Grasses are an important part of a cows diet. It is the natural item for them to eat and is easily digested within their ruminants. Many farms do not utilize pasture programs but here on our farm, we see it as an opportunity to provide a low cost portion of the cows diet.
We have been doing a bunch of research lately on pasture management and for us, it is a great opportunity to be able to utilize land that is a little too steep and causes concerns about erosion and run off.
In intensive grazing, you only provide an area that is big enough for the cows place on it to eat the majority of the forage off in about a day, sometimes less. Since we don’t have enough land with growing grass at the moment for that type of operation (or water for that matter), we have decided to use a 7-10 day cycle. By allowing a 7-10 day cycle on each paddock, we can easily keep the lane to the barn and the water open. You need to understand too that currently, there are just five animals out there. One adult jersey milking cow, three dexter cattle that are due to calf at anytime and a young jersey bull that isn’t a year old yet.
To get all of this started, we needed to figure out how we wanted to set it up. Since we are also in the process of looking at perimeter fencing, we really didn’t want to set this section up, only to have it change within a year. So we decided to use temporary fencing. Our temporary fence involves step-in posts that are about four feet long with loops on the sides. We first went around the perimeter of the field and set in posts about every thirty feet.
Then we decided to use braided wire, electrified to keep animals in and out, along the posts. We ran just two wires around the perimeter and one wire along the divider posts.
As you can see, this fence is really nothing fancy. Even though it is really very basic, it works rather well.
Now we have three fairly large paddock areas divided into a 4-1/2 to 5 acre field! The animals are really enjoying themselves and eating lots of green grass. Next week, sometime between Wednesday and Saturday, we will relocate them into the next paddock area to give this area time to regrow and provide them with lush green grass in about 3-4 weeks.
By the time it is time for them to re-enter this field, the bull will be relocated to another farm for a service bull. I am hoping that around the time he leaves, three young dexters will be out grazing with their mothers by then.
But, for right now, the cows have more area to eat. It will save us feeding so much hay and we can cut down on grain a little too.
As for the calves, after a week or so, we will transition them into the area that is the original pasture. It is time for two of them to be weaned completely and once they are moved into the grassy section, it will leave the barn open again so we can do some extensive cleaning without have to worry about the doors being open and calves escaping.