Forage sampling in a standing pasture allows us to get a feed value estimate of forages that will be fed to livestock. It’s also helpful for making sure your forage is at the best stage for cutting hay. While you can look at it, checking the color, leaf to stem content, and the stage of […]
If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough, the plant won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material. In fact, if you’ve been with us at On Pasture for any length of time, you’ll have seen a version of that illustration.
First off, let me assure you I do not hate horses. In fact, this article is not really about horses at all. It is about soil and grass.
Horses, though, can really improve grass and soil even though the way they are currently managed does the opposite. It’s just that when horses are grazed in a group with cattle, sheep, and hogs (what I call a MOB), they have some peculiarities as does each species I have dealt with.
There appears to be a hierarchy of species when they are combined. Saddle horses tend to have an air of aristocracy above all others. It’s not even all horses; just saddle horses. For some reason, being trained changes a horse’s perception of itself because I have not seen this behavior when grazing bucking horses.
Cattle, on the other hand, are pretty easy going and are content with good grass and clean water. They do not, however, appreciate pushy sheep. Yes sheep are pushy! They butt to the front of the line and don’t observe proper social etiquette. For some reason sheep don’t take the hint when a cow bunts them out of the way. Hogs can be that way as well, but are actually the social butterflies of the MOB. They don’t really care who they hang out with as long as there is good grass to eat. Side note: turkeys have not fared well grazing with larger animals. The economic loss from irate cows and curious hogs made me abandon adding them to the MOB quickly! Maybe someone else has been successful, but it wasn’t me.
When putting a multi-species MOB together, the first two weeks is when you see these behaviors amplified. The saddle horses will do things like block a gate after the MOB has been nicely flowing for a quarter mile. As a herder, you will be in the back wondering why the whole MOB has stopped. You glance up to see your favorite saddle horse turned sideways in the gate blocking any animal from passing. It becomes your job to ride to the gate and chase that horse through the gate with a stick, rock, or something hard to get your point across. Like I said, horses are jerks! Maybe I am being a bit too hard on horses because I have had a couple bulls do the very same thing.
For the MOB to work effectively, it requires a strong leader. YOU must become that leader. If there are bunch quitters you must harass them and teach them the MOB is their safe place. It doesn’t matter what species or what age. Each animal must know they are safe as long as they stay within the MOB. If an animal is blocking a gate you as the leader must let that animal know it is unacceptable behavior. If a cow keeps bunting sheep away from the water you must get after that cow. It may be difficult if the horse blocking the gate is a pet to you. Out in the MOB there are no pets, only equal members of the MOB. So suck it up and be a strong leader! (Here’s the technique I use to teach my animals that “Happiness is Being in the Herd.”)
After the initial training phase is over, you will see amazing things happen within the MOB. The animals learn they are part of one unit. It doesn’t matter what species they are. You can still sort off the animals you want, however, if you happen to bring in only the cattle or only the sheep, you may turn around to find that the rest of the MOB is following. Even the horses!
What is Silvopasture? Silvopasture is a popular agroforestry and agriculture practice that involves collective management of trees, livestock, and forage to enhance the overall production of all three. Silvopasture can be set up either by planting trees in a current field or by planting forage in a previously existing stand of trees. Livestock grazing within […]
In every stage of animal husbandry particularly in livestock breeding, the health of the animal is extremely important particularly when it comes to animal farming. Farmers are required to implement practices that promote the health of the livestock to be raised. To keep your animals healthy, they require regular checkups by expert veterinarians who must […]
https://www.agweb.com/farmjournal/article/when-to-cut-alfalfa/ When to Make First Spring Cut of Alfalfa and Mixed Alfalfa/Grass Producers must answer a couple of basic questions when deciding the time of the first spring cutting of alfalfa and mixed alfalfa and grass fields. What’s your hay harvesting schedule? What are your objectives for the harvested hay crop […]
From May of 2018, thanks for this article go to UNL Beefwatch and Bethany Johnston, Nebraska Extension Educator, Beef Systems, at University of Nebraska Lincoln. You can always find great grazing related information by checking out the UNL Beefwatch newsletter.
