“In the management of all stock, sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry or Alpacas on pasture, the principle of “Fence the herd, mob or flock, not the paddock” is becoming widely used. No matter which name is applied to it, the benefits of strip, block, cell, rationed, controlled or rotational grazing are numerous. These systems allow short term, heavy stocking rates on restricted areas of pasture followed by appropriate rest periods. All plants are eaten rather than just the palatable ones and careful monitoring allows this without over-grazing. The benefits of frequently moving animals on to fresh, nutritious, palatable pasture are great. There is a consequent increase in pasture quality and soil fertility due to the small enclosures being heavily dunged then allowed to fully regenerate. The rapid eating down of pasture also allows sunlight to destroy parasitic larvae, and eggs with a consequent improvement in animal health.
We have been rotating our cows in a monthly cycle through our 3/4 acre paddocks over the past 6 months. Each paddock gets 1-2 months rest then the sheep and alpacas get moved onto it. What we noticed so far is that with our current stocking rates on these 5 paddocks, they do not get a chance to fully recover before the sheep come back to graze. So, now they are the sheep and alpaca paddocks only and the cows are in the winter paddock in a cell grazing system. Although I haven’t fully got the cell fencing up perfectly, they are in their area and stay there grazing down the pasture pretty well. When you hear a cow make a painful mooing sound, you know she has touched the fencing and it is working well!
So with this cell grazing technique, the livestock are meant to be healthier and the pastures are also meant to benifit from the intense grazing and long rest periods. If my math is correct, the same patch of pasture should not be re-grazed for almost 12 months (using the entire winter paddock) but most likely, I will re-graze after 3 months to help control grass fire risk closer to the house. I have also thought about pastured meat chickens following the cows as they in effect, sanitise the paddocks as well as fertilise the paddocks by foraging through the remaining pasture and eating worms and a parasites that affect the cows (but have no effect on them other than make them grow!) Our Croad Langshans may be the go here, a little slower in growth than the typical commercial breed (8week grow out for commerical compared to 12 week grow out with the Croads), but we did select this breed for both eggs and meat, so egg layers in the Taj, and meat birds out in the pasture!
There is soooooo much to keep track of when doing mono culture farming! We are multi-culture farming with our fruit trees, sheep, cows, chicken, vegetables berries etc… and the amount of things we need to monitor and track is crazy! That’s why I love blogging! IT is all here with date stamps and all. But now as things are progressing, may it is time I compartmentalise the blog, have sections from the cows, the fruit trees, the market garden, the berries, the chickens… Ahhh OCD at it’s best.
To Hayley: when you read this, I was thinking I could make the fences into perfectly straight lines, not unlike a hard edged lines in painting by Jeffery Smart…