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

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
What are your plans for the creek on the left of the block? Graze through it or fence it off and just walk them through it when moving between cells?
The second option.
As the lane fences cross at right angles then we can use the area that they can't graze/trample as a form of "leaky weir" made of grass.
With water available on either side it will minimise traffic back and forth, and we don't need to graze the banks hard or often.
Really just enough to maintain the area in a good state, or it will "rewild" itself with gorse
 

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
been looking into herbs, which we have started using, chap making very high quality haylage, for race horses, he was holding up a ryegrass stem, 2ft long, with 3 nice long green leaf's, which, in theory. means you have your high value food, the leaf's, plus 18/24 ins green stem, allowing photosynthesis for root development.
We are told we have to graze grass at it's most valuable stage, ie, the first 3 leaf's, which takes it down to ground level, leaving the roots to fend for themselves, and the use of N doesn't encourage roots to head towards KP in NZ. But how much value, is in the 3 green leaf's, at ground level, as opposed to the ones further up the stem ? If it is less, does the extra root potentially achieved, make up for that reduction, in longer ley life ? We have been in a rain shadow for the last 3 summers, and leys have just died off, in those 3 yrs, some have had 2 full reseeds, and overseeded, that is not sustainable, and reduces our ability to make enough conserved for the dairy. Our soil pans readily, and is something we are hot on, but in our 'holes' dug this year checking the poorer leys, has also shown root depth, shallow. This then creates the question, is the root shallow, because of panning, or over grazing or the use of N, one would presume some of each. The difficulty is getting off the wheel, as we are dairy, we need silage, to feed the cows over winter. We are out wintering i/c hfrs and dry cows on kale, that must return a lot to the soil, with roots, stalks and cow sh1t. We need x amount of income, to cover our costs and living, simply to reduce stocking rate, is not really a solution, although we have picked up extra acres. It is a conundrum that i can't quite solve, we have got to get off that wheel, but in a way that we don't lose to much income. This coming grazing season, now we have taken steps to cope with another dry one, will probably be an 'ideal' one, such is life !
All things aside, we have taken many positive ideas, and actioned them, which have proved to be very beneficial to look at, time will prove yes/no. The brain is full of good ideas, but we cannot do everything at once, we have to be choosy.
 

awkward

Member
Location
kerry ireland
Speaking of Zietsman, I've been rewatching (and recording) his videos on YT, particularly the Living Web Farms from 2013. It should be required viewing. In a different video he talks of farmers producing animals for feed lots, that breeding programme also produces that farmers replacement cows, what sense is there in that, we grow grass but produce an animal that can't eat enough grass therefore requires high supplementation with grains.

Farmernomics.
Thankfully their guys out their like Kit Pharo breeding suitable stock, and showing the way
 

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
Thankfully their guys out their like Kit Pharo breeding suitable stock, and showing the way
we on the other hand, have bred cattle that require grain to finish/milk, on the beef side, more to do with the under 30 month rule, and a fixation with carcass size, and that has made some of the native breeds, go on to the rare breeds site.
Milk, the hol has turned itself into a milk machine, expensive grub in, watery milk out, and a few tough burgers at the end ! While we might know some of the solutions, it's the doing that's difficult. Never seemed quite right to me, that we cast our native breeds aside, and replaced what would nearly fatten on grass, for a cont, that won't. I watch a fair bit of u tube, the USA ranchers are still predominantly AA of Hfd, or x from, and although some of their methods are 'iffy' to say the least, they are turning out decent calves, to sell. USA is a vast country, with millions of acres of rough grazing, some improved, stocking rates are way different than ours, but if contracted to UK farm size, would they be similar ? The definitive answer, is the profit, and a lot of those ranchers are not making much, very similar to us, the difference between us and them, the simple fact that they use cows that fully utilise forages, hay, deferred grazing, conc only when needed, and then the cont cow and calf here, creep, silage etc, a cont cow needs a huge amount of 'grub' to produce to rear a calf. As with milk, litres per acre, or kg beef per hectare produced, is the bench line, then comes cost of production, that could be very variable.
As world population increases, food consumption will rise, WHO is already saying we wont be able to feed ourselves by 2030, therefore the habit of feeding large amounts of grain to cattle will be unsustainable, probably correctly. The buzz word in dairying is milk from forage, and, as the hol cannot do that per se, xbreeding back to cattle that will, is forming another cow revolution, or evermore expensive way's to feed them. I believe guv's have no wish for food prices to rise, the opposite one could say. To me, the answer appears to be, to reduce our cost of production, or put another way, we have to get more from our farms, with less imput, hard to achieve, or is it ? By looking after our soils, rebuilding organic matter, recreating the flora and fauna that naturally should be there, better yields will come naturally, with less fert/spray, as in what we put on the soil, stock that will produce of forage, or crops/rotation that will 'work' with the soil, are the answer.
 
