"Improving Our Lot" - Planned Holistic Grazing, for starters..

Jungle Bill

Member
Location
Angus
Ok grass question time. At our conventional rotational grazing group last week we were talking about setting up the farm ready for spring by grazing really low to about 1400kg/DM/ha to clean up all the crap out of the fields to give a fresh clean start ready for spring. They would be getting well over 100 days rest to recover ready for grazing from 1st of march roughly if left now.
I had planned to eat it all down in 2 rounds one taking the top off and another in a month or so eating it down taking me up till Christmas and giving me an extra couple of weeks grazing because I'm still getting some regrowth. But grazing it down in one round makes sense to give it the maximum time to recover for an early spring start. Still not too late to do either yet. Thoughts?
I’ve always been told to prioritise recovery time and don’t think a month would give sufficient recovery time at this time of year so the second time around would be overgrazing, so better to just graze once.
 
I’ve always been told to prioritise recovery time and don’t think a month would give sufficient recovery time at this time of year so the second time around would be overgrazing, so better to just graze once.
That's what I was starting to think too. But I need these ewes to do fairly well now as they are with the rams so don't really want them to graze too low or poor quality stuff hence the thinking to go round twice. Have read somewhere that it is better for their guts to go round twice as well. Looking at how much growth I'd expect in terms of kg/DM they really do need 120ish days of rest. Grazing well into December wouldn't allow that if I want to be back grazing in February/march time. Hmmm not sure what to think now maybe the ewes will just have to suck it up and eat it in one go.
 
I’ve always been told to prioritise recovery time and don’t think a month would give sufficient recovery time at this time of year so the second time around would be overgrazing, so better to just graze once.
Is recovery time applicable during Winter? I'm told no, as it's not the growing season so there isn't recovery so to speak. Not sure which is right.
 
Is recovery time applicable during Winter? I'm told no, as it's not the growing season so there isn't recovery so to speak. Not sure which is right.
Depending when you say winter is starting. The expert at our grazing group says I'll get at least 5kg/DM/ha of growth through November and maybe into December. Then nothing through December and January. It's those shoots that I leave behind now that will be my solar panels ready for some growth in February and march. But I agree if I still have some ungrazed fields in mid December then it won't matter as much.
 

Jungle Bill

Member
Location
Angus
Is recovery time applicable during Winter? I'm told no, as it's not the growing season so there isn't recovery so to speak. Not sure which is right.
That used to be the case but recently even at 56 degrees north we had visible growth every month of the year so I prefer to treat the winter as a growing time as I feel any growth in such adverse conditions must be at the expense of reserves which would be better left for the spring. If the grass is grazed hard at the start of winter the plant will either stay dormant, conserving reserves, or grow a little, converting reserves into leaves which will have the opportunity to do a little photosynthesising and maybe grow some new roots.
 

exmoor dave

Member
Location
exmoor, uk
That's what I was starting to think too. But I need these ewes to do fairly well now as they are with the rams so don't really want them to graze too low or poor quality stuff hence the thinking to go round twice. Have read somewhere that it is better for their guts to go round twice as well. Looking at how much growth I'd expect in terms of kg/DM they really do need 120ish days of rest. Grazing well into December wouldn't allow that if I want to be back grazing in February/march time. Hmmm not sure what to think now maybe the ewes will just have to suck it up and eat it in one go.

We try to shut the gates on our February lambing turn out fields on Nov 1st.
Last year for one reason & another we grazed til nearly December, mainly because the season conditions were running a month later than usual.... we suffered for doing that!

Despite reasonable grazing pressure upto nov 1st, there's still reasonable cover, dad wants it eaten off, but I'm sticking to my guns that we'll be better off in February if we just leave those fields.

Deer have been a problem in the past when letting fields up, so that is a consideration
 

Cece

Member
Ok grass question time. At our conventional rotational grazing group last week we were talking about setting up the farm ready for spring by grazing really low to about 1400kg/DM/ha to clean up all the crap out of the fields to give a fresh clean start ready for spring. They would be getting well over 100 days rest to recover ready for grazing from 1st of march roughly if left now.
I had planned to eat it all down in 2 rounds one taking the top off and another in a month or so eating it down taking me up till Christmas and giving me an extra couple of weeks grazing because I'm still getting some regrowth. But grazing it down in one round makes sense to give it the maximum time to recover for an early spring start. Still not too late to do either yet. Thoughts?
Grazing it down hard is fine but your putting a lot of pressure on your root reserves. Would it not be better to leave a certain height and go back in a little sooner or even leave it the same rest period. Aiming to manage below the surface is now part of the deal of grazing?
 

