With calving slowly coming to a close, the priority on the farm has shifted to pasture management and branding. With the dry conditions we have been having, pasture management has been adjusted. This brings a new challenge of frequent moving of the herd into new pastures and to have a monitoring system to ensure overgrazing does not occur.
Challenge: Moving Cow-calf Pairs
Moving cow-calf pairs from one pasture to another can be difficult. When the herd starts moving it creates a “pull” effect – where cows are drawn to the open gate while their calves are still bedded down or playing. This flow of cows towards the new pasture results in a large group of calves being left at the back of the group. Calves will then attempt to go back the way they came in search of their mothers.
It also becomes a problem to ensure cattle have access to water in all pastures and that the water is of adequate quality and quantity. On farm, we have a device that measures total dissolved solids (TDS) in the water instantly. We also take water samples to be sent away for further analysis. Solar panel water systems are used to move water from dugouts into troughs to protect the riparian areas around the water sources.
Solution: Automatic Moves
One type of pasture management strategy utilized on our farm is a pinwheel style fencing system. This involves a water system being placed in the middle of pinwheel with a circle alleyway around it. The electric fence lines then go out from the alley way creating pie piece shaped paddocks. This allows for the cattle to always have access to water simply by opening and closing certain gates. This works well for the cow-calf pairs as they are able to self-move and calves are not left behind. Self-moves (or automatic moves) are done by opening a gate into the new paddock so they have to go through the new paddock to reach the water system. As cattle come in for water, they will realize a new paddock is open with fresh grass and will usually get their drink then exit into the new grass area for grazing.
Monitoring Grass Growth
This same type of self-move system is used for the yearling grassers. About 650 yearlings are being moved between ~50 acre pens every two days in attempt to get the entire paddock clipped to similar high without taking too much and reducing the biomass of the soil. This is referred to using a high stocking density. The goal of this type of grazing is to take half the plant as feed for the cattle, while trampling half the plant as added biomass to the soil to allow regrowth of plants at a more rapid rate.
Over the past week, we have received over 3 inches of rain. Grass management will adjust accordingly!