11 June, 2013
When we fenced off our side yard and a portion of the backyard, threw a cow and then later her calf on it, and called it “pasture,” we simply let them go at it, wandering and munching on whatever was growing as they chose. It quickly became apparent that although they were surviving, the pasture was in pretty lousy condition and never looked like much more than a lawn.After that first season on it, the weeds they chose not to include in their diet were growing, going to seed, and multiplying, while the grass was looking more and more sparse.
Other issues came into play. The “back pasture” is very wet early in the growing season. We suspect that there is a spring on the adjacent property that flows this way inundating the land with water from April to early July. Late winter following that first year, we tried frost seeding the pasture, but it was a warm, wet winter and the seed ran off to an area just outside the permanent pasture which has the most beautiful lush grass now. Figures. We do utilize some polyrope and put them on there once or twice a season now when it has dried out enough to do so. At the end of the second season, we dug out a pond at the farthest end from the water source and ditched from the where the source enters the property, through the pasture, and to the new pond. Large portions of the back pasture were destroyed during the land moving, care wasn’t taken to make sure that the topsoil stayed separate and was replaced, and that poor soil was prime ground for the cultivation of weeds. Coupled with last years’ (the third season) drought and we were feeding hay by July with little fresh grass to supplement. I had heard of grazing rotationally, management intensive grazing, or mob stock grazing (are those terms interchangeable? I don’t know,) but since for the most part I don’t manage the cows had no control over the grazing practices and wonder if it might be the solution to our pasture problems. As Head of the Homestead Research Committee (It’s a committee of one by the way and a self-appointed title… do you like it?), I came across the following video and watched it in the presence of the Head of the Department of Grazing Affairs (my husband) who quickly became interested and is now obsessed with analyzing the grass.*Note: There are a few embedded videos in this post so email or feed readers may need to click through to enjoy.
The difference we are seeing already since trying to implement the principles from the lecture on our (very) small scale is astounding!! It was trying for everyone to continue feeding hay once the grass began growing. Especially for the steer who became an expert escape artist, often leaving the sacrifice area to help himself to those tender young shoots the minute he thought our backs were turned. Not that it was exactly easy for us to keep paying this year’s sky-high hay prices while cows all around us were already grazing… The grass finally seemed high enough in a few areas to let them onto the first paddocks the first week of May.
Five weeks later and this is what it looks like. It was initially grazed starting on the far end and then towards the bottom of the shot. They have been on it in the back for two days now. (If you look carefully, you can see a small black cow & her horns.
This area was grazed four weeks ago and was FULL of weeds last year.
Because the front pasture was lawn, it is the slowest growing and we bought ourselves some time with using temporary polyrope fencing for two weeks in portions of the backyard that are outside of the permanent pasture but are wet from the spring… too wet to be mown, so the cows took care of it for us.
Finally, last week, they were moved up to the front (formerly lawn) area and worked through. Of all the areas it needs the most work, but still looks much better than it did before.
This is what that same area looked like four years ago when we purchased Maybelle
And about two years ago.
This area shown above was very high traffic both foot traffic from birds, beasts, and people as well as vehicle and wheelbarrows carting veg scraps back to the hogs over the winter. The cows haven’t been allowed to graze on it yet and hopefully all of those seed heads you see will do their work well.
Yesterday’s 24 hours of damage.They seemed to be a bit more picky, leaving more weeds than in other areas, but I’m thinking it has to do with having been tossed a bale of hay. That is one thing that we are struggling with is all of the fresh grass overloading their systems. Definitely have had a rough time adjusting this year.
See? This was two weeks ago… and someone was clearly dealing with some digestive issues.
A little bit better balancing the fresh with the hay and things were looking better yesterday.
One of the things that is exciting me about this is that, Maybelle, the pickiest eater on the planet, is being forced to eat plants that aren’t the choicest of grass, letting all those weeds dominate and go to seed
They know what it means when we’re out there moving around and the anticipation builds meanwhile. They love moving onto the fresh paddocks.
And here is a little video where we are moving them to that next paddock. I’m really looking forward to continuing with this more hands-on approach to pasture management and hope to continue to see the benefits of utilizing it on a small scale in the future! Have you had success with managing grazing patterns and improving your pasture quality? DISCLOSURE: Would you like to know how you can support this website? I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Using these links doesn’t cost you anything, but helps me pay the blogging bills. Your support is greatly appreciated and a real blessing to me! Thank you! ♥