Cece

Member
Ok grass question time. At our conventional rotational grazing group last week we were talking about setting up the farm ready for spring by grazing really low to about 1400kg/DM/ha to clean up all the crap out of the fields to give a fresh clean start ready for spring. They would be getting well over 100 days rest to recover ready for grazing from 1st of march roughly if left now.
I had planned to eat it all down in 2 rounds one taking the top off and another in a month or so eating it down taking me up till Christmas and giving me an extra couple of weeks grazing because I'm still getting some regrowth. But grazing it down in one round makes sense to give it the maximum time to recover for an early spring start. Still not too late to do either yet. Thoughts?
Grazing it down hard is fine but your putting a lot of pressure on your root reserves. Would it not be better to leave a certain height and go back in a little sooner or even leave it the same rest period. Aiming to manage below the surface is now part of the deal of grazing?
 

Rob Garrett

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
Derbyshire UK
i did some research on bale size and degradation/spoilage - if you get the largest poossible size then your % lost in ground contact and external water is much smaller than a standard or smaller sized round bale... also tightly wrapped...

im planning on bale grazing a filed but havnt put them out yet as i missed my window and now its just pee wet through.. so am rethinking - as its roughly only 30 bales - which *should* last 2 days each and possibly stretch to 3. theyre 6wrapped atm but likely going to store them on their flat end in the field as ive been told thats the most plastic.
The bigger bale less waste idea makes sense, see below some barley straw rounds unrolled this morning, good 4" to 6" water damage, but it has been wet! Hence unrolling bales to give lambs grazing stubble turnips something dry to sit on, clean their feet, eat, shelter from the wind etc. Whats left of the straw pad get spread in spring on the same field it was cut from, keeps my weed seeds in the same place!

Is it sheep you are going to bale graze? Found if I put wrapped bales out in the dry too early the crows, rabbits, sheep etc punctured plastic = bad silage = listeria = dead sheep, or worse; half dead sheep!
 

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Rob Garrett

Member
Mixed Farmer
Location
Derbyshire UK
We'll have to have a good think about the keyline design.

For the silvopasture we have decided on a mix of about 40 native tree and shrubs species along the field perimeters.

Within the field itself Apples, Pears and Walnuts as a saleable product.
Robinia pseudoacacia and Alnus glutinosa as supporting nitrogen fixers.
Paulownia and Morus alba as an experimentation into tree fodder.
Also Salix and Populus in the riparian zones.

We will also be using Robinia, Eucalyptus and Paulownia as support trees for all the long term plantations where appropriate.

Aiming to plant around 1000 trees/year.

I would dearly like to plant Hazels but we dont have support in the area for harvest and processing.... yet.
The local beekeepers will love you for some of those. On the subject of tree fodder, any idea why my cows go for Elder? Leaves, twigs, bark they eat the lot. Thinking I should buy some minerals, or plant more Elder if it don't kill em!
 

Blaithin

Member
Location
Alberta, Canada
Ok grass question time. At our conventional rotational grazing group last week we were talking about setting up the farm ready for spring by grazing really low to about 1400kg/DM/ha to clean up all the crap out of the fields to give a fresh clean start ready for spring. They would be getting well over 100 days rest to recover ready for grazing from 1st of march roughly if left now.
I had planned to eat it all down in 2 rounds one taking the top off and another in a month or so eating it down taking me up till Christmas and giving me an extra couple of weeks grazing because I'm still getting some regrowth. But grazing it down in one round makes sense to give it the maximum time to recover for an early spring start. Still not too late to do either yet. Thoughts?
Why would you graze it right down?

Here the grazing going into the dormant period is the same as the growing period, leave a good trample behind for a good litter layer.

It’s more forgiving if I graze it a bit lower, the plants are already dormant and not growing so I’m not harming their growth, but it gives me little benefit. Grazing really low and using up the litter would allow the ground to warm up earlier for earlier spring growth. That’s about it.

Grazing it really low takes away the protective layer. Now the soil biome is more exposed to the heat and the cold. It dries out faster if you are ever in shortage of rain. There’s less little bugs making a home if there’s no litter. Chopping the grass down low would also presumably give the root system a kick in the pants so the plant is more vulnerable. This is probably even more applicable there where plants don’t go as dormant as they do here.