the USA ranchers are still predominantly AA of Hfd, or x from, and although some of their methods are 'iffy' to say the least, they are turning out decent calves, to sell.
I heard recently that the due to the ‘frame race’ some of the largest cows in USA are now AA and Hfd. The guy reckoned a lot of those cows are simply doing now what the Charolais could do 30 years ago. Of course there are also operators who have selected a smaller framed, lower maintenance type within those breeds 👍🏻
 

DanM

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Wiltshire
been looking into herbs, which we have started using, chap making very high quality haylage, for race horses, he was holding up a ryegrass stem, 2ft long, with 3 nice long green leaf's, which, in theory. means you have your high value food, the leaf's, plus 18/24 ins green stem, allowing photosynthesis for root development.
We are told we have to graze grass at it's most valuable stage, ie, the first 3 leaf's, which takes it down to ground level, leaving the roots to fend for themselves, and the use of N doesn't encourage roots to head towards KP in NZ. But how much value, is in the 3 green leaf's, at ground level, as opposed to the ones further up the stem ? If it is less, does the extra root potentially achieved, make up for that reduction, in longer ley life ? We have been in a rain shadow for the last 3 summers, and leys have just died off, in those 3 yrs, some have had 2 full reseeds, and overseeded, that is not sustainable, and reduces our ability to make enough conserved for the dairy. Our soil pans readily, and is something we are hot on, but in our 'holes' dug this year checking the poorer leys, has also shown root depth, shallow. This then creates the question, is the root shallow, because of panning, or over grazing or the use of N, one would presume some of each. The difficulty is getting off the wheel, as we are dairy, we need silage, to feed the cows over winter. We are out wintering i/c hfrs and dry cows on kale, that must return a lot to the soil, with roots, stalks and cow sh1t. We need x amount of income, to cover our costs and living, simply to reduce stocking rate, is not really a solution, although we have picked up extra acres. It is a conundrum that i can't quite solve, we have got to get off that wheel, but in a way that we don't lose to much income. This coming grazing season, now we have taken steps to cope with another dry one, will probably be an 'ideal' one, such is life !
All things aside, we have taken many positive ideas, and actioned them, which have proved to be very beneficial to look at, time will prove yes/no. The brain is full of good ideas, but we cannot do everything at once, we have to be choosy.
Easier said than done but; Is it possible to “reduce” your stocking rate by leaving cows inside, on kale, stubbles, neighbours, contract grazier etc for longer into spring; thereby allowing your grazing platform to do its thing and build covers and therefore roots. Would allow you to leave longer residuals helping protect soil from possible drought or panning if we get a wet spring for once!
 

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
I heard recently that the due to the ‘frame race’ some of the largest cows in USA are now AA and Hfd. The guy reckoned a lot of those cows are simply doing now what the Charolais could do 30 years ago. Of course there are also operators who have selected a smaller framed, lower maintenance type within those breeds 👍🏻
but is a charolais doing the same as 30 yrs ago ? They have bred up the AA and Hfd, to a bigger size, but can they still utilise grass the same ? It's all a matter of choice and conditions. We have been given a pile of farming mags, from 1950/51/52, todays cattle, are a very long way from them, size wise, and as the pics are of show winners, from the uk and the commonwealth, one assumes they were the best ! Today, it's about cheapness of keeping the animal fed, a huge cont cow, will always need more, and better food, than an AA or Hfd, it's what produces more kg/acre beef, at the lowest cost.
 
