Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Pasture Management

Back in February I attended a Joel Salatin Masterclass and it was a really informative and entertaining.

I came away with some great information and ideas.  One of the topics discussed was mob stocking.  This is basically a system of providing cattle with a limited grazing area which creates a small amount of soil disturbance and ensures sufficient pruning of the pasture.  The idea is to mimic the behaviour and result of large herds in the wild (buffalo, wilder beast etc).  In the wild these animals naturally bunch together to protect themselves against danger so this is just about replicating this behaviour and it's results in domestic animals.
Each day a fresh area is provided and access to the previous days area is cut off.  The area provided should be just enough for the cattle to eat all of the fodder available without wasting any.
You see cattle will not eat what they have pee'd on, pooped on, sat on or trodden on.  So if you give them only as much as they will eat in one day they are so busy eating that less becomes in-edible for the above reasons.

In New Zealand this grazing practice is is widely used and is know as strip grazing so since I grew up in a dairy farming community over there it is something I am familiar with.
However I was not aware of how this also helps to build soil fertility.  Basically as grass grows it balances out it's leaf growth with root growth, so the taller the grass the deeper the roots.
You can see in my fancy picture that after the grass has been eaten
the roots break away self pruning.
Then as the grass is pruned off by the cattle the roots self prune them selves to keep above and below the soil balanced.  The roots that have self pruned then break down and help build the organic matter along with the manure that gets trodden into the soil.

So we have been implementing the system with our cow (Freezer 2) and her borrowed buddy (Bozo).  In the photo below you can see where the grass on the left has been grazed down and the temporary electric fence on the right.
We move the cows at the same time each afternoon so there tends to be a bit of mooing when they think it is time.  And when we do move the fence they get very excited and run from one patch of new grass to another.  You have to be on your game or they give you a heck of a fright as they rush up behind you.
To set us this system we needed to buy the electric fence wire, a reel to put it on and some fencing standards (the upright sticks that hold the wire).  But that was going to set us back quite a bit on money so we decided that we would make our own standards from recycled materials.
Hubby had a piece of power line from one of the main trunk line wires from when he worked clearing trees from the power lines.  It is made of a twisted bunch of thick aluminium wires which he un twisted and straightened.  It is quite thick (about 4 ml) but still flexible so he was able to bend one end into a loop and cover the loop with some old irrigation pipe.
The piece of powerline

The irrigation pipe
And this is the finished result.

We now have about 30 of these home made standards and they cost us nothing compared to the $5 each we would have paid to buy them.  Because they are flexible you have to hold them at the base to push them into the ground.  And while this works fine while the ground is soft from all the rain we have been having they may not work so well when the ground hardens up.
But until then we will stick with these and save some money to buy some proper ones for if/when we actually need them.

Have you made any equipment instead of buying it?


  1. yes we made our own too, except we bought the round bar and as hubby is a welder, he was able to make them for about half the price of the bought ones. Yours are very clever, not needed any welding! You pasture is looking good too. And you're very talented with paint!

  2. Joel Salatin makes me want to go out and buy a farm. :)

  3. 2 Cows? How much acreage? How many paddocks?


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