Go a little shorter than you would normally if you need to, but definitely leave residue behind. The ground doesn’t need you to clean it up. It wants to stay dirty.
 
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How would bales grazed (lying round side butt facing top to bottom) work on a hill? It's about 22 degree slope and is open to the prevailing wind.

Would that kind of incline just get really destroyed?
It depends how you graze it, I'd think, and what with?
Plenty of steep slopes get grazed down these ways (rightly or wrongly) but damage and soil slip can be minimised - the main thing IMO is to have a backup plan because: "assume you are wrong"
With assuming you're wrong, comes the countering "you won't know if you don't test it".
 
Ok grass question time. At our conventional rotational grazing group last week we were talking about setting up the farm ready for spring by grazing really low to about 1400kg/DM/ha to clean up all the crap out of the fields to give a fresh clean start ready for spring. They would be getting well over 100 days rest to recover ready for grazing from 1st of march roughly if left now.
I had planned to eat it all down in 2 rounds one taking the top off and another in a month or so eating it down taking me up till Christmas and giving me an extra couple of weeks grazing because I'm still getting some regrowth. But grazing it down in one round makes sense to give it the maximum time to recover for an early spring start. Still not too late to do either yet. Thoughts?
Take what you need to take, leave what you can afford to leave.

If you've got quite high covers that will have decent energy reserves, then I would assess the length of my winter / semi-dormant period and halve it, use this to determine grazing speed; but in reality I haven't had much reserve going into winter either.

Thus it's all been less than ideal but also a great experiment which has reinforced quite a few principles; namely that bare soil is the worst outcome of all, and grass is incredibly resilient even when the grazing parameters are wrong (in a temperate environment, of course).

You can't plan to graze what you can't see, so if you can't see two grazings NOW, plan to graze it in one go and leave behind what you leave behind.
Maybe stripgraze your shelter paddocks (for lambing in) out first, to allow them maximum recovery time for twinning ewes?
 
That's what I was starting to think too. But I need these ewes to do fairly well now as they are with the rams so don't really want them to graze too low or poor quality stuff hence the thinking to go round twice. Have read somewhere that it is better for their guts to go round twice as well. Looking at how much growth I'd expect in terms of kg/DM they really do need 120ish days of rest. Grazing well into December wouldn't allow that if I want to be back grazing in February/march time. Hmmm not sure what to think now maybe the ewes will just have to suck it up and eat it in one go.
Just don't graze too much /too low and everything will do just fine, I'd expect?
When you look at what I used to believe was "necessary", anything else is practically better than that.
As long as they're fully fed, get some "fresh grass" periodically, then they won't suffer much.
Are your ewes shorn, it makes it much easier to determine rumen fill if they aren't in full wool?
You don't want them hungry, I think it's Greg Judy that calls it "the death triangle"... you don't want that at all, but it really is an experiment as all farms and conditions are changing and different to begin with; follow the success clues of others and you'll be fine.

Sorry it's taking a while to catch up, as I've spent a couple of days sweating my way through 8-9 litres of water/day I feel a bit drained TBH; 600° is hard to handle even for a few short bursts per day - it seems to accumulate in you and the stress begins.
Now I know how my soil biome feels when I graze too low in summer!!

I first thought you were referring to an all-winter-grass grazing plan, hence my earlier posts on "take it down slowly", which as @Jungle Bill suggests could mean overgrazing if the timeframe is short. However, if you've got forage crops to go to, then that recovery will be accounted for; it's a different system to what we do here.
 

Fenwick

Member
Location
Bretagne France
The local beekeepers will love you for some of those. On the subject of tree fodder, any idea why my cows go for Elder? Leaves, twigs, bark they eat the lot. Thinking I should buy some minerals, or plant more Elder if it don't kill em!
Already 40 hives on the farm as it is. Sometimes twice that when thé buckwheat is in flower.

Some of thé old boys round here say that when thé animales eat toxic plants such as elder they are self medicating.

(First thing we do here with a dodgy ewe is Feed her Ivy. )

I know my cattle eat just about every sort of tree leaf they find - though some seem more than others.
 
Grazing it down hard is fine but your putting a lot of pressure on your root reserves. Would it not be better to leave a certain height and go back in a little sooner or even leave it the same rest period. Aiming to manage below the surface is now part of the deal of grazing?
I think that is what I will do while I can still get some growth so for the next month or so. I'm not taking the grass right down only to about 1800kg so there is plenty left behind. Might go down a bit lower once we get some prolonged cold weather.
Why would you graze it right down?