“We always turn out on May 15th.” Have you heard that before? Does a calendar date decide when the plant is ready to be grazed? While cool-season grasses break winter dormancy when the soil temperature is a few degrees above freezing, warm-season grasses prefer soil temperatures above 50 degrees F to break dormancy and begin growth. Both previous year drought and soil/air temperature affect how you should manage your pastures this growing season.
Maybe a producer should consider the “leaf stage” instead.
The leaf stage of a plant can help a producer decide when the plant has enough leaf area to best tolerate grazing.
What is “leaf stage”? A simple definition is the number of leaves on a plant’s tiller or stem. If you pluck a stem at ground level, you can physically count the leaves. Count mature leaves, or leaves that are collared- the leaf blade goes all the way around the stem, like a collar on a shirt.
Now you try. Check out this picture and see if you can tell what leaf stage it’s in.
And this one?
Yes! It’s a 3 leaf stage.
What Do You Do With This?
Now you can check to make sure your grasses are ready to graze.
Cool-season grasses can be grazed in the spring, but need to develop 3 leaves before you graze. After the third-leaf stage, the plant has captured enough energy reserves to regrow after the plant has been defoliated. The plant’s stores are not quite built up at the two-leaf stage. Grazing at the two-leaf stage could weaken the plant.
Remember, cool-season grasses like warm days and cool nights. Cool-season grasses start growing in the fall and another surge of growth occurs in the spring. Examples of cool-season grasses are smooth brome, western wheatgrass, needle and thread, porcupine grass, and prairie junegrass. With the cooler than normal temperatures this spring, producers may need to delay turnout until their cool-season grasses reach the third-leaf stage.
Warm-season grasses grow well when the weather turns warmer (warm days and warm nights). These plants usually grow rapidly in the summer months of July and August.
Due to colder than normal temperatures, grazers may need to consider a “delayed turnout” this spring. To prevent damaging grass production, grass needs a head start to grow leaves and store enough reserves in the roots for regrowth after grazing. A helpful rule of thumb for grazers is to wait until the 4th leaf stage before grazing.
To graze warm-season grasses, wait until the grasses have reached a four-leaf stage. There should be four mature leaves coming off of one tiller or stem. Again, this allows the plants to regrow after grazing or defoliation events. The four-leaf stage is when four of the grass blades are fully developed at the collar of the grass blade.
From March of 2017, Greg Judy’s tips for transitioning through mud season to good grazing. In just a few weeks it will officially be Spring. It’s the time when we start seeing a tinge of green grass poking its baby head up.
Middle of March is also the normal time to have tons of mud to deal with. The frost is out of the ground, snow is mostly melted and the grass is barely growing. It’s this excess moisture that can turn your pastures into a mud lot if you are not careful with your livestock grazing management.
Strategy 1 for Mud Season – The Sacrifice Lot
You have several strategies at your disposal to keep from destroying your future spring pastures during this period. The most common method is to have a sacrifice lot to put your animals in while the ground is soft. You feed hay in this mud lot until it is safe to return your animals to the pasture. This method has both good and bad outcomes attached to it. The good is that your animals are not allowed onto your pastures which could leave pug marks and compactions issues.
The bad points attached to leaving them in a mud lot sacrifice area are numerous. First and foremost you are now working for your cows, having to pack hay to them. Second, now instead of having all your nutrients of manure and urine deposited evenly across your pastures, it is all being deposited in a mud lot. What was an asset, now becomes a liability. When you drop that much manure, urine, and hay in a mud lot, all you’re doing is growing a good crop of weeds the next growing season. Third, when you lock animals into a mud lot you are asking for a herd health wreck. Mud breeds disease, period. Once the cow hair coat gets covered with mud, it takes double the feed to keep them warm. Instead of a nice soft fluffy hair coat, it is matted in the mud. I’ve known folks that calved in a sacrifice lot so that they could keep an eye on prospective new mothers. This is the best way I know of to get scours in new calves. Anytime you take animals out of their natural environment and coop them up where they are exposed to their manure, health issues will show up very shortly.