had worked and what hadn't. But I've been amazed how many emails I get from people that have stumbled onto it and are wanting to learn more about mob grazing. I'm so happy that this blog can be a benefit to those who wish to read it...it never crossed my mind that so many people would want to discuss mob grazing with me! Since I haven't been posting much I decided to post an email I got recently and my response. Hope your winter has been as nice as ours!

I was wondering if you came to any conclusions on your problem with scours. Sounds like you are moving to an all stocker operation so I wasn't sure if you would be discussing the scours problem any more so I decided to email. Do you think it had anything to do with your higher utilization rate? I read that you were trying to eat more to control the brush and thought maybe that had an ill effect on the calving situation. After reading alot of what Greg Judy is doing, sounds like he had quite a train wreck while focusing on landscape. Sounds like things improved after he went to focusing on cow performance, especially last 90 days before calving. His target now is 30% graze and 70% trample, if I understand him correctly. I was also wondering if there was a relationship between the bcs of cows with problem calves and those that had calves without scours. I do not have near the numbers that you have, but have noticed that some of the cows just haven't adapted to the low inputs and mob grazing well. I had a lot of pinkeye this fall and it didn't matter the condition of the cow, as some would suggest. I also have read that bcs at breedbac time can have an influence, and, if that is the case, alot of my cows were on a downhill slide during the rough winter weather that we experienced last year here in northwest Missouri. I turned the bull in Dec. 1 and the weather really was bad from Christmas day on. Maybe there is some truth to that theory?? and the cause for my pinkeye.
Last year was my first trial run with the mob grazing with mixed results. I sure didn't do it well enough to have near enough stockpile. Ragweed was terrible, and i was not sure if it was the perfect ragweed year or my grazing practice that caused it. I definately did not want to sound like I knew a lot about the mob grazing, quite the contrary. Reading your blog is great and I just was hoping there you had found some answers so some of us following in your footsteps don't have the same problems. Thanks for reading and I hope you carry on with your blog and wish you luck with your stockers.

Hey K,

Thanks so much for the kind email. There is no doubt that last winter had a negative effect on the cows. It was the toughest winter we’ve had here in recent memory. That said, I thought the cows were in pretty good condition going into calving season..I would say they were 4-6’s with the 4’s being the older cows. I think by far the most important thing in preventing scours is bcs at time of calving and I really think ours was adequate…certainly not bad enough to see the kind of train wreck we had. At the end of the day, I think it was a combination of a lot of things with the 2 primary culprits being 1. The stress on the calf when it got left by its mother during a move and 2. The introduction of some purchased bred heifers/pairs a few weeks before we started calving. We can solve for problem number 2 by not introducing any outside animals that close to calving, but I have no idea how to solve for problem #1…we tried about everything this year with little success.

Mob grazing will definitely separate the weak…our weak cows just fell over dead…I’m a little embarrassed to say that, but it happened. We had a few cows that really didn’t look that poor that just gave up…we blamed some of that on the origin of the cows (Wyoming/SD) and the fact that they are relatively straight bred angus, but the mob grazing certainly hastened things. The interesting thing was that we had more grass this past 12 months than we’ve ever had. The cattle were never hungry. I think the strong cattle simply got the best groceries, the weak got enough to eat, but it wasn’t the most nutritious. I’m very comfortable with the way we graze a pasture, which is probably around 60-70% utilization, 30-40% trompage. Not saying Greg is wrong, we just do it differently. I don’t worry much about ragweed…there’s always a time of year during the mob grazing season that hits that ragweed just right and it goes crazy. It doesn’t bother me a bit, our cattle graze it all down the next time thru. I don’t see weeds, I see forage.

To conclude, keep tinkering with your mob grazing until you get to a situation that works for you. Everyone has different challenges and different goals. And while I am moving to stockers next year, I still believe a person can mob graze a cow herd, it’s just a hell of a lot harder than mob grazing stockers. Two years ago I could move 800 head of stockers in 6 minutes. I would spend 15-30 minutes building fence and 5-10 minutes moving stockers and I would go eat breakfast at 7:00 am wondering what the hell I was going to do the rest of the day. With the cows, my ranch manager and I worked some days from sun up to sun down chasing sick calves and trying to get the cow herd in one bunch for most of the calving season….I still have nightmares. And I think stockers do a much better job of “mob grazing” than the cows do. So my mind is pretty well made up. There’s not much to report on the blog during the winter…we should have more than enough stockpile to get us thru the winter which means another winter of feeding ZERO bales of hay. It’s nice to say that knowing we are running over 50% more cows this year than we were 3 years ago.

Thanks again for the email,


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