Thursday, January 29, 2015

Intensively Managed

We have been trying a method of rotational grazing for the cows called "intensively managed grazing." The advantage of this method is that cows are forced to graze down the entire section of grass rather than roaming freely over a larger space. The cows mow and fertilize the area more evenly.

So, for instance, if you had 2 cows grazing over 12 acres (suggested ratio according to the Ag Extension for our area), the cows would roam around and pick and choose only the best bits of grass to eat. They would gradually over graze the good bits and ignore the rest. The cows would need to move to the next 12 acres about every month, assuming they are not being fed additional hay or grains.

With the intensive method, the 12 acres is divided up into a grid of smaller sections, about 1/4 acre each. The permanent perimeter fencing is used as the outside border and then temporary stakes and a single strand of hot wire is used internally. The cows are moved every day to a new section of grass. Also with this method you can easily have four times as many cows on the same overall acreage. In our case, we have had 11 cows grazing over 48 sections of a 12 acre pasture over the course of 48 days.

Another way to compare is by pounds (total weight of the cows) per acre. For unimproved pasture the ratio is about 40,000 lbs. per acre. After a few years of intensively managed grazing, the ratio is improved up to 250,000 lbs. per acre. 

In the grass growing season when you've had plenty of rain, the cows can then be returned to the beginning square of pasture and start all over again.

The cows would over graze this section of nice green grass if they had their choice.

The hot wire is wound onto a spool.

Here is the “intellirope” hot wire with red “rope link” connectors to each section.

The spools of hot wire are held on fencing poles.

Before grazing (on right) and after grazing (on left).

A mobile stock tank is moved every day, connected by a water hose to the water line laid last spring.

This is a 1/4 acre section of grazing.

The cows eagerly move from the old section to the new section.

The contrast between grazing (in the foreground) and ungrazed sections.

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