I guess you want to keep them shaded by taller grasses and litter as much as possible?
I'm not sure what I want, but the hard grazing in the dry killed the grass off. The wetter areas in the same paddocks have come away better than they were before. My gut feel is that wet areas respond to hard grazing and good rests and dry areas respond to lax grazing and long rests.
 

Kiwi Pete

Member
Livestock Farmer
So a sort of slow shift between cells to aim at trampling the long grass to stop natural succession. 👍🏻
In your tree planting are you going to plant any trees in this riparian area?
Yes, next wet day we're going "shopping" for native plants on the roadside cuttings up The Wisp 😀

We're slowly getting an idea of what we want, and where
 

som farmer

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
somerset
were they 'sown' grass, or the natural, we rent a field of very thin soil, bare rock in places. Very neglected when we took it over, but this summer, the fields 'natural' grasses, kept growing all summer, other leys just died. Funny thing about the field, very little clover, despite mixing seed with the conc for the calves, for several years.
 
Not with you there, is he saying the replacement cows can't eat enough grass and need grains just to grow or rear a calf?
He comes at it from the perspective of profit. The replacement cows from such a breeding system won't "do" on grass alone. Within any breed generally the lower frame score cows "do" better on grass alone. This is due to them having a genetic advantage over the higher frame score cows. The lower frame score cow literally can eat more grass relative to her size, the higher frame score cow cannot so will be in poorer condition all other things being equal. There's quite a lot to it going in deeper with identifying naturally fertile stock, breeding back, climatic adaptation and more.


Holistic management is only as good as the information, observation, belief and passion you put into it.

And, it has to keep changing, based on observation. I think many get slightly hoodwinked by "a step" and tend to sit on it. Hard to climb stairs if you're sat on your ass. Put all your effort into the grazing, you can overlook the other part of it - more rest!
That's a general observation: yes, create animal impact but don't forget the other things in the HM toolbox.

Hence it might look like we're doing a sudden "U turn" here, we went for quantity this year and last because of @Blaithin, as much as anyone.
Looking at the litter levels she was demonstrating, I realised I needed to make that happen for my water cycle to function well.

Now we've got better water percolation and extra diversity, got our heads above water financially and we're comfortable with using density (which is another step) then we can see (via monitoring diversity of species, thanks again) that we can jump to another level of plant rest.
Observation is the big clue, our grazing is too "lax" and thus our recovery is still too short. Because our recovery is too short, our grazing has to be lax.

But, because we are in a summer safe area and we've done the work with putting litter down, the next phase is to create "what we want our sward to be like" and slow the grazing cycle down to achieve it.
We're still favouring weeds with our too-fast grazing, but feel it was a step we needed to take.

If we just jumped into "total grazing" without repairing the broken water cycle first, we'd be in a hell of a mess by next month because we'd be reliant on rain that may, or may not come next month.
Push recovery out to 3 months, there's much higher chance of getting it.
Add to that an almost full-of-water soil profile, and the risk is reduced even further.
My blinkers are on for ease of use this year. Have to get the ball rolling on it somehow. Once I have the infrastructure set, I can flute around with the rest of it!
 