Here the grazing going into the dormant period is the same as the growing period, leave a good trample behind for a good litter layer.

It’s more forgiving if I graze it a bit lower, the plants are already dormant and not growing so I’m not harming their growth, but it gives me little benefit. Grazing really low and using up the litter would allow the ground to warm up earlier for earlier spring growth. That’s about it.

Grazing it really low takes away the protective layer. Now the soil biome is more exposed to the heat and the cold. It dries out faster if you are ever in shortage of rain. There’s less little bugs making a home if there’s no litter. Chopping the grass down low would also presumably give the root system a kick in the pants so the plant is more vulnerable. This is probably even more applicable there where plants don’t go as dormant as they do here.

Go a little shorter than you would normally if you need to, but definitely leave residue behind. The ground doesn’t need you to clean it up. It wants to stay dirty.
If I grazed as low as I was advised it would still leave a 3cm long dense carpet of green so still not leaving bare soil and it is still protected. Just maybe not as much as I was expecting to leave.
An earlier spring would be very advantageous. Even a week would make a big difference. If it warms up and grows a week earlier that's a week less I have to keep them off the grazing. Not worried about the ground drying up either. At least not until spring. Plenty of time to capture some moisture later on. Theres to much of it now it's running out the ground in springs coming out of the hillsides so I wouldn't be able to catch any more anyway.
It's the kick in the pants to the grass and it's root reserves I'm most worried about. If I look after the grass then everything else, above and below ground, will be ok. I will be leaving some behind its just a matter of working out how much.
Take what you need to take, leave what you can afford to leave.

If you've got quite high covers that will have decent energy reserves, then I would assess the length of my winter / semi-dormant period and halve it, use this to determine grazing speed; but in reality I haven't had much reserve going into winter either.

Thus it's all been less than ideal but also a great experiment which has reinforced quite a few principles; namely that bare soil is the worst outcome of all, and grass is incredibly resilient even when the grazing parameters are wrong (in a temperate environment, of course).

You can't plan to graze what you can't see, so if you can't see two grazings NOW, plan to graze it in one go and leave behind what you leave behind.
Maybe stripgraze your shelter paddocks (for lambing in) out first, to allow them maximum recovery time for twinning ewes?
Just don't graze too much /too low and everything will do just fine, I'd expect?
When you look at what I used to believe was "necessary", anything else is practically better than that.
As long as they're fully fed, get some "fresh grass" periodically, then they won't suffer much.
Are your ewes shorn, it makes it much easier to determine rumen fill if they aren't in full wool?
You don't want them hungry, I think it's Greg Judy that calls it "the death triangle"... you don't want that at all, but it really is an experiment as all farms and conditions are changing and different to begin with; follow the success clues of others and you'll be fine.

Sorry it's taking a while to catch up, as I've spent a couple of days sweating my way through 8-9 litres of water/day I feel a bit drained TBH; 600° is hard to handle even for a few short bursts per day - it seems to accumulate in you and the stress begins.
Now I know how my soil biome feels when I graze too low in summer!!

I first thought you were referring to an all-winter-grass grazing plan, hence my earlier posts on "take it down slowly", which as @Jungle Bill suggests could mean overgrazing if the timeframe is short. However, if you've got forage crops to go to, then that recovery will be accounted for; it's a different system to what we do here.
Leaving behind about 1800kg now which is plenty for the soil and to keep the sheep happy not getting hungry or grazing too low. I had planned to go back and take it down to about 1500kg once the ewes were safely in lamb in about a month or so taking me through to Christmas/new year. Maybe we will have to skip out the second round and just go into the silage and turnips a bit sooner. But fields are lasting a bit longer than expected so maybe I will reach middle/end of December without needing the second round. I wouldn't be worried but my main crop of turnips has been disappointing thanks to the slugs so won't last quite as long as I was hoping. I will have to see how it goes over the next month and then think again about what I'll be doing.
 
+1
We always got more marks for "showing our workings" than having the correct answer, HM is (or should be) a journey, of discovery and experimentation.
I've got 4 or 5 groups pencilled in for this month, and I hope each and every one leave with more questions than answers (including @exmoor dave)....

IMO the process is much more interesting than "long grass and no fertiliser" or even the tools we use, as they are such common tools. It's all in how we use those tools, so at any point along the journey we are "open to scrutiny" as often we learn more via teaching than retaining old knowledge?
 

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