Crofter64

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Quebec, Canada
Easier said than done but; Is it possible to “reduce” your stocking rate by leaving cows inside, on kale, stubbles, neighbours, contract grazier etc for longer into spring; thereby allowing your grazing platform to do its thing and build covers and therefore roots. Would allow you to leave longer residuals helping protect soil from possible drought or panning if we get a wet spring for once!
Its so hard to keep the cattle and sheep of the grass in the spring. They are so restless and dissatified with their hay in the spring once they can smell the grass growing. I now wait for 3 leaves before turnout ( lately early-mid May) and that’s about all I can take of their impatience.
 

exmoor dave

Member
Location
exmoor, uk
Had a bit of a play about with the designs tonight @exmoor dave, @NZDan and anyone else who's interested. View attachment 929829
All these blue blocks are 4ha/10 acres in area, the ones with ponds are slightly larger to make 4 grazeable hectares.
Maximum of 50 metres across the lanes by 810 m long. The block "at the back" is 100x400

They run with the prevailing weather and over the contours as opposed to with them, as was my original plan.
Working on the 0.1ha cell size, means each lane is 40 paddocks long for easy maths; after having a play this year I'm comfortable with the idea of 40, 80, and 120 day rest periods depending on severity of graze, time of year etc etc.

What's your thoughts?

Key points are we must provide easy access to the town's water tanks, so will need to break the lanes to form an open track from the cattleyards up to there, this might make loading cattle into the system a tad easier as well.
Also, I want to run wide rows of trees along the run of the lanes to help with the summer shade dilemma, 50 metres along the ground represents about a 4 metre contour (roughly) so this gives options regarding the trees and shrubbery we use .

Don't be shy to criticise this as I need to test out weaknesses before we set to .

From memory, those lanes will be east/west? and will face the sun?
So trees in the longer term could be a reel benefit!

Does the access to the water tanks run in a neat line at a right angles to the proposed fences? Or across at a angles?

What sort of water infrastructure are you thinking of? Pipe sizes?
One system we visited was on 50mm pipe, to the system, then 32mm across the lane heads, then 25mm down the lanes. ....... £££££££££
 
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From memory, those lanes will be east/west? and will face the sun?
So trees in the longer term could be a reel benefit!

Does the access to the water tanks run in a neat line at a right angles to the proposed fences? Or across at a angles?

What sort of water infrastructure are you thinking of? Pipe sizes?
One system we visited was on 50mm pipe, to the system, then 32mm across the lane heads, then 25mm down the lanes. ....... £££££££££
We've got 36ha and used 50mm and 40mm pipe everywhere. We never have to worry about lack of water flow, but we don't have a huge head, either.
 

bendigeidfran

Member
Livestock Farmer
Location
Cei newydd
Had a bit of a play about with the designs tonight @exmoor dave, @NZDan and anyone else who's interested. View attachment 929829
All these blue blocks are 4ha/10 acres in area, the ones with ponds are slightly larger to make 4 grazeable hectares.
Maximum of 50 metres across the lanes by 810 m long. The block "at the back" is 100x400

They run with the prevailing weather and over the contours as opposed to with them, as was my original plan.
Working on the 0.1ha cell size, means each lane is 40 paddocks long for easy maths; after having a play this year I'm comfortable with the idea of 40, 80, and 120 day rest periods depending on severity of graze, time of year etc etc.

What's your thoughts?

Key points are we must provide easy access to the town's water tanks, so will need to break the lanes to form an open track from the cattleyards up to there, this might make loading cattle into the system a tad easier as well.
Also, I want to run wide rows of trees along the run of the lanes to help with the summer shade dilemma, 50 metres along the ground represents about a 4 metre contour (roughly) so this gives options regarding the trees and shrubbery we use .

Don't be shy to criticise this as I need to test out weaknesses before we set to .
How are you going to get the tension right with the wire on the bottom lane? There will be a fair bit of strain on the posts.
Davieh 3350 is thinking like me, it's like roeing up id start at the straight fence at the top and work down, they they would all be straight lines exept for the last lane.

My kiwitec fencing is arriving next week, i think for now im just going to set up lanes and vary the size of the cells.
Exiting times pete, i can't wait to get them up, should save a lot of time.
 

The new Sustainable Farming Incentive

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The new Sustainable Farming Incentive

Written by Tom Lewis


Source: Natural England

At NFU21, The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